people enjoying thanksgiving feast

Your Guide to Perfecting Thanksgiving Leftovers

I like to think Thanksgiving tends to kick off the holiday season…well, let’s face it, holiday decorations are marketed earlier and earlier each year beginning in October and ramping up the day after Halloween. At any rate, Turkey Day is a big one for most as families gather to fellowship and create new memories. But after that glorious (and often gluttonous) day, many succumb to a plethora of leftovers and no fresh take on how to repurpose them. Yes, we can remake the same plate from Thanksgiving dinner over the next few days but after day two it’s pretty boring and monotonous. But never fear, Nutrition HealthWorks has got you covered this year!

I’d like to first give credit to Rachael Hartley, Registered Dietitian from Columbia, SC (Rachael Hartley Nutrition) for capturing the essence of how to reinvent holiday leftovers in an easy-to-use pictograph (see below).

thanksgiving leftovers put into a container
chart guide to healthy thanksgiving leftovers

5 Creative Ideas For Leftovers

In addition to her diagram, here are 5 creative ways to put a healthy spin on your leftovers in a fun way the whole family can enjoy and avoid the rut:


  1. The Ultimate Turkey Sandwich If you’re looking for a no-cook meal, this tried-and-true go-to is perfect for you. What’s even better, this can be eaten any time of the day. Consider adding avocado for a healthy fat along with cheese and more fresh veggies for a healthful boost! *Bonus tip: replace jam/jelly with cranberry sauce when making a PB&J.
  2. Turkey Salad – Here’s another no-cook meal (once the turkey sandwiches have run their course) using chopped turkey meat over a bed of lettuce greens. With this recipe being uber simple, you can get as creative as you want by adding lots of raw vegetables, dried fruit, or nuts. *Chef’s tip: sauté some stuffing on the stove for a fun rendition of “homemade croutons.”
  3. Potato Pancakes – (see recipe below)
  4. Pair it with Pasta – If you’re like my family, pasta is a must-have staple in our home. It’s a go-to meal at least once a week for a quick, convenient dinner. With a variety of ways to prepare it (creamy, spicy, red sauce, etc.) you can load it up with veggies and rarely need a recipe for guidance.
  5. Turkey Stew – Use green beans, butternut squash, or whatever veggies you have on hand. For a more affordable but nutritious route, use frozen or canned vegetables as they work just fine.

Healthy Leftover Recipes

Potato Pancakes

▪ 3 cups potatoes, shredded or mashed
▪ 2 eggs
▪ 3 chives
▪ 2 tsp. black pepper
▪ 1 ½ tsp. salt
▪ 2 Tbsp. flour
▪ 1 cup turkey, shredded
▪ Onion cream cheese

▪ In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, diced chives, pepper, salt, flour and turkey and mix well.
▪ Shape into three-inch patties.
▪ Spray pan with cooking oil and cook pancakes on medium heat until both sides are crispy, about four minutes on each side.
▪ Top with onion cream cheese and serve.


*For sweet potatoes, swap out chives for crushed pecans. Top with cinnamon butter or cinnamon cream cheese
*May opt to cook in waffle iron versus stove top

Turkey & Cranberry Sliders

▪ 12 leftover rolls or Hawaiian rolls
▪ 1 lb. leftover turkey, shredded
▪ ⅔ cup cranberry sauce
▪ Eight slices of Swiss cheese, or leftover brie
▪ ½ cup gravy
▪ 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
▪ 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
▪ 1 clove garlic, minced
▪ ½ tsp. onion powder

▪ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
▪ Slice 12 rolls in half and arrange in the bottom of the pan.
▪ Spread brie or Swiss cheese across the rolls. Top with half of the turkey. Spread cranberry sauce on top of turkey, and sprinkle remaining turkey on top of that. Add the tops of the rolls.
▪ In a small bowl, combine the gravy, mustard, poppy seeds, garlic and onion powder. Pour the mixture evenly over the rolls.
▪ Cover the rolls with foil and let stand for five minutes. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another five minutes. Watch the baking process carefully or ensure the sandwiches do not burn.
▪ Eat immediately.

table filled with leftover thanksgiving foods
leftover thanksgiving turkey and other foods
sandwich made from thanksgiving leftovers
Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson



Emma was raised in Durham, North Carolina, before receiving a dual bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science and Biology from Tuskegee University. Her passion for education and evidence-based results led her to complete a master’s degree from Tuskegee University and a second degree in Family Consumer Science from North Carolina Central University.