Two Great Leftover Turkey Recipes


The day after Thanksgiving one year, my Uncle Charles pulled the leftover turkey gravy and the cornbread dressing out of the fridge, and put these seemingly tired old reheats together in the skillet. He twirled around the lazy Susan that held my mother’s spices…and added a dash of curry, a bit of cayenne, and I can’t remember what else…and turned what I thought I’d never want another bite of into something new. Something exotic.

I learned right then that leftovers didn’t have to be lame.

Of course everything can’t be mixed and matched, but often the components can often be reimagined as something else. Mashed potatoes into pancakes. Green beans tossed with rice or barley and made into a warm salad. And turkey. Let’s talk turkey leftovers for a minute.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is really all about? I mean, after the turkey and dressing and plates piled high with potatoes mashed and marshmallowed, cranberries and green beans…I’m already thinking about what I can make with the leftover turkey when it’s all over.

With the time-consuming roasting already done, it’s a matter of imagining what you’re in the mood for next. For me, this usually means a complete change of flavors, something to wake up my taste buds after a tryptophan-induced coma.

First, Thai Basil Fried Rice with Turkey, a clean out your fridge dish, and one I first tasted a few years ago when I was in Chiang Mai, staying at the Four Seasons. I ordered this from room service for three days in a row, then I asked the chef to show me exactly how he made it, which he gladly did. It’s become my default dinner when I’m in the mood for Asian, but not in the mood to go out.

The Turkey Curry recipe is also one of my favorites, and takes me right back to India…and it’ll put you there if you’ve never been. I say this in the notes below, but don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – it really doesn’t take any time at all to put together.

Which is a good thing anytime, but especially post-Thanksgiving, when the thought of returning to the kitchen can be more terrifying than…a trip to the mall?

No, nothing’s scarier than that. Happy Turkey Day, everyone.


Turkey Curry

Makes 4 servings

Adapted from “New Indian Home Cooking” by Madhu Gadia (HP Books)

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – this takes minutes to put together. I serve this with rice, naan bread, or both — along with cool raita to help put out the fire. If you don’t like it spicy, just cut back on the cayenne — or leave it out altogether.

  •             2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  •             1 medium onion, finely chopped
  •             4 cloves of garlic, minced
  •             2 teaspoons of fresh chopped ginger
  •             ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  •             1 teaspoon of cumin
  •             16 ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice
  •             ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  •             ½ teaspoon of cayenne
  •             ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed with the back of your knife
  •             1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
  •             1 teaspoon of sea salt
  •             1 cup of plain yogurt
  •             ½ to 1 cup of water
  •             16 ounces of leftover turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
  •             2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  •             sliced lemons, for serving
  •             raita, for serving (recipe follows) 

1. Put the vegetable oil in a large skillet, along with the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. Cook until the onions are golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, cayenne, fennel seeds, black pepper and salt. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add the yogurt and water, stirring constantly. Now add the turkey. Let mixture cook for 10 minutes and serve with chopped cilantro and lemon.


Makes 2 cups

  •             16 ounces of Greek yogurt
  •             1 cucumber, seeded and diced
  •             1 cloves of garlic, minced
  •             1 tablespoon of olive oil
  •             ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
  •             a pinch of cumin
  •             a big pinch of cayenne
  •             2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint

 In a bowl, gently mix all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.


Thai Basil Fried Rice with Turkey

Makes 2 servings

I had this simple rice dish when I was staying at the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago, and begged he chef to show me how to make it — which he was happy to do. It’s so easy, and I often make this with whatever I’ve got on hand, using up whatever leftover meats and veggies that I have in my fridge, just as they do in Thailand.

  •             2 tablespoons of peanut oil or safflower oil
  •             ½ onion, diced
  •             1 clove of garlic, minced
  •             1 to 2 Thai chiles (seeds and membrane removed), finely chopped
  •             2 cups of broccoli florets
  •             ¼ of a red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  •             8 ounces of turkey, diced or torn into bite-size pieces
  •             1 teaspoon of light soy sauce
  •             1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
  •             1 tablespoon of vegetarian (mushroom) sauce
  •             3 cups of cooked rice (I like brown rice, but you may use whatever you prefer)
  •             5 to 6 leaves of basil, torn
  •             slices of lime, for serving

1. Put the oil in a wok or large skillet, along with the onions, garlic and Thai chile. Turn the heat on medium high and cook until the onions become translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove onions, garlic and Thai chile from wok, reserving the oil.

2. Put the broccoli and red bell pepper in the wok with the oil and cook until the broccoli begins to soften — about 3 to 4 minutes. When the broccoli is mostly cooked, but still crunchy, add onions/garlic/chile mixture back to the wok along with the two soy sauces and the vegetarian sauce. Stir it all up, then add the rice and stir until it’s well combined. Add the torn basil leaves and toss again. 
Serve immediately with slices of lime.


Other things you can make with leftover turkey:

Turkey Gumbo

Turkey-Tomatillo Soup

Steffie’s Gumbo (made with smoked turkey)