RECIPES: Nine new dishes to make with Thanksgiving leftovers

Turkey and Dumplings 
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo/Kelly Brant)
Turkey and Dumplings (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo/Kelly Brant)

For many, leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving Day dinner. For others, leftovers are a whole new dilemma.

The day after Thanksgiving, leftovers exactly as they were prepared on Turkey Day are our favorite. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, not so much. By then, we're a little tired of the same plate of turkey, sweet potatoes and beans. (For the record, we never tire of good cornbread dressing.)

That's when it's time for your leftovers to get a makeover.

Leftover turkey and stock become Turkey and Dumplings.

Leftover mashed potatoes are transformed into potato cakes.

Leftover baked sweet potatoes or roasted winter squash are blended into soup.

Leftover cranberry sauce -- canned or homemade -- becomes the filling for thumbprint cookies.

No matter what you make with your leftovers, it's imperative that you treat them properly from the start to avoid increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

◼️ Wash your hands and prep surfaces frequently with warm, soapy water.

◼️ Avoid cross-contamination by having a dedicated cutting board for raw meats and poultry and a separate one for ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce.

◼️ Serve and store hot and cold dishes within 2 hours of cooking. The general rule of thumb for all meals, not just Thanksgiving feasts: If not serving within two hours, hot foods should be kept hot (140 degrees or hotter) and cold foods should be kept cold (40 degrees or cooler) to reduce the risk of illness. The two-hour window begins as soon as the food is prepared, so for a roasted turkey, that includes the 30 minute rest period.

◼️ If you planned for leftovers, go ahead and pack those up and refrigerate them as soon as you've finished carving the turkey.

◼️ Opt for shallow storage containers whenever possible. Shallow containers will cool faster.

◼️ Most leftovers -- assuming they've been cooked and stored properly -- will be safe to eat for three to five days. This means foods cooked and served on Thanksgiving Day will be safe to eat until Monday. Any dishes that were cooked in advance should be eaten within three to five days of when they were originally prepared. The exception: Cranberry sauce will keep for 10 to 14 days.

◼️ To prolong the life of your leftovers, consider freezing them. Frozen food is safe to consume indefinitely, although texture and flavor will deteriorate after one to two months.

◼️ Leftover cooked turkey can be eaten cold, but if a hot dish is desired, leftovers should be thoroughly reheated to 165 degrees.

◼️ Gravies and pan sauces should be brought to a full, rolling boil.


Turkey and Dumplings

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced carrot, optional
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (we like chicken w/herbs)
  • 6 cups chicken or turkey broth, divided use
  • 1 cup diced or shredded leftover turkey
  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, parsley or rosemary, optional garnish

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, celery and carrot and saute until vegetables are tender. Stir in the cream of chicken soup and 5 1/3 cups broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in leftover turkey.

In a bowl, stir together the Bisquick and remaining 2/3 cup broth to form a soft, sticky dough. Drop dough by the spoonful into boiling broth. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer; cover and cook 10 minutes more, continuing to monitor the heat.

Season with plenty of ground black pepper and a sprinkle of herbs, if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.

  photo  Mitchell's Turkey Salad (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo/Kelly Brant)  

Mitchell's Turkey Salad

  • About 1 pound chopped leftover smoked or roasted turkey
  • ½ cup mayonnaise, more or less to taste
  • Cavender's All-Purpose Greek Seasoning, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Chopped pecans, optional
  • Chopped jalapeno, optional

Grind or process the turkey in a food processor to desired consistency. Add the mayonnaise and mix to desired consistency. Season to taste with Cavendar's, black pepper and garlic powder -- start with ¼ teaspoon of each and add more until mixture tastes good to you. Stir in the nuts or jalapeno, if using.

Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe from Mitchell Hughes

  photo  Deviled Ham (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)  

Deviled Ham

  • 1 pound leftover ham, diced (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon spicy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Generous pinch garlic powder
  • Generous pinch onion powder
  • Splash vinegar

In a food processor or chopper, pulse the ham until finely minced.

Transfer ham to a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for an hour or 2 before serving.

Makes about 3 cups.

  photo  Roasted Squash Soup With Turkey Croquettes (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)  

Roasted Squash Soup With Turkey Croquettes

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 rib celery, finely diced
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth or turkey stock
  • 2 to 3 cups cubed leftover roasted squash
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Ground red pepper (cayenne), to taste
  • 2 cups finely diced or shredded leftover cooked turkey
  • 1 ¾ cups plain dry bread crumbs OR panko Japanese style bread crumbs, divided use
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute 10 minutes or until tender. Remove ½ cup vegetables; set aside. Stir in the broth, bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add the squash and simmer 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, or working in batches in a traditional blender, puree soup to desired consistency. Return mixture to pot; add milk and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Keep warm.

For the croquettes: Combine the ½ cup reserved vegetables, the turkey, ¼ cup bread crumbs, sage, eggs and cornmeal and mix well. Place the remaining bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Shape mixture into 8 to 12 patties. Coat each patty with breadcrumbs. Chill patties 30 minutes or until firm.

Heat enough oil to coat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook patties (in batches if necessary) until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

To serve: Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Top each bowl of soup with 2 to 3 croquettes. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

  photo  Sweet Potato Pancakes (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)  

Leftover sweet potatoes make delicious pancakes -- even sweet potatoes with a savory touch, say, minced chives or green onions or citrus will work -- but you can't go wrong with traditional brown sugar and buttered sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

  • 1 ¼ cups leftover mashed sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup sour cream (see note)
  • ¾ cup milk (see note)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted plus more for serving
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Generous pinch ground allspice

In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, sour cream, milk, egg and maple syrup (if your sweet potatoes were sweetened during cooking such as marshmallow or praline topped sweet potato casserole, you may want to omit the maple syrup) in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir or whisk until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt and allspice. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until just combined.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Thinly coat with butter. Ladle batter by the ¼-cup onto hot skillet or griddle. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges look dry and bottom is browned; flip and cook until second side is brown.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Makes about 8 (4-inch) pancakes.

Note: Can substitute 1 ¼ cups buttermilk for the sour cream and milk.

Recipe adapted from

  photo  Potato Cakes with sour cream and green onions (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)  

Leftover mashed potatoes don't reheat well, but they do make fantastic pancakes.

Potato Cakes

  • 2 cups (more or less) leftover mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh snipped chives OR minced green onion tops
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter or heavy cream, optional
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed, divided use
  • Butter or vegetable oil, for frying
  • Sour cream, applesauce, shredded pot roast, or other desired toppings, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, chives and a few grind of black pepper. Taste the mixture and season with salt and more pepper or even a pat of butter or tiny splash of cream, if needed, and then add the egg and 4 tablespoons of the flour. Mix well.

Place the remaining flour on plate or in a shallow bowl. Line a large plate or baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Divide the potato mixture into 8 portions. The mixture will be very soft. If it is too sticky to shape, stir in a tablespoon more flour. Working with one portion at a time, shape each portion into a patty about 3-inches in diameter, then dredge the patty in the flour on both sides. Place shaped patties on the lined plate or baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Tilt pan to coat evenly with the melted butter. Add as many potato pancakes as will fit without touching. Cook about 3 minutes, or until golden and then flip and cook on second side until browned. Add more butter and repeat with the remaining pancakes. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

Makes 8 pancakes.

  photo  Turkey (or Chicken) Enchiladas (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staton Breidenthal)  


  • 2 cups any shredded cooked meat such as turkey or chicken
  • 1 ½ cups corn kernels, thawed if using frozen
  • 1 ½ cups grated pepper jack cheese, divided use
  • 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 to 10 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups green enchilada sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a 7-by-11 or 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, corn, 1 cup of each cheese and cumin and mix well.

Spoon the mixture onto the tortillas and roll. Place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.

Top with enchilada sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. (Enchiladas can be covered with foil and refrigerated for up to 24 hours at this point or covered with plastic wrap and foil and frozen for one month.) Bake until heated through and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

  photo  Creamy Sweet Potato and Chicken (or Turkey) Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo/Staton Breidenthal)  

Creamy Sweet Potato and Chicken (or Turkey) Soup

1 medium white onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups chicken broth, divided use

2 ½ cups cooked, pureed sweet potatoes, pumpkin or winter squash

¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and ground black pepper

Dash of ground red pepper (cayenne), or to taste

2 cups shredded or diced cooked turkey or chicken

1 cup heavy cream OR half-and-half

In a medium pot, saute onion in butter until tender. Add 2 cups of the broth; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add remaining broth and pureed sweet potatoes, stir until well mixed; add cinnamon, ginger, salt, black pepper and ground red pepper. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor. Process until smooth.

Return mixture to pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add shredded turkey or chicken; stir in cream and heat through. Do not boil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cranberry sauce

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

On low speed, beat in flour, beating just until blended, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Refrigerate dough until firm enough to roll into balls, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.

Divide and roll dough into small balls and place spaced 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten each by pressing with your thumb making sure to leave an indention. Fill each indentation with cranberry sauce (about ½ to ¾ teaspoon). Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until cookies are just firm and beginning to brown around the edges. Cool on pans for several minutes, then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies will keep at room temperature for 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Recipe adapted from "The Everlasting Meal Cookbook Leftovers A-Z" by Tamar Adler

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