What to do with leftover turkey: Thanksgiving leftover recipe ideas

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving
AccuWeather explains why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving in the United States.

What's a holiday meal without leftovers? This holiday season, keep the spirit alive by transforming your holiday leftovers into an entirely new dish with these easy holiday leftover recipes for turkey and other dishes.

Leftovers, though, don't last forever, and it's important to practice good food safety habits to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. As a general guideline, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends eating or freezing turkey and other leftovers within three to four days.

Visit FoodSafety.gov for a list of even more easy leftover turkey recipes in addition to the ones listed below.

Vegetable and Turkey Stir Fry

Cooked turkey combined with your favorite frozen veggies means you can throw this stir-fry together quickly for a healthy weekday dinner.

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Expert Andrea Balitewicz shares ideas on what do to with Thanksgiving leftovers.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 thin slices of ginger root (minced)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and minced)
  • 16 ounces turkey (cooked, cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 2/3 packages vegetables, fresh or frozen (10 ounce package, chopped)
  • water (optional)
  • Optional gravy:
    • 11 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, low sodium
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock


  1. Heat fry pan. Add oil and heat on high temperature.
  2. Add ginger, garlic, turkey and vegetables. Stir-fry about 1 minute to coat with oil.
  3. Adjust heat to prevent scorching. Add sugar. If vegetables are tender, stop cooking at this time.
  4. If the vegetables are firm, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook for 2 minutes or until tender.
  5. Serve at once, or if you wish to add a gravy:
  6. Mix the gravy ingredients well, pour over vegetables and turkey, cook for 30 seconds.
  7. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Source: Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service, Pictorial Recipes

SEE ALSO: How long does leftover turkey last? Your guide to leftover holiday food safety

Turkey Roast and Rice Soup

Make a hearty soup by adding lean, chopped turkey roast. You may also serve turkey roasts with steamed vegetables or side salad and potatoes or rice to make a complete meal.


  • 5 ounces thawed turkey roast (about 1 cup, chopped)
  • 4 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 4 carrots (peeled and sliced)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 cup rice (uncooked)
  • 1 can low-sodium green beans (drained, about 15 ounces)


  1. In a large pot over high heat, add the turkey roast, celery, carrots, onion, bouillon cube, black pepper, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
  2. Cook rice according to package directions.
  3. Add cooked rice and green beans into the soup and stir. Cook for 5 more minutes.

Source: Recipe adapted from Commodity Supplemental Food Program Cookbook

Sarah's Spicy Curry Turkey Soup

This turkey curry soup is a fun and flavorful dish to make with turkey dinner leftovers. You can use your leftover cranberry sauce to garnish the soup. A spoonful of cranberry sauce or chutney adds a cooling sweet, tangy flavor to balance the spicy curry.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup onion (diced)
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups carrots (chopped)
  • 2 cups spinach (chopped)
  • 3 small red potatoes (diced)
  • 3 cups cooked turkey (skin removed, diced)
  • Optional garnish: cranberry sauce


  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in flour, curry powder, and cinnamon and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in chicken broth and scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bring to a simmer. Then add carrots, spinach, potatoes, and turkey.
  5. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low.
  6. Simmer (covered) for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve in bowls and garnish with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

Source: USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

This story was originally published in November 2018.