Some next-day ideas for those Thanksgiving leftovers

Photo from Idaho Potato Commission / Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins are topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of green onions.

Six days a week, Candace Harris strictly adheres to the daily schedule of Southern staples on the cafe menu at Oren Wooden's Apple House near Pikeville, Tennessee. On Sundays, along with the standards, Harris, the cafe's chief cook, allows herself to "do something different."

Which explains the turkey-and-gravy sliders and stuffing hush puppies on the menu two Sundays ago.

"I knew that people were kind of in the Thanksgiving mood, but I didn't want to do the full-on meal," she says. "I just wanted to do something with the same flavors but a little more approachable."

Her culinary creations could serve as inspiration for anyone still facing plentiful platters and bounteous bowls after everyone pushes away from the table after Thursday's feast. Once the fridge is filled with those leftovers, they're up for grabs - whether eaten as is or used to create a whole new dish.

For many cooks, the plethora is part of the plan. A recent survey, conducted by One Poll for Stasher bags, found that 72% of Thanksgiving cooks prepare dinner with the intention of having leftovers, and 56% of the 2,000 respondents believe the holiday is ruined if there's no food left.

Turkey makes the best leftovers, according to 62% of people surveyed, while 46% opted for mashed potatoes or stuffing/dressing.

Harris has several ways to use up the main course. For the sliders, she layered turkey, gravy and provolone cheese on sliced King's Hawaiian rolls. "And then on top I made a sage butter with some brown sugar so it would caramelize," she says. A quick trip to the oven, and they were ready to serve.

For a lighter take, the cafe serves a salad with croutons made from sage dressing, roasted turkey, pecans, sliced apples, cranberry orange sauce and an apple cider vinaigrette.

"That's one of our most popular salads," she says. "We also do a croissant sandwich with roasted turkey and dressing that's cooked on a panini press."

The Thanksgiving hush puppies, she says, "came in a moment when I was bored."

She used a melon baller to scoop leftover dressing into the deep fryer, then served the resulting hush puppies with a container of turkey gravy for dipping.

There's nothing wrong with making Friday's redux a mirror image of Thursday's plate. But if you want to take the flavors in new directions, here are some ideas.

More please

What makes the best Thanksgiving leftovers?Turkey (62%)Mashed potatoes (46%)Stuffing/dressing (46%)Pumpkin pie (45%)Apple pie (41%)Green bean casserole (37%)Rolls (34%)Candied yams (33%)Gravy (32%)Cornbread (29%)Cranberry sauce (28%)Source: One Poll for Stasher bags, via


Jeff Pennypacker, chef/owner of the Sweet & Savory Classroom on East Main Street, says one of his crew members "loves to take leftover turkey and make gumbo out of it." Although leftover chicken usually accompanies the sausage, "here is a recipe we use in the classroom that is FANTASTIC and would be great with turkey in it."

Turkey & Sausage Gumbo

Serves 2

1/2 cup sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup onions, chopped

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup bell peppers, chopped

2 cups chicken stock or canned broth

2 cups leftover turkey, shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

2 green onions, sliced thin

1 teaspoon file powder

Cooked white rice, from 1 cup dry

Hot sauce as needed

In a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or large pot, brown the sausage. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add oil and the flour in the same Dutch oven. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.

Add the onions, celery and bell peppers, and cook, stirring, until wilted.

Temper in the chicken stock (add slowly to maintain temperature and prevent roux from thinning all at once).

Add the reserved sausage, shredded turkey, salt, cayenne, Creole seasoning and bay leaves.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until all the flavors blend and the desired thickness is reached.

Remove the pot from the heat.

Remove and discard the bay leaves, then stir in the green onions and file powder.

Serve with steamed rice.

- From Jeff Pennypacker, Sweet & Savory Classroom


Valerie Skinner, a certified healing foods chef who blogs at, turns leftover stuffing into a casserole for the next day's breakfast.

"I created the recipe because I always see ideas about how to use leftover turkey right after Thanksgiving, but rarely do I see recipes that use the sides," she says. "Using stuffing in a breakfast casserole is perfect because it uses up the stuffing for a meal to start the day with."

No matter how your family prepares stuffing, any kind will work, she says. Her casserole recipe calls for just four ingredients, three if your stuffing already contains sausage.

photo Photo from Valerie Skinner / Leftover Stuffing Breakfast Casserole uses just four ingredients, three if your leftover stuffing already contains sausage.

Leftover Stuffing Breakfast Casserole

1 pound ground sausage (skip if your leftover stuffing contains sausage)

8 eggs

1/4 cup cream or half-and-half

4 cups leftover stuffing

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If needed, heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook ground sausage until browned. Crumble, and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together 8 eggs and 1/4 cup of cream or half-and-half until fully combined. Set aside.

Grease a 9- by 9-inch casserole dish, and spread out the cold leftover stuffing in an even layer at the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the cooked sausage on top in an even layer.

Pour the egg and cream mixture over the top of the stuffing and sausage, distributing evenly.

Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until eggs are set in the middle and the casserole is fully cooked. Remove from the oven, and serve hot.


- Gluten-free stuffing may be used (see for a recipe).

- For a Vegetarian Stuffing Bake, use plant-based sausage instead of pork sausage.

- For Leftover Stuffing Egg Bites, distribute stuffing into muffin tins and pour egg mixture on top.

- Extra protein: Leftover turkey and ham may be diced and added to the mixture for a protein-packed breakfast.

- From Valerie Skinner,


According to the Idaho Potato Commission, the easiest way to reheat mashed potatoes is to store them in a sealable plastic bag then immerse them in boiling water when you're ready for more. If you want to get more creative with the leftovers, try this recipe from blogger Anushree Shetty.

Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins

Cooking spray

2 large eggs

1 cup spinach, finely chopped

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (plus extra for topping)

Salt as needed

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1/4 cup mozzarella or sharp cheddar, shredded

Sour cream for topping, optional

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray or butter. Set aside.

Beat the eggs until the whites and yolks are well combined.

Add the eggs along with chopped spinach, cheddar cheese, green onions, salt and pepper to the mashed potatoes. Mix until well combined.

Scoop the potato-egg mixture into the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups a little over 3/4 full. Smooth out the top using a spoon.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven, and sprinkle each with a cheese topping of your choice.

Return muffins to oven, and continue to bake for 2 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Remove from the oven, and let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing them.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and finely chopped green onions.

- Recipe by Anushree Shetty for the Idaho Potato Commission

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.

Good to know

Oren Wooden’s Apple House, 6351 New Harmony Road, Pikeville, Tennessee, is open seasonally. The last day to buy produce from the farm market or eat at the cafe or bakery is Wednesday, Nov. 24.Candace Harris, the cafe’s chief cook, says she’ll serve a Thanksgiving meal — “the full spread” — on the final day of business, and the bakery will have a selection of apple dumplings, fried apple pies, pumpkin pies and other desserts available.“We have a whole bunch of take-and-bake orders being picked up on Wednesday to make Thanksgiving easy,” she says.Most are advance orders, but Harris expects to have “a few extras” for walk-ins.For more information, call 423-447-6376 or visit