|Frugal Café Site Search:|
Let's Talk Turkey: What to Do with All Those Holiday Turkey LeftoversBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Let's talk turkey.
Forty-five million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving in the United States. Twenty-two million turkeys are eaten each Christmas and nineteen million are eaten each Easter. The turkeys that were raised and produced in the US in 2007 together weighed 7.9 billion pounds and were valued at $3.7 billion. United States turkey growers estimated that they would produce approximately 271 million turkeys in 2008. In 2007, the average American ate 17.5 pounds of turkey and 97 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving. In 2010, Americans' consumption of Thanksgiving turkeys jumped by a million, up to 46 million. More than 226 million turkeys were consumed in the United States in 2010.
Put this all together and it means there is A LOT of leftover turkey out there to deal with.
And it's not just in America where turkey is so prized for holiday meals. Per a recent survey, for 87 percent of people in the United Kingdom, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a traditional roast turkey. Israelis eat the most turkeys of all nations, at 28 pounds per person per year.
That's one heck of a lot of turkey.
With all that delectable turkey being served in American dining rooms, there is a huge amount of leftovers. Reportedly, the five most popular ways to serve leftover turkey is in a sandwich, in a stew, in chili or soup, in casseroles, and as a turkey burger.
Leftover Turkey Is, Well, Awesome
I'm from a fairly big family—there were five of us kids—and we never had a problem devouring leftover turkey. We looked forward to the leftovers, and usually squabbled about who would get the drumstick, who would get the wishbone. And the leftovers always seemed better-tasting on the second or third day of the Thanksgiving four-day weekend. My mom made turkey noodle soup with leftover turkey (gallons upon gallons of it), as well as many casseroles and salads. And of course, turkey sandwiches. So, imagine my abashed chagrin when, time and again, friends who are struggling financially say, "Oh, I don't know what to do with all this leftover turkey from Thanksgiving! There's no way we can eat it all before it goes bad. I think I'll just throw it out."
"Before it goes BAD? What, have you not ever heard of a freezer?"
Yes, they'd rather throw away perfectly good food rather than find ways to serve it up in leftovers or take a few minutes to pack it into the freezer. Yikes, what misguided, pitiful souls. My tongue is pretty raw from having to bite it so often to keep from saying the first sarcastic thing that pops into my head when I hear of such wasteful behavior from my (ahem) normally intelligent friends.
Truth is, I'm usually the lucky recipient of turkey leftovers (few others ask for them nor want them), so I won't complain too much about other people's foolishness. In fact, I'm grateful.
At work after the company Thanksgiving or Christmas lunches, most of the employees are men who are stymied about whether or not their wives or girlfriends would even want them to come home with leftover turkey. Then they wince, wondering how they would transport the leftovers home. Poor things... I'll do my part and take the turkey so they won't continue to anguish.
I'm usually prepared for these times of potential bounty, bringing several zip-lock bags and plastic containers to work. I even ask for the turkey carcass, which most men look aghast that I'd want. We pack it all up and I grin all the way home.
I'm always on a stringent food budget, and a leftover turkey bounty like this only happens a few times a year, so I take great pleasure in my victory in the food jungle for that week.
When I get home, I whip into action. Wash my hands thoroughly. Peel off all the remaining turkey meat down to the bones and pack into containers or freezer bags. Simmer the carcass and bones with bay leaves for stock (sometimes I also pop in the drumstick, if I happened to get one), and then wrap and pack everything once it's cooled down so it can be stored in the fridge or freezer. We don't have a large refrigerator and I don't yet have a deep freezer, so it can be a challenge to fit it all in. But, I manage. And in so doing, our food budget for the next week is in the black for a change. On average, a 15-pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat, so that can help you think about the many ways you can prepare the leftovers.
How Many Ways Can You Prepare Leftover Turkey?
How many ways? A million, I'm betting. Because turkey is stronger tasting than chicken, some people haven't a clue how to serve turkey if there isn't stuffing and gravy. But it can be used in all the ways that leftover chicken can be used.
Truth be told, turkey is actually better for you than chicken. Turkey is lower in fat and higher in protein, having more protein than either chicken or beef. For people with food allergies or health issues, turkey is one of the foods that is usually permitted on their list of foods they can safely eat. The white meat of a turkey has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat.
Word to the wise: When making soup or stew, white meat will cook down and disintegrate faster than dark meat. If you're going to be simmering something for a few hours, it is best to add the white meat near the end of the cooking cycle. Otherwise, it may just about disappear after several hours of cooking in liquid. Also, if you're not yet ready to prepare a dish with your leftover turkey, you should leave the turkey meat on the bones until you are about to use it. It will stay moister.
Directory of Recipes Using Leftover Turkey
Aside from making sandwiches of it, leftover turkey can be put into so many main dishes. Here are a few easy "throw it together with what you've got on hand" recipes that are economical, nutritious, and tasty:
- Turkey Burritos: I will often make a huge batch of turkey burritos, since I know my son will leap on those and eat them in a day or two. I usually improvise, using what ingredients I have on hand, but here is a basic recipe of mine to give you ideas.
In a large skillet with about 3 T. of heated olive oil, sauté any combination of the following ingredients: 2 diced onions, 1/2 c. diced green chili peppers (Hatch or Anaheim are milder than others), 2 diced tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes, if they aren't in season), half of a bell pepper that's been diced, 1/2 c. diced scallions. To the mixture, blend in 1 T. chili powder, 2 T. ground cumin, a pinch of salt (or a salt-free herb blend), a squirt of lime or lemon juice, and a few cloves of diced garlic (heat until soft).
Add about 1 or 2 cups shredded or diced turkey, mix it around, and let it cook for another minute or two to absorb the remaining oil and other flavors. Add a 14-oz. can of refried beans or canned pinto beans (drained). Add enough turkey stock or water so that the consistency is smooth and can be easily stirred. Let it gently simmer for about 30 minutes, checking on it and stirring it to be sure all the moisture doesn't cook away and burn the bottom of the pan. Spoon 2 to 3 T. of the mixture in a line below the center of the flour tortilla, then fold up the bottom and the left and right side of the tortilla, then roll up to form a burrito. A bit of shredded cheese can be added on the top of the mixture before wrapping. Brush a bit of olive oil on each tortilla, and bake the batch for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Leftover boiled potatoes, leftover mashed potatoes, or leftover cooked rice can be substituted for the beans. If you want to add diced potatoes or rice but don't have any leftovers, prepare them in advance so that they are already fully cooked. This recipe should make about a dozen or so burritos. The mixture can also be used in tacos and enchiladas. (You can also add any puréed vegetables, like cooked carrots, peas, corn, squash, lima beans, spinach, etc., if getting your children to eat veggies is a trial through fire. Maybe skip adding broccoli, okra, or cabbage, since they are pretty strong-flavored.)
- Turkey Pot Pie: You can make a delicious turkey pot pie using leftovers from the holiday dinner: leftover turkey, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover gravy, and leftover vegetables. With Bisquick® or a simple pie crust recipe (or you can use a store-bought ready-made pie crust, but since making pie crust is easy and cheap, we don't encourage it unless you're in a hurry), put all the ingredients together in a casserole dish, or put them in layers in the dish with the potatoes on the bottom, put the batter or pastry crust on top, and bake in the oven at about 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. This layered pot pie is a big hit with kids.
- Turkey Mini-Pizzas: Homemade turkey pizza can be super-easy and lightning fast. My teenage son likes to munch on any type of mini-pizzas—he really likes them made with plain English muffins (which makes whipping out these babies incredibly easy). You can also make your own pizza dough or use whole wheat crusts. Pita bread is another option. For the turkey pizza toppings, top your dough or English muffins or whatever you're using with a homemade sauce made of about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 1 cup of diced or torn cooked leftover turkey, 1 T. oregano, 1 T. basil, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1/2 cup grated cheese, your choice of type (you can use reduced fat cheese if you're watching your calories, but regular mozzarella is already fairly low-fat). After topping the mini-pizzas, you can lightly shake a bit of grated Parmesan cheese over the entire sauce. Bake them on a baking sheet for 6 - 8 minutes at 450 deg F. You can also change up this quickie recipe a bit to make it into Cheesy Turkey Sloppy Joes on hamburger buns, heavy multi-grain bread slices, or English muffins—just use homemade or bottled barbecue sauce instead of the tomato sauce, and omit the oregano, basil, and Parmesan cheese.
- Turkey Waldorf Salad: Chop up a cup or two of cooked turkey and add it to chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts, and raisins, add 1 tsp. tarragon. Add about 1/2 cup mayonnaise and a small container of vanilla yogurt until creamy. A bit of salt (or a salt-free herb blend) and pepper can be added. Mix the salad up, refrigerate for a few hours, and serve on a bed of spinach greens or in sandwiches.
For more DIY info on making your own budget burritos at home at a huge savings, click here.
The following Garlic Turkey Chowder recipe for using turkey leftovers is from the National Turkey Federation.
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 c. diced celery
- 1 c. diced carrots
- 12 oz. red skinned potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 T. all-purpose flour
- 3 c. turkey stock
- 10 oz. cooked turkey, diced
- 2 oz. sweet corn kernels
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 T. dried thyme
- 1/4 c. light cream or table cream
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Gently sauté the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red pepper and garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Sprinkle flour onto vegetables and stir to blend well. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and gradually stir in the stock.
Return pan to heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add diced turkey and corn. Add salt, pepper, and thyme and continue to simmer for 5-8 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and turkey is piping hot.
Stir in cream and adjust seasonings. Serve in warm soup bowls.
This recipe for Turkey and Rice Casserole is from the Family Circle's 1985 cookbook Perfect Poultry.Turkey and Rice Casserole
- 1 pkg (8 oz.) chicken-flavored rice and vermicelli mixture
- 4 green onions, sliced
- 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter of margarine
- 2-3/4 c. boiling water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 2 c. cubed cooked turkey
- 1 c. dairy sour cream
- 1/4 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. leaf dill weed
- 1/4 c. toasted and slivered almonds
Sauté the rice and vermicelli mixture and onions in the butter in a large skillet, stirring frequently until the vermicelli is light brown.
Add the boiling water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir once. Lower the heat; cover; simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
Combine the turkey, sour cream, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and dill weed.
Spread the cooked rice mixture evenly over the bottom of a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds.
Bake in a hot oven (400 deg. F) until heated through, about 10 minutes.
The following recipe for Layered Gazpacho Salad is from the Jennie-O Turkey Store website.Layered Turkey Gazpacho Salad
- 2 c. lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 sm. onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
- 1 lg. tomato, chopped
- 1 sm. cucumber, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 c. JENNIE-O TURKEY STORE® Oven Ready Homestyle Whole Turkey, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 1/4 c. CHI-CHI'S® Salsa
Reserve half the cucumber slices and 1/4 cup chopped tomato; set aside. In a glass or plastic bowl (metal can kill vitamins in produce), layer the lettuce, onion rings, remaining chopped tomato, remaining cucumber slices, bell pepper, and turkey.
Stir together sour cream and salsa. Spread mixture over turkey. Arrange reserved cucumber slices and tomato on top.
The following recipe for Turkey and Mushroom Potpie is from the Food & Wine website, by Diana Sturgis.
Note: This recipe is a bit more elegant and complicated than the turkey pot pie recipe above. It is pricier to make as well. One of the ingredients, finely chopped prosciutto (Italian salt-cured ham), can be expensive, although only a small amount is used. If necessary to cut food costs, you can assuredly substitute the prosciutto with any chopped country ham. Follow the same logic with the fresh shiitake mushrooms; other less expensive mushrooms can be used instead (particularly if you don't shop where fresh shiitake mushrooms are available). While the robust flavors of prosciutto and shiitake mushrooms are fabulous and distinctive, don't let their cost deter you in the making of this delicious turkey pot pie. Substitution (or omission, if necessary) is just fine and dandy to keep it within your food budget. Frugality first!Turkey and Mushroom Pot Pie
- 4 c. turkey stock, chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 lb. large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3 -inch dice
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 3 T. unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 T. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. white mushrooms, quartered
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 lg. onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 oz. lean prosciutto, finely chopped
- 1/3 c. all-purpose flour blended with 1/3 c. water
- 1 lb. cooked turkey, cut or torn into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1/3 c. coarsely chopped parsley
- 1 lg. sheet of thawed frozen puff pastry (8 1/2 to 14 oz.)
- 1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. In a saucepan, combine the turkey stock, potatoes, thyme, and a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the white mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté over moderately high heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat the process with 1 more tablespoon each of the butter and oil and the shiitakes. Add to the white mushrooms.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and prosciutto and sauté over moderately high heat until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the mushrooms.
Strain the turkey stock into the skillet. Add the flour mixture and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Add the turkey, potatoes, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture in the baking dish and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°. If necessary, roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14-by-10-inch rectangle. Moisten the rim of the baking dish with water and cover the filling with the dough, pressing it firmly against the baking dish rim; tuck the edges under. Make a few slits in the pastry and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is golden. Let the pot pie stand for 10 minutes before serving.
IMPORTANT: Leftover turkey should be removed refrigerated in airtight containers or aluminum or plastic wrap within 2 hours of roasting. Leftovers can be safely kept in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days. Leftover turkey may be frozen for up to 4 months. Cooked turkey should not be left out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours, or food poisoning could occur.
Related Reading and Recipes:
Celebrity Recipes: Paula Deen's Turkey Pot Pie with Leftover Turkey
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Wow, That’s A Lot of Leftover Turkey… Frugal Café with Easy, Cheap Recipes for Turkey Leftovers
Homemade Cream of Turkey Soup... Don't Waste That Carcass!
Boy or Girl: Which Turkey Gender Is Most Tender?
Baby, It's Cold Inside: Freezer Tips for Stockpiling Your Food Bounty
Fill Their Stomachs for Pennies: Potatoes for All!
Save Those Bones! Meat Stock to the Rescue
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Common Sense & Frugality: Let's Bring Back Home Economic Classes
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Fab Food Friday Fotos & Recipes: Special Christmas Eve Super Soups & Recipes Edition… Because Baby, It’s COLD Outside
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Fab Food Friday Fotos & Recipes: Easy Leftover Turkey Dishes, Bacon Tart, Cinnamon Sake Horchata, Osmanthus Cookies, Orange Wine Roast, Bean & Tuna Salad, Tofu Stroganoff, Thrifty Recipes, & More
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Fab Food Friday Fotos & Recipes: Leftover Turkey Recipes, Taco Tuesdae, Chili Con Carne, Coffee Mousse Cake, Indonesian Tempeh with Green Beans, Apple Cinnamon Muffins, & More
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Fab Food Friday Fotos & Recipes: Retro Bread Pudding, Onion Frittata, Egyptian Kebabs, KC-Style Pork Spare Ribs, Maple Bacon Cookies, Egg-free Muffins, Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole, & More Thrifty Recipes
Frugal Café Blog Zone: The Pantry Principle and Other Prudent Ways to Stock Up and Save Money on Food
Cooking Secrets of... Julia Child, Devin Alexander, & Emeril Lagasse
Cooking Secrets of... Rachael Ray, Ryan Hughes, & Wolfgang Puck
Celebrity Recipes: Loretta Lynn's Crispy Fried Chicken
Frugal Versions of Famous Soups: Ronald Reagan's Hamburger Soup, Soup Nazi's Cream of Sweet Potato Soup, and More
DIY Easy Cheese Sauce Recipe
Rochester Sweet and Sour Lentils
Frugal Café Economical Foods Info & Checklist
Frugal Café Blog Zone: Farmers' Markets & Local Veggies: Buying, Selling, & Adding Personal Touches Could Help Farmers' Sales
Frugal Café Blog Zone: The Woman Who Introduced Garlic Mashed Potatoes to America... Julia Child (film trailer included of 'Julie & Julia')
Celebrity Recipes: Dave Lieberman's Sourdough Bread Stuffing
Celebrity Recipes: Peter Max's Maui Onion Soup
Celebrity Recipes: Rascal Flatts' Chicken Noodle Soup
Descoware: Cast Iron That Warms Up Your Kitchen... Descoware Collecting and Cleaning Tips
Frugal Café's Savvy 16: 16 Kitchen & Shopping Tricks to Save You Money & Time: Buying Whole Chickens, Storing Mushrooms, Wooden Spoons, Chopped Nuts, Breads, & More
Save Money, Cut It Yourself: How to Properly Cut a Whole Chicken into Pieces
DIY: Salt-Free Herb/Spice Blends for Salt Substitutes
Cheapskate Lifestyle: Thrift Store Shopping Exploding As People Rediscover the Savings & Joys of Second-Hand Bargains
Family Circle's Perfect Poultry, Times Books, NY, 1985.
Jennie-O Turkey Store, Leftover Turkey Recipes (http://www.jennieo.com/recipes/recipe_detail.aspx?Id=280).
Live Science, "Talking Turkey: How Much Do Americans Eat on Thanksgiving?", (http://www.livescience.com/17161-thanksgiving-turkey-americans-eat.html), November 22, 2011.
National Turkey Federation, "Eat Turkey" (www.eatturkey.com/home.html), 2008.
Sturgis, Diana, Food & Wine website, "Turkey and Mushroom Potpie," (www.foodandwine.com/recipes/turkey-and-mushroom-potpie), November 1997.
University of Illinois, Turkey for the Holidays - Turkey Facts (www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/Turkey/facts.html).