Unique recipes for your Thanksgiving leftovers

By Marta Gintowt

Thanksgiving is a holiday that more or less revolves around eating. The day itself is dedicated to cooking, socializing, and binging on delicious, fall-inspired fare. The days after are usually spent trying to fit all of the leftovers into the fridge like a game of Tetris and finding ways to eat everything without getting tired of turkey sandwiches.

These recipe ideas are for those who find themselves still recovering from their turkey coma and who are uninspired and overwhelmed by the wall of stuffing and green beans that none of their guests touched on Thursday.

Thanksgiving-Inspired Breakfast

The morning after a filling Thanksgiving, a number of Americans may be experiencing a raging hangover—caused by either too much food or too many glasses of wine. What better way to cure a headache and a sore stomach than with a medical-grade breakfast? Leftovers can be used in a Thanksgiving-inspired breakfast, including an English Breakfast-style spread and an omelet filled with corn and string beans.

Our favorite is a take on Eggs Benedict, where turkey is substituted for traditional bacon (or omitted if vegetarian), and hollandaise sauce is replaced by gravy. Pop two biscuits from the night before in the toaster while two eggs poach on the stove. Feel free to heat up your turkey in the gravy for optimum flavor and then top the biscuits with all of the above ingredients.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Balls

Photo taken from Foodie Crush.

I know we've sworn off food for a week after Thanksgiving, but this might change your mind: Baked. Macaroni. And. Cheese. Balls. These are wonderfully easy to make, portion out, and freeze—aside from being very tasty!

Form macaroni and cheese into meatball-size balls and set them aside on wax paper (recipe is based on 12 golf ball-size units) and freeze for two to three hours, or until hard. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a saucepan, melt two teaspoons of butter over medium heat. In a shallow dish, separate out two egg whites to be used as an egg wash. In another shallow dish, mix a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs with a 1/4 teaspoon of paprika, a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. Remove the balls from the freezer; roll each ball in the egg white wash; and coat each thoroughly with the breadcrumb mixture.

Place each ball onto parchment paper, and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Let them cool and dip them into ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch, gravy, or whatever your heart desires. You can also fry these tasty little guys in a saucepan or fryer (at 350 degrees Fahrenheit) until golden brown.

Thanksgiving Salad

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and turkey are rich, heavy, and ultimately delicious. The problem is with rich foods is that often we crave something a bit lighter in the days to come. This is when a tasty, yet delicate, salad would be appreciated. Lighter fare from the night before, like string beans, Brussels sprouts, turkey, and roasted vegetables can be thrown together with spinach, kale, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, and a Dijon vinaigrette for a satisfying, guilt-free salad that helps clear out the fridge.

Feel free to either heat up the vegetables in the oven or keep them cold for a fresher feel. The Dijon vinaigrette calls for four parts balsamic vinegar, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, and a dash of garlic salt, with two tablespoons of high-quality olive oil whisked in to give it a creamy consistency.

Thanksgiving Nachos

Photo taken from TripAdvisor.

Not everyone loves leftovers, but we promise you that everyone loves nachos. This creative way to make use of your post Thanksgiving feast is an easy way to repurpose food that may have otherwise gone to waste!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking tray, spread out your favorite tortilla chips and top them with the first layer of cheddar cheese. (Note: Any cheese that melts will work! Maybe you have leftovers from a charcuterie board?) Add sporadic spoonfuls of mashed potatoes on top of the cheese and tortilla chips.

On the side, in a large bowl, mix shredded turkey and cranberry sauce together; you can also add lime juice or salsa to taste, if you wish. Sprinkle the turkey across the top of the mashed potatoes, tortilla chips, and cheese.

Top with jalapeños and another layer of cheese, then pop into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (or until all of the cheese is melted and gooey). In a separate pan, warm up your left over gravy and drizzle it heavily all over the nachos. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie

A rich, Thanksgiving-inspired dish that can feed the whole family, as well as utilize plenty of leftovers, is this shepherd's pie. Whatever remaining mashed potatoes (normal or sweet) over a bed of stuffing, gravy, and turkey makes the perfect lunch or dinner meal. This is also an amazing way to bring your leftovers easily to work, school, or anywhere on the go.

All that is required is to line the baking dish with a thin layer of melted butter (to make sure nothing sticks), followed by a layer of leftover stuffing. Next, mix together sliced turkey, mixed vegetables, and gravy, and pour the mixture over the stuffing.

The final step is to top the layered ingredients with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, if desired. The whole dish should be covered and in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, or until piping hot in the center. Enjoy with a light side salad for a healthy, balanced meal.

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

Photo taken from Wellplated.

What goes well with desert? More dessert. The pumpkin pie milkshake is a great way to enjoy leftover pumpkin pie (if there is such a thing). In a blender, add one slice of pumpkin pie and a handful of crushed ice. For a "lighter version," add a cup of water. For a creamy shake, add a cup of your milk (dairy or non-) of choice or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Blend until frothy, and top with whipped cream and crumbled pieces of left over pie. Voilà!


If you're not going to eat your leftovers, please consider donating them to your nearest food collection service! This article from Food52 has a bunch of great resources, from food pantries to non-profit charities, that you can donate to.