Use code SIDECHEF for $10 off your first shoppable recipe order.

Why Leftovers are the Best Part of Thanksgiving Dinner

A compelling argument for still cooking a full-size turkey this Thanksgiving - even for a small guest list.
Lauren Holdcroft at SideChef
Recipe Editor 📝🍴Chipped dishware, breakfast for any meal, and eye-watering spice levels. Find me on Instagram @bitesbylauren
GO TO BLOG
Love This Recipe?
Lauren Holdcroft at SideChef
Recipe Editor 📝🍴Chipped dishware, breakfast for any meal, and eye-watering spice levels. Find me on Instagram @bitesbylauren
GO TO BLOG

I love Thanksgiving. This isn’t a secret, nor do I consider it to be a particularly groundbreaking opinion. I love food, Thanksgiving is the single most food-centric holiday that we have in the USA, and thus the moment the leaves start changing, my mind skips Halloween altogether and begins to plan for Thanksgiving Dinner. Even in the days when my apartment was the size of a large closet, I would still manage to roast 2 birds and have loved ones over for a night of being thankful and stuffing our faces.

But there is one thing that I love equally, if not more than a big thanksgiving dinner surrounded by friends and family - it might be the following week of leftovers. Feeding all my favorite people on Thanksgiving always warms my heart for weeks to come, but as the one doing most of the cooking, the actual dinner part is usually a bit more subdued. After the turkey has been carved and the final plate set, you can usually find me sitting off to the side, happily nibbling pie and sipping wine, resting my feet while everyone digs into plate after plate of thanksgiving grub. Then, inevitably, someone will ask why I made two turkeys when there are only 10 of us. Like a scripted play, I grin and answer, “Leftovers.”

Thanksgiving this year is destined to be a smaller, more intimate affair for people across the country (and throughout the world), and so for many of you, this means potentially being stuck with leftover turkey even if you don’t intentionally cook for double the amount of people eating, like I have been known to. However, a small thanksgiving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still cook a whole gobbler (at least 10lbs) and reap the benefits all week long. There is SO much you can do with leftover turkey - so why not make a ton and turn thanksgiving flavors into a weeklong affair?

Let’s start with the next day or so, when you should still have a little bit of everything - why not relive the moment and just make yourself up a plate identical to the night before? After all that hard work, you deserve to enjoy it more than once. My absolute favorite is to throw an egg into some stuffing, then pop it into the waffle maker for some stuffing waffle action, then load it up with all of your favorite sides and throw on a Christmas movie. It's officially the holiday season as soon as Thanksgiving ends!

As the non-turkey sides begin to dwindle, it's time to have some fun. We’re well into soup season now, so throw a couple handfuls of cooked turkey into your favorite fall soup or stew instead of chicken. Need lunch? Grab a loaf of your favorite bread and condiments and make a couple of amazing turkey sandwiches. Maybe (like me) you just don’t feel like cooking one night- leftover turkey can easily become the star of a haphazard charcuterie board, along with some crackers, fruit, cheese, or whatever else you’re in the mood for. Feeling overwhelmed by too much meat? Remove it from the bones, wrap in foil then place in a ziplock and freeze for up to 3 months. Gravy freezes great too, and if you portion before freezing, it makes a great little flavor bomb for soup and stew all winter long.

Before I ramble on too long about all the ways you can turn leftover turkey into deliciousness for days to come (for which there are many! Get creative with it!), my parting words are these - with everything as crazy as it is right now, why would you not prolong the warmth, the thankfulness, and the delicious flavors of thanksgiving across a single evening?

Sign Up for the SideChef
Newsletter
Get weekly recipes, grocery shopping, meal planning, and home-cooking inspiration sent straight in your inbox
Will be used in accordance with our PRIVACY POLICY.
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
New: Plan Better, Waste Less
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
How I Made Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme at Home
WHAT'S IN SEASON
What’s in Season in September, and How to Cook It
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
The Tremendous Tale of Taco Tuesday: Trademarks, Trends, and Tribulations
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Tacos Are Trending on Tinder and Other 22 Taco Facts You Didn’t Know
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Easy Asian Recipes with Wok & Skillet
TIPS & TRICKS
How to Make the Perfect Sushi Burrito
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Jon Bailey of 2DadsWithBaggage
TRENDING
How To: Poke Bowls
RECIPE REVIEW
Here are the Winners of Our Mac and Cheese Taste-Off
FOOD & SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainable Superfoods: Seaweed
TIPS & TRICKS
Meal Planning on a Budget
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
New: Plan Better, Waste Less
AI-powered hands-on approach to reducing any food waste in your household. Get personalized recipe ideas and meal plans to use up everything you have in your grocery cart. Plan with ease, waste nothing, become a part of a solution for the global food waste problem.
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
How I Made Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme at Home
Bring the drive-thru to your kitchen with this customizable copycat of a Taco Bell classic. Loaded with seasoned ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream it is worth every calorie!
WHAT'S IN SEASON
What’s in Season in September, and How to Cook It
A list of fruits and vegetables in season in September alongside recipe recommendations.
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
The Tremendous Tale of Taco Tuesday: Trademarks, Trends, and Tribulations
Have you ever wondered why we all know to look for the best Taco Tuesday deals? Or why it’s a thing to make tacos for Tuesday dinner? Why is it Taco Tuesday and not Thursday? What does Lebron James have to do with tacos? And who invented the Taco Tuesday tradition we all enjoy? Get ready for a crazy story.
WHAT TO READ THIS WEEK
Tacos Are Trending on Tinder and Other 22 Taco Facts You Didn’t Know
We all know that tacos are delicious. We all know you can have tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, for munchies, for a game night, for after-hours… you should know that you can have a taco bar for your wedding (number one on my #WeddingGoals pinboard). But I bet you didn’t know most of these taco facts.
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Easy Asian Recipes with Wok & Skillet
Meet Char of Wok & Skillet and learn her tips and tricks for easy Asian recipes you can make at home for your family.
TIPS & TRICKS
How to Make the Perfect Sushi Burrito
The instagramable fusion food turned into a perfect weeknight meal.
CULINARY PARTNER FEATURE
Blogger Spotlight: Jon Bailey of 2DadsWithBaggage
Take a glimpse into doting father Jon Bailey’s insights on food and how they’re raising two teenage girls.
TRENDING
How To: Poke Bowls
Poke bowls are a delicious, compact way to enjoy a burst of Hawaiian flavor. Packed with fresh fish, tons of veggies, and a sprinkling of savory toppings, they are super nutritious and easy to put together. Get ready to say aloha to your new favorite meal!
RECIPE REVIEW
Here are the Winners of Our Mac and Cheese Taste-Off
Extra cheese, please! In our first culinary partner throwdown, Marley’s Menu’s classic mac and cheese recipe gets high honors
FOOD & SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainable Superfoods: Seaweed
Learn more about all the ways seafood is changing the game, and how to start working it into your own diet!
TIPS & TRICKS
Meal Planning on a Budget
Cooking at home can spare you money, calories, and even time if you play it right. We're here to guide you through the art of meal planning!
You're one smart cookie! 🍪
By using this site, you agree to the use of cookies by SideChef and our partners for analytics and personalized content. ACCEPT
SideChef: 18k Recipes, Meal Planner, Grocery List, Personalization
INSTALL APP
Make cooking easy
Discover personalized recipes, organize your meal plans, shop ingredients, and cook with confidence alongside our FREE, step-by-step cooking app.