Reinventing Thanksgiving Leftovers

Every year, Thanksgiving leaves us with a delightful yet daunting challenge: an abundance of leftovers. So, why not elevate these remnants into something extraordinary? Registered dietitian, Charlotte Martin, shares how you can repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers into creative, delicious grain-based dishes, offering both a tasty solution and a step towards reducing food waste.

The Importance of Repurposing Leftovers

Post-Thanksgiving, households often face an excess of food. Rather than letting these leftovers go to waste, repurposing them is a sustainable choice that benefits both the environment and our wallets. Grain-based dishes are particularly adept at this transformation. They are versatile canvases, capable of harmonizing a variety of flavors and ingredients from your Thanksgiving feast.

Choosing the Right Grains

The first step is selecting the right grain. Each grain offers a unique texture and nutritional profile that can complement your leftovers in different ways.

  • Quinoa: A protein-packed option, quinoa works beautifully with chopped turkey and roasted vegetables.
  • Rice: A universal base, rice can be the foundation for a comforting turkey fried rice or a pilaf.
  • Barley: With its chewy texture, barley is excellent in hearty soups and stews, making use of leftover turkey and gravy.
  • Couscous: Quick to cook, couscous is ideal for light salads, mixing well with cranberry sauce and shredded turkey.
  • Whole-grain bread: This hearty option is perfect for sandwiches or as a base for savory bread pudding. Rich in fiber and nutrients, whole grain bread provides a satisfying texture and depth of flavor that complements the savory notes of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Recipe Ideas and Inspirations

Turkey and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients: Leftover turkey, cooked quinoa, mixed greens, diced vegetables, cranberries, nuts, vinaigrette.

Instructions: Combine all ingredients with shredded turkey and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Get full recipe courtesy of Bakers Beans

Turkey Brie Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread

Ingredients: Slices of whole grain bread, leftover turkey, slices of brie cheese, cranberry sauce, arugula or spinach, butter.

Instructions: Butter the bread and layer slices of turkey and brie on one slice. Add a spoonful of cranberry sauce and a handful of arugula. Top with the second slice of bread. Grill the sandwich in a pan until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts, flipping once.

Get full recipe courtesy of The Nessy Kitchen

Barley and vegetable soup

Ingredients: Cooked barley, leftover turkey, vegetable or turkey stock, mixed vegetables, herbs, seasoning.

Instructions: Sauté the vegetables, add barley, turkey, and stock. Simmer until heated through.

Get full recipe courtesy of Beyond the Chicken Coop

Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed acorn squash

Ingredients: Acorn squash, cooked quinoa, chopped leftover turkey, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg.

Instructions: Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Roast until tender. Mix cooked quinoa with turkey, cranberries, pecans, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stuff the squash with this mixture and bake until everything is heated through.

Get full recipe courtesy of Peel with Zeal

Turkey and Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients: Bell peppers, cooked wild rice, chopped leftover turkey, diced onions and tomatoes, shredded cheese, spices (cumin, paprika).

Instructions: Mix cooked wild rice with chopped turkey, onions, tomatoes, and spices. Stuff this mixture into halved and cleaned bell peppers. Top with cheese. Bake in an oven at 375°F until the peppers are tender and the cheese is melted.

Get full recipe courtesy of Espresso and Lime

stuffing waffles with cranberry syrup

Ingredients: Leftover stuffing, eggs, chicken or turkey broth, cranberry sauce, maple syrup.

Instructions: Beat eggs and mix them into the leftover stuffing, adding enough broth to moisten the mixture. Heat your waffle iron and coat it with non-stick spray. Press the stuffing mixture into the waffle iron and cook until crispy. For the syrup, mix cranberry sauce with a little maple syrup and warm it up. Serve the stuffing waffles with the cranberry syrup drizzled over the top.

Get full recipe courtesy of The Food Network

Sweet Potato and Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients: Leftover sweet potato casserole, rolled oats, flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts.

Instructions: Combine sweet potato casserole with oats, flour, beaten eggs, milk, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Fold in chopped walnuts. Spoon into muffin tins and bake at 350°F until a toothpick comes out clean.

Get full recipe courtesy of Erin Lives Whole

leftover turkey salad sandwich

Ingredients: Shredded or chopped leftover turkey, mayonnaise, plain Greek yogurt, finely diced celery, finely chopped red onion, halved dried cranberries or grapes, chopped walnuts or pecans, Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, whole grain or multi-grain bread, lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes (optional).

Instructions: In a large bowl, combine the turkey, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, celery, red onion, cranberries or grapes, and nuts if using. Mix in the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Spread this mixture on a slice of bread, add lettuce and optional tomato slices, and top with another slice of bread.

Get full recipe courtesy of Spend with Pennies

Leftover Turkey Tacos

Ingredients: Cooked turkey (shredded), corn tortillas, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, taco seasoning, lime wedges.

Instructions: In a skillet, warm the shredded turkey and season with taco seasoning. Warm the tortillas in a separate pan or in the oven. Assemble the tacos by placing the seasoned turkey on the tortillas, then top with black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce. Add cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Get full recipe courtesy of Don’t Go Bacon My Heart