Rethink Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Get scrappy and jazz up your leftovers by turning them into a hearty soup with stuffing dumplings, Leftover Pumpkin Pie and Turkey Curry, and Mashed Potato Apple Cider Donuts

Photo: Ricka Kinamoto/Adobe

Think beyond the usual reheated plates of Thanksgiving leftovers and turkey sandwiches while also avoiding food waste and stretching your food budget.

Americans waste 50 percent more food than in the 1970s, and consumers are the largest source of food waste—more than grocery stores and restaurants combined, according to Save the Food, a campaign of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1970. Plus, food is the single largest contributor to U.S. landfills today. But we can do something about it by starting with thoughtful planning (save veggie scraps for soup) and small steps to make the most of the food we have, including holiday dinner leftovers. These recipes from Save the Food chef Joel Gamoran will show you how.

This soup recipe will use leftover turkey, vegetable scraps, and stuffing. Make the most of turkey and even leftover pumpkin pie in the curry, and mashed potatoes make an unexpected appearance in the apple donut recipe. We can give thanks for saving food, money, and being creative all at the same time.

Turkey and Stuffing Dumpling Soup

Makes 10 servings | Recipe by Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef and Host of “Scraps”

It may sound crazy to simmer all those side dish scraps in your soup, but the key is simmering on low heat for hours. It gives everything time to meld together and the flavors to marry.

For the Soup
1 leftover turkey carcass and bones plus 2 pounds leftover turkey meat, divided
4-6 cups leftover assorted raw vegetable scraps (such as peels, ends, and trim from onions, carrots, celery, root vegetables and/or herbs)
Up to 6 cups assorted pan scrapings from Thanksgiving dinner, such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, gravy, vegetables, even a slice of pie!

For the Leftover Stuffing Dumplings
3 cups leftover stuffing
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

  1. Make broth: In a large stockpot, add the turkey carcass, raw vegetable scraps, and side dish scraps. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer on low for at least 12 hours (and up to 24).
  2. Strain: Carefully strain soup through a large fine-mesh strainer or chinois into a large, clean soup pot. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. Shred turkey: Meanwhile, to make quick work of shredding meat, put turkey meat in the bowl of a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment. On Speed 2, mix turkey until just shredded, about 10 seconds. (You can also shred it with two forks.) Stir turkey into soup.
  4. Make dumplings: In the same mixing bowl on Speed 2, add stuffing, eggs, and baking powder. Mix until combined.
  5. Cook dumplings: Using a spoon, drop 2-inch balls of dough over the surface of stew (don’t worry if they aren’t perfect). Cover and cook until dumplings have puffed and feel firm, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Note: Watch chef Joel Gamoran talk about this recipe and the Guest-imator.

Leftover Pumpkin Pie and Turkey Curry

Makes 10 servings | Recipe by Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef and Host of “Scraps”

You don’t have to eat the same meal twice. Ditch the Thanksgiving leftover rut. Breathe new life into pumpkin pie and turkey with this sweet, full-bodied curry recipe.

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 large red onion, diced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh red chilies, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ pumpkin pie, filling and crust separated, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 bunch cilantro, stems minced, leaves torn, divided
2 (15-ounce) cans coconut milk
4 cups cooked shredded turkey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt, for serving
Steamed basmati rice and lime wedges, for serving

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil and mustard seeds over high heat. When seeds start to pop, add red onion, garlic and chilies. Reduce heat and sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add pumpkin pie filling, maple syrup, and cilantro stems. Cook for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk and turkey. Season with salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve curry topped with yogurt, cilantro leaves, and crushed pie crust. Serve alongside rice and lime wedges.

• After scraping out filling, bake pie crust at 400°F for about 10 minutes to re-crisp.
• Throw your chili stems into soups and stews for a bit of heat (remove before serving!)
• To get the onion and garlic scent off your hands, rub them with parsley.

Note: Watch chef Joel Gamoran make this recipe himself.

Apple Cider Cinnamon Donuts

Photo: A Lein/Adobe

Leftover Mashed Potato Apple Cider Donuts

Makes 24 donuts | Recipe by Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef and Host of “Scraps”

Why simply reheat your leftover mashed potatoes when you could make delicious donuts with them instead? (Just make sure to use mashed potatoes without any additional flavorings like herbs or garlic!) These donuts are fluffy, sweet, and the ultimate fall treat. You can even make farm stand-style scrappy donut bags for your friends and family by cutting the top 8 inches from paper lunch bags and folding the tops down. Fill with donuts to take on the go!

1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1½ cups apple cider
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup (lightly packed) dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs
1½ cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups vegetable oil, for frying

  1. Combine cinnamon and sugar: In a brown paper lunch bag, add sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Shake to combine. Alternately, stir together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Make apple cider reduction: In a small saucepan over high heat, bring apple cider to a boil. Simmer until syrupy and reduced to about ½ cup. Let cool.
  3. Whisk dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Whisk wet ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk apple cider reduction, brown sugar, butter and eggs until smooth. Whisk in mashed potatoes, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. Make dough: Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. If dough looks too wet, add more flour. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for about 1 minute, sprinkling with more flour if sticky. Cover with a towel and let rest for about 15 minutes. You can make the dough up to 24 hours in advance. Keep in the fridge and bring to room temperature before rolling out.
  6. Shape donuts: Roll out the dough until it’s about ½ inch thick, sprinkling with more flour if needed. Dip a sharp knife in flour and cut out doughnuts into 5-inch squares. Use a round 2-inch cutter to cut holes; alternately use the tip of a sharp knife. Re-roll leftover dough, and continue to cut more donuts. (If you have a donut cutter, use it here.) Try to handle the dough as little as possible for the most tender donuts.
  7. Fry donuts: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven until temperature reaches 365°F with a candy thermometer. Fry a few donuts at a time for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Donut holes will take less time. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. While still warm, shake in the bag of cinnamon sugar. Eat immediately.

Cook’s Notes:
• The texture of your mashed potatoes will determine how much flour you need. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour, a few tablespoons at a time.
• Check one of the donuts after it is cooled to be sure the center is cooked through and adjust your heat and cooking time if needed.
• For the ultimate fall treat, swap in the cinnamon and nutmeg for pumpkin pie spice. Make pumpkin pie spice sugar to coat.
Watch chef Joel Gamoran talk about this recipe.

Hungry for More?

Save Food, Save the Planet

Take a look in your fridge and at your habits—there are easy steps you can take to reduce food waste—from planning to recipes—to help save the planet, not to mention money. A big part of avoiding food waste is planning. Save the Food features tips and interactive tools to help you start planning smarter and saving food right now. This post highlights tips and recipe.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.