I am embarrassed to admit this but there have been years that we ended up tossing leftover turkey because I didn’t freeze or use it up fast enough. I saw on the news that up to 1/3 of all turkeys cooked on Thanksgiving end up in the trash. The most important thing, no matter how you might use the leftovers, is to freeze the meat or carcass within a day or so, until you decide how or have the time to use it in another recipe. Last year, as we put leftovers away, I kept enough turkey for sandwiches, and froze the rest in freezer bags immediately. *I chop and slice the leftovers before I put them in the freezer bags, depending on how I might use them later.
Leftover turkey can be substituted in any of your favorite chicken recipes. I have even used it in place of tuna (with a box of Tuna Helper-yes, I do use that occasionally, especially when it’s on sale!)
Here’s a few simple and easy ideas of how you can use it up and not waste any of your bird. And if you have time, why not spend a couple of hours creating a few dishes to freeze for later….will save you time and money in the long run. But whatever you do, if you get that leftover turkey in the freezer quickly, it won’t go bad and be wasted.
- Turkey Salad (which you wouldn’t freeze because of the mayo)….toss bite size turkey pieces with mayo, chopped apples, grapes, and pecans…yummy on a sandwich or by itself.
- Chili….simmer turkey with your favorite beans, diced canned tomatoes, broth and seasonings that you would typically use in your favorite chili recipe. Simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes….this does freeze well.
- Eggs….you can toss turkey in your scrambled eggs or add to an omelette.
- Turkey tastes great in any casserole using rice or pasta.
- Enchiladas…this is the main way I use up our leftover turkey, which I’ve been doing for years. I make enough to eat now and freeze the rest for a future easy and quick dinner. All you have to do is fill a flour tortilla with chopped turkey and cheese. Roll and cover it with enchilada sauce and bake until warm and cooked through. Add salsa, onions, peppers or whatever you have in the fridge.
- Be creative and experiment. A couple of years ago I opened a can of white beans and simmered them with onion and celery, along with the turkey. Toss in whatever spices you like. I garnished the beans with cheese and bacon and it was so good!
- And don’t forget about the carcass….the best way to make homemade turkey soup and stock. Here’s my current favorite recipe, which I discovered a couple of years ago.
Every year I look for a new recipe to try with leftover turkey. This low-fat version of Turkey Tetrazzini that I found in Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine (November 2012), will be the one I try this year….
And my very favorite way to use leftover turkey….a simple turkey sandwich!