Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Thanksgiving leftovers are a favorite holiday tradition in some families. Just thinking about that day-after turkey sandwich can make your mouth water. Your kids, however, may not be as excited about eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Leftovers often just don’t seem appealing to kids, especially that foil covered, half-eaten turkey they see sitting in your refrigerator.

We talked to Peter Fulgenzi, executive chef at Indiana University Health North Hospital, about how to turn Thanksgiving leftovers into something kids will eat. “The main thing is to get kids involved in the process,” says Chef Fulgenzi. “Then they are more likely to enjoy eating the leftovers.”

One way to do this is to create a soup bar where kids can help prep the leftovers and decide which items they actually want in their soup bowl. Start by making some turkey broth. Place the leftover turkey carcass in a pot with some onions, carrots and seasoning. Let it simmer all day so it smells really good, then put it through a colander and reserve the liquid. Reduce the liquid down to about half to create the broth.

Next, have kids help you divide leftover turkey meat and other leftover veggie dishes into individual dishes. Each person can take a little of whichever items they prefer and put them in their own soup bowl. Pour the broth over each bowl to create a customized soup. Serve with leftover pumpkin bread or rolls.

“It’s more palatable than just serving re-heated leftovers, and you’re creating something new,” says Chef Fulgenzi. “And the kids can participate from the beginning.” One way to ensure kids embrace the process is to get them involved with the seasoning of food. “They can think of it as a magic potion, that they can add to their food to bring out flavor,” he says. “If you teach your children to season early on, they are more likely to enjoy them in their food, and you will also be teaching them not to salt.”

Most Thanksgiving leftovers tend to be starchy foods, such as potatoes. These can be used in a variety of ways, including making potato cakes on the griddle, adding them to pancake batter for potato pancakes, or combining them with your favorite yeast roll recipe to make potato rolls. Another fun way to serve leftover potatoes to kids is to place scoops of potatoes into a silicone mat (such as a cupcake holder) and add a little Parmesan cheese. Once cooked, these can be popped out and served as little potato puffs for a side item. Silicone mats also come in shapes, such as stars and hearts that can add even more interest to this dish.

Try these other Thanksgiving leftover recipes:

Turkey Parmesan Pizza


  • Leftover Thanksgiving turkey slices
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 26-ounce jar tomato sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a shallow 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange the turkey slices in a single layer in the baking dish. Stir the Italian seasoning into the tomato sauce; pour the sauce evenly over turkey slices. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese and then with Parmesan cheese.
  3. Cover and bake for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Turkey Quesadillas


  • 1 cup leftover turkey
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can mild green chilies
  • ½ cup green onion
  • 2 cups jack cheese
  • 1 can enchilada sauce
  • 10 whole wheat tortillas
  1. Mix everything together in a bowl except 1 cup of the jack cheese and the enchilada sauce.
  2. Top tortilla shells with 3 to 4 tablespoons of filling and fold. Place in baking dish with a little of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
  3. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over top of the tortillas.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted through.

Sweet Potato Casserole Pancakes


Your usual pancake mix or recipe for pancakes Leftover sweet potato casserole Butter Maple Syrup Chopped pecans (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, mix together your usual pancake mix recipe.
  2. Fold in mashed sweet potato casserole.
  3. Heat a large, nonstick griddle or pan and coat with vegetable oil.
  4. Add batter in small batches, flipping until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Serve with chopped pecans and syrup. Try one of these recipes, or one of Chef Fulgenzi’s ideas above and you won’t have leftovers taking up space in your refrigerator very long. Learn more ways you can ensure your kids are eating delicious and nutritious meals during the holidays and all year long.

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