Monday Meal Ideas: Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving isn’t a Spanish holiday and past experience has taught me that my in-laws don’t really appreciate the traditional menu. And in the end, for me, a dinner of white-wine roasted chicken, spanish omelet, and tapas is delicious, but not quite what I’m looking for when recreating Turkey day at home in Barcelona.

So as Thanksgiving, a Thursday holiday is normal working day in Catalonia, and my local relatives are less-than enthusiastic about the traditional dishes,  I’ve taken to hosting a big gathering of friends for a Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when my compatriots are busy raiding local stores for Christmas bargains.

Good food and good company make the event a success even those years where my corn bread comes out of the oven only slightly fluffier than a muffin-sized rock (this year, for example).

Of course, since my table seats at most 10 people, and the women who run my neighborhood butcher-shop can’t seem to convince their farmer contact to harvest a smaller turkey (14lbs is massive for a ten-person gathering), Thanksgiving means serious leftovers at our house, especially on the turkey front.

What to do with so much corn bread, mashed potatoes and turkey? You’ll be sick of eating it tal cual, or the same way after the weekend, or at least I know I am.

Never fear, I’ve got some fun travel-inspired meal ideas that will make good use of your Thanksgiving excess. Most of them can be adapted for vegetarians, celiacs and vegans by omitting some ingredients.

Leftover Mashed Potatoes:

  • India/Pakistan- Leftover mashed potatoes are perfect for making Indian samosas (curried potato, peas and onions wrapped in wonton wrappers and deep-fried), my favorite street food in India that’s also commonly sold in Pakistani stores and kebaps throughout Europe.
  • The United Kingdom- Mashed potatoes mixed with cheese make the crust on Brit’s cottage pie (you could also use turkey instead of the usual beef or lamb)
  • Ireland- Irish boxty are a cross between hashbrowns and potato pancakes made with a mixture of raw shredded and cooked mashed potatoes.

Leftover Turkey:

  • Fusion/ World Cuisine- Leftover turkey can be diced and mixed with relish or diced pickles and mayo to make fresh turkey salad. A pinch of curry, or a splash of sriracha hot sauce or french mustard give it a little kick, but I wouldn’t use all three. Serve it on bread or crackers or for those on a post-Thanksgiving diet, wrapped in fresh lettuce.
  • Tex-Mex/ Mexican- Another great option for leftover Turkey is shredding the meat for enchilada or quesadilla filling or sprinkling it on top of nachos with melted cheese and guacamole. Turkey also combines well with Mexican mole, if you’re feeling ambitious after all that Thanksgiving cooking.
  • The U.S. – Fans of American classics like buffalo chicken dip could substitute shredded turkey for shredded chicken. Chunks of oven roasted turkey work great as the meat in  American- style pot pies or in white bean chili with green sauce.
  •  Miscellaneous–  If you have leftover drumsticks, why not coat the outside of them with your favorite bottled sauce (tabasco, ginger-soy, barbecue, honey mustard) and reheat them in the oven? Bones, skin and odd chunks of meat are ideal for making turkey broth. Just remember to strain it carefully after the fact.
caldo de verduras con queso rayado

Use up leftover raw and cooked vegetables in soup.

Leftover Bread (Corn and Otherwise) and stuffing:

Leftover bread and stuffing is great for all sorts of things, just be sure to protect it from molding.

  • Spain- Make Spanish-style migas or fried bread crumbs with vegetables and whatever else you’ve got on hand.
  • World Cuisine (Italian, British, American, etc)- Another great option is a savory bread pudding. Chunk up the bread, mix it with your favorite meats, vegetables and cheeses and pour an egg and milk mixture over the top, et voila, after about an hour in the oven you have a one-dish breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Germany – Semmeknoedel are Bavarian dumplings made from  day old bread, milk, eggs, butter and spices. They’d be great a hot soup made from leftover vegetables or turkey.
  • Miscellaneous –Use a cheese shredder or food processor to make rolls or loaves into bread crumbs. Wrap the crumbs in foil and put them in the oven briefly to dry them out. Freeze and use when you need bread crumbs for a recipe.
pudding salado de pan y verduras

Bread pudding is that perfect one plate meal leftover dumping ground. Bread, veggies, cheese, throw in whatever you like, pour a mixture of egg and milk over it all and bake in the oven for about an hour. Dinner is served! Death to leftovers….

Left-over sweet potatoes:

Depending on how you’ve prepared your sweet potatoes, they lend themselves to a wide variety of savory and sweet recipes.

  • Spain/Asian Fusion- Plain sweet potatoes baked in the oven can be spiced up with curry or ginger and rolled in bread crumbs and sesame seeds to make Sweet potato croquettes. Serve them with soy sauce, mmm. By the way, croquettes are typically made from ham or chicken with Bechamel.
  • Thailand/Fusion– sweet potatoes make a great base for a curry soup. Blend the sweet potatoes, coconut milk, garlic, chicken broth, fresh green or red curry paste and tomato paste in a blender. Heat on the stove and drop in button mushrooms, prawns, and lots of fresh cilantro for an amazing soup.
  •  Miscellaneous- Sweet potatoes can be substituted for potatoes in a lot of recipes. Sweet potatoes prepared with brown sugar and walnuts are easy to blend and mix into a sweet bread, muffins or cupcakes.

Leftover Vegetables: 

  • Asian-Leftover raw vegetables from a veggie plate can be diced and sauteed into stir-fry in your favorite wok.
  • Spain- Chop vegetables and use them to make a vegetarian-saffron paella.
  • Vietnam-Raw vegetables can be shredded or thinly sliced, marinated in soy sauce and a little fish sauce, and wrapped in rice paper wrappers to make Vietnamese-style  spring rolls.
  • Italy – Vegetables can be made into a vegetarian pasta sauce or minestrone.
  • Miscellaneous-Dump veggies (raw or cooked) into a stock pot to make vegetable broth. Leftover cooked vegetables can be mixed into savory pies or quiches, sauces, bread puddings, omelets or even added to soup just before serving.

Leftover Desserts:

We don’t tend to have much leftover dessert, but if you have a lot of it, here are my favorite options:

  • Freeze for a special occasion at a later date
  • Share with people that weren’t at your event



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