Holiday Meal Leftovers: Tips & Recipes

Holiday Meal Leftovers: Tips & Recipes

Article Originally Posted On

For a lot of us, the holidays are all about cooking: turkey (or a turkey alternative), stuffing, cranberry sauce, the works. Unfortunately, that also leads to a lot of food waste. Americans waste about a quarter of the food they buy, and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, that waste increases more than 25 percent during the holidays (That’s a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers going into our landfills).

Make a Plan
Good meal planning can help you save money and reduce food waste. Instead of winging it, purchase just enough ingredients to serve your guests. Add a few extra servings if you want to ensure leftovers. For the turkey, a good rule of thumb is to calculate 1 1/2 pounds per person (this includes room for some leftovers). Here is a genius tip from Martha Stewart: the smaller the bird (12 pounds or less), the lower the meat-to-bone ratio, so plan on at least 2 pounds per person instead.

Serve Buffet Style to Reduce Food Waste
Encouraging self-service for the meal (i.e., buffet style) can help ensure that your guests only take what they think they will eat (give or take an extra scoop of mashed potatoes). Having a buffet virtually guarantees that less food will get scraped off their plate and into the garbage at the end of the meal.

Compost Fruit and Vegetable Scraps
Cooking a large meal like a holiday dinner can generate a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps — potato peels, carrot tops, apple cores. If you are not already composting, the holiday season is an excellent time to start. For smaller kitchens, a countertop container works great. If you have a backyard, setting up a worm compost bin is also an option. Many municipalities have food scrap drop off programs, which make it even easier to reduce your waste.

At Least Freeze It
Freezing holiday leftovers is probably the easiest way to avoid food waste. Lots of components of the traditional holiday meal can be frozen. Here are some tips for chilling holiday leftovers:
Store meat and gravy together to keep the meat from drying out.
To freeze gravy without meat, whiz the gravy in a food processor or blender first to keep it from separating when you thaw it.
Freeze stuffing in freezer bags, ideally reusable bags. Sprinkle stuffing with a little broth or water before reheating to avoid the dry-out factor.
Freeze cranberry sauce in airtight containers. Then make fancy grilled cheeses by spreading a little thawed cranberry sauce on crusty bread before adding your cheese of choice and grilling.
To freeze whole pumpkin pies, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then foil. Freeze. To thaw, defrost in the refrigerator overnight until defrosted.

Lots of Holiday Leftovers?
Get Creative!
Maybe you cooked way too much turkey. Maybe you even planned for leftovers because you have been craving turkey pot pie all year long. No matter the reason, if you find yourself with a ton of leftovers, we have plenty of recipes to help you out.

Leftover Turkey Recipes
Here is less of a leftover recipe, and more of a just-do-it-every-time tip: If you are roasting your turkey, always save the turkey carcass (This also goes for chicken, duck, pheasant, etc.). First, make turkey stock with those bones. If you have leftover meat as well (and maybe some roasted vegetables), make turkey soup (Check out our recipe below). This turkey soup recipe adds dumplings, an excellent way to stretch a smaller amount of leftovers into a full meal.
Not ready to make soup right away? Freeze the stock and use it for soups, sauce, or any time a recipe calls for broth or stock.
Use that stock and leftover turkey to make the Louisiana classic, turkey gumbo.
Use all the fixings to make a beloved classic turkey sandwich.
Whip up turkey hash for breakfast. Not only is this a great way to use leftover turkey, but it is also great for clearing out your vegetable bin. Chop up veggies like bell peppers, potatoes, and mushrooms to toss into the mix.
Another great way to make use of food scraps and holiday extras is with leftover turkey pot pie. Along with leftover turkey, you can throw in leftover green beans, carrots, herbs, and other veggies.
If pot pie is not your thing, there are a ton of turkey casserole recipes you can try out to use those leftovers, including turkey noodle casserole, turkey, and mashed potato casserole, and turkey and rice casserole. It’s all about the turkey, and all about the carbs.

Leftover Mashed Potato Recipes
What is the easiest way to reuse mashed potatoes? Eat a big bowl of mashed potatoes!
The most delicious? Make mashed potato pancakes. Stir in egg, cheese, and herbs, then fry in a skillet until crispy. Delicious with sour cream or apple sauce.
Use those mashed potatoes to top a holiday leftovers shepherd’s pie or add them into a casserole.
Turn them into mashed potato biscuits; the potato makes them tender and flaky. These would be great served with turkey hash topped with a poached egg.

Leftover Stuffing Recipes
Yes, you can use turkey to make hash. But if you did not roast a bird, or you want more hash, use the stuffing too. This recipe pairs it with fried eggs for an easy breakfast dish; another adds leftover sweet potatoes to bulk up the meal.
Peppers, squash, and empanadas can all be filled with leftover stuffing.
Leftover stuffing also makes a delicious crust for a quiche.
Use the leftover stuffing as a base for muffins — We’ve got a recipe below to get you started.

Leftover Cranberry Sauce Recipes
If you have gone to the trouble of making homemade cranberry sauce, do not waste it! An easy way to use it up is to serve it like a chutney, spread on sandwiches, with roast meats, and alongside hard cheeses like cheddar.
Substitute cranberry sauce for recipes that call for jellies, such as cocktails, marinades, or baked goods. Try it out with our pancake recipe below.
Use cranberry sauce to flavor dairy products like yogurt or whipped cream or spoon it over vanilla ice cream.
For leftover fresh cranberries that never made it into a sauce, make cranberry pie.

Holiday Leftover Recipes
Turkey Bone Broth
Makes 2 quarts
I promise if you make this broth from your leftover bird, you won’t be disappointed. Use it to make soups, turkey pot pies, and much more. We adapted this recipe from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s bone broth recipe.

At least 2 pounds turkey bones
Vegetables such as onion, carrot, celery or garlic peels, ends, and skins (optional)

Place bones and vegetables in a heavy-duty stockpot and add cold water to cover by 2”, about 1 gallon.
Bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer gently for 3-3 1/2 hours, skimming any foam that forms.
Scoop out bones and large vegetable pieces with a slotted spoon. Strain broth through a colander into a large heatproof bowl and strain again through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl or container.
Set broth aside to chill, then refrigerate until cold; fat will solidify on top, making it easy to remove. Store chilled broth for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Stuffin’ Muffins
Serves 6
Got leftover stuffing? Got a muffin tin? Then you’ve got stuffin’ muffins! Serve with poached eggs and a salad, and you have the perfect holiday-inspired breakfast or an easy lunch. For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and substitute vegetable stock for the turkey stock or chicken broth.

1 tablespoon melted butter or cooking spray
6 cups prepared stuffing
1/4 cup turkey stock, chicken broth or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.
Grease a 6-cup muffin pan with melted butter or cooking spray.
Use your hands to break up the stuffing (slightly)in a large bowl. If the mixture is dry, add stock to moisten (see note below). Add bacon and jalapeno, if using, and combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Divide batter among muffin cups, packing tightly, so the muffins hold together. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and fragrant, 20-25 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a thin, flexible paring knife around muffins to unmold. Serve immediately.
Cook’s Note: If your stuffing mixture is dry, add extra stock to moisten the mix before it goes into the muffin tins. If your recipe already calls for bacon or sausage, feel free to omit the bacon. The chopped jalapeño adds extra spicy goodness, but feel free to skip it if you do not like the spice.

Cranberry-Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves 4
I don’t know about you, but we always — always — have cranberry sauce left! If you are like us, then this recipe is for you. This recipe works with whole-berry cranberry sauces — the canned jellied sauce won’t cut it here. To make life even easier, you can skip the stirring-the-cranberry-sauce-into-the-batter step and just spoon a few tablespoons of sauce right on top of your short stack. Easy peasy.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Kosher salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup leftover cranberry sauce, plus more
Butter, for greasing pan and serving
Maple syrup, for serving

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
Whisk egg yolks, buttermilk, and milk in a small bowl. Slowly whisk melted butter into milk mixture. Whisk in vanilla. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
Whisk egg whites in a small bowl until frothy. Gently fold whites into the batter until combined. Fold in 1/4 cup cranberry sauce.
Let pancake batter sit for 10 minutes. Heat a large griddle or non-stick pan over medium; brush with butter. Working in batches, scoop 1/4-cupfuls of batter onto pan; cook until small bubbles appear all over the surface, and the edges begin to look slightly dry, 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until golden brown on both sides, 2-21/2 minutes more. Serve immediately with butter, warm maple syrup and additional cranberry sauce.

Join Our E Newsletter!
Get updates on upcoming events, giveaways, magazine info and much more!
We respect your privacy.