How to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers Without Getting Bored

Whether you served Thanksgiving dinner at home or ventured elsewhere, chances are that, like most Americans, you have piles of reusable containers filled with leftovers stacked up in your fridge. A large meal with friends and family can mean an excess of fun, but it also results in an excess of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and other fixings for days following the actual meal. You might not be able to see the back of your fridge, and you might wonder how much more turkey you can eat, but don’t fret! These foods can be incorporated into a variety of different dishes to use up the leftovers without getting bored.

As always, make sure to refrigerate hot foods within two hours of coming out of the oven; cold foods should not be left out of the fridge for more than two hours. Also, make sure to consume your leftovers within four days, which is the Monday following Thanksgiving.

Turkey Leftovers

  • Add to salads as a source of protein
  • Make sandwiches; use the meat plain or make a turkey salad with low-fat mayo
  • Incorporate into omelets
  • Try turkey tacos
  • Homemade turkey soup (you can also make your own broth with the bones!)
  • Use turkey instead of chicken in pot pie
  • Turkey tetrazzini (scroll down for recipe)
  • Turkey chili

Mashed Potato Leftovers

  • Use as a topping for shepherd’s pie
  • Make potato cakes (scroll down for recipe) with the kids
  • Make homemade whole-wheat potato bread
  • Make homemade gnocchi
  • Use as a replacement for half of the fat in baked good recipes to reduce the fat and increase the fiber, while still keeping it moist!  

Sweet Potatoes Leftovers

  • Substitute sweet potato instead of pumpkin in pumpkin bread
  • Make sweet potato pancakes
  • Use mashed sweet potato with black beans as a meatless filling for quesadillas or enchiladas
  • Puree into macaroni and cheese sauce (this also works well with butternut squash!)

Cooked Vegetable Leftovers

  • Use to top salads
  • Incorporate into egg dishes (such as quiche - scroll down for recipe)
  • Add to homemade soup

And if you’ve tried all those leftover recipes and still have turkey left, this turkey tostada recipe is a great choice!

Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Tostadas

(Original recipe from the USDA)

Servings: 4


2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite size pieces

2 Tablespoons taco seasoning

1 1/2 cup water

4 corn tortillas

1/4 cup refried beans

1/4 cup lowfat shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup lettuce, shredded

2 Tablespoons onion, chopped

1/2 cup taco sauce

Optional toppings: lowfat or fat free plain yogurt, guacamole


  1. Wash and prepare vegetables.

  2. In a large skillet over medium heat combine turkey, taco seasoning and water.

  3. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Place tortilla on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 F for 4-7 minutes or until tortillas are crispy.

  5. Spread tortillas with a tablespoon of beans. Top with ¼ meat mixture and cheese.

  6. Return tortillas to oven to cook for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

  7. Top with tomatoes, lettuce, onion and taco sauce. Garnish with yogurt and guacamole, if desired.


Extension Contributor / UNH Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student