The WeightWatchers® guide to Thanksgiving leftovers

You may think you can’t stomach another bite of turkey or mashed potatoes after the meal of all meals. But that’s just because you haven’t met our mash-ups yet.
Published November 21, 2016
Thanksgiving leftovers, including a tray of turkey breast, and bowls of carrots, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, on a table with a turquoise tablecloth.Thanksgiving leftovers, including a tray of turkey breast, and bowls of carrots, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, on a table with a turquoise tablecloth.

Like death, taxes, and Mercury retrograding right when your life feels stable, you will inevitably have sizable leftovers after every Thanksgiving. And you will inevitably struggle to Tetris them all into your fridge. What do you do with those leftovers? Well, that can be a little less expected.

“The great thing about Thanksgiving leftovers is that they're made up of so many different elements,” says Sherry Rujikarn, food director at WeightWatchers®. A typical plate ticks all the nutritional boxes, including protein and fat (turkey), carbs (stuffing), and non-starchy veggies (green beans). “But they also have similar or complementary flavors, making it easy to do mash-ups to bring them to life in new ways.”

Since you have other things to deal with—like squeezing the cranberry sauce into the sliver of space between the Brussel sprouts and pumpkin pie—we’ll handle the mash-ups. Here is how WeightWatchers’ food editors make the most out of Thanksgiving leftovers without a single boring bite.

First things first: How long are Thanksgiving leftovers good for?

Before we answer that, let’s talk storage. You want to place your leftovers in the fridge or freezer within two hours after cooking. And make sure you eat anything that’s stored in the fridge within three to four days. That means by Monday morning, anything that hasn’t been eaten should be tossed or frozen.

3 big ideas for repurposing your Thanksgiving leftovers

1. Make a sweet and savory sandwich or wrap.

  • Pile your favorites—stuffing, green beans, turkey, gravy, all of it—on a tortilla or large lettuce leaf, and then wrap and roll.
  • Spread whole-wheat bread with honey mustard. Add reduced-fat Swiss cheese and leftover turkey or ham. Then top it off with leftover Brussels sprouts for a little crunch.
  • Make a traditional grilled cheese a touch more gourmet: Spread on cranberry sauce and then layer on Brie, red onions, and sliced apples.
  • Try a mash-up of BLT and club sandwich by layering crispy bacon, juicy tomatoes, crunchy lettuce, and leftover turkey with a combo of cranberry sauce and mayo.

2. Make turkey leftovers your base for soup.

  • If you made a turkey, keep the carcass—the bones make an excellent foundation for a flavorful soup broth. Add a little uncooked brown rice, shredded turkey, and chopped spinach to the broth and season with salt, black pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. (Keep it in an inventive freezer storage tray so you can have hearty, homemade soup on demand.)
  • Start with your favorite bean soup recipe, then add leftover turkey and thinly sliced kale for the last 15 minutes of cooking. (“The combo of beans, veggies, and turkey is very filling,” notes Rujikarn.)
  • Swap chicken with turkey for a cold-season classic noodle soup: Boil chopped carrots and celery in broth for five minutes, then add broken up angel hair pasta and simmer until just cooked. Stir in shredded leftover turkey, frozen corn, and dill, and heat until warm.

3. Make breakfast way less basic.
  • Fill an egg omelet with turkey, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts—then top it off with leftover chopped fresh herbs.
  • Leftover roasted vegetables? Pack them into a sheet-pan frittata. If you’re short on time in the morning, you can stash a square in a to-go container and fuel up on the run.
  • Make a smashed veggie hash. Chop up veggies—using a chef’s knife for precision—and add them along with potatoes and any other side dishes you like into the mix. Brown the ingredients in a skillet, then make small wells in the hash. Crack an egg into each well, cover the pan, and cook over medium heat until the eggs are fully cooked.