Our 10 Best Tips for Using, Freezing, and Repurposing Thanksgiving Leftovers

updated May 1, 2019
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After Thanksgiving dinner comes to an end and you’ve snapped out of your turkey coma, it’s time to tackle the leftovers. From the turkey to the sides to the sweets, here are the best tips to help you use up, freeze, and repurpose everything that remains.

1. Find recipes to repurpose leftovers before Thanksgiving.

Get ready to hit the ground running. Arm yourself with recipe inspiration to tackle to leftovers, from the turkey to the stuffing to the pies, before you even sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Pack up the turkey meat and bones separately.

Enlist a willing helper to take apart the turkey and cut all the last bits of meat off the carcass right after dinner. If you don’t plan to use the carcass to make stock right way, be sure pack the meat and bones separately.

3. Make the stock while you clean up and wash the dishes.

Once everything is in the stockpot, it can be left to simmer away on its own for a couple hours. Employ a little multitasking and let the turkey stock simmer while you do the dishes and relax after dinner. Meghan recommends prepping the stock while you’re cooking dinner. Stash bits of veggies and herbs in a bag in the fridge so all you have to do is add the turkey bones and water.

4. Don’t freeze it if it’s already been frozen.

To freeze or not to freeze, that’s the post-Thanksgiving dilemma. Remember this: If it was already frozen once, do not freeze it again. So, if you made a dish ahead of time and stashed it in the freezer until Thanksgiving, it’s best to keep it in the fridge and use it up right away.

5. Freeze those mashed potatoes, with some exceptions.

Unlike other types of cooked potatoes, mashed potatoes have a good track record for freezing well. To ensure frozen mashed potatoes heat up creamy and flavorful, they should be well-coated with fat like butter and cream before going into the freezer. Mashed potatoes that were made with just broth won’t hold up well in the freezer.

6. Extend the life of leftover gravy by stashing it in the freezer.

Gravy is one of the more perishable items in your Thanksgiving spread. If you don’t plan to use it within a couple days, pour it into ice cube trays, plastic bags, or containers and store it in the freezer.

7. Store your pie based on filling.

Let the filling of your leftover pie dictate whether it’s best stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator or freezer. Fruit-filled pies, like apple, can be stored at room temperature for just a couple days, then are best kept in the fridge (and also freeze quite well). Custard-based pies and those that have eggs, like pumpkin and pecan, are best stored in the fridge and don’t take well to the freezer.

8. Use all the leftovers in one dish.

Want to use up all the Thanksgiving leftovers, like the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, and gravy in one fell swoop? Look no further than shepherd’s pie or lasagna.

Get the Recipes

9. When in doubt, make hand pies.

Still don’t know what to do with all those leftovers? Make hand pies! Pick up some store-bought sheets of pie dough or pizza dough (or make your own if you’re up for a project), then cook up leftovers into savory hand pies. Eat them immediately or store them in the freezer for up to six months.

10. Turn a leftover slice of pie into a milkshake or French toast.

It’s a toss up between these two ideas for billing as the very best way to eat leftover pie, but who said there had to only be one? Whether you’re whipping the pie into a creamy shake or stuffing it into French toast, you won’t be disappointed by the effect.

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