Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Even Better Than the Holiday Meal

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sausage-Cranberry Stuffing
Photo: Jacob Fox

We can pretty much guarantee that you have leftovers from the bounty of Thanksgiving dinner. But there is no reason to simply reheat them in the microwave. These recipes use the last of your turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes to make tasty dinners, desserts, snacks, and even breakfasts.

01 of 21

Creamy Pasta with Turkey and Crispy Crumbs

Creamy Pasta with Turkey and Crispy Crumbs
Carson Downing

Even if you stuffed yourself at the holiday meal, you might still have leftover Thanksgiving turkey. In this recipe, use it as the base for an indulgent-in-a-different way dinner. Heavy cream and Parmesan cheese coat the turkey and pasta in an Alfredo-like sauce. Golden brown bread crumbs are a crunchy topper.

02 of 21

Turkey Cranberry Sandwiches

Turkey Cranberry Sandwiches
Blaine Moats

A turkey sandwich is known to all as one of the best Thanksgiving leftover recipes, but consider giving it an upgrade. Pull out your leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, but instead of piling it straight on a bun, heat it up with barbecue sauce and chipotle peppers. The tangy, spicy sauce will cling to the turkey just like barbecued pulled pork, and it's a quick, easy way to make your Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches even more delicious.

03 of 21

Turkey Dinner Shepherd's Pie

Turkey Dinner Shepherd's Pie
Andy Lyons

This Thanksgiving leftover casserole will definitely further your mission to clean out your fridge. There are tons of opportunities to use up leftover turkey, veggies, and mashed potatoes as you create this hearty fall casserole. You could use a dollop of cranberry sauce in place of dried cranberries, and throw in any extra prepped veggies you have leftover like carrots, onion, and green beans. It's like Thanksgiving dinner all over again!

04 of 21

Pumpkin Pie Shake

Pumpkin Pie Shake
Blaine Moats

Too stuffed to polish off that last piece of pumpkin pie? You can always enjoy your leftover Thanksgiving desserts the day after, but you can upgrade them, too. Grab cinnamon or vanilla ice cream and a splash of milk, then toss your pumpkin pie into the blender($30, Target) to turn it into a rich, decadent, pumpkin-spiced milkshake.

05 of 21

Potato Cinnamon Rolls

Potato Cinnamon Rolls
Karla Conrad

Yep, you can make a Thanksgiving leftover breakfast for your holiday guests (that is, if you're not too stuffed the next morning). Mashed potatoes from the night before are unrecognizable once you mix them into the dough for gooey, sweet cinnamon rolls. They're actually our secret ingredient for the best-ever cinnamon rolls—adding just a cup of mashed potatoes makes the dough unbelievably moist and fluffy.

06 of 21

Turkey Pita Nachos with Pomegranate and Mint

Turkey Pita Nachos with Pomegranate and Mint
Blaine Moats

When your Thanksgiving feast inevitably leaves you with leftover turkey, use it to make nachos! Instead of using up all your extra turkey on sandwiches with soft bread, add some crunch by serving it over crispy pita chips. You could even sub in leftover cranberry sauce for the pomegranate seeds this recipe calls for to give this creative idea for Thanksgiving leftovers some fruity tang.

07 of 21

Cheesy Tots

Cheesy Tots
Blaine Moats

Transform leftover mashed potatoes into an irresistible appetizer by forming them into crispy, cheesy potato tots. These tots take their name from the Parmesan cheese mixed into the potato center, which helps elevate plain mashed potatoes. Coat this leftover Thanksgiving recipe with panko bread crumbs to give them a crunchy outer layer, and dip in sriracha-sour cream sauce.

08 of 21

Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole

Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole
Matthew Clark

You can pile all of your extras into this Thanksgiving leftovers casserole, and we mean all. We're talking bread stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy. If you serve cooked corn on the side of your feast, you can toss some in here, too. Of course you'll need to add cranberry sauce on top, so when it's all stirred and baked, you can use up seven different leftover dishes with this one Thanksgiving-themed recipe.

09 of 21

Stuffed Baked Mushrooms

Stuffed Baked Mushrooms
Andy Lyons

These baked mushrooms are easily customized, so you can use just about any leftover Thanksgiving dish you want. Stuffing is an easy choice, but you could also spoon in a dollop of mashed potatoes or a scoop of leftover turkey. Our recipe includes tons of suggestions, so even if you hosted a less traditional Thanksgiving meal, like ham or roast chicken, we've got ideas for helping you turn them into stuffed mushrooms instead.

10 of 21

Tomatillo Turkey Chili with Spelt

Tomatillo Turkey Chili with Spelt
Karla Conrad

Turkey soup from Thanksgiving leftovers is a fall favorite of ours, since we always crave a good, hot bowl of soup or chili. Toss your leftover turkey with tomatillo salsa, cannellini beans, and spelt (an ancient grain closely related to wheat). The result is a hearty, slightly spicy turkey chili that will warm you up from the inside out.

11 of 21

Sweet Potato Brownies

Sweet Potato Brownies
Andy Lyons

Want to make leftover mashed sweet potatoes disappear? This idea for Thanksgiving leftovers is just the recipe for it. Mixing your mashed potatoes with sugar, cocoa powder, and flour (plus a few other ingredients) turns them into fudgy, chocolaty brownies. While no one will ever guess those sweet potatoes were involved, these brownies still have the benefits of their vitamins and minerals, making them a little better for you than a slice of leftover Thanksgiving pie.

12 of 21

Green Bean Frittata

Green Bean Frittata
Blaine Moats

Use leftover green bean casserole to give you a headstart on dinner (or breakfast). This easy frittata recipe is creamier than most thanks to a few cups of your leftover casserole. Dress up your leftovers by adding them to eggs, bacon, and cheddar cheese in your skillet.

13 of 21

Peppery Turkey BLT

Peppery Turkey BLT
Blaine Moats

Freshen up slices of leftover turkey by piling them high with juicy tomatoes and crisp lettuce. Add a few slices of bacon on top and a swipe of mayo to make a true BLT for a post-Thanksgiving lunch, or a quick dinner after a day of Black Friday shopping. One final ingredient gives this turkey sandwich recipe more crunch than most of its counterparts—instead of serving wavy potato chips on the side, stack them on your sandwich, too.

14 of 21

Mushroom Patties with Sour Cream and Herbs

Mushroom Patties with Sour Cream and Herbs
Carson Downing

Sometimes we get a little stuck on what to do with leftover bread stuffing. Not anymore with this recipe in our repertoire—you can stir that leftover stuffing in with chopped mushrooms and egg to turn it into delicious breaded mushroom patties. Really, you can serve this Thanksgiving leftover recipe any way you want, but we like adding the patties to a bed of fresh lettuce and drizzling with a sour cream sauce.

15 of 21

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sausage-Cranberry Stuffing

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sausage-Cranberry Stuffing
Jacob Fox

Stuffed acorn squash is like a mini Thanksgiving feast all on its own. Fill each half with sausage (or your leftover turkey), apples, leeks, and a blend of seasonings. Then, to give this fall dinner recipe a tart finish, sub in leftover cranberry sauce for the dried fruit at the end.

16 of 21

Salmon Hash

Salmon Hash
Blaine Moats

Your bread stuffing from the night before becomes today's Thanksgiving leftovers breakfast (or brunch) with the addition of a few more ingredients. Leftover stuffing is the best base for a hearty morning hash, especially once you add smoked salmon, a few extra veggies, and eggs on top. You can even drizzle a little leftover gravy over your plate before you dig in.

17 of 21

Indian Cauliflower and Potato Soup (Aloo Gobi)

Indian Cauliflower and Potato Soup (Aloo Gobi)
Andy Lyons

We know no one enjoys cooking another meal in the wake of a massive Thanksgiving dinner, which is why we love this easy soup recipe for using up leftover mashed potatoes. There's hardly any cooking involved—just toss your potatoes in your slow cooker ($47, Amazon) with cauliflower, onion, and a few Indian-inspired spices. When the time's up, puree the mixture until it's smooth, then pick up your spoon and enjoy.

18 of 21

Chile-Lime Turkey Patties

Chile-Lime Turkey Patties
Andy Lyons

You can never have too many recipes using leftover Thanksgiving turkey on deck. This recipe jazzes up your leftovers by transforming them into a twist on traditional crab cakes. Use breadcrumbs and mayonnaise to help hold the patties together, then add a dash of red chile paste to give them some kick.

19 of 21

Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Jason Donnelly

This Thanksgiving leftover casserole can pull double-duty when you're trying to clear out space in your fridge. Sub in two cups of chopped turkey for ground turkey, and use your leftover mashed sweet potatoes as a casserole topper. We packed this leftovers recipe with fresh, good-for-you ingredients like zucchini, carrots, and corn, so it won't feel quite as indulgent as your Thanksgiving dinner.

20 of 21

Cran-Turkey Enchiladas

Cran-Turkey Enchiladas
Kim Cornelison

Thanksgiving leftovers, meet Mexican meals. Your shredded leftover turkey makes the perfect enchilada filling, and you can even use leftover cranberry sauce to help jumpstart the tangy, creamy enchilada sauce. Once you add black beans, salsa, and a splash of hot pepper sauce, this leftover Thanksgiving turkey recipe is barely recognizable as the extras from your holiday dinner.

21 of 21

Layered Cranberry-Quince Mold

Layered Cranberry-Quince Mold
Andy Lyons

When pumpkin pie fatigue finally sets in, use your leftover cranberry sauce to make a lighter dessert. Chopped quince adds a little freshness to this leftover Thanksgiving dessert, while cranberry sauce and gelatin help create stunning layers. Top with sugared cranberries and a mint leaf for a picture-worthy presentation.

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