The 21 Pound Turkey… How to Handle Dreaded Holiday Leftovers!

By on December 20, 2020

In the midst of the COVID virus pandemic, we purchased a 21-pound turkey for two and it’s a good thing we love turkey leftovers! Now don’t get me wrong, I can only eat Thanksgiving (or Christmas) dinner with all of the trimmings twice at most but take that holiday turkey and divide it into dinner-sized portions and freeze it for later and you’ve got easy meal prep for multiple meals. Keep reading for some of our creative ideas and suggestions from some of our subscribers about how to use up all of the leftovers from your holiday dinner.

In the YouTube video that accompanies this post, we’re giving some quick walkthroughs of several recipe ideas. All of them are linked here with a quick description and some tips to turn your leftovers into new favorites. Plus all of these recipes can be made year-round by substituting chicken when you just can’t handle that big bird more than once a year.

Turkey Stock

The first must-do for our leftovers is making a big batch of turkey stock. Stock is can be very simple. Take the bones and trimming from your turkey, add aromatics such as celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and any herbs you have in the spice rack, and cook on the stovetop or in a crockpot for as long as you can handle the aromas wafting from your kitchen! Here’s our basic recipe:

Cheesy Turkey Rice Casserole

Most casseroles use some sort of “cream of something” soup as a base. If someone in your household can’t eat gluten, you know that this can be a challenge since most brands include wheat as a thickener. Have no fear, this scratch recipe is quick and easy… plus it’s delicious! By the way, substitute any leftover veggies in place of the peas. Broccoli and even leftover green bean casserole taste great here.

Turkey Sandwiches

I know, everyone makes turkey sandwiches, where is the creative idea? But have you made one with a dressing waffle bun? Inspired by chicken and waffles, we take leftover dressing and press it into a DASH waffle iron. To make the sandwich, layer the waffles with gouda cheese, melted cranberry sauce, and turkey for a delicious sweet and savory sandwich that pleases.

Photo of Dressing Waffle Bun sandwich

How about Turkey Bacon Pinwheels. Made with wraps, cream cheese, bacon, turkey, and your choice of cheese, it’s another quick way to get out of the turkey sandwich rut. This recipe is inspired by a keto version from Ruled.me.

How about side dishes! Potato Pancakes

Michelle’s grandma’s Holiday Mashed Potatoes are fantastic the first time around. I’m not a big fan of them leftover because they always seem a little dry. To turn your leftover mashed into potato pancakes, follow these simple directions:

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or parmesan)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • flour (if needed)

Mix everything together except the milk. Add milk as needed to get a spoonable consistency. If the mixture is too runny (or you started with wet mashed potatoes) add a little flour.

Heat a pan on medium-high heat with some olive oil and spoon out about 1/2 cup of potatoes for each pancake. Press them to about 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. Serve with sour cream, apple sauce (like latkes), or just as is.

Thanks Cathy22 for the inspiration!

Turkey Fajita Soup

We love making anything with Mexican and Tex-Mex flavors! This soup is a quick and easy addition to our regular menu.

Modern Turkey Pot Pie

Not many dishes say comfort food like a pot pie. This really is a dish where you can add just about anything, including leftovers! This recipe comes from the New York Times Food Lab and it is one of our favorite versions of pot pie and it is classy enough to serve for company. Notice the wine pairings at the end of the recipe in the link below. Road to Shambala reminded us that we love pot pie!

BBQ Turkey Nachos

We mentioned that we love Mexican food right? Nachos are like ambrosia and we could eat them every week. Here is an interesting take inspired by pulled pork nachos that are popular on many bar menus now.

Recipes that didn’t make the video:

We have a bunch of favorites that we couldn’t include in the video but wanted to give you the recipe anyway. Here they are:
Chicken with Pancetta Cream and Peas is a Cooking Light Magazine take on Chicken Alfredo. We use leftover turkey breast and mix it in at the end of cooking. This is another great way of incorporating leftover veggies because you can mix in virtually any cooked veggies (think pasta primavera).

Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet from Primavera Kitchen calls for ground turkey at the beginning of the recipe. We’ve found that skipping that direction and adding pieces of leftover turkey towards the end of cooking is equally tasty.

One final family recipe is for Grandma Baker’s Chicken and Dumpling Soup. Michelle’s grandma’s traditional chicken and dumplings recipe works equally well with turkey and produces dense dumplings that are another great comfort food staple on a cold winter’s night.

What are your favorite ways to use up those holiday leftovers? Leave us a comment below and let us know and if you try out one of our recipes, send a picture or tag us on Instagram. Maybe we’ll post up ham recipes after Christmas or Easter!



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