11 Delicious Ways to Use Up Thanksgiving Scraps

Give thanks for food scraps: Here's how to transform all those Thanksgiving bits and pieces destined for the trash or compost bin into something special.

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Photo By: Matt Armendariz

Photo By: Matt Armendariz

Photo By: Matt Armendariz

Photo By: Teri Lyn Fisher

From Scraps to Thanksgiving Spread

Whether you're ready to start minimizing your food waste or you want to up your cooking game, Thanksgiving is a meal filled with endless opportunities to turn food scraps into snackable treats or enhancers for the rest of your holiday spread. Use this as your guide for the ultimate zero-food-waste meal.

Apple Peels

While your pie cools, pat the peels dry with paper towels and toss with a little melted butter and cinnamon sugar. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F until the edges are brown and crispy, 12 to 15 minutes. You can also toss apples peels into a green salad or chop them up to add to chicken salad.

Bacon Drippings

A little bacon fat can go a long way. Strain the cooled drippings into a sealable glass container and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Use a few tablespoons to season your oil for fried chicken or make Bacon-Fried Potato Peels, which transforms another common Thanksgiving scrap.

Add it to a salad dressing for some smokiness or finish a caramel sauce with a glug of drippings — the rich and salty fat will transform the sweet syrup.

Get the Recipe: Bacon Fat-Fried Potato Peels

Bread Crusts

If you make stuffing from scratch then chances are you're left with a mountain of forgotten crusts. Give them a second life by pulsing them into breadcrumbs that you can store in the freezer. Or make the perfect cook's treat of Parmesan Bread Crust Sticks — they're great to snack on while you prep the rest of Thanksgiving dinner, or to serve to guests as an appetizer.

Get the Recipe: Bread Crust Breadsticks

Brussels Sprout Leaves

The tough outer leaves of Brussels sprouts should be removed but instead of adding them to the compost scraps, refrigerate them in a plastic resealable bag and bulk up salads with some cruciferous crunch.

You can also deep fry them in 375 degree F oil until golden and crispy and garnish your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. And don't forget you can pickle them! Follow a quick pickle recipe and eat them as a vinegary snack.

Cauliflower Leaves

If you plan to roast cauliflower then keep them intact and roast them right along with the florets. They'll get golden brown and add an extra cauliflower punch. You can also thinly slice them to give coleslaw or salad a cauliflower boost.

Celery Leaves

The tender, light green inner leaves of celery heads are packed with flavor. Use them to garnish your side dishes or add to the holiday salad.

You can also make homemade celery salt: cook celery leaves in a 300 degree F oven until they are dry but not brown. Let them cool and then pulverize them with some kosher salt in a mortar and pestle. Store at room temperature in an airtight container to use to season poultry and fish.

Herb Stems

While you're picking the leaves from all your fresh herbs be sure to hang onto the stems. Tear them into pieces and add them to a saucepan with about a pound of butter. Melt the butter over low heat, discard any foam that rises to the top and then let the whole mixture cool to room temperature and strain. Use the herb butter for coating your turkey or brushing on warm rolls.

Pie Dough

Give those leftover irregularly shaped scraps a sweet or savory treatment: Press the dough into sugar and bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Or wrap miniature hotdogs with the odd shapes for pie dough pigs-in-a-blanket.

Pumpkin Guts

Yes, you can always make toasted pumpkin seeds but what about all that stringy flesh that comes attached? Turn the whole mess--seeds and all-- into something special. Add to a pot of slow-cooked steel-cut oats for a little extra fiber. Finish with a sprinkle of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

Squash Seeds

Give your squash the pumpkin seed treatment and make Butternut Squash Pepitas. Eat them by the handful or sprinkle into salads or over soups.

Get the Recipe: Butternut Squash Pepitas

Turkey Bones

Once the carcass has been picked clean, be sure to save your turkey bones to make a stock for soup. Cool and freeze for up to 2 months.