Amp Up Your Thanksgiving Leftovers with These Healthy and Creative RecipesOct 19, 2021
After hours of prepping and cooking food for a delicious Thanksgiving meal, the last thing you want to do is spend more time planning and cooking subsequent meals. But the beauty of a giant holiday meal is that you can tap into your stash of leftovers to meal prep tasty and healthy lunches and dinners (and breakfasts and snacks, too!). If you’re not exactly sure what to do with all your Thanksgiving leftovers, we’re here to help.
Read on for some healthy and creative Thanksgiving leftover recipes, plus tips on how to best store and freeze your favorite turkey day foods.
Bonus: many of these recipes are perfect for meal prep! Just make sure you clearly label your food so it doesn’t get stolen…we learned that tip from Ross Geller!
Meal Prep Ideas for your Thanksgiving Leftovers
Want some healthy ways to use up your bounty of leftovers? Try these creative Thanksgiving leftover recipes for meal prepping or Black Friday dishes.
Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole
If you have family sticking around after Thanksgiving, this layered leftover casserole is an easy way to make post-holiday lunch or dinner. It only takes about 15 minutes to prep, and can be ready in less than an hour! One serving has 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, and boasts 18 grams of protein, making this a hearty, healthy way to use up that excess food.
Get the recipe: Openfit
Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich
We put a spin on the classic leftover sandwich, but still kept it pretty traditional. This recipe mixes goat cheese and cranberry sauce for a creamy, flavorful spread, and it adds spinach into the mix for some extra veggies to go along with your leftovers. Choosing sprouted whole grain bread also too boost the health factor, plus it adds in a nice, nutty flavor!
Get the recipe: Openfit
Paleo Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich
This gluten-free, paleo recipe isn’t exactly a traditional sandwich (there’s no bread… gasp!), but instead, it uses sweet potato waffles to bookend the main ingredients. You can make a batch of the waffles ahead of time, and then pile in all your leftovers when you’re ready to chow down.
Get the recipe: Steph Gaudreau
Thanksgiving in a Jar
This tasty way to enjoy Thanksgiving over and over uses mason jars to layer leftover ingredients, along with a helping of quinoa (which is a great way to incorporate more whole grains into your Thanksgiving leftover meals). Choose small jars for in-between-meal snacks, or pick for a larger jar for lunch or dinner.
Get the recipe: Marla Meridith
Leftover Turkey Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
On Thanksgiving, greens are often a rare sighting on the menu (unless they’re in casserole form accompanied by heavy cream and a medley of cheese). So make them a star in your leftover meals! You can prep this simple recipe ahead of time and divvy it into food storage containers for healthy post-Thanksgiving lunches through the week — though we recommend dicing up your avocado the morning of so you aren’t left with unappetizing brown chunks.
Pro tip: to lower the calories, use half an avocado and go light on the dressing.
Get the recipe: A Sweet Pea Chef
Leftover Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
These comforting mini Thanksgiving leftover casseroles may look and sound naughty, but they’re actually loaded with veggies, broccoli, onions, and mushrooms! Pack them up into individual containers and you’ll be set with lunch for days! As an added bonus, you can freeze a few containers for a later date (they’ll keep for four to six months).
Get the recipe: Meal Prep On Fleek
Wild Rice Leftover Turkey Soup
Want a warming, comforting meal that’s lighter and healthier than most traditional holiday fare? Make turkey soup from Thanksgiving leftovers! This recipe incorporates wild rice, but you can sub in brown or any other rice you have on hand. You can also toss in leftover roasted veggies like cubed butternut squash to make it even more hearty.
Get the recipe: The Seasoned Mom
Meal Prep Cranberry Turkey Sandwich
While there are dozens of ways to craft a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, this version keeps things nice and simple — but don’t be fooled by the short ingredient list. The balance of textures (velvety cranberry sauce, crunchy sliced apples, and tender turkey breast) creates a more interesting sandwich than your average turkey club. This recipe uses gluten-free bread, but you can choose your favorite variety — we love a good whole grain sprouted bread!
Get the recipe: Skinny Fitalicious
Roasted Vegan Thanksgiving Bowl
Meal prep doesn’t get much easier than this veggie-packed vegan bowl. Start with a base of mashed potatoes and then layer on roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, and acorn squash (or whatever veggies you were able to snag from your Thanksgiving spread) and top with some cranberry sauce and chopped pecans. Who said Thanksgiving couldn’t be vegan-ized?
Get the recipe: I Love Vegan
Leftover Cranberry Sauce Parfaits
Post-Turkey day dishes don’t have to be limited to lunch and dinner! This Thanksgiving leftover breakfast recipe layers cranberry sauce with Greek yogurt (a good bet is plain 2% Greek yogurt), and tops it off with crunchy granola. Looking for more crunch or want to skip the granola? Add in some fresh diced seasonal fruit, such as apples or pears.
Get the recipe: Well Plated
How Long Is it Safe to Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers?
Not sure how long you can safely enjoy your aunt’s famous mashed potatoes or your grandma’s perfectly-cooked turkey? The USDA says you can keep most Thanksgiving leftovers for three to four days in the refrigerator. Just make sure you store them within two hours of cooking.
If you store leftovers in the freezer, you’ll buy yourself much more time: to the tune of two to six months. These are just guidelines, so use your judgement. If you detect a funky odor or something just doesn’t look right, don’t risk it.
For the safest storage, divide your leftovers into small portions and refrigerate or freeze them in shallow airtight containers. Choosing reasonably-sized, shallow containers will allow the food to cool quickly so bacteria doesn’t multiply at an alarming rate. Storing them in the fridge or freezer shortly after cooking will also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.