Forget the turkey sandwich — try these creative, cost-effective Thanksgiving leftovers instead

Brooke Frizzell
Getty Images

If you're anything like me, by the Saturday after Thanksgiving you can't stomach the thought of another turkey sandwich. But rather than wasting food or blowing my budget on takeout, for the last few years I have repurposed my leftovers to get the most out of my fall feast.

I still spend a pretty penny pulling the big day together, but turning the leftovers into other tasty meals makes the expense easier to swallow.

Thanksgiving fritters

I can't claim credit for coming up with this idea — I first had this kind of fritter as AJ's Compact Turkey Dinner at Comet Café in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — but it's one of my absolute favorite uses of Thanksgiving food.

I combine mashed potatoes, stuffing, and diced turkey until well mixed, and form the mixture into large balls. Because I live in Milwaukee, we coat everything in beer batter, but you could just as easily coat the balls in an egg wash and breadcrumbs. I fry the balls in a deep skillet and dip them in leftover gravy or cranberry sauce.

Macaroni and cheese fritters

Macaroni and cheese rarely makes its way onto my Thanksgiving table, but it is a staple for millions of families. I also seldom repurpose it because I just eat it cold while standing in front of the open refrigerator. But it does make great fritters — the concept is similar to arancini (fried risotto balls).

I find it helpful to briefly freeze the balls of macaroni before breading and frying them. This helps the pasta stay together in the hot oil. And because I am living my best Midwest life, I always serve them with a side of ranch.

One of Brooke Frizzell's Thanksgiving leftover creations, Thanksgiving fritters.
Photo by Brooke Frizzell


With days getting shorter and temperatures dropping, few things are as satisfying as a good bowl of soup. I like to use leftover turkey in place of chicken in classic soups, and I am sure turkey would also work great in place of chicken in a white bean chili. But the most satisfying post-Thanksgiving soup I have made is Turkey Enchilada Verde Soup.

Pot pie

What could be more comforting on a cold fall night than a piping hot turkey pot pie? Not much, except maybe a turkey shepherd's pie with a broiled mashed potato topping.

Pot pie and shepherd's pie are great vehicles for using up leftover vegetables like extra green beans or Brussels sprouts.

Tacos and enchiladas

I grew up in Texas, and post-Thanksgiving turkey tacos were an annual tradition in my family. I always have taco seasoning on hand from my favorite local spice shop, but any taco seasoning you like will transform bland turkey into delicious tacos in almost no time at all.

Any taco seasoning you like will transform bland turkey into delicious tacos in almost no time at all.
Brooke Frizzell

When I have a little more time on my hands, enchiladas take the turkey to the next level. My first choice is a North Texas staple, sour cream chicken enchiladas made with turkey. I use a recipe from Lisa Fain's original "Homesick Texan" book, but any enchilada recipe you like will work.


Two years ago, I made stuffing waffles the morning after Thanksgiving by mixing a couple of eggs into leftover stuffing before cooking it on a buttered waffle iron. I'll admit that they weren't the best-looking food ever, but they made a tasty vehicle for an over easy egg.

Speaking of eggs, mashed potatoes can make a great omelet filling or serve as the base of a bubble and squeak — a British morning staple often made with leftover boiled potatoes and roasted vegetables — to go with your brunch.

If I am out of leftover pie, sweet potato waffles can satisfy my sweet tooth. Since I rarely take the time to cook sweet potatoes for the sole purpose of making waffles, leftover sweet potatoes are perfect for an easy treat.

Brooke Frizzell is a Milwaukee-based lawyer who writes about food and parenting. Follow her on Instagram for repurposed leftovers (and cat pictures) @brookeintheheights.

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