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3 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey or Chicken

Guest post by Liz from Simple Italian Cooking

The secret to using leftovers is to use them as part of a different recipe. Here are three ideas to help you get the most out of your leftover meats:

1. Pasta with Vegetables and Meat

Combining pasta with meat is a great way to get both your carbohydrates and protein. Simply heat a pan over high heat with a little olive oil. Chop or slice your meat and add to the pan along with a few cloves of garlic, chopped bell pepper, sliced zucchini, cherry tomatoes halved, thinly sliced onion and some chopped basil and parsley.

Heat over medium heat while your short pasta is cooking. Keep in mind, this is just a generic list of vegetables. Use whatever you have on hand.

Once the pasta is finished, add it to the vegetables and chicken/turkey mixture.Toss and serve with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

2. Pizza

Another way to use leftover turkey or chicken is to add them to a pizza. You can use shredded meat with any kind of pizza — thin, thick, with a red sauce, or without a red sauce. The options are endless.

For example, you can create a chicken pizza by following the example of one of the pizzas at California Pizza Kitchen which uses sautéed garlic, spinach and roasted artichokes. Add some freshly shredded mozzarella along with some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Instead of using their spinach artichoke sauce, drizzle the pizza with extra virgin olive oil, add a dash of salt, and bake in the oven as you normally would.

If you do not have any pre-made pizza crusts, you can easily make your own in under 3 minutes using a bread machine or a food processor with a pizza dough setting. Processing by hand will take longer – approximately 10 minutes.

A basic recipe consists of three and a half cups of flour, two Tablespoons olive oil, one Tablespoon salt, a package of dry active yeast and one cup warm water. Simply combine the water, salt and yeast and let sit for five minutes. Then add in the flour and knead with your hands until a stretchy but not sticky consistency is achieved.

3. Fajitas/Wraps

One of the easiest ways to use leftover chicken or turkey is in a fajita. Saute some sliced tomatoes, the meat, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic and onion over medium high heat in some olive oil. Once cooked down, place a fajita wrap on the vegetables until it is warmed. Then transfer to a plate, add in the vegetable mixture, fold over and top with sour cream, salsa and some guacamole.

With a little creativity, and some frugality, it is possible to economize your meals while still providing a good tasting recipes for you and your family.

Liz is publisher of Simple Italian Cooking, where she shares her favorite easy homemade Italian recipes.

What are your favorite ways to use up leftover turkey? Tell us in the comments section.

photo by tuchodi

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  • Julia says:

    In wild rice soup, with a little ham. My mom cooks the turkey so she can make this soup every year!

  • bobbi says:

    last year, we used the leftover turkey breast in turkey quesadilla’s. We sliced the turkey into thin strips & added some chipolte cheese, then threw it onto the pan between two tortillas. They were so good!

  • Allison says:

    Turkey Pot Pie!

    Mix leftover shredded turkey pieces with cream of chicken soup and your favorite mixed veggies. Pour into pie plate and cover with a pie crust. Cut slits in the top and bake for about an hour, until crust is golden brown. It can also be frozen before baking for an easy, out of the freezer meal later on when you aren’t so tired of turkey!

    • Antoinette says:

      @Allison, AMEN!! We’ve also topped with leftover mashed potatoes or stuffing – all equally delicious.

      My other post-TurkeyDay favorite: Turkey sandwiches!!! on leftover rolls with mayo and cranberry sauce and salt…definitely not “healthy” on any version of any diet :-).

    • Vanessa says:

      @Allison, We love turkey pot pie, too! Instead of using the cream of chicken soup, I like to make a white sauce and flavor it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and 1 or 2 chicken bouillon cubes.

    • holi says:

      @Allison, That is exactly what we love! I combined a couple recipes and we love homemade pot pies~!

  • WilliamB says:

    1. Stock: you get a pint of stock for every pound or pint of scraps. Just simmer the leftovers – bones, skin, scraps, bit of meat too small for anything else, pan scrapings, juices – in enough water to cover for 2-3 hrs. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or through cheesecloth or – if you’re stuck – a coffee filter.

    2. Cottage Pie: mix turkey, stuffing, and enough gravy to make it tasty, put in a pan. Cover with mashed root veggies, optionally top with grated cheese. Freeze for later, because who wants to eat exactly the same thing tomorrow? Reheat at 350F till bubbly.

    3. Casserole: layer turkey, chopped leftover veg, cranberry sauce, and top with stuffing. Freeze and reheat as for Cottage Pie.

    4. Croquettes: chop turkey, mix with gravy, chopped veg and more spices till you like the flavor and it’s about as thick as ground meat – don’t let it get goopy or the patty will fall apart when you cook it.
    4A. Simple Version: shape into patties, saute in 1/2″ oil or bake at 400F till hot through and crispy. Or freeze, defrost, and cook as before.
    4B. Fancier Version: roll in seasoned flour, or breadcrumbs (optionally mixed with grated cheese), or crushed crackers or panko. Cook as above. This version is more work and makes more of a mess to clean up, but the croquette will stick together much better.

    5. Turkey & cranberry sandwiches.

    6. Turkey & cheese melts.

    7. Turkey soup, chowder, stew, or minced and added to rice as it cooks.

    • Kelly says:

      @WilliamB, #1. Stock – I keep a crockpot close by when we are deboning the turkey. Put all the bones and scraps in the crockpot, add the water and let it cook in there while we rest after dinner. Just strain after it is done and you have turkey stock!

      PS: I actually found a pint of turkey stock in my freezer last week from last years Thanksgiving.

  • maygan says:

    Eggrolls and fried rice is my current favorite use of leftover chicken/turkey. All I need for eggrolls are the wrappers (super cheap at the local asian store) and some cabbage (always cheap). I add whatever other veggies I have on hand (carrots, celery, green onion) and the meat after cooking for a couple of minutes in some oyster sauce. It’s yummy and fast.

    Fried rice is also great because I can throw in the meat and whatever veggies I have on hand and know the kids will love it.

  • rJane says:

    Does Liz really mean 1 TABLESPOON of salt for a batch of pizza dough? Should that be 1 Teaspoon? Thanks.

  • Maria says:

    Easy Enchiladas… 3 cups leftover poultry, can of corn (drained), 2 cups shredded cheese, 1 can of enchilada sauce, half a tub of sour cream, tortillas… Mix the meat, corn, half the cheese, 3/4 of the enchilada sauce, and the sour cream. Spoon into tortillas, roll, and line ’em up in a greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and enchilada sauce, bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted.

    This is off the top of my head, but really difficult to screw up, so just toss the ingredients together and voila!

  • Heather Anne says:

    We made a great recipe called Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake from Taste of Home – just using turkey instead of chicken. It got rave reviews from our family! 🙂 I also like to make turkey soup to freeze for days when I don’t want to cook or when we aren’t feeling well.

  • Diana says:

    Cook some rice and add your leftover meat along with a can of condensed cream of whatever soup. (Or make your own–it’s easy and healthier; plenty of recipes online!) Stir around until combined; put in a 9×13 pan with topping of your choice: cornflakes, bread crumbs, croutons, etc. Bake until heated through.

    Or put the meat in spaghetti sauce and serve over pasta. Yummy!

  • Mary says:

    We like to make a Thanksgiving layered casserole. Spread Stuffing on the bottom of a casserole pan, top with layers of whatever you have left. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies, even the cranberry sauce. Top it with gravy and bake till it is all bubbly and good then scoop it out and serve it on some leftover rolls. Just a different take on leftover turkey sammiches.

  • Brenda says:

    Recently we tried replacing leftover cubed turkey in one of our favorite casseroles (altered from Cooking Light).

    La Bamba Casserole

    3 c. leftover cubed turkey
    1 c. chopped onion
    2 t. chili powder
    1/2 t. cumin
    1/4 t. salt
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    10 oz. can diced tomatoes & green chilies, undrained
    2 c. frozen corn
    1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
    1 c. chopped tomato
    sour cream (optional)

    Heat large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add turkey, a little water to keep things moist, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, & garlic. Saute 5 minutes or until heated through. Add can of diced tomatoes & green chilies. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Spoon into 8×8 casserole dish. Top evenly with corn & then cheese. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve topped with tomato & sour cream. Serves: 6

  • Miranda says:

    We make a chicken & stuffing dish which works well with turkey. Dice up meat to cover bottom of 13 x 9 casserole dish. Pour 2 cans of cream of chicken soup over top. Make 2 pkgs of stuffing (or use leftover!) and spoon over top. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Tastes great with rice….or leftover mashed potatoes!

  • Becky says:

    We use some for sandwiches but I always get more than one turkey at Thanksgiving(either free or super cheap) and I pick off the second one and freeze it in two cup bags then I use it in any recipe that calls for chicken. One of our favorites is Turkey Black Bean Chili. I just used the torn off turkey instead of ground. Yum! Here is the recipe link if anyone is interested.

  • Shannon says:

    I don’t eat meat, but my mom saves the bones and all for stock. You can boil it down, and for extra flavor add more stock or bouillon. You can also add leftover veggies for a good homemade chicken soup that you can freeze for when the winter really hits hard!

    Me and my friends do a “Sunday After” Thanksgiving so we can all be together for a little holiday of our own and bring leftovers from our families gatherings.

  • miriam says:

    My family loves it when I make Turkey (White) chilli. I use white beans, instead or red, usually mix in a bottle of salsa, large can of chopped tomatoes with green chillies (if you like it spicy) and I use white chilli mix (mcCormick) I believe instead of red chilli seasoning mix. You can use the red chilli mix if you cannot get hold of the white one. I put it all in a crock pot and cook for about 4hrs, absolutely yummy. You can do it on the stove top if you like to, put it on slow. Enjoy!!!!!
    Happy ThanksGiving to everyone.
    May the Lord bless and keep you, and make His face shine on you.

  • Jessica says:

    Chicken or Turkey Pies
    -1-2 cups of pulled apart chicken or turkey
    -1 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese
    -salt and pepper to taste
    -1 pkg. crescent rolls
    Mix first 3 ingredients, then roll out crescent rolls into a square. Place a spoonful of chicken or turkey mixture on the crescent roll, then close up like a tart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. YUM!

  • Heather Shaw says:

    You know, I was just watching Melissa D’Arabian (sp?) show on food network. She made turkey tacquitos. They looked YUMMY!

  • Nicole says:

    Turkey or Chicken Pot Pie

    I do it a little differently than the basic pot pie.

    Cook onions with butter and flour in a big pot. Add chicken broth and milk. add a frozen bad of mixed veggies and your meat. Put a lid on it on low and leave it. When ready to serve I make bisquick buscuits and serve with the bowl of thick stew.

  • Michelle says:

    In soup!! Especially Creamy Wild Rice Soup – yum.

  • Amanda says:

    Last year, we made chicken caesar wraps but with turkey instead. They were yummy. I will have to try the fajitas and turkey on a pizza. We already add barbeque sauce, pineapple and sliced turkey (lunch meat) to pepperoni and cheese pizzas from time to time. Sounds gross, but it is really good so I guess we could put turkey chunks on a pizza rather than the lunch meat after Thanksgiving.

  • Jana says:

    we use the leftovers (if there are any!) in turkey, cranberry, and stuffing sandwiches or turkey noodle soup (like chicken noodle soup but with turkey). some also goes to the dogs as a special treat.
    we usually wind up with more leftover ham than anything else. the leftovers are put in a gallon size storage bag, and the next day my husband and brother in law sit at the kitchen table for hours, snacking on the bag o’ ham. it’s simple, easy and no cooking for anyone!

  • Maria says:

    I buy 3-4 turkeys a year, and cook them every few months. We have one turkey dinner out of each, and then I remove all the meat and put most of it in the freezer, in several ziplocs. My theory is that as soon as its off the bone, it’s chicken. :p
    So I make all kinds of “chicken” dishes. Stirfrys, enchilladas, soup, fajitas, quesadillas, shredded bbq sandwiches, pot pie, pizza… everything!

  • Megan says:

    These are a favorite at my house!
    2 cups cooked chicken or turkey
    1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    1 cup cottage cheese
    6 tortillas
    8 oz. can of tomato sauce
    1 cup salsa (I use medium.)
    1/2 tsp. chili powder
    1/2 tsp. cumin
    Grease a 9×13 pan. Mix turkey, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and cottage cheese. Spoon into tortillas. Roll up and place seam side down in the pan. Combine tomato sauce, salsa, and spices. Pour over enchiladas. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer.
    Can refrigerate unbaked for 48 hours or freeze for 2 months.

    After refrigeration:
    Bake 30 minutes.
    Add cheese.
    Bake 15 minutes longer.

    From freezer:
    Bake for 45 minutes.
    Add cheese.
    Bake 15-20 minutes longer.

  • Lana says:

    I like to put turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole and cranberry orange relish in bags and put all those in a large freezer bag. This bag pulled out and eaten in January is as good as Thanksgiving dinner all over again. We appreciate it so much more than eating it multiple times right after Thanksgiving.

  • Angela says:

    We make Asian turkey slaw. Yum!

  • Gina Leake says:

    Wow, all of these ideas are wonderful! When I cook a turkey for our family, which is a couple of times a year, I divide the meat into approximately one pound servings and store them in the freezer for quick additions to casseroles. One of our favorite casseroles has turkey, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, olives, macaroni noodles, chopped celery or zucchini, and shredded cheese. 🙂

  • Ann says:

    I usually make soup. But my favorite way to use leftover turkey is turkey and biscuits!

    Thanks for all the ideas, everyone! I bought a 21 pound turkey for 6 people so I think I just might have a little bit leftover. But, hey, it’s just as much work to cook a big one as a little one, right?

  • Becky says:

    I like to turn mine into enchiladas – 1 pan for now and another to throw in the freezer. My dad hates poultry, but last year he devoured “pulled pork” that was actually shredded turkey tossed in a nearly free bottle of BBQ sauce. 🙂

  • Kaylea says:

    We love shredded turkey tacos too — simmering the meat in some lime juice and cumin is a good way to shift the flavor toward tex-mex.

  • Mitzi says:

    I like to make turkey pot pies, turkey with noodles( like a soup) and turkey and dumplings instead of chicken and dumplings. I can also substitute turkey for about any dish I make with chicken so we always buy and cook extra when the turkeys are cheap to stock up on meals that have variety.

  • Beth says:

    I love making Turkey tetrazzini. The kids love it.

  • Cindy Gilbert says:

    Turkey and Noodles..

    My dad always liked this after Thanksgiving.
    Use 1 can cream of chicken soup
    use 1/2 cup of water
    add about a cup of turkey cut up into bite size pieces
    add about 1/2 bag of medium or extra wide egg noodles.

    Let simmer until the noodles are done…

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