What to do with leftover turkey
Waste not, want not – when it comes to the big bird there’s bound to be leftovers. We share our favourite recipes for surplus meat and offer some tips on storage.
Whether you've opted for a full roast turkey, or the more diminutive turkey crown and turkey breast, it's highly likely that there’ll be some meat left after the big Christmas dinner, whatever cut you choose. While the humble turkey sandwich of course has its place, the versatility of this lean, mild meat means it can work much harder. From creamy curries to stir-fries and salads, we've got plenty of ideas for using up cooked turkey and a range of other leftovers.
How to handle turkey leftovers safely
- Let your cooked turkey completely cool, then refrigerate at the first opportunity – within 90 minutes is best.
- Don’t leave your turkey hanging around all afternoon as it may become unsafe to eat. Bear this in mind before heading for your post-feasting nap.
- Leftover turkey should be eaten within two days, so if you don’t think you’ll get through it in time, stick it in the freezer in portions.
- If you do freeze your turkey for a later date, make sure it’s wrapped properly or put in a sealed container to avoid freezer burn. It’s also good to use sticky labels to add dates and descriptions to your frozen goods.
- If you’re storing your leftover cooked turkey in the fridge, put it on the middle shelf along with all your other ready-to-eat foods. Save the bottom shelf for raw meat and fish.
Check out our guides on what to keep where at Christmas, how to freeze food at Christmas and what to put where in your kitchen. We also have plenty more leftover Christmas turkey recipes. Our guide on how to reheat turkey and keep it moist is also useful when using up the meat in leftovers. We also have the top 5 health benefits of turkey which details the nutritional value of this low-fat meat.
Our top 25 turkey leftover recipes
Winter is the season of comfort, so why not put your Christmas dinner leftovers to good use in this indulgent turkey fricassee? With a creamy mushroom sauce and splash of white wine, it's sure to keep those post-Christmas blues away. Ready in just 20 minutes, it's delicious served with pasta, mash or rice.
Spice up your leftovers and turn them into a whole new dish that the family will love. Inspired by the nation's favourite curry, this fragrant turkey tikka masala delivers layers of flavour and gentle chilli heat in a rich, creamy sauce. Rather than making a separate curry paste, we've cooked everything in one pan, so you'll have less washing up to do.
Looking for a kitchen project to keep you occupied over the Christmas hols? This next level turkey and ham pie is not only a great use for your leftovers, but also a showstopping celebratory dish in its own right. Boost your pastry skills by making your own sage-infused shortcrust case, then generously fill with cooked meats, herbs and leeks in a creamy mustard sauce. This banquet-worthy dish is sure to please a crowd and equally delicious served warm for dinner or cold as part of a buffet spread.
Check out more leftover turkey and ham recipes.
Another nourishing meal to keep you feeling good over the festive season. These gluten-free leftover turkey grain bowls are packed full of wholesome ingredients, including avocados, lentils, probiotic yogurt and a crunchy rainbow slaw. Warming spices such as za’atar and harissa balance well with a zesty tahini dressing which brings this whole dish together.
With so much happening over the festive period, dinner prep can be a rather rushed affair. So it really helps to have a few quick and easy dishes such as these spicy turkey noodles up your sleeve. Ready in just half an hour, this simple stir-fry combines leftover turkey with noodles, spring onions and beansprouts in a zingy soy and lime sauce. We've used a red chilli to give it some heat but you can easily omit this if catering for youngsters. Throw in extra leftover veg such as shredded sprouts or carrots to make it even more scrumptious.
Whip up more turkey stir-fry recipes.
When it comes to devising the most epic Boxing Day sarnie, we think we've come pretty close to perfection. Simply hollow out a crusty loaf of bread, then layer up all your leftovers inside to make this lip-smacking Italian-style muffuletta sandwich. Cooked turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, spinach and crispy onions are all the perfect elements for your Christmas leftover sandwich. Enjoy with a handful of crispy for added crunch.
A hearty one-pot to warm everyone up – this simple turkey casserole is ideal for using up all your Christmas leftovers, including the trimmings. Throw in any robust root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots and celeriac. Simmered in a flavoursome honey and mustard stock, this stew is delicious served with mash or jacket potatoes.
Raise your lunch game with these marvellously meaty turkey curry patties. With just one bite, your tastebuds will be hit with a wonderful array of herbs and spices, all encased within a soft and crispy homemade turmeric pastry. These gorgeous golden patties are perfect for the days after the big meal, or you can easily freeze them for later.
There's nothing quite like a bubbling golden potato bake to welcome you at the end of a busy day. This easy roast potato, turkey, sausage & stuffing pie combines all the best bits from Christmas dinner in one. Put it together in just 10 mins and let the oven do the hard work. With a creamy mustard sauce filling and crispy cheesy topping, this comforting dish might even trump Christmas dinner itself.
11. Christmas pizza
Kids will love this festive pizza, topped with leftover meat and, ingeniously, a scattering of stuffing. It might not be one for Italian food purists, but it's certainly won us round.
This leftover turkey & noodle soup is a little like pho, a Vietnamese broth traditionally made with beef and served with a plate of zingy fresh herbs, chilli and lime on the side. The kick from the chilli is a great way to warm up on a cold winter's day.
Mix up all your leftover veg, stuffing and turkey meat for these delicious Christmas lunch patties. Simply add herbs and spices to elevate the flavour and enjoy. The tangy gochujang mayo adds a nice heat.
This Italian-style bake will be a crowd-pleaser thanks to its cheesy breadcrumb topping and rich tomato sauce. Our easy turkey cacciatore is just the ticket when all the festive-themed food gets a bit much.
15. Korean rice pot
Keep things nice and light with our speedy Korean-inspired rice pot. This healthy bibimbap combines diced turkey with spinach and shredded carrots, served on a bed of rice. Top with fried eggs and nutty sesame seeds.
A gently spiced dish, with a nice creaminess to it, this leftover turkey korma is a great alternative meal to a heavy of Christmas dinner. Pair with naan or white rice and mango chutney for a taste explosion.
If you’re in charge of any post-Christmas/pre-New Year entertaining, these mini turkey and cranberry pies will keep your guests happy – just add a block of shortcrust pastry to your big grocery shop.
Start your day right with this delicious turkey and pesto-filled croissant. Warm your croissants in the microwave or oven before filling them with your Christmas leftovers and anything else you fancy.
This mildly-spiced treat will add a touch of retro charm to a Boxing Day spread. Pick up some roti flour and try your hand at these homemade chapatis with coronation turkey.
20. Leftover turkey slaw
Turn your turkey leftovers and other raw vegetable trimmings into a light and refreshing salad with a punchy lime dressing. Watch our video below and check out this guide for how to make turkey slaw.
We have a healthy bowl of goodness with this turkey cobb salad. Add tomatoes, boiled eggs, pancetta, avocado, chicory leaves and that leftover turkey breast for a light and creamy salad.
A simple salad but one that packs so much flavour. Use up your leftover red cabbage, sprouts and turkey, mix up with pistachios, mint and the silky dressing; this jewelled pistachio slaw makes for a nutritious lunch and a way to prevent food waste post-Christmas.
Make this low-cost, easy and filling turkey pasta bake. It's a great midweek meal for the family. Coat in cheese and top with extra pigs in blankets for a wonderful surprise.
Keep to the classic festive flavours with this turkey and clementine lunch bowl. It's protein packed and a great post-workout meal. It is a way to incorporate nutrient-rich foods into your balanced diet and is also rich in vitamin c and folate. Eat up leftover veg and turkey breast after Christmas so that you're free from excess food waste.
A wintery soup is always a good choice when using up leftover meats and vegetables. This delicious turkey minestrone is simple to rustle up with store cupboard and leftover Christmas ingredients. It's the perfect warm pick-me-up meal.
How do you use up your leftover Christmas turkey? Leave a comment below...