Favorite Leftover Turkey Dishes (and what to do with the bones on Thanksgiving Day)

By Charleen - December 09, 2019

One of the best parts of roasting a large turkey, after the crispy skin and succulent slices slathered in freshly made gravy, is having plenty of leftovers. Among my favorites are turkey noodle soup, turkey pot pie, turkey enchiladas, and a turkey version of Mennonite/Amish chicken and noodles served over mashed potatoes with our own family twist.
Thanksgiving Turkey
Everyone in the family, dogs included, is always happy to smell a chicken or turkey roasting in the oven. This single dish generates so much more than just meat; it provides for future meals through rich stocks and the tastiest fat for pan-frying (yes, save and freeze the fat!). Plus leftover turkey is great cold, on sandwiches, reheated with more gravy or re-invigorated into new culinary creations.
Mennonite-style leftover Turkey & Noodles
Leftover Turkey Enchiladas
This past Thanksgiving, I roasted a 22 pound turkey and an 8 pound breast using my mother's toasted salt and peppercorn dry brine, which was modified from the way she used to prepare roast duck. The technique I perfected by experimenting with a small preview turkey (Link to the recipe) worked like a charm in keeping the breast temperatures below the thigh temperatures throughout the roasting process of this much larger turkey.

The 8 pound breast took 3 h to cook, as it was still partially frozen after 3-4 days in the refrigerator, but the convection oven definitely makes a difference as shown by the steeper slope of the red graph. The 22 pound turkey took 4.5 hours to cook. Cooking it upside down for the first 2/3 of cooking time worked great in preventing the breast from overcooking.
Once the turkey breast came out of the convection oven, it was used to reheat the mashed potatoes, and then the large oven was used to reheat green bean casserole, cider mashed sweet potatoes, a basket of rolls and an Oven to Table Wilton Armetale serving dish loaded with roasted brussels sprouts and cider-cinnamon glazed butternut squash. Click for make-ahead dishes.

After platters of skin, white meat and dark meat were carved from the turkey, the rest of the carcass was broken down so that the bones, along with the neck and gizzards, could fit into a 6 quart Instant Pot and an 8 quart slow cooker to be transformed into broth (See below).
The pan drippings from both pans were poured into large 4-cup gravy separators, removing several spoonfuls to flavor the wild rice dressing. A cup of water was added to deglaze each pan, the pans were warmed over a low burner flame, and a spoon used to scrape all the precious browned bits and fond off of each pan. This liquid suspension was added to the drippings in the gravy separators. After removing from the top layer the required amount of turkey fat for the gravy (Recipe in link), the remaining fat was separated from the meat juices, placed in a jar and stored in the freezer.
Wild Rice Dressing
To feed 32 people and generate enough gravy for turkey and 20 pounds of mashed potatoes, I added a Mason jar of previously frozen drippings/stock from the preview turkey to the three cups of fresh drippings. Ten tablespoons each of flour and turkey fat were cooked into a medium brown roux before the 5+ cups of deglazed drippings were added and transformed into about 2 quarts of golden-brown gravy.

After singing the our Thanksgiving prayer, we feasted on:
Chinese Szechuan peppercorn spiced roast turkey and skin (link to recipe)
Wild rice dressing with prosciutto, peas, winter mushrooms and hazelnuts
Country mashed potatoes with scallions
Party potatoes mashed with cream cheese and sour cream
Cider baked sweet potatoes 
Green bean casserole
Spinach salad with hard boiled egg and bean sprouts
Maple-cinnamon glazed butternut squash and roasted brussels sprouts with pecans and cranberries
Dinner rolls from Loafers Bread (honey white, honey whole wheat, challah, Laurel Mountain herb)
Chilled shrimp platters x 2
Charcuterie, hickory smoked cheddar, Montchevre fig and almond cheeseball, homemade bacon-cheddar coated cheeseballs, crackers, apple dip
Crudité with jalapeno-ranch dressing
Salsa & tortilla chips
And a table full of desserts including Aunt Eloisa's famous carrot cake, pumpkin pie, buckeyes, chocolate peanut butter pie, turkey cupcakes, brown butter Bourbon spice cookies and 3.5 gallons of vanilla ice cream from Any Given Sundae with homemade hot chocolate topping.

Making Turkey Stock

After adding enough water to cover the majority of the bones, the Instant Pot and slow cooker were left to transform their contents into a rich broth. The Instant Pot stock/soup program cooks for 1 h at high pressure before switching to keep warm for a natural pressure release. The meat on the bones is still very tasty with a good texture, and can be separated from the bones and used in the soup.
Meat pulled off the bones after the 1 h Instant Pot stock program
The slow cooker cooks for 6-8 h, or overnight if it is late and you will be getting up early. The meat, cartilage and skin is flavorless and rather flabby after prolonged slow cooking. Still, I made sure to carefully separate the soft parts from the bones, as the chows greatly enjoyed the bits of post-slow cooker turkey mixed into their dog food.

Before retiring for the evening, the broth from both cookers was strained from the bones, combined, and set outside overnight to cool as the outside temperature was well below 40°F. I call this the grade A stock. It is rich in flavor, aroma, and joint-friendly glucosamines. The stock cools into a nice gel, from which it is very easy to scrape off the fat the next day.
The Grade A stock made from roasted turkey bones has a silky mouthfeel and rich color and flavor
The bones from the Instant Pot can be used for one more round of stock making in the slow cooker for 8-10 h to maximize flavor extraction. After straining out the twice-extracted bones, which are then discarded after removing choice pieces of meat and tender cartilage for dog treats, I reduced this stock to 1/3 of its original volume, so it fit into two mason jars for freezing. I call this the grade B stock, as it is thinner, but find that it is still more flavorful than most store-bought versions.
After chilling overnight, the floating fat is easy to remove from the thinner and lighter Grade B stock.

Day after Turkey Noodle Soup

Our extended family tradition for the lunch after Thanksgiving is a meal that supplements the leftovers with hot turkey noodle soup, a Honey-Baked Ham®, cheesy potatoes and a layered lettuce salad with peas and bacon. Oh, and buffalo chicken dip, slow cooker mac and cheese, homemade bbq sauce, homemade fudges, blueberry dessert. The eating fest goes on for two full days, interspersed with games, shopping, often an opt-outside hike, touch football on a patch of grass, and usually a movie, with family members contributing the ham and numerous sides and desserts and drinks.
The turkey noodle soup is made from the grade A broth, with the noodles cooked directly in the broth. Noodle options include wagon wheels when the kids were little and liked fun shapes, handcut noodles made by one of my husband's cousins, or Amish/Mennonite egg noodles. Generally, carrots, celery, onion and frozen peas are added. Some years we have mushrooms or vegetables leftover from crudité trays. And of course turkey! Leftover gravy, if available is added to further enrich the flavor, and it is all seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and topped with handfuls of fresh herbs -- parsley, cilantro or scallions.

Mennonite Chicken Turkey and Noodles

My husband's grandparents made Chicken and Noodles the first time I visited them in their winter home in Florida years ago. Eating this dish always brings back that feeling of ease and warmth and welcome. After they gently made fun of us for using instant mashed potatoes, they showed us how easy it was to make real mashed potatoes (and real whipped cream). If you think about it, the instant doesn't really save that much time as you still have to wait for the water to boil. But the flavor and texture of homemade cannot be beat, and you know nothing but a few wholesome ingredients went into your food.

Chicken pieces on the bone are cooked in small amount of water, and this quick broth in turn used to cook the egg noodles, after which the deboned chicken is re-introduced. To plate up a bowl, you first put down a generous amount of mashed potatoes and a pat or two of butter. Then, in an innovation claimed by both of their grandsons, hot corn is spooned onto the mashed potatoes, before the whole thing is covered with a hot ladle of chicken, noodles and broth, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  The broth kind of melts into the potatoes with little bursts of butter, punctuated by crisp, sweet kernels of corn peculiar to the way our family plates this comforting Mennonite/Amish dish.

During the week after Thanksgiving weekend, we found ourselves with three pounds of uncooked potatoes, a dwindling amount of leftover turkey, and about a cup of leftover gravy.
Leftover turkey chopped, potatoes mashed, and other ingredients gathered
So I melted the gravy in about a quart of boiling water, cooked two servings of egg noodles, and then added the leftover turkey and some frozen corn, while my husband made the county-style mashed potatoes with a shot of Cholula sauce. I added a large handful of chopped fresh cilantro and scallions with the butter (kind of like vegetables) and then savored this bowl of deliciousness!
Layering the Mennonite style leftover turkey and noodles over buttered mashed potatoes.

The following leftover turkey dishes were made in years past, and are equally delicious.

Turkey Pot Pie inspired by Jacques Pepin

Although this is impractical for a large crowd, one of my favorite uses of leftover turkey is to make turkey pot pie in velouté sauce. The Flaky Tart Dough is from Jacques Pepin from the cookbook entitled: Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home, and the recipe is loosely based on his Poached Chicken Pot Pie. Velouté sauce is a white sauce that substitutes chicken stock (or in our case turkey) for milk! Once you have made velouté, you may never make another white sauce again. It is basically a gravy enriched with heavy cream, delicious and infinitely versatile.

Jacques uses leftover poached chicken, poached vegetables and poaching broth in his Chicken Pot Pie. For my roast turkey pot pie, I like to use leftover roasted vegetables (turnips, potatoes, yams, mushrooms). These are amazing in a pot pie. More traditional vegetables such as peas, carrots and pearl onions are also delicious.
Turkey, peas, celery, mushrooms with roasted carrots and turnips
To assemble the pie, mix handfuls of as much turkey and vegetables as you want in a casserole dish. Pour over the velouté sauce. Brush the top edge of the dish with melted butter and cover with the rolled out pastry crust. Brush the pastry with more egg, and punch holes or slits in the crust for venting.
Bake on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow at 400°F for 20-30 min. If the filling is still cold and not bubbling out, reduce heat to 375°F and bake for another 15-20 min.

Turkey Enchiladas

My sister who now claims she cannot cook taught me how to make enchiladas, using the microwave to steam-heat and soften the corn tortillas instead of frying them in oil. While I started with Old El Paso red enchilada sauce, I switched to Las Palmas green and red enchilada sauces after tasting the green chile sour cream chicken enchiladas and the red chile leftover prime rib enchiladas made by my other sister. Currently, I use Las Palmas green and La Victoria red sauces, although the Hatch green enchilada sauce is also very good.

The corn tortillas are moistened with enchilada sauce and filled with spoonfuls of cooked turkey, onion, canned corn, and cheddar cheese, with more cheddar and scallions added on top. They are baked for 25 min until bubbly with brown edges. 
Red turkey enchiladas

Keep the Turkey fat!

Buffalo chicken dip with turkey fat flavor boost...
One of the family gathering traditions is consuming buffalo chicken dip with plenty of tortilla chips. This dish was introduced by my husband's sister, but in recent years has been taken over by his other sister's son.  There are several varieties of the recipe, using ranch, blue cheese, or canned chicken.
For ease, my nephew had brought canned chicken -- but of course canned chicken kind of tastes like canned tuna. Must be something in the heating process of canning. As I had read somewhere that the fat is what really gives each type of meat its characteristic flavor, I suggested massaging some roasted turkey fat to restore natural poultry flavor to the canned chicken. The dip came out fabulous!!!
I have also made this dip using leftover turkey itself. Just make sure to leave the cream cheese in little chunks for little bursts of contrasting flavor. 

Breakfast laced in turkey fat....
Just as I sometimes make pancakes in bacon grease, keeping a jar of poultry fat in the freezer makes it easy to add delicious schmaltz to warm up your day. Freezing the fat keeps it from becoming rancid, but it remains soft enough to scoop out directly from the freezer. I have yet to try it spread onto toast, but it makes a great base for frying up some eggs or breakfast potatoes, or melted and drizzled onto a dish of beans with a bit of crackling skin. Roast poultry fat or ham fat can also be substituted for lard or butter in making pie crust for savory dishes, but are probably too salty for dessert crusts. 

Note, I will be posting recipes for some of these dishes in the future, so let me know in comments if there is a particular dish that you would like to make.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE USES FOR LEFTOVER TURKEY? Please post comments below or photos to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

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