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Turkey Leftovers

Turkey Leftovers

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Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

14 Best Leftover Smoked Turkey Recipes

Not sure what to do with that mountain of leftover holiday meat? These easy and quick ideas are proof that the sky’s the limit with smoked turkey breast. From soups and casseroles, to sandwiches and ramen, here are 14 of the best leftover turkey recipes for you to try this year.

It’s that time of year. The holidays are here, which means stuffing our faces with the usual onslaught of meat and mashed potatoes. None more so than the centerpiece to many holiday tables: Turkey.

The classic holiday meat is best fresh off the backyard smoker, but all encounter the same problem: there being more than can go around. And while there are much worse problems to have, finding imaginative ways to use it can be a struggle.

Well, struggle no more! Enjoy these eleven unique and delicious ways to make the most of that leftover turkey.


Before we get to the recipes, let's go over the safe and proper way to store your leftover turkey so it doesn't go bad. Make sure you store your turkey in an airtight container and get it in the refrigerator or freezer quickly! You don't want it to sit out for very long on Turkey Day or else it'll go bad and you'll have to kiss it goodbye as you throw it in the trash.

Portion your leftover turkey into the proper serving sizes for your family. Refrigerate what you'll eat in the next 4-6 days. If you don't plan on eating it that quickly, place it in a freezer bag (to prevent freezer burn) and freeze it until you're ready to use it in a recipe. It should last up to 6 months in the freezer!

Now that you know how to properly store your bird, let's talk leftover turkey recipes that you definitely need to try…

40 Easy Leftover Turkey Recipes to Make the Most Out of Your Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving may be over, and the dishes may have been put away, but you might not know it from the feast still lingering inside the fridge, right? Not to worry! If you still have, somehow, a full-size turkey's worth of, well, turkey, taking up precious space in your icebox, we're here to help. We have easy leftover turkey recipes to help you clear space without wasting food&mdashwhich is, of course, the name of the game when it comes to dealing with Thanksgiving leftovers.

After all, you wouldn't want to waste the meal you spent a full day preparing, now would you? Luckily, you're not alone in your post-Thanksgiving woes. Every host is always left with an abundance of turkey after the holiday, along with half-eaten sweet potato casseroles, extra veggies, several varieties of cranberry sauce, greens from a Thanksgiving salad, and more. It's our belief that all of these things deserve a chance at a second life beyond the typical turkey sandwich recipes.

First things first: After carving off the rest of the meat, take the bones and make a nice rich turkey stock. It'll open up a ton of space, and it's the perfect replacement for chicken stock in soups, risottos, and more . After that, peruse the rest of these recipes, and turn Turkey Day into a celebratory weeklong event. From a hearty, comforting leftover turkey noodle soup to a totally unexpected turkey enchilada recipe, there's something here for just about everyone&mdashincluding the kids. (Just wait till you see the leftover turkey cranberry barbecue sauce pizza.)

Can You Use Turkey instead of Chicken in Recipes?

Most recipes that call for rotisserie chicken – or plain, pre-cooked chicken – will work great with leftover turkey, too.

Sure, you can search specifically for recipes that use turkey leftovers. We’ve got some of them in our list below – recipes that were developed with the explicit goal of helping you use up turkey.

But, if you have recipes in your rotation that call for shredded or cubed, cooked chicken – you can probably just use your leftover turkey instead.

Hint #1) If you’ve brined or injected your turkey with really unique flavors – like cajun, for example – you’ll probably want to use the leftovers in recipes that will work well with those flavors.

Hint #2) The dark meat of turkey, in particular, usually has a bit of a stronger flavor than, say, white chicken breast meat. So, you may want to mix leftover white and dark meat turkey to “dilute” that flavor a bit, or choose recipes with heartier flavors to showcase the dark meat.

How to Store Leftover Turkey

All too often, the Thanksgiving turkey is left sitting out on the buffet table for longer than it really should be. Hours tick by as the pies are served, another glass of wine is poured, and happy conversation lingers.

I wouldn’t want you to miss a moment of it!

So, don’t waste time shredding the turkey or breaking it down … not yet. Just wrap the platter in some air-tight foil or plastic, and get the meat safely into the fridge. And get yourself right back to the party!

Then, once the guests have gone home, you can spend a few minutes shredding the leftover meat or chopping it into chunks (depending on how you plan to use it).

Store it in air-tight containers or zipper bags, in either the fridge or the freezer.

12 Best Turkey Casserole Recipes

Turkey often gets relegated to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner or sandwiches, but it's delicious enough to eat all year long. If you're not having a big crowd of guests, though, the leftovers from a roast or fried turkey can feel overwhelming. Luckily, the tasty meat is versatile and can be tossed into a variety of casseroles for a totally new meal.

Casseroles are also great for freezing and enjoying later. To freeze, line the casserole dish completely with aluminum foil. Prepare all of the ingredients and add them to the lined dish but don't bake. Cover and freeze completely. Use the foil to lift the frozen casserole out of the dish and make sure the entire thing is well-wrapped. Store for up to three months. To heat, place in the dish and add up to twice the cook time so that it heats through.

Whether you're looking for a taste of the holidays (without all of the hassle of making a holiday spread) or want a tasty way to use leftovers, these turkey casseroles are sure to be family favorites.

What to do with overcooked turkey

You can try to mask the dryness of overcooked turkey by smothering it in gravy (been there), or adding it to a casserole or soup or salad (done that).

But, let's be honest. once turkey is overcooked, it will never make a tasty comeback. Repeat after me. "bye Felicia!"

That's it. I don't try to repurpose it and cover up the dryness. I throw it away or feed it to the neighbor dog, maybe. Nobody wants seconds of super dry turkey and holiday dinner, so why would they try to choke it down otherwise.

Recipe Summary

  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons ground dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons rubbed dried sage
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 (15 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle champagne

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a turkey roaster with long sheets of aluminum foil that will be long enough to wrap over the turkey.

Stir together the parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture into the cavity of the turkey, then stuff with the celery, orange, onion, and carrot. Truss if desired, and place the turkey into the roasting pan. Pour the chicken broth and champagne over the turkey, making sure to get some champagne in the cavity. Bring the aluminum foil over the top of the turkey, and seal. Try to keep the foil from touching the skin of the turkey breast or legs.

Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear. Uncover the turkey, and continue baking until the skin turns golden brown, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

41 Leftover Turkey Recipes for Gobbling After Thanksgiving

If you're anything like us, you'll have plenty of meat left over after your Thanksgiving meal—which is why we rounded up our favorite leftover turkey recipes. While we love a classic leftover turkey sandwich—especially those towering creations stacked high with stuffing, potatoes, and cranberry sauce—we've also included plenty of ways to use your leftovers to create entirely new dishes. (Think casseroles, salads, soups, pot pie, enchiladas, and more.)

Even if your Thanksgiving gathering is small this year, it might be worth it to cook a whole bird, just to ensure there's plenty of meat to use in all these post-Thanksgiving recipes. Cooked turkey will stay fresh in your refrigerator for a few days, and it can also be frozen for up to two months—so you have time to get to quite a few of these gems.