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How To Maximize Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey Salad With Oranges, Quick Pickled Red Onions And Cranberry Vinaigrette (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Turkey Salad With Oranges, Quick Pickled Red Onions And Cranberry Vinaigrette (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Our refrigerators will probably look a bit different the day after Thanksgiving this year. With so many staying home and having smaller celebrations, the amount and variety of leftovers will be limited. But there are still dozens of interesting ways to use leftovers to create great meals for days to come.

There’s soup to make, and sandwiches to build. The classic midnight sandwich: turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and/or stuffing, and hot gravy piled onto any type of sandwich bread.

But there are also tacos and enchiladas that can be put together taking advantage of all kinds of leftovers. What about skewers of leftover turkey or chicken with a spicy peanut butter sauce? Turkey pot pie or a fiery mapo tofu (tofu and minced turkey stir fry)? Potato-turkey croquettes or quick ramen?

Here are a few new recipes for a refreshing fall salad, a tangy, fruity, cranberry vinaigrette and quick pickled red onions that will add punch to any leftover dishes. And I’ve also included links to some of my best “leftover hits” from previous years.

Turkey Salad With Oranges, Quick Pickled Red Onions And Cranberry Vinaigrette

After feasting on rich food, it’s nice to balance things out with something bright, light and refreshing. This salad hits all three of those notes. Arugula and spinach (or any greens or leftover salad you have on hand) are topped with slices of leftover turkey, orange slices and quick pickled red onions.

The simple vinaigrette is made using leftover cranberry sauce. Add nuts, leftover roasted vegetables, or other leftover fresh vegetables to the salad.

Serves 2.


  • 1 orange, or 2 tangerines
  • 2 cups spinach, arugula, baby kale or any greens
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced or shredded leftover turkey
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons quick pickled red onions (recipe below)
  • Around 3 tablespoons cranberry vinaigrette (recipe below)


  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and white pith off the orange or tangerines, working your way around the citrus. Cut the orange into thin slices and remove any seeds.
  2. Place the greens in the center of a serving plate. Pile the turkey in the middle. Surround with the orange or tangerine slices and scatter the pickled onion slices around it all. Spoon the cranberry vinaigrette on top.

Quick Pickled Red Onions

Make these quick pickles about an hour before you want to eat them. You can keep them in a covered jar or container in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. They add acidity and a much-needed punch of flavor to any leftovers — on top of soup, ramen, noodle dishes, salads, stews or layered into your favorite sandwich.

Makes 1 cup.


  • 1 cup very thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or canning salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black or white pepper


  1. Place the onions in a small container or glass jar. Add the vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper, cover and shake well to distribute all the ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. The pickles are ready to eat. You can then refrigerate them for up to 2 weeks.

Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

You’ve eaten all the turkey sandwiches. But there’s still cranberry sauce left over. Turn it into a bright, colorful salad dressing. The vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Makes about 3/4 cup.


  • 4 tablespoons leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all the ingredients and taste for seasoning. If using canned cranberry sauce place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whirl. The vinaigrette can be thick and chunky; it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth.

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This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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