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Don’t Go Cold Turkey: Creative Recipes for Using Thanksgiving Leftovers

For food lovers, Black Friday is not so much a day of shopping as it is a day of culinary problem-solving. We spend our day imagining up creative and delicious ways for using Thanksgiving leftovers.

If you think that sandwiches are the only way how to use Thanksgiving leftovers, you’re absolutely wrong. There are all sorts of wonderful ways to “upcycle” the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, ranging from loaded homemade pizza to a meal-worthy turkey salad featuring clever dinner-roll croutons to even — yes — jelly doughnuts filled with cranberry sauce.

Wondering what to do with the Thanksgiving leftovers currently filling your fridge? Here are a few inspiring ideas to help you figure it out:

Thanksgiving Pizza, on Bluprint

Thanksgiving leftover pizza:

Think sandwiches are the only way to make turkey leftovers meal-worthy? No way. Load your leftovers on a homemade pizza crust and bake until toasty. A hearty meal like this will keep you warm all day long.


Makes 1 pizza

  • 1 batch pizza dough (A delicious recipe is included in the course materials for the FREE Bluprint mini-class Perfect Pizza at Home)
  • Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, etc)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Step 2: Pre-bake crust for 7 minutes. You’re not cooking it entirely, but since the toppings are pretty much already cooked, you’re pre-baking the crust so the rest doesn’t dry out.

Step 3: Remove from oven, and load with whatever Thanksgiving leftovers you’d like (for instance, cranberry sauce on the bottom, stuffing and mashed potatoes scattered on top, then a layer of turkey, drizzled with gravy and topped with cheese). Return to oven and bake for 8 to 10 more minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Step 4: Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Turkey Green Chile Sandwhich

Photo via Use Real Butter

Turkey-cranberry-green-chile sandwich:

Okay, fine. Everyone loves a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, so there’s got to be at least one in this roundup. But here’s a unique spin on the classic day-after treat: this one features the rich, mellow heat of green chile, tart cranberry sauce, creamy cheese, and of course, turkey. It’s even better on homemade bread, of course. The idea is simple: assemble, and grill to toasty perfection. It’s a keeper. Recipe here.

Jelly Doughnut with Cranberry Sauce Filling

Cranberry-sauce jelly doughnuts:

Want a fantastic use for those cranberry sauce leftovers? Use them to create homemade jelly doughnuts. A yeast-raised dough is cut out and fried until puffy. Once cool, you can create a hole using a paring knife and pipe in some jellied cranberry sauce for a tart filling that is beautifully paired with a snowy topping of confectioners’ sugar. These yeast-raised doughnuts are a delicious and impressive treat to serve all Thanksgiving weekend long. Recipe here.

Thanksgiving leftover bar cookies:

These rich shortbread bars make tasty use of several Thanksgiving odds and ends, including the mixed nuts that always seem to be on the table, plus leftover cranberry sauce. These bars are legitimately tasty, and hold their own as a snack or dessert. Recipe here.

Pumpkin Milk Shake

Pumpkin pie milkshake:

The photo may be unassuming, but there’s an entire slice of pie lurking in that shake! True, pumpkin pie is probably among the rarer Thanksgiving leftovers. But should you find yourself with an extra slice, treat yourself real nice with a milkshake featuring pumpkin pie and ice cream.


Makes 2 servings

  • 6 ounces whole milk or half-and-half
  • 1 large scoop vanilla ice cream
  • Small handful mini marshmallows (optional)
  • 1 small slice pumpkin pie (we used one on which the crust measured about 2″)
  • 4 to 5 ice cubes
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, to taste

Step 1: In a small saucepan, warm the milk. Once warm, add marshmallows and continue to warm (but not boil) until marshmallows are fully melted. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or spices to taste.

Step 2: Place pie slice in blender with the ice cream. Pour liquid mixture over pie slice, and add ice cubes.

Step 3: Blend until smooth.

Turkey Salad

Photo via Iain Bagwell for Southern Living

Turkey salad with cranberry dressing:

Make a virtuous but flavorful meal from your leftovers. A salad featuring leftover turkey gets its zing from homemade dressing made with leftover cranberry sauce, and homemade croutons made from leftover dinner rolls add a pleasing crunch. Recipe here.

Potato and stuffing cakes:

All you need to do is combine some leftover stuffing with a little butter to re-moisten it, and an egg to help it stay together. Then, form patties and pan-fry them for a delicious crispy snack or side. It couldn’t be easier — or tastier.


Makes 6 patties

  • 1 cup prepared stuffing
  • 1 cup prepared mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon butter, for pan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the stuffing, potatoes, butter, egg and 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter. Stir to combine. It should be sticky, but moldable.

Step 2: Form the mixture into patties, about the size of meatballs.

Step 3: In a medium skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Place the patties in the pan (a couple at a time), and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until crispy. Flip, and repeat on the second side. Serve warm. If desired, dip in leftover cranberry sauce to serve.

What’s your favorite way to use your Thanksgiving leftovers?

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