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.
RECIPES FOR 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.
- 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!
- Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping– Chunks of turkey and vegetables are baked in a creamy, rich and savory sauce and topped with a golden biscuit crust.
- Roast Turkey Tater Tot Casserole – A delicious twist on a comfort food classic, using leftover turkey.
- Easy Turkey Tetrazzini – made with a cheesy sauce, earthy mushrooms with noodles, this turkey casserole is a great way to eat leftover turkey!
- Smoked Chicken (Turkey) and Grapes Hand Pies – Great light lunch, appetizer or tailgate food!
- Turkey and Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto – A creamy risotto with sweet potatoes and leftover turkey.
- Turkey Salad Sliders – These little sandwiches are great snacks while decorating the tree, or while watching the big game on TV.
- Peach Basil Chicken (or Turkey) Salad – Use that leftover turkey to make this unique twist on the basic chicken salad. So full of flavor!
- Chicken (or Turkey) Tortilla Soup – This is a great tortilla soup recipe and a nice place to start with a different take on using a chicken or turkey carcass for your stock. Even if you never had tortilla soup in a Mexican restaurant before then this will blow you away!
- Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping– Seriously, I think pot pies have to be one of the best all-time comfort food dishes ever. I would put this one high on your list of leftover ideas.
- Roast Turkey Tater Tot Casserole – Making a casserole provides an easy solution to use a few leftovers too. You may love chicken pot pies but you have to try a turkey pot pie!
- Easy Turkey Tetrazzini – She had me at cheesy sauce, but with the mushrooms and noodles too, this Italian style casserole offers an amazing way to deal with leftover turkey.
- Turkey Corn Chowder -When you grow tired of turkey sandwiches, transform leftover turkey into a rich delicious Turkey Chowder.
- Pulled Leftover Turkey BBQ Sandwich -bbq sandwiches with homemade barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
- Smoked Gruyere Turkey Bacon Panini – the arugula and smoked honey mustard take these over the top!
- Easy Turkey Pot Pie – simple to make, this pot pie has a Bisquick top.
- Caramelized Onion & Cream Cheese Turkey Enchiladas – this recipe originated with chicken, but the turkey version is out of this world!
- White Bean Chili with Turkey -crowd pleasing chili with leftover turkey is low fat, filling and packed with flavor!
RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER HAM:
- 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!
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!
RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER STUFFING:
- Deep Fried Cornbread Dressing Balls – Deep Fried Cornbread Dressing Balls with Cranberry Dip are perfect appetizers made from leftover stuffing.
- Sourdough Stuffing Egg Casserole – put your leftover to good use and make this sourdough stuffing egg casserole. Stuffing adds incredible flavor to this brunch dish and it comes together with so little effort.
- Leftover Stuffing Bacon Cups – will use up all your leftover stuffing! Make bacon cups, spoon the stuffing in, top with some cranberries and nuts and you have a delicious bite sized snack!
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 POTATOES:
- Mashed Potato Cakes (pictured above) – crispy and golden brown outside, served with chives and sour cream.
- Baked Mashed Potatoes – Baked with cheese and French fried onions.
- Sweet Potato Bisque with Truffle Oil – Sweet potatoes combine with earthy truffle oil and buttery, crunchy homemade croutons to create this scrumptious sweet potato bisque.
- Southwest Potato Croquettes – Mashed potatoes mixed with Southwest seasoning and fried into perfect little dipable appetizers.
- Loaded Mashed Potatoes – Dress up mashed potatoes like a loaded baked potato, baked in the oven. Great with BBQ!
- Savory Mashed Potato Puffs – like little Yorkshire puddings stuffed with mashed potatoes. A really yummy and fun side dish.
- Old Fashioned Potato Candy – peanut buttery sweet candy that has been around since the great depression.
Recipes for Leftover Pecans
When the Pecan Pie is but a memory, the leftover pecans can have so many uses!
RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER PECANS:
- 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.
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!
RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER CRANBERRIES:
- Cranberry Orange Muffins -Perfect bakery-style muffins, made with orange and leftover cranberry sauce.
- Sugared Cranberries – Pictured Above, these little bites make a great snack and also a wonderful addition to cheese and charcuterie boards.
- Cranberry Centerpiece – Not a recipe, but an easy centerpiece made with fresh cranberries.
- Dorothy’s Cranberry Meatballs – Turn that leftover cranberry sauce into this gorgeous meatball appetizer!
- Cranberry Orange Christmas Pound Cake – Freeze your leftover cranberry sauce and make this delicious pound cake for Christmas.
- Baked Brie with Cranberries – Puff pastry surrounds baked brie and cranberries in this impressive holiday appetizer.
- Honey Roasted Cranberry Ricotta Crostini – Drizzled on top of a creamy bed of orange flecked ricotta cheese on a crispy baguette, a festive crostini appetizer for any party!
- Roasted Cranberry Bourbon Crush – cranberries paired with tart cranberry juice, caramel hinted bourbon and bubbly lemon-lime soda.
- CranApple Fizz Cocktail– This bubbly cocktail is made of Alizé Apple, Cranberry Juice and Prosecco, and is all dressed up for the holidays. Cheers!
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!
RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER CANNED PUMPKIN:
- Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cake with Brown Butter Glaze – Quite possibly the best way to breakfast.
- Pumpkin Pie Turnovers – made with puff pastry and topped with a spiced glaze.
- Savory Pumpkin Cheese Dip with Bacon – use that pumpkin puree for a fantastic holiday or game day appetizer!
- Pumpkin Pie Croissant Bundles – Easy to make croissants filled with cream cheese, pumpkin, and fall spices. Lower calorie recipe that doesn’t require sugar, to keep calories down and you able to eat the fall flavors you love!
- Chocolate Pumpkin Wontons – Take Two Tapas –crispy chocolate pumpkin wontons are filled with creamy pumpkin pie, sweet chocolate, topped with a maple sour cream glaze, and dusted with powdered sugar!
- Mini Spice Cookies with Pumpkin Dip -Soft and chewy spice cookies surround a bowl of pumpkin dip — perfect for entertaining.
- Pumpkin Curry Soup -creamy pumpkin soup with curry. Done and ready for eating in less than 30 minutes.
- Glazed Baked Pumpkin Donuts -Moist baked pumpkin donuts, dunked in a spiced glaze.
- Cinderella Cake – Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
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 PIE CRUST RECIPES:
- Pumpkin Spice Swirls – Leftover Pie Crust Cookies – Pictured above, these little bites are great to have with your favorite cuppa.
- Dairy Queen Apple Pie Blizzard – Copy Cat Dairy Queen Apple Pie Blizzard is made with spiced apples, vanilla ice cream, and cinnamon pie crust.
- Pie Crust Cookies – Pie crust cut with cookie cutters and dusted with flavored sugar.
- Pie Crust Cookies with Pecans and Whiskey Caramel Sauce – pie crust is transformed into easy pie crust cookies topped with a pecan and drizzled with a whiskey caramel sauce!
The pies are but a memory, but there are still apples in your fruit basket.
LEFTOVER APPLE RECIPES:
- Crockpot Cinnamon Applesauce – if the scent it gives your kitchen doesn’t hook you, the flavor will!
- Persimmon Salad – apples, persimmons and maraschino cherries make this salad a keeper!
- Apple Dumplings with Spiced Rum Caramel Sauce (pictured above) – apples topped with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked until golden brown.
- The Very BEST Apple Crisp– You will never need another apple crisp recipe again. I promise.
- Apple Kuchen – This German Apple Cake is a not too sweet cake, topped with spiced apples and a vanilla glaze.
- Apple Chicken Salad – apples, cashews and a sweet honey dressing give chicken salad a whole new twist!
- Snicker Apple Salad – This one is a delight to call a “salad” — apples, cool whip and Snicker candy bars!
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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.