Holiday dinners are plentiful by nature, made to be inviting and indulgent for family and friends. This also means the array of bountiful dishes on display will give way to lots of leftovers. Sure, a classic turkey sandwich is delicious, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to transforming the remainders of dinner into new and creative meals. Here are some of our favourite ways to use up the most common leftovers: turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, bread and stuffing.
Starting a recipe with cooked meat allows you to whip up a meal in minutes without having to take any time to cook your protein. Shredding leftover turkey (by using two forks to break the meat apart) before cooking will help it soak up any sauces or juices to keep the meat moist—because there’s nothing sadder than dry turkey.
- Toss turkey into homemade macaroni and cheese or any other saucy pasta dish.
- Leftover turkey is tasty mixed into pasta salad or risotto.
- Try turkey as the base for a frittata made with shredded mozzarella cheese, veggies and fresh herbs.
- Turkey makes a satisfying taco or burrito filling when shredded and combined with barbecue sauce and beans.
- Use turkey as a base for pot pie, shepherd’s pie or lasagna.
- Wrapped in warm homemade crêpes and topped with gooey brie, both leftover turkey and cranberry sauce get a delicious makeover in our Turkey, Brie & Cranberry Crêpes recipe.
- Don’t throw out those bones! You can use them to make homemade turkey stock—a tasty base for hearty soups, stews and gravy-like sauces. Freeze in airtight containers or zip-top freezer bags for later use.
Cooking green beans just until tender-crisp for your holiday meal will also give them better flavour and texture as leftovers.
- Add chopped green beans to pasta sauces, soups, stews and stir-fries. Or toss leftover beans, dry breadcrumbs and cheeses together in our Green Bean BBQ Casserole. (If your barbecue has retired for the season, cook this casserole in your oven at 375˚F/190˚C instead.)
- Dress green beans in our simple Maple Vinaigrette, along with sliced red onion, crumbled cheese and toasted nuts, for a tasty dinner salad. This dish is also a great way to use up leftover pecans or walnuts and cheese from your cheeseboard.
- If they’re not too soft, have green beans as a snack along with carrot sticks, sliced radishes and tzatziki or hummus for dipping.
Next-day mashed potatoes can sometimes be dry and crumbly, but that’s an easy fix with these ideas.
- Mix potatoes with crumbled white fish and sour cream, form into fish cakes and fry in a skillet until golden.
- Assemble our Big Batch Shepherd’s Pie with leftover potatoes and sprinkle grated cheese on top to add extra moisture and flavour—cheddar, fresh Parmesan or mozzarella work well.
- For a Mexican twist, try our Potato and Cheese Quesadillas with fiery jalapeños and a dollop of sour cream.
- Toss potatoes (mashed or chopped) in a skillet with diced onions and bacon for a morning hash.
Bread or rolls
In addition to morning toast, try these ideas to help use up what was left in the breadbasket.
- Bread that is still soft can be partnered with our Zesty White Bean Dip for a snack or light lunch.
- Convert bread or rolls into croutons for salads or soups by cutting into cubes, brushing all sides with oil or melted butter and toasting in the oven at 400˚F (200˚C) for about 15 minutes or until golden.
- You can also make your own homemade breadcrumbs by cubing stale bread and whirling it in the food processor until fluffy. Freeze breadcrumbs in a zip-top bag and use to top casseroles or thicken soup.
- Slightly stale bread or rolls make great candidates for bread pudding—try our Walnut Bread Pudding with Vanilla Caramel Sauce. Bread slices are also ideal for French toast topped with sliced fruit and maple syrup.
Since it’s often the most popular dish on the table, some home cooks make a double batch of stuffing to ensure there’s plenty to go around. Here’s what to do with any left in your fridge.
- Make a savoury bread pudding. Scatter the stuffing in a baking dish. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, a splash of milk, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing, adding in chopped veggies and herbs, as well as any leftover turkey or ham. Bake at 350˚F (180˚C) until set and custardy.
- Use stuffing to fill your favourite casserole—try it in our Leftover Turkey Stuffing Casserole, made with lots of spinach and even a little leftover gravy.
- Stuffing is also a flavourful addition to ground meat for delicious burgers or meatballs.
Always ensure cooked foods reach safe internal temperatures, according to this guide from the Government of Canada.