Holiday Leftovers Repurposed

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Holiday meal leftovers make tomorrow’s meals more wonderful. Repurpose holiday leftovers into new delicious recipes!


There are tons of movies that feature stories around Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. Why isn’t there a movie about the leftovers meals? 

Because, when you get right down to it, what you can do with the leftovers is every bit as entertaining as the banquet served on Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas! (Or any holiday meal you celebrate for that matter)


Well, I guess the leftovers from Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving would present a challenge. Buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, jelly beans, and an ice cream sundae, but it could still be done. 

I absolutely love the time spent with family and friends during the holidays. I really look forward to preparing meals with long family traditions. While I may enjoy the familiarity and comfort of those meals, I really enjoy getting creative with leftovers too! #foodnerd


Whether you have leftover turkey, ham, veggies, stuffing, cranberries, pecans, rolls or pie crust — I have you covered with all sorts of ways to turn leftovers into new recipes!

Everything from salads, to soups, from appetizers to cocktails and full meals.  



The Best Thanksgiving Leftovers Meals

Great leftover recipes don’t just taste delicious. They also bring back all the happiest memories of the holiday itself if you ask me. I totally get why Ross feels so passionate and protective of his “Moist Maker Sandwich” on Friends. 


I actually feel a tinge of regret as the leftovers run out. It is kind of a bittersweet sort of happy-sad feeling. Happy memories, full of laughter and loving, time spent with family, but knowing I have to wait until the next big holiday meal for it all to happen again!


Store The Holiday Leftovers Properly

First, and probably most importantly, you need to be able to use the leftovers! So storing them properly and getting them into the fridge or freezer makes a huge difference. I know it can be sort of difficult. 


You spend the whole day cooking a huge holiday meal. Afterward, you probably just want to kick up the heels and maybe even watch a holiday movie like “A Christmas Story”, which features both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals by the way. 


The last thing you want to do is schlepp into the kitchen and have to start cleaning up! But getting the leftovers put away quickly and properly is super important! You don’t want to risk unhealthy bacteria or mold getting any sort of foothold. 


Get Your Containers For Leftovers Set Up Beforehand

Food poisoning is no joke. And even if mold just renders something inedible, the misfortune of wasting perfectly good leftovers must be avoided. 


So, even if you want to save cleaning up for later, you still make the effort to get everything stored properly. 


Depending on the leftovers, you can have a strategy for storing everything set up before you even start cooking. Make sure your lidded plastic containers all have lids that still fit. Check the fridge and freezer to make sure there is room. 


Prepare The Fridge And Freezer


Clear out the stuff that you don’t need, want, or have been in there too long anyway. You will probably be able to gain a few containers just by doing that bit of housekeeping. 


Next, know what will keep better in the fridge or in the freezer. Obviously, the fridge items will need to be used more quickly, whereas the freezer offers long term strategies for meal planning.


Divide The Leftovers By How They Will Be Stored 


Things like vegetables are better off in the fridge and stock made from the leftover turkey carcass keeps for months in the freezer. Take inventory of what you have left. Make sure the stuff that might go off faster gets placed to the front. 


The last thing you want is to find a container of whipped cream that has become watery. Or a bunch of mashed potatoes that have gone moldy. 


If you have a large quantity of leftover turkey meat, then you might want to separate it into the freezer and fridge portions. If you want to get really deep about it, then you can separate dark and light meat too. 


After all, some folks prefer the white meat for sandwiches perhaps and others want the dark meat for soups for example. 


You can pack the meat into sandwich baggies so that you only have to unfreeze portions according to what you need when you need it. 



Give Me Some Recipe Ideas For Holiday Leftovers!

Ok, so now you have all your leftovers properly stored. The kitchen is clean. The company has left. You can breathe a sigh of relief that everyone had a great time and even the grumpiest relative finally relaxed and smiled for a change. 


You may not feel like spending much time in the kitchen. But there’s the leftovers… Oh, happy day! All that work paid off when served on the holiday. Now it is paying dividends!


I have a bunch of great holiday leftover suggestions. Ever curious, I always look for more great leftover ideas too. Here are some I can suggest broken down by the leftover.



Turkey And Ham Leftovers

Some of these dishes are chicken recipes that you can easily substitute with leftover turkey.



    • Turkey Noodle Soup – Of course at the top of the list is turkey noodle soup. Nothing works better for getting that last bit of turkey off the bones and putting the bones to good use. A homemade turkey stock, some comforting noodles, the bits of turkey, and the fresh veggies make a very savory soup. 
    • Turkey Stock – Naturally a great soup starts with the foundation of a wonderful stock. You can build sauces, flavor dishes, and more. Soups are just one of the many ways to take advantage of stock.
    • Mexican Style Leftover Turkey Soup – Warming soup made with leftover turkey.
    • Turkey Oscar – Sliced turkey done “oscar style” with asparagus, hollandaise, shrimp & crabmeat. fancy and so simple. 
    • Chicken (or Turkey) Ala King –  Super easy recipe for Chicken (or Turkey) Ala King – using leftover meat and frozen veggies.  Serve over biscuits, noodles or baked potatoes!


    • Ham and Cheese Sliders -Ham and Swiss cheese, loaded on King’s Hawaiian rolls, slathered with a Dijon butter, and baked in the oven.  Great for company or watch parties.
    • Ham & Smoked Gouda Quiche-Flavors of smoked ham and smoked gouda cheese will entice your taste buds and make a wonderful addition to any brunch table!
    • Ham Tetrazzini –  a super-fast dinner that is ready in like 10 minutes!
    • Instant Pot Ham & Potato Soup -a savory, thick soup made creamy with Yukon Gold potatoes and thickened with starchy russet potatoes.
    • Fettuccini Alfredo with Ham & Peas -This rich and creamy dish is easy to make and delightfully satisfying!



Mom's Sausage & Sage Dressing

Recipes for using Leftover Stuffing

The stuffing (or dressing as we call it) is my favorite part of the holiday meal.  If any of the leftovers survive being eaten cold from the Tupperware before bed, these are some great recipes to use it for!

white plate with baked pork chop with stuffing and gravy



Mashed Potato Cakes with wooden board and white bowl

Recipes for Leftover Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes or yams are always part of a holiday meal.  Their leftovers can be used in so many ways!






Recipes for Leftover Pecans

When the Pecan Pie is but a memory, the leftover pecans can have so many uses! 


    • Turtle Cookies – Caramel, chocolate and pecans make these big cookies the perfect turtle cookie. 
    • Candy Cups – Homemade Chocolate Candy Cups will be a hit on those holiday cookie trays!
    • Graham Cracker Toffee – This toffee is so easy to make and is one of the first things to disappear off of my holiday treat trays.  Perfect for that cookie exchange you have coming up!
    • Caramel Toffee & Pecan Fudge – Sweet toffee fudge made with caramel and pecans, perfect for your holiday baking list!
    • Toasted Pecans –make perfect buttery toasted pecans, or any other type of nuts, to use in a variety of recipes and dishes. 
    • Sugared Pecans – Make these for using on cheese boards, or wrap them as hostess gifts.



Sugared Cranberries

Recipes for Leftover Cranberries and Cranberry Sauce

Leftover cranberries and cranberry sauce don’t have to get tossed.  They can become cocktails, baked goods, even centerpieces!



Glazed Baked Pumpkin Donuts

Recipes for Leftover Pumpkin Puree

Don’t you hate when a recipe calls for a half of a can of pumpkin?  What? Waste the rest? No way! Make one of these great recipes!





Pumpkin Spice Swirls - Left Over Pie Crust Cookies

Recipes for Leftover Pie Crust

My grandma always made sure there was extra pie crust because she knew how much I loved them baked with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.  Even if that isn’t up your alley — one of these other recipes is sure to hit the spot!






Leftover Apples

The pies are but a memory, but there are still apples in your fruit basket. 



^Love it? Pin it!^

You don’t want to forget where you saw all of these ways to repurpose holiday leftovers.  Make sure you pin the whole collection to your favorite Pinterest board.


Other Great Leftover Suggestions

There are so many ways to go with leftovers! Here are some creative suggestions I can either vouch for or look forward to trying soon. 


    • Put some turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce in some puff pastry dough. Bake them up for little leftover turkey dinner pastries. 
    • Use your leftover mashed potatoes to act as a thickening starch in your soups if you want a creamier soup.
    • Chop up string beans and add them chilled to salads. 
    • Make nachos with turkey meat instead of hamburger. You can still use the same taco blend seasonings, too.
    • Take leftover sweet potatoes and mix with some eggs then form patties and fry them up the same way you would potato pancakes. 
    • Of course, use that leftover gravy to make the “Moistmaker” sandwich. The moist maker is a turkey sandwich that has a gravy soaked piece of bread in the middle in addition to the other ingredients. 
    • Use the extra gravy on some biscuits for breakfast too of course! That is if you have extra gravy. The gravy always seems to go so fast. Just remember, if you store some good hearty stock, then making more gravy won’t be an issue. 



More Holiday Meal Movies To Watch

Being around family and friends is so wonderful and I never tire of the opportunities to spend quality time with them. But always at some point in the day or evening, the food coma sets in and everyone wants to just kickback. 


Then, it is either nap time, game time, or time to watch a flick and just chill. Here are some I can recommend for the occasion.



    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – simply classic and hilarious no matter how many times you see it.
    • Elf – Not exactly what I would serve for a holiday meal, candy, candy canes, corn syrup, and candy corn… but it will put a smile on your face
    • The Last Waltz – this is actually a music documentary of The Band’s farewell concert and features everyone from Neil Diamond to Muddy Waters and many more. What makes it a holiday movie? The show was filmed during Thanksgiving and huge turkey dinner was served to the entire audience, courtesy of the director Martin Scorcese.

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  1. All of these tips are very spot on. I always make sure to save any leftover in multiple containers and freeze. Then slowly taking out one container at a time to enjoy. I hate wasting food. 🙂

  2. Such a helpful and thorough post.. and now I never have to worry about making too much food! Plus, those turkey leftover recipes are amazing.. made the soup and loved it!

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