Nutrition-wise blog

Healthy ideas for gobbling up leftover turkey

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. November 28, 2012

Get your family to gobble up that leftover holiday turkey with these healthy ideas.

An important reminder first — Follow these food safety rules when using leftover turkey:

  • Once turkey has been cooked it should not remain at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Turkey should be refrigerated separately from stuffing.
  • Use within 3 to 4 days or freeze.
  • Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 F or until hot and steaming.

Salads are a fast and easy way to use up leftover turkey — or leftover chicken. Just remember to reheat turkey to 165 F and then allow it to cool before adding it to the salad. Here are some tasty combinations you can try:

  • Shredded turkey, wild rice, raisins (or grapes), walnuts plus a dab of low-fat mayo
  • Chopped turkey, mango slices (or orange segments), chopped peanuts or cashews
  • Grilled vegetables, such as red bell pepper, cauliflower or broccoli, shredded turkey, a few olives and low-fat feta cheese
  • Turkey, Cajun seasoning, sliced peaches, romaine lettuce and low-fat poppy seed dressing

Want something more substantial? Try these sandwich combos (again, reheat turkey to 165 F and allow to cool before using):

  • Whole-grain bread, sliced turkey, lettuce and cranberry relish (or honey mustard)
  • Turkey pieces, chopped apple and low-fat mayo spiced with curry powder in pita pockets
  • Whole-grain bun and shredded turkey mixed with BBQ sauce (cooked until steamy)
  • Corn tortilla, chopped turkey, shredded lettuce, tomato, peppers and salsa

How about something warm and hearty? You can make a tasty stock from the turkey carcass. Just add water to cover, chopped onion, celery and carrot. For seasoning, try garlic, bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns. Cook slow and long to concentrate flavor. Freeze in small containers for future use.

Here are a few more hot ideas:

  • Turkey chili — All you need is turkey, beans (garbanzo, black, kidney or white), diced onion, tomatoes and chili powder.
  • Turkey soup — Saute diced turkey, onion, celery and carrot slowly in a little oil until flavors develop. Add leftover vegetables, such as green beans, cut-up potatoes, broccoli or Brussels sprouts, and continue to stir and cook a few more minutes. Add a bay leaf, then cover with water. Simmer to blend flavors.

Share some of your favorite leftover ideas.

- Jennifer Nov. 28, 2012