~ Got too much leftover Thanksgiving turkey? No problem! These healthy, EASY Leftover Turkey Recipes will re-invent it in delicious new ways! (Psssst … these all work great with leftover chicken, too.) ~
Somehow, leftover turkey has become the dreaded end result of an otherwise beloved meal. Nobody seems to want to eat it straight-up, with globby, reheated gravy.
And for some reason, nobody ever seems to have just a little leftover turkey. If you’ve got a turkey problem, it’s always a BIG one!
Ok. First step: don’t worry! We’ve got this!
Second step: store those turkey leftovers properly. Only after that, delicious recipes can happen.
How to Store Leftover Turkey
All too often, the Thanksgiving turkey is left sitting out on the buffet table for longer than it really should be. Hours tick by as the pies are served, another glass of wine is poured, and happy conversation lingers.
I wouldn’t want you to miss a moment of it!
So, don’t waste time shredding the turkey or breaking it down … not yet. Just wrap the platter in some air-tight foil or plastic, and get the meat safely into the fridge. And get yourself right back to the party!
Then, once the guests have gone home, you can spend a few minutes shredding the leftover meat or chopping it into chunks (depending on how you plan to use it).
Store it in air-tight containers or zipper bags, in either the fridge or the freezer.
How to Freeze Leftover Turkey
If you’ve got leftover turkey stocked in your freezer, all sorts of meals are just a few minutes away … lots of possibilities to make your life easier on busy evenings throughout the holiday season!
So if you just have waaaaay too much turkey to eat in the couple days following Thanksgiving, freezing it is a great way to save time on future meals!
I’ve got a few tips to help you:
Tip #1) I find it’s helpful to portion out small bags with 1-2 cups of measured turkey, so it’s recipe-ready in the exact amount I’ll need.
Tip #2) Be sure to use freezer containers or specific freezer bags, to help prevent freezer burn.
Tip #3) Label the containers with the date and amount. And – I know this seems obvious – but don’t forget to label the container to say that it contains turkey.
As much as you think you’ll remember what the heck that baggie contains and when you froze it … trust me … you probably won’t. (I speak from vast experience of peering at frozen mystery baggies more times than I should admit! 😉 )
Tip #4) Whenever you want to use that pre-frozen turkey in a recipe, it’s easiest to pull it out the night before, and let it defrost overnight in the fridge. In a pinch, you can also defrost it in the microwave, but that can run the risk of overcooking portions of it, especially around the edges.
Can You Use Turkey instead of Chicken in Recipes?
Most recipes that call for rotisserie chicken – or plain, pre-cooked chicken – will work great with leftover turkey, too.
Sure, you can search specifically for recipes that use turkey leftovers. We’ve got some of them in our list below – recipes that were developed with the explicit goal of helping you use up turkey.
But, if you have recipes in your rotation that call for shredded or cubed, cooked chicken – you can probably just use your leftover turkey instead.
A couple hints on this:
Hint #1) If you’ve brined or injected your turkey with really unique flavors – like cajun, for example – you’ll probably want to use the leftovers in recipes that will work well with those flavors.
Hint #2) The dark meat of turkey, in particular, usually has a bit of a stronger flavor than, say, white chicken breast meat. So, you may want to mix leftover white and dark meat turkey to “dilute” that flavor a bit, or choose recipes with heartier flavors to showcase the dark meat.
Simple Leftover Turkey Ideas (No Recipe Needed!)
A few general ideas of how to use those turkey leftovers (that don’t really even require a recipe):
- Sub out the chicken, and make turkey quesadillas, turkey burritos, or shredded turkey nachos
- Tuck extra turkey into grilled cheese sandwiches
- Toss cubed turkey into fried rice or sub it into a stir fry at the last moment of cooking
- Serve shredded turkey on top of a “Cobb”-style salad or chef’s salad
- Use turkey instead of ham in an omelet
- Stir leftover turkey into mac’n’cheese, or any creamy noodle casserole or skillet pasta
Need even more ideas? How about one of these …
And remember how I mentioned that you can substitute leftover turkey for cooked chicken (or store-bought, rotisserie chicken) in lots of recipes? Here are a few of our favorite examples:
So, when you just can't eat one more bit of those turkey leftovers, and you've stuffed your freezer full of pre-measured containers of shredded turkey for future dinner recipes, too ... what else can you possibly do?
Well, if you've got a special pup in your life (or dog owners on your holiday gift list), these are tried-and-true doggy faves!