We love recreating the Thanksgiving feast just as much as the next person. But sometimes those Thanksgiving leftovers can get kind of overwhelming. By the time day 3 rolls around, you might be ready to try something a little more creative. Take a look at our favorite recipes that reimagine your turkey and cranberry sauce beyond the classic cream cheese sandwich. Click on the recipe with each photo credit for full instructions. Your friends and family will thank you for the menu variety!
Beyond Classic Thanksgiving Leftovers
Sometimes, just upgrading your ingredients a little can make all of the difference. Add potato rolls and cheddar cheese to classic Thanksgiving leftovers for bite-sized goodies that fit on a sheet pan. Baked sandwiches give a traditional classic some extra oompf. A subtle detail like homemade herbed mayonnaise adds flavor and combats the dryness reheated turkey can sometimes experience.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
12 mini potato buns
1/2 pound sliced or chunked leftover turkey
12 tablespoons cranberry sauce
12 small slices sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Minced chives, for topping
full recipe and instructions. Remember to use sharp cheddar cheese and whole berry cranberry sauce. They will make the all the difference in the final product!
On the Lighter Side
If a sandwich still feels kind of heavy after all of that binge eating, try something lighter. Use your Thanksgiving leftovers as the filling for a crispy quesadilla. Perfect for meal prep, this is a lunch you can prepare ahead and eat the next day. It includes (or favorite) Havarti cheese and green onions – both of which are healthy and flavorful. Perfect for gals watching waistlines who can’t stand to see food go to waste!
1 light tortilla (I love the Tumaro’s brand)
½ c. leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken
2 oz. Havarti cheese, shredded or thinly sliced
1 green onion, diced
¼ c. Spicy Cranberry Salsa
Click here for the full recipe and instructions. Top your quesadilla with a spicy cranberry salsa for extra kick! We love the combination of sweet and spicy. It’s also a great use of that extra cranberry sauce.
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Paleo + Gluten-Free
This next recipe uses smarter carbs and is both paleo and gluten-free. Stack your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers on a slice of sweet potato for a soft and yummy toast. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber and potatoes, in general, are rich in vitamins and minerals. Iron, calcium, Vitamins B + C are just a few of the health benefits these hearty snacks boast.
1 medium sweet potato
Click here for the full recipe and instructions. We like the sweet potatoes pretty toasty and you can also play around with the toppings. This also works well as a “toast bar”. Provide the toppings and toasted sweet potatoes and let the guests do the rest.
Similar to the potato roll sandwiches above, this next recipe uses a sharper cheese choice: gruyère. Gruyère takes your Thanksgiving leftovers to a whole new level. The hard yellow cheese hails from Switzerland and packs a lot of flavor. It’s also typically a base for cheese fondu. It works wonderfully well with carmelized onions (onions cooked in olive oil). The result is a crispy, savory grilled cheese sandwich that is sinfully delicious.
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 slices sourdough bread
2/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese, divided 2 1/2 ounces
sliced roasted turkey
1/4 cup caramelized sweet onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Click here for the full recipe and instructions. Leave it to those Southern cookers to turn your boring old leftovers into an addictive sandwich that will leave you wishing for more. It’s also worth the trip to the store for the right loaf of sourdough bread.
Similar to our Vegetable Beef Soup recipe, this one provides a foundation that you can doctor up to your taste. Build on the comfort food factor of Thanksgiving leftovers with a hearty soup topped with pie crust crackers. This recipe also uses gluten-free gravy mix and gluten-free flour. Also, just about any chicken soup recipe can be repurposed with turkey. We enjoy the pot pie combo used in this one since that is a childhood favorite.
Dough for a single pie crust homemade or storebought (gluten free, if needed)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
half of an onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup sliced carrots
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into about 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1 package McCormick Turkey Gravy Mix (regular or gluten free)
2 cups chicken or turkey broth or stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
Additional salt and pepper, to taste
Click here for the full recipe and instructions. We also love the little crocks that she serves the soup in. Our favorites are these speckled soup crocks (currently on sale for $19). Dishware can make as big of a difference as those special ingredients.
Did Someone Say Waffles?
Add this recipe to our upgraded avocado toast file. Fill mashed potato waffle quarters with Thanksgiving leftovers and a dollop of smashed avocado. Talk about sticking to your ribs! These power bites will sustain you through the weekend of Black Friday shopping. Layers of fried egg and bacon work beautifully with cranberry sauce and brie cheese.
Parmesan Mashed Potato Waffles
1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter melted
4-5 leaves sage minced
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
leftover turkey enough for 4 triangles
1 tablespoon butter
1 avocado lightly mashed
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces brie sliced (or more!)
leftover cranberry sauce
8 slices cooked thick cut bacon optional
4 eggs cooked to your liking (optional)
Click here for the full recipe and instructions. The recipe for the mashed potato waffles is great if you want to just make a bunch ahead and then freeze for later. Terrific use of those potatoes and frees up space in the fridge.
Breakfast or Dessert
Now that the holidays are in full force, it’s time to plan meals in advance. Use your Thanksgiving leftovers to make easy snacks with coffee or breakfast on the go. Add turkey and veggies to a healthy salad and gear up for the remaining holiday feasts. Remember, a cheat day is acceptable each week and months of healthy eating aren’t going to be destroyed by a day or two of enjoying holiday food. Treat yourself with restraint and you’ll feel pretty dang happy come January!