Gravy-covered sandwiches and easy turkey soup are the real Thanksgiving MVPs.

Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey

Victor Protasio

Leftover turkey is an unavoidable part of Thanksgiving. No matter how the size of your bird or your guest list, there’s somehow always turkey leftover, and usually not a small amount of it. So after every Thanksgiving, whoever is responsible for the turkey is left with the same question: What do I do with what’s left?

There are plenty of classic simple options, tossing it between some bread for a quick turkey sandwich or just eating the meat straight. But sometimes those options aren’t quite enough. You put so much effort into making the turkey delicious in the first place, so you still want to get the most out of the leftovers. But, in the days after Thanksgiving, you probably aren’t in the mood to put a ton of effort into a dish again. Well, Sunset has a few answers to that delicate balance.

These two picks for leftover turkey recipes will make sure that your lovingly prepared turkey is at its best with plenty of ingredients at its side to compliment it, all without too much work on your end.

Whether you decide to spruce up the classic leftover sandwich, combining the turkey with the remains of Thanksgiving stuffing, gravy, and casseroles, or throw everything in a pot for some leftovers soup, these recipes will make sure that what’s left of your Thanksgiving don’t go to waste and that you still have great dishes to eat in the days after the holiday.

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Ryan Harris

Thanksgiving Day is great, but most of the food served at the Big Feast is actually even better the day after. Chef Ryan Harris, founder of Contimo Provisions, knows his way around a sandwich—he serves epic specimens made with housemade charcuterie at his Napa sandwich shop. To help keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive, Harris has provided the blueprint for the Best Ever Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich here. 

“The best part of cooking with leftovers is that you rarely have to measure. That’s why we love this great sandwich and why we always make a lot of extras for Thanksgiving dinner.” —Ryan Harris, Contimo Provisions

  • Leftover turkey, dinner rolls (or your favorite soft bread), stuffing, and gravy
  • Pickled onions (3/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. salt; bring all to a boil and pour over thinly sliced onions) 
  • Optional: Leftover squash casserole, or other creamy, cheesy casserole, and cranberry sauce
How to Make It
  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  • Start by slicing your dinner rolls open (if they are pull-apart, leave 4 of them together and separate the tops from the bottoms). 
  • Smear the bottom with leftover winter squash gratin (or other casserole).
  • Add a layer of turkey (a mix of light and dark meat is best) and top with a generous sprinkling of pickled onions. Top that with a layer of stuffing, spread out across all the turkey.
  • Place sandwich base and top half of dinner rolls on a cookie sheet, toast in the oven for 8 minutes; leave the top dinner rolls on the side until there are 2 minutes left.
  • Heat leftover gravy in a pot or in the microwave.
  • We prefer to pour the gravy over the sandwich and eat it with a fork and knife, but you can also use it as a dipping sauce.
—Ellen Fort, food editor

Maya’s Corner

Victor Protasio

Fully Embrace the Long Weekend with This Turkey Leftovers Soup

Can we take a moment to appreciate how good this bowl of soup looks? It’s Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey, and it’s the only thing I want to eat the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re like me (i.e., lazy and in Long Weekend Mode), you want a post-Turkey Day meal that’s warming but not super heavy, delicious but requiring very little effort. (Hey, you just spent an entire day chopping onions and making small talk with relatives—“very little effort” is a completely valid request.) Aside from dried split peas, you likely have the rest of the ingredients in your fridge or pantry from yesterday’s feast: yellow onions, carrots, celery, leftover turkey, and chicken broth. If you don’t, a quick trip to the grocery store falls under the “very little effort” list of approved activities.

—Maya Wong, assistant editor

More to read this week:

Colin Price

Looking for more inspiration? Head over to Sunset Recipes for our fall cooking highlights.