I’m sharing 5 ways to use up Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers. In this blog post you will learn to make a soup and pie as well as a pasta dish and a British classic, toad in the hole, all with leftovers from Christmas and or Thanksgiving meals.
These 5 recipes for holiday meal leftovers will save you money, make your food last longer, help make food planning around the holidays easier and save the planet from harmful food waste.
Food waste is a global problem all year round but the holidays is particularly problematic. Commercial Waste reported in 2021 that 7 million tonnes of food now ends up being thrown out every year. Global News Canada reported household waste increases by a whopping 25% during the holidays whilst NRDC reported in 2019 that roughly 200 million pounds of turkey meat are thrown out over the Thanksgiving holiday week in the USA.
As the media and large corporations encourage gluttony and greed whilst praying on our insecurities over feeling nothing is enough, it’s easy to succumb.
For my first Thanksgiving in Canada I invited friend over for Friendsgiving. I only had 6 people dining that evening but I panicked at the counter in Wholefoods and asked for a 4lb Turkey Breast. My warning that I had gone overboard was the surprised expression the butcher wore upon his face when I told him it was for 6 people but I shrugged my shoulders and said “it’s okay, I love leftovers”. Little did I know how much leftovers I was about to have.
From that one 4lb stuffed turkey breast and its accompanying trimmings I was able to make reheated leftovers, toad in the hole, a pie, lasagne and the kind of sandwich Ross Geller would get mad about if someone else ate it.
It was in this process of both using up and stretching out my Thanksgiving leftovers that I was inspired to create this blog post of recipes so that you too can use up Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers to save you money, make meal planning around the holidays so much easier and save the planet from further food waste.
You see, not only is throwing food out a waste of precious resources for the planet but when it’s not composted correctly it will have an even worse effect on the planet. When food piles up in landfills it gets trapped without access to oxygen. Without oxygen the food waste cannot naturally break down, instead it releases methane which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Methane is contributing to the irreversible heating of our planet causing ice caps to melt, an increase in forest fires, coastal flooding and the intense heatwaves that killed tens of thousands of people across the world in 2022 alone.
I’m only naming a few of the long-term effects of climate change caused by an act as simple as throwing out food during the holidays. So let’s combat this together with these 5 ways to use up Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers.
Before getting started here are some useful answers to questions you may have regarding storing and eating cooked turkey leftovers from Christmas or Thanksgiving:
How long are Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers good for?
Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers are good for up to 4 days if stored correctly in the refrigerator.
How long will cooked turkey leftovers last in the fridge?
According to USDA cooked turkey can be kept refrigerated for safe consumption for up to 4 days.
How long can cooked turkey leftovers keep in the freezer?
Cooked turkey will last in the freezer for up to 6 months, so you can make these recipes to use up your Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers and store them in the freezer to eat into the new year.
Raw turkey can be kept in the freezer for up to 9 months if you know you have too much and want to save some for a later date.
Can I freeze my thanksgiving leftovers?
You can absolutely freeze your thanksgiving leftovers. Either freeze them as is, but individually so that each dish can be heated correctly (that means don’t freeze your mash with your turkey) or you can make some of these Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers recipes and freeze that for another day.
Can I make these Thanksgiving or Christmas leftover recipes if I don’t cook turkey?
Yes you absolutely can! Whether you’re cooking turkey, chicken, goose, ham or even a vegetarian alternative such as nut roast, you can substitute these into the following 5 ways to use up holiday roast dinner leftovers.
Okay, let’s get into these 5 recipes on how to to use Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers:
1. Pie filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
This Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers pie recipe is the most wholesome recipe on this list of ways to use Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers.
I know pies in North America are mostly associated with sweet fruit fillings but if you haven’t, give a savoury pie a chance.
Nothing speaks cosy night in with a warm winter meal more than a buttery pastry filled with exciting meats and veggies, oozing with a thick, flavoursome sauce. Served with lashings of gravy and a side of creamy mash potatoes, it might end up being your favourite way to use up Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers.
This Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers pie recipe will serve 4-6 people.
Ingredients for a pie filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- 2 rashers/strips of smoked bacon
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1tbsp butter
- 1 white onion
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 leek, the white part
- 2 chestnut or cremini mushrooms
- 2 tsp mustard
- 50g or ¼ cup plain or all purpose flour
- 1 litre or 900ml carton of chicken stock
- 450g or 1lb or of leftover turkey or chicken, shredded
- Some leftover vegetables such as a carrot, some green beans, a few sprouts or some corn
- 2 tbsp leftover stuffing
- 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
- 1 egg
Ingredients for pie pastry
- 500g or 4 cups of plain or all purpose flour
- 250g or 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 3-4 tbsp cold water
Recipe for a pie filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- To make the pastry add the flour, salt and butter to a mixing bowl and rub it together to resemble breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and stir into the mixing bowl with 3-4 tablespoons of cold water. Use your hands to bring it together, then split it into two balls. Wrap each one in greaseproof/parchment paper and place in the fridge for 30mins.
- Finely chop the bacon and onion. Cook the bacon in a skillet on a medium heat in the oil and butter then add the onions. Once softened, add the rosemary.
- Chop the leek and mushrooms and add to the skillet and cover for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Remove the lid and stir in the mustard followed by the flour.
- Pour in the stock and bring to the boil (preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F) then turn to a low heat and simmer for 20mins so it thickens. Set aside to cool.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and grease the bottom of a 10” pie dish with oil or butter.
- On a flat, floured surface roll out one half of the pastry to a thickness of 1/2cm or a little under ¼”. Transfer it to the pie dish and gently press it in to line the bottom of the dish.
- Roughly chop up leftover vegetables and stir into the cooled pie filling along with the shredded leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
- Spoon the pie filling into the pie dish.
- Beat the egg and brush the edges of the pastry (to help seal the top when it goes on).
- Roll out the other half of the pastry again to a thickness of1/2cm or a little under ¼”. Transfer it to the top of the pie dish to cover the filling.
- With any knife, guide it around the edge of the pie dish slicing off the excess pastry. Then use a fork to press down and seal the edge of the pie, working your way all around.
- Take the excess pastry and cut out festive shapes using cookie cutters. Place these on top of the pie and brush the whole pie with egg.
- Place on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 30-45mins until the pie pastry is golden brown.
- Serve hot with mash potatoes, gravy and extra veggies.
2. Stew and dumplings made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers (Turkey casserole with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers)
Otherwise labeled a Christmas leftover soup or casserole, this stew and dumplings is made with festive leftovers. It can be made either on a stove top or in a slow cooker and is ideal for popping on earlier in the day to enjoy later that evening, freeing up your time for a brisk winter walk (if you’re using a slow cooker), boardgames with the family or an afternoon of journalling and doing a self care reset.
The suet dumplings (drop dumplings in North America) are the kind of British food that has a different name and recipe all over the nation linked to its originating region. Norfolk, where my fiancé and I grew up and both our families reside, is most notorious for its dumplings – in fact if you were born in Norfolk, like my fiancé, you are known as a Norfolk Dumpling – so they’re really a sentimental taste from home for us. Though my Mum is not from Norfolk, this is her special chicken stew recipe.
On that note, seeking out suet was somewhat of a mission as none of the markets in Canada stock the name brand my family have always used and it’s also not known as suet. With a deep dive into Google I learnt a vegetable “suet” in North America is All-Vegetable shortening and is made by none other than Crisco.
You don’t have to make this stew with leftovers, if you don’t have any from a previous holiday roast, you can roast some chicken breasts or thighs in the oven before hand.
This stew recipe will serve 4 people (dumpling recipe will make 6 large or 8 small).
Ingredients for stew and dumplings made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- 1 white onion
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 leek
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 cubed potato (or a few leftover roast potatoes, roughly chopped)
- 1 leftover carrot and any other leftover vegetables such as cabbage
- 2 litres (or 2 900ml cartons) of chicken stock or broth
- 2 tbsp of sage stuffing mix
- 450g or 1lb or of pre-roasted leftover turkey or chicken, shredded
- Salt and pepper
Ingredients for the dumplings
- 125g or 1 cup plain or all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 60g suet or all-vegetable shortening
- 4-5 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp dried parsley or sage (I actually used the Trader Joes Green Goddess seasoning and it was amazing)
Recipe for stew and dumplings made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
You will need to a dutch oven or casserole dish with lid to make this stew.
- Finely chop onion and soften on a low heat in oil and butter.
- Slice leek and celery and cook with onions until softened.
- Add leftover veg and pour in chicken stock/broth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the stuffing mix and add the turkey.
- Bring the stew to a boil then turn it down to the lowest heat and cover for 1-2 hours. Check on it every half an hour or so to make sure the stew hasn’t thickened too much. Make the dumplings about 40mins before you’re ready to eat.
- To make the dumplings preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the suet/shortening and use your fingers to bring it together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water on tablespoon at a time to bring the mixture together into a stick, but not wet, dough. Stop adding water before it turns to a wet dough.
- Use your hands to create 6-8 balls of dough and place them into the stew. Replace the lid and turn off the stove top. Place the stew into the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 15mins.
- After 15mins remove the lid and cook for a further 10-15mins or until the tops of the dumplings are golden. To really crisp them up I pop them under the grill/broiler for 5-7minutes.
- Serve hot and season to taste.
If you’re making this Thanksgiving or Christmas leftover stew in a slow cooker then preheat the slow cooker with the onions, butter and oil inside. Then turn it to its lowest cooking setting and add all of the ingredients except the dumplings. Cook for 6-7 hours on low or 3-4 on high.
3. Turkey and broccoli lasagne made with with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
In my kitchen I have dubbed myself Queen of Leftovers, I take pride in being able to whip up something different with the leftovers contents of the various repurposed yoghurt pots and ice cream tubs. I think this under-appreciated talent of repurposing food leftovers comes from years of travel and needing to use up what would go bad in the fridge and wanting to prevent waste.
Though I take the crown handed to me by myself, my inspiration is the true monarch of leftovers, British chef, household name and national treasure, Jamie Oliver. Good ol’ Jamie.
This turkey and broccoli lasagne is a Jamie Oliver original recipe that I have been making for over 8 years. I believe I saw it on one of his annual Christmas cooking series and though I’ve changed a few things over the years, it has been a firm favourite ever since. It’s perfect for dinner parties, or stretching out over a couple of nights for two people and this turkey and broccoli lasagne is a really great way to use up turkey leftovers with pasta.
This Thanksgiving or Christmas leftover lasagne recipe will serve 6 people.
Ingredients for turkey and broccoli lasagne made with with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- 1 white onion
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic
- 225g or 1 ½ cups of mascarpone cheese
- 450g or 1lb of leftover turkey, shredded
- 2 heads of broccoli
- Approximately 10 lasagne sheets
- 25g or ¼ cup grated Grano Padano cheese
Ingredients for béchamel or white sauce
- 50g or ¼ cup of butter
- 2 tbsp plain or all purpose flour
- 600ml (1 pint) or 2 ½ cups milk
- 50g or ½ cup grated Grano Padano cheese
Recipe for turkey and broccoli lasagne made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/355ºF.
- Boil the broccoli and when cooked drain it and mash it with a potato masher then set aside.
- Finely chop the onion and fry in the oil, when the onions soften stir through the oregano then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the mashed broccoli mascarpone cheese, and shredded leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey. Set aside.
- To make the béchamel or white sauce start by melting the butter over a low-medium heat. Once melted, gradually whisk in the flour to avoid lumps. Bring the flour and butter together to form a ball then little by little add the milk. Whisk in the milk so that the flour mixture absorbs it before adding more, you want to keep the sauce thick. Eventually the mixture will turn to a more liquid state, keep it on a low-medium heat and stir frequently. Once all the milk has been added, stir in the cheese until it has melted then remove it from the heat.
- To start building your lasagne, spoon a layer of turkey into the bottom of an oven dish (25x20cm or 10”x12” will do), cover with a layer of lasagne sheets then coat with a layer of béchamel (white) sauce. Repeat this process until you’ve ran out, leaving the top layer as the béchamel sauce.
- Sprinkle the remaining Grano Padano cheese across the top and place in the oven to bake for 45-50mins until the top is golden.
- Serve with a side salad and fresh or garlic bread.
4. Toad in the hole made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
Toad in the hole is a quintessential English meal. As gross as it sounds and bleak as it looks it’s perfect for keeping you warm in winter.
The recipe for toad in the hole has been in print since the 1700s and was created as a means to stretch meat as far as a low-income household could. Toad in the hole is a giant Yorkshire pudding with sausages cooked into it. Though it can be left as is, you can throw in some of your Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers to jazz it up. Add anything from leftover meats to veggies and serve with gravy.
You can always add veggies that aren’t leftovers from a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, you can add whatever you fancy as long as they’re cooked before they go in. I had some chunks of pumpkin in my freezer that I added to mine. Just avoid the temptation to overload it with vegetables and meat as it won’t allow enough space for the Yorkshire to rise – trust me, I know from experience.
Toad in the hole is the perfect meal for a cold evening.
This toad in the hole recipe serves 4 people.
Ingredients for toad in the hole made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- 100ml or ⅓ and ⅛ cup of sunflower or canola oil
- 4 big, meaty sausages
- 80g or 1 cup of cooked turkey, shredded
- Rosemary or sage (fresh or dried, whichever you have)
- A generous handful of leftover vegetables, whatever you have leftover – leek, carrots, sprouts etc.
- 4 balls or tablespoons of stuffing if you have it leftover
Ingredients for the Yorkshire pudding batter
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 100g of plain flour or ¾ cups of all purpose flour
- 250ml milk (or milk substitute) or 1 cup of milk
Recipe for toad in the hole made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- You will need to move your oven shelves so that you can place your oven dish in the middle and have plenty of room above it for when the toad in the hole rises but also enough room for a top shelf to cook your sausages.
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF.
- Pour the oil into your oven dish (25x20cm or 10”x12” will do) and place on the middle shelf to preheat the oil.
- Beat the eggs, salt and flour into a large mixing bowl then gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth batter.
- Put sausages on a baking tray or sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Use this time to boil any uncooked veggies if you’re using them. After 10 mins, remove the sausages from the oven.
- Wearing oven gloves to protect your hands and arms, carefully (always be safe when cooking with hot oil) but quickly (so you don’t lose heat from the oven) pour your Yorkshire batter into the oil.
- Add the sausages (spaced out in a line is easiest for serving your toad in the hole) and leftover veggies then push the shelf back into the oven and cook for 20-25mins, until the Yorkshire has risen and is golden brown. Do not open the oven door for at least 20mins to allow it to rise properly.
- Serve your toad in the hole made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers hot, with gravy and cranberry sauce. Perhaps some extra vegetables and maybe even roast potatoes or mash.
5. The ultimate sandwich filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
It goes without saying that this is the easiest way to use up your Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers but if you haven’t ever treated yourself to a sandwich made with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers, then you are missing out on the best sandwich ever.
I prefer to use a baguette rather than sliced bread because it gives the sandwich a crisp texture but thick, pillowy slices of a farmhouse loaf are equally enjoyable.
Ingredients for the ultimate sandwich filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- Bread – sliced, roll, baguette – whatever brings you the most joy
- Cranberry sauce
Recipe for the ultimate sandwich filled with Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers
- Slice baguette lengthways down the side.
- Butter one side of the middle and spread cranberry sauce on the other.
- Fill with leftover cooked turkey and stuffing.
- Season with pepper and close to enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed reading about 5 ways to use up Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers and if you try any of these recipes, please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear it!
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