The best part about Thanksgiving, hands down, is the leftovers and all the recipes you can make with them. Sure, there's a lot of cleanup after the big feast, but a fridge full of leftovers for the next few days is definitely worth it.
You can safely use up leftovers for three to four days in the fridge, according to the Mayo Clinic. Any longer than that and you run the risk of food poisoning. This is usually plenty of time to heat up and repurpose leftover turkey, mashed potatoes and the works.
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A big turkey roast is usually the main dish for holiday dinners, and you can do a lot with what doesn't get eaten at the main event. If you want to get creative but don't want to spend too much time whipping up a whole new dish, here are six recipes for leftover turkey that only require three additional ingredients and the occasional spice.
How to Use Leftover Turkey
The average size turkey purchased for Thanksgiving weighs around 15 pounds, according to the University of Illinois Extension. That's a lot of bird for one family, so you may end up with containers of turkey in your fridge for leftover fun.
But fear not — there are many ways to use up leftover turkey after a holiday dinner. The easiest is to heat it up and eat it as is, but there are more exciting (and less dry) ways to jazz up your leftovers and even add some more nutritious ingredients like grains and vegetables.
You can use leftover turkey to make shepherd's pie, tostadas, potato salad and tetrazzini, as the USDA suggests. You might also add leftover turkey to sandwiches, chilis, soups, wraps, casseroles, salads and rice dishes. If a recipe calls for leftover chicken, you can substitute it for leftover turkey instead.
If you prefer a recipe that's convenient to put together, check out the recipes below that are all made with leftover turkey and no more than three additional ingredients.
1. Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
Keep the comfort food train chugging along even after Thanksgiving with this super simple shepherd's pie recipe. In addition to leftover turkey, you only need frozen mixed vegetables, gravy, and mashed potatoes. You may also choose to include some dried or fresh thyme for additional seasoning.
In less than 30 minutes — including prep time — you'll have six servings of warm, hearty shepherd's pie. This is a great way to use up both leftover turkey and mashed potatoes while sneaking in some extra veggies.
Get the Turkey Shepherd’s Pie recipe and nutrition info at The Seasoned Mom.
2. Turkey and Bean Quesadillas
Holiday dinners are heavily associated with spices like cinnamon, rosemary, sage, and thyme. If you want to mix it up, get a little spicy and turn leftovers into quesadillas with this leftover turkey recipe.
You only need a few simple ingredients: turkey, taco seasoning, black beans, cheese, and wheat tortillas. The black beans add some extra protein and fiber, and the tortillas give you a serving of whole grains.
Get the Leftover Turkey Quesadillas with Black Beans recipe and nutrition info at Babaganosh.
3. Turkey Casserole
Nothing says "holidays" like a table full of casseroles. And if you didn't get enough of 'em on the actual holiday, you can turn your scraps into — you guessed it — another delicious casserole. But we promise — this one is simple to put together.
This recipe calls for layers of leftover turkey and stuffing along with a can of cream of chicken soup and some milk, making it a great source of protein and calcium.
If you're trying to cut back on calories after a day of feasting, split the recipe into eight pre-portioned servings so they fall under 370 calories each.
Get the Leftover Turkey Casserole recipe and nutrition info at Hostess At Heart.
4. Leftover Turkey Balls
If you can't be bothered with a complicated recipe for leftover turkey, this recipe is for you. With it, you'll transform your savory turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes into bite-sized balls.
Just mix your leftovers together into a bowl, roll them into balls, bake and top with some more warm gravy for a recipe that features all the Thanksgiving flavors you love.
And you can be sure you're getting some nutrition, too: Each serving contains an impressive 19 grams of protein.
Get the Leftover Turkey Stuffing Balls recipe and nutrition info at Souffle Bombay.
5. Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich
A sandwich can be as simple or complex as you'd like it. If you're still recovering from a day of chopping, mixing and stirring, the last thing you want to do is spend even more time in the kitchen — so reach for this recipe.
This one is hot, open-faced, and as simple as they come. The recipe calls for any kind of bread you have on hand, but whole wheat bread will give you the most fiber and some protein. You can also use any cheese you have in your fridge. Opt for a reduced-fat cheese to save on fat and calories.
Get the Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich recipe and nutrition info at A Table Full of Joy.
6. Turkey Mole
When Thanksgiving leftovers meet authentic Mexican food, you get this recipe for turkey mole. You'll just need to grab some Mexican chocolate, mole paste and chicken bouillon if you don't have those on hand.
The result is an easy dish that is flavorful, low in carbs and calories, and high in protein. Each recipe makes four servings, but double it for a low-carb lunch to grab throughout the week.
Make it go even further by serving over rice mixed with peas and carrots.
Get the Turkey Mole recipe and nutrition info at In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen.