17 ways with leftover turkey, from warming ramen to rich risotto

On top of all the problems we have faced in 2020, we could be experiencing a larger-than-ever glut of turkey this season: restrictions on large gatherings, combined with high demand for – and a corresponding shortage of – smaller birds, may have left a lot of us with more meat than we can eat in one, two or even three sittings.

Fortunately, help is at hand: here are 17 easy, delicious and slightly different ways to use up your Christmas turkey.

Even in more normal times, turkey leftovers present a problem: the cooked meat will keep for about two days in the fridge – invariably the two days of the year when you least feel like eating or cooking turkey, or even having conversations about it. But a little post-meal effort will ease the pain.

Ideally, you will have refrigerated your leftover turkey as soon as it was cool – within 90 minutes or so – and picked the carcass clean of meat. You can freeze whatever you don’t think you can consume in the next 48 hours. Now, make stock with the bones.

Turkey stock
Stock-in-trade … first off, get your carcass in a pot. Photograph: Paul Grossmann/Getty Images/Tetra Images

Stock is simple – so simple that even Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli’s recipe for turkey stock is elementary: bones, carrot, celery, onion, a few bay leaves and a couple of hours of your time, most of which you can spend watching TV.

Once you have your stock, try your hand at Locatelli’s turkey, sausage and pea risotto, which is also a good way to use up the last sausages in a pack.

Turkey soup can take on whatever form your other leftovers will allow, but it may well end up tasting like a liquid version of Christmas lunch – something you might not be in the mood for on Boxing Day evening. For a lighter, quicker and more exciting meal, try Jamie Oliver’s turkey and coconut milk soup, featuring all the ingredients you ought to have on hand for this sort of eventuality: lemongrass, chillies, ginger, lime, fish sauce. If you haven’t got any oyster mushrooms lying about, use whatever they have at the corner shop – we are working with leftovers here. This turkey ramen also presents the possibility of using leftover turkey gravy in place of turkey stock.

Felicity Cloake’s perfect turkey curry
Festive staple … Felicity Cloake’s perfect turkey curry. Photograph: The Guardian. Food styling: Jack Sargeson

Turkey curry has become a bit of a post-Christmas staple. Felicity Cloake’s quintessential version is a tomato and cream affair, mild but wholly adjustable spice-wise. It even has 10 brussels sprouts in it.

While it is nigh on perfect, it is not the only option. Raymond Blanc’s turkey curry omits the cream and Josceline Dimbleby’s quick recipe uses curry paste from a jar.

It goes without saying that you can deploy cooked turkey in any circumstances where you might otherwise use cooked chicken, making it ideal for all sorts of pies. This poulterer’s pie, again from Dimbleby, is like a cottage pie made with turkey instead of minced beef. (A poulterer was a dealer in poultry and small game – ie someone who knew a thing or two about making several meals from one swan.)

Nigel Slater's turkey and sprout tart
OFM_Nigel Turkey and Sprout Tart.tif Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Cloake’s turkey and ham pie is a pie in the pastry-lidded casserole sense, whereas Nigel Slater’s sprout, chestnut and turkey tart is a festive set-custard pie with the pastry on the bottom. Both make use of leftover sprouts, should you still have any.

One sure way to add flexibility to your leftover turkey is to give it a good shredding. I happen to own some meat shredders – they are like steel bear claws with handles; I sometimes wear them when I investigate strange noises in the night – but a pair of forks and a bit of patience will do the trick. Once you get going, it is hard to stop.

Shredded turkey can be slipped into lots of meals – sandwiches, a bolognese-style sauce, between lasagne layers. But it can also serve as a key ingredient, as in Yotam Ottolenghi’s sweet and sour turkey salad, in a simple Moroccan salad with aubergine and harissa, or in this Szechuan bang bang salad recipe from Thomasina Miers. James Ramsden’s Lebanese-style fattee is a layered dish of pitta bread, chilli sauce, yoghurt, herbs and, yes, shredded turkey.

By the end of the week, you may be longing for a takeaway – anything, as long as it doesn’t taste like Christmas – but there is nothing to stop you using up some of that remaining turkey to make your own version. You can, for example, fashion a pleasing starter of turkey, coriander and coconut spring rolls or slap together some turkey fajitas, which Cloake serves with an orange and sprout slaw, but allows for the substitution of shredded lettuce. For this I am grateful; I will definitely have eaten my last sprout by this point.

Turkey fajitas
That’s a wrap … turkey lends itself well to fajitas. Photograph: Istetiana/Alamy

Finally, you can crank out some turkey Singapore noodles for New Year’s Eve, adding leftover ham if you like, while wearing a stupid paper hat if you still have one. Once 2021 is underway, it may be a long time before you want to eat turkey again, but, when you do, you will have a freezer full of it.


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