Don’t want to just reheat your leftover turkey? Try one of these recipes that use leftover turkey or chicken equally well, making them a great way to use it up, save money, and enjoy good eats.
From soups to salads to sandwiches to burritos to flautas to casseroles, there’s no end to the tasty ways you can use up leftover turkey. You’re going to wish you had cooked a bigger bird!
Got turkey? As in, lots of leftover turkey from a large meal?
It seems that every year is different. One year you might not have a big enough bird at Thanksgiving and there really are no leftovers to speak of.
Other years? You might have turkey coming out your ears. Oh boy! What should you with all that turkey?
Personally, I’ll take slices of turkey breast on rye bread with a slather of mayo and a sprinkling of salt. If you’ve never tried this combo, you must. It’s super simple, but so very good.
But then what?
Once you’ve exhausted the reheat and eat and the sandwich options, whaddya do? It’s important not to let that turkey go to waste.
Why It Matters
Using up leftover turkey helps you avoid food waste. Food waste costs us in many ways, but the way you’ll feel it most at home is in your pocket book. If you can stop wasting food, you can divert funds to more needed areas, besides groceries.
It’s delicious! Leftover turkey can be delicious if it’s prepared well. Don’t let it sit in the back of the fridge. Use it in all kinds of recipes for leftover turkey and enjoy it for a few more days.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful. Letting leftover turkey go to waste seems counter to the whole point of thanksgiving. Let’s extend this harvest of bounty to a few more meals — even if you freeze them for later.
Prepared food is good in the refrigerator, for up to four days. If you cook your turkey on Thursday, it should be safe to eat on Monday.
Freezing your turkey leftovers is a great way to avoid waste and give yourself a break from turkey.
If you just don’t want to deal with it right now, stash it all in the freezer. Trim the meat off the bones and package it well in freezer bags or airtight containers. You can even package the bones to make stock at a future date. Just don’t forget you’ve got it in the freezer.
In a week or two, you can thaw the turkey and use it in your favorite recipes that call for cooked and chopped chicken or turkey.
The freezer doesn’t magically make food fresher. It only slows the enzyme action. If you freeze your turkey soon after cooking, you should have a solid 2-3 days to use it after thawing.
However, if you freeze your turkey near the end of the 4-day window, you’ll need to make sure you use it immediately when you do pull it from the freezer.
Check out this great guide about Food Safety Basics from the USDA.
Any recipe that calls for cooked chicken can be a great way to use up leftover turkey.
Here are some of our faves:
40 Great Recipes to Use Leftover Turkey (or Chicken)
Creamy Turkey Enchiladas
A couple of years ago during a pantry challenge, I had a craving for enchiladas. We had cheese, corn tortillas, and chicken, but no sauce. I decided to make my own creamy sauce, adding a different type of enchilada to our repertoire. These creamy enchiladas are a great way to use leftover turkey instead of chicken.
Enchilada Casserole Recipe
This easy casserole comes together in minutes, freezes beautifully, and tastes amazing. All the ingredients are pantry staples. Just add turkey.
Homemade Enchiladas with Roasted Chiles
This recipe for Chicken and Chile Enchiladas makes two big pans of homemade enchiladas. No crowd? Stash one pan in the freezer for later.
Burrito making is a simple affair. You need large tortillas, a filling (like beans, turkey, and cheese), and a ziptop freezer bag if you plan to freeze them.
You can freeze these flautas on a lined tray prior to baking or cool baked ones and freeze those. Either way, you’ve got convenience at your fingertips.
Ginger-Sesame Turkey Salad
This salad, which you can make with turkey or chicken, is full of sesame, ginger, and soy. It’s delicious served in lettuce or cabbage leaves for a low-carb option. My kids liked it wrapped up in tortillas. You could also serve it on a salad or in a roll.
Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Chicken or turkey salad, chock full of veggies and nuts, is served in cabbage leaves instead of bread, making it low-carb, yet filling meal. It’s also perfect to serve for family or guests who are going gluten-free.
Sweet and Sour Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
This recipe for sweet and sour pulled chicken sandwiches was originally designed for the slow cooker. To adapt for already cooked turkey, heat up the sauce ingredients to dissolve the sugar, add the shredded or sliced turkey, and reheat.
Turkey Pot Pie with Easy Biscuit Topping
This turkey pot pie is the perfect meal to repurpose leftovers from a large turkey or chicken dinner. If you’ve already got vegetables, meat, and gravy, all you need to do is whir up the crust in the food processor and slide this baby in the oven.
Chili with White Beans
This chili redolent with spices and bursting with chicken (or turkey) and white beans comes together quickly in 30 minutes or less.
Chicken or Turkey Fried Rice
This fried rice is great to use up leftover cooked meats and any cold, cooked rice you have on hand. It has to be cold rice, otherwise it won’t work. The ultimate beauty of this recipe is that it comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Turkey Avocado Baguette Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise
This Baguette Sandwich is amazing, especially if you have fresh roast turkey. Layer the meat with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a spicy chipotle mayo that just can't be beat!
Turkey Cheddar Melt with Grilled Onions and Spicy Mayo
Cheddar and turkey make a great sandwich combo, especially when paired with grilled onions and spicy mayo.
Turkey and Ham Cobb Salad
A new twist on the classic cob - layer on the Thanksgiving leftover turkey and ham for a salad absolutely packed with flavor!
Turkey Pesto Panini
These sandwiches are hot! Layered havarti, turkey, and pesto have a veritable party inside a ciabatta panini. Yum!
Chicken Salad Club Sandwiches
Chicken - or turkey! -- salad tastes out of this world when layered with Bacon in a classic club sandwich.
Chicken Pesto Pizza with Fresh Avocado
Top a pesto laden pizza with chopped chicken or turkey. When it's done, sprinkle on avocado cubes for a delicious and refreshing flavor combination.
Curry Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Adding Indian spices to chicken or turkey salad takes it up a few levels. This salad is delicious in wraps or sandwiches.
Chicken and Biscuit Pizza
If biscuits and gravy became a pizza, this would be it. Super flavorful and easy to make - no rise time involved.
Cajun Chicken Salad
Give your chicken or turkey salad a kick with cajun spice mix. Perfect for filling lunchboxes and tummies.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad
Salads never have to be boring where ranch and bacon are involved. Top this tasty salad with chopped chicken or turkey for extra protein.
Orchard Chicken Salad Recipe With Apples
Crunchy apples, grapes, and almonds add flavor and texture to this simple chicken salad.
Chicken Gumbo Soup - Better Than the Can
Chicken (or Turkey!) Gumbo soup never tasted this good from a can. Make this easy dinner with your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Chicken Caesar Sandwiches for a Quick & Simple Meal
This Chicken Caesar Sandwich Recipe is just what you expect – quick and simple deliciousness tucked into French bread. They are a fun, portable twist on a vintage classic.
Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe
Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe is an easy and economical dish that everyone loves and you can make it with turkey! Stir up a pot of stock with tender egg noodles, chunks of turkey, and slivers of vegetables. Soup is good food!
Chicken & Raspberry Salad Recipe
Raspberries add such a beautiful vibrance to salad and they pair perfectly with turkey or chicken. Make the most of your leftovers and eat a little lighter with this yummy salad.
BBQ Chicken Pizza with Bacon & Pineapple
Who can say no to pizza?! Sub turkey in for chicken on this bacon and pineapple pie sauced with BBQ and topped with cilantro. Super yum!
Hot Chicken Sub with Bacon (75 cents/serving)
Layer cheese, bacon, and cooked turkey in a french loaf for a fabulous hot sandwich you can freeze for later!
Easy Chicken Divan with Curry (79 cents/serving)
The classic Chicken Divan is easily converted to turkey. Full of flavor and such a different twist on leftovers.
Spicy Chicken Dip
Cream cheese and hot pepper sauce are all you need to enhance your turkey leftovers into a dip that is addictive!
Asian Chicken Noodle Salad - Very Make-Ahead
With noodles, fresh veg, and a luscious Asian-style dressing, your turkey leftovers will sub wonderfully for chicken in this make-ahead salad.
Spicy Chicken Fajita Burritos (73 cents each)
A big crowd pleaser, these fajita burritos are great for freezing and really pack a punch with fresh jalapenos.
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
Creamy Enchiladas stuffed with chicken -- or turkey is just what this holiday break calls for. Make an extra pan to freeze if you have lots of leftover turkey.
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
This noodle soup comes together in less time than it would take to find your car keys. Noodles, veg, and chicken/turkey are at home in this super tasty broth.
Creamy Chicken Stuffed Shells
Why not go Italian with your turkey leftovers? These creamy stuffed shells are super fun to make and freeze beautifully.
Chicken Burrito Bowls with Chipotle Crema
Forget the high price of Chipotle, you can make your own burrito bowls better at home with this easy recipe and the homemade crema.
Italian Pasta Salad with Chicken
Make lunchtime easier with this Italian Pasta Salad dotted with veggies and chicken or leftover turkey.
One-Pan Chicken Nachos Recipe
Ready for some simple, fun food? Nachos are it! Layer chips with cheese and toppings for an easy yet festive dinner.
Easy Chicken or Turkey Strips for the Freezer
Flash freeze slices of turkey to use later in soups, salads, and sandwiches. This tutorial explains how to do this.
How to Make Stock from Turkey
Making a homemade stock is one of the most economical things you can do. Essentially, you’re getting all the flavor you possibly can from something you might otherwise chuck. Stock is also one of the easiest culinary feats you can pull off. And yet, the resulting turkey or chicken stock adds rich flavor to soups, stews, sauces, and rice dishes.
Some of our favorites include Thanksgiving soup made with leftover turkey and mash potatoes; Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches; and turkey tetrazinni.
Kentucky Hot Brown is new to me. What is it?
An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. You can read about its history here: http://www.brownhotel.com/dining-hot-brown.htm. In Kentucky the hot brown is as famous as our Mint Juleps on Derby Day.
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
I agree completely about stocking up on turkeys now. Each November, I buy as many as my budget allows and my freezer can hold. Leftover Thanksgiving is my favorite, too, until I run out of all the side dishes. I make broth, enchiladas, pot pies, soups, stews, freezer burritos, and sandwiches. We love leftover turkey. Easy and frugal. Thanks so much for sharing your recipes. Your enchilada recipes are some of my favorites. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Jessica!
Thanks, Heather! I’m glad you like the enchiladas. They are some of my favorites, too.
Turkey and dumplings! I’m waiting tables all day Thu, so we cooked our turkey yesterday… enchiladas tonight and dumplings tomorrow, and turkey wraps for my husbands lunch this week… oh, and bbq nachos with turkey are also good. (We just chop up the meat and warm it up in bbq sauce in a skillet).
Sounds like a yummy week! Great job making the most of it!