Chefs' Favorite Leftover Turkey Recipes

Don't forget to buy enough turkey for lots of leftovers.

November 08, 2019

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

When it comes to how much turkey to buy, the general rule is to plan for 1 1/2 pounds per guest. However, one of the most-important parts of committing to a turkey size isn’t day-of dining, but rather making sure that you’re set for leftovers. And when it comes to loving Thanksgiving leftovers, chefs are as much a fan of the midnight turkey sandwich as anyone else. When it comes to deciding how much turkey to serve per person, chefs err on the side of "too much is better than too little," and even add in a buffer to ensure ample leftovers. Beyond the sandwich, chefs relish the opportunity to let their creativity run free, spinning leftovers into everything from ravioli to gumbo.

How much is too much turkey?

Jacob Sessoms, who owns Asheville farm-to-table spot Table and is the culinary force behind Cultura, opts for that number of 1 1/2 pounds per person. Besides spinning leftover turkey into sandwiches and soup, he uses shredded turkey in a spicy-citrusy Vietnamese-style soup or pairs gnocchi with dark meat leftovers, arugula and robiola. (In that vein, try Rachael’s Turkey and Mushroom Creamy Tomato "Gravy" With Gnocchi.)

"That [pound-and-a-half] number gives me a sufficient amount of leftover turkey to make all the dishes that I must make in the following days," says chef Chris Borges of New Orleans’ Josephine Estelle. "In addition to all the leftover carved bird, it also affords me the opportunity to leave a little more meat clinging to the carcass, which is essential for making my turkey andouille gumbo, a family recipe passed down through multiple generations."

Borges loves letting his creativity run free when it comes to turkey leftovers, making a slider-esque sandwich with turkey oysters, oyster stuffing, mayo, hot sauce and iceberg piled onto a dinner roll (try these leftover-inspired pull-apart sliders) and using the white meat in chili verde enchiladas (use this Turkey Enchilada recipe as a base, then doctor it up with your choice of salsa.)

Chef Neal Fraser, who helms the kitchen at Redbird in Los Angeles, skews even higher, recommending two pounds per person. One of his favorite ways to use up leftovers is to make turkey dumplings or a turkey soup prepared with homemade ravioli with turkey filling.

Get more leftovers inspo

Now that you’ve accounted for ample day-of servings next-day leftovers, get creative with some of our favorite ways to use up leftover turkey, from sandwiches to soups to savory mains.

All you need to turn your leftover turkey sandwich into a deli-worthy masterpiece—that is, Leftover Turkey and Stuffing Reubens — is sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Take things into bistro territory with Tyler’s gooey, crave-worthy Grilled Turkey, Brie, and Apple Butter Sandwich with Arugula, or this avocado-and-bacon-topped Turkey Crostini.

When no one feels like cooking (or you can’t stomach another turkey sandwich), turn to Giada’s Turkey Bolognese, which quickly comes together with shredded leftover turkey. Turkey Pot Pie is another weeknight dinner win — just pair leftover roasted veggies and turkey with a pre-made pie crust topper. If you have leftover breasts, pound them flat, bread ‘em and pan-fry 'em, like Bobby does with this Turkey Milanese, served with a leftover turkey gravy sauce bolstered with mushrooms.

Bones make a rich stock for this Turkey Vegetable Soup with Stuffing Dumplings, brimming with shredded turkey and stuffing-turned-dumplings, as well as for this Leftover Roast Turkey Pho (pictured), seasoned with ginger, star anise and cinnamon. Turkey also takes a starring turn in this Leftover Turkey Chili recipe, dressed up with fire-roasted tomatoes.

Chopped leftover turkey plus crumbled stuffing add up to a perfect filling for this brunch-ready quiche with stuffing the morning after Thanksgiving. Turkey and leftover veggies also work in breakfast favorites like this Turkey Frittata.

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