9 Creative Things to Do with Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving Leftovers og

Depending on your point of view, one of the best (or worst) things about Thanksgiving meal is all the leftovers. If the thought of a week filled with plain-old turkey sandwiches has you despairing, never fear…the CIA is here, with fresh tips and recipes.


1.Break out the panini press

I love this Thanksgiving panini recipe because it’s a phenomenal way to use up leftover turkey. These paninis are great served with sweet potato chips or fries.

—Hinnerk von Bargen, professor of culinary arts

Thanksgiving Turkey Paninis

Makes 8 paninis



1 cup sour cream

1 cup pumpkin filling

Salt, as needed

1/4 teaspoon allspice, or as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, or as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or as needed



2 cups yellow onions, sliced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup raisins, soaked

Salt, as needed

16 slices artisanal sourdough bread, sliced ¼”

8 ounces pepper jack cheese, sliced thinly

8 ounces smoked or roast turkey, sliced thinly


For the spread: Combine all of the spread ingredients and adjust the seasoning as needed. The texture and flavor should resemble a creamy pumpkin pie filling.

For the filling: Sweat the onions in the vegetable oil over moderate heat in a saucepan or similar pan until very tender and evenly caramelized. Add the raisins, sweat for one more minute, adjust the seasoning with salt, and set aside.

To assemble your paninis, lay out the sliced bread on a clean work surface and apply the spread.

Top the spread with the pepper jack cheese to cover in one single layer. Top with the turkey in one single layer.

Top with the caramelized onion and raisin mix and again with one layer each of sliced turkey and pepper jack cheese. Top with another slice of sourdough bread and gently press. Cook the sandwich on a panini press until well-browned and heated through.


2. Burn them off

Planning to catch some football on the big screen TV over the long weekend? According to the American College of Exercise and Next Avenue, you’ll need to do it for 42 hours to burn off a 3,000 calorie Thanksgiving meal (gulp!). So use commercials to your advantage:

  • Do chair squats (squat until your butt comes in contact with the chair/couch) every time you see a holiday shopping ad.
  • Drop and do push-ups during every beer commercial.
  • Do jumping jacks during every car ad (double time if the car has a giant bow on it).

—Serge Nalywayko, assistant director of athletics, recreation, and wellness, and Frank Risole, coordinator, student health and wellness and head cross-country coach


3. Eat turkey congee in your PJs

My family is Chinese-American and we save the turkey scraps and bones for turkey congee, a type of rice porridge. In fact, we are more excited about the breakfast congee for the next day than we are about the bird!

—Dr. Willa Zhen, professor of liberal arts


4. Give leftover turkey a Thai twist

Save your dark-meat leftovers! They’re perfect for whipping up a comforting Thai Yellow Curry for a cold November day. CIA Chef Bill Briwa shows you how.

Thai Yellow Curry

Makes 4 cups


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon yellow curry paste

1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)

4 cups turkey stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of turmeric

2 cups turkey thigh, cut into bite-sized cubes (or use shredded leftover cooked turkey)


Heat the oil in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and curry paste and allow to sizzle for 15 to 20 seconds. Stir in about 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk. Allow to bubble for 1 minute, and add the remaining coconut milk, turkey stock, fish sauce, sugar, and turmeric. Stir again and allow to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Set aside.

Add the cubes of turkey meat to the remaining 3 cups of stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the turkey is done. Strain the cooked turkey pieces from the stock, and add the turkey to the curry sauce. Bring to a gentle simmer. (If using turkey leftovers, add the shredded turkey to the curry sauce and bring to a gentle simmer).

Garnish with basil and cilantro and serve with a bowl of sticky rice.

Note: If the sauce is too thick, add a little water. If too thin, add a little cornstarch and water. To prepare this thickener, mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 1/3 cup water. Drizzle just enough thickener into sauce, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly after returning to a boil.


5. Make stock

Don’t throw away those turkey bones! They’re perfect for making a flavorful stock. Here’s my easy recipe.

—Cynthia Keller, associate dean of culinary arts

Roast Turkey Stock

  1. When you prep your turkey for roasting, check that little paper bag and save the neck. Some people also find it easier to remove the tips of the wings, so if you do cut them off, save them.
  2. After the meal, cut off all the meat you wish to save for other leftover purposes.
  3. Using a heavy knife, break the carcass into smaller pieces.
  4. Place the bones (including the neck bones and wing tips) in a large pot. Add just enough cold water to cover the bones and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer about 2 hours, adding some chopped carrot, celery, and onion during the last 45 minutes, along with some aromatic herbs (like parsley, bay, and thyme).
  6. Strain and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with diced chicken, noodles, rice, or diced vegetables to make a nice soup.


6. Swap them with friends

Invite a few friends over, and tell them to bring an equal number of portions of one or more of their favorite Thanksgiving sides. Then, swap them! You’ll each go home with tasty new sides to pair with your leftover turkey. And you may discover a new favorite for next year’s Thanksgiving table (make sure to get the recipes!)


7. Create mashed potato magic

When you’ve got a little bit of everything left over, what do you do? Combine them all together to make something new and delicious! Croquettes, anyone?

—Cynthia Keller, associate dean of culinary arts

Thanksgiving Leftovers Croquettes

  1. Start with leftover mashed potatoes (white or sweet).
  2. Rough chop leftover vegetables (Brussels sprouts, beans, squash, peas, etc.) and optional turkey.
  3. Add to potatoes, along with a tablespoon or so of chopped herbs (like parsley, sage, and thyme) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir to blend ingredients.
  4. Form into patties. Bread the patties by coating them with flour, beaten whole eggs, and breadcrumbs.
  5. Pan fry until golden brown on both sides.


8. Prep Black Friday “to go” plates

Keep that Thanksgiving spirit going and provide much-needed sustenance for all your favorite Black Friday shoppers—send each of your guests home with leftovers. To make it extra easy, pick up some extra “to go” food containers when you’re shopping for the meal. Voilà!


9. Compost ’em

Eaten all the leftovers you can manage? Compost the rest! First, find an out-of-the-way area on your property. Then, heap the leftover food on the ground, periodically lift it and turn it over, and let the natural organisms take it from there. The resulting dark matter will return rich nutrients back to the soil. You may want to avoid adding your leftover turkey and bones, however, as they can attract pests. Give it a try; our environment will thank you!

—Darryl Mosher , associate professor of culinary arts