Thanksgiving Leftovers: Eat vs. Freeze

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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Eat vs. Freeze
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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Eat vs. Freeze

Read on to learn which Thanksgiving leftovers you should eat and which you should freeze.

Eat: Turkey Bones (Not Really)

Well, don't really eat the bones -- but hold on to them after carving your bird. Simmer them with some carrots, onions, and celery to make a simple turkey stock and use it just as you would chicken stock (the flavor is slightly milder). This recipe technically falls into eating and freezing territory, since the stock can be frozen for up to six months after cooking.

Get the Easy Turkey Stock Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Freeze: Gravy

There's a reason why the word "gravy" is synonymous with all things being good. This fat-laden holiday staple will instantly turn dry meats into irresistibly sumptuous meals. If you're lucky enough to have leftover gravy, pour it into muffin tins or ice cube trays before freezing. After it's frozen, pop out of tins and store in a zip-top bag and use as needed. Melt a cube to use with roasted chicken or spread atop turkey sandwiches.

Get the Turkey and Onion Sandwich Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Eat: Turkey

Stop picking at the turkey into the wee hours (we're looking at you, late night snackers!). Give your leftover bird a Mexican twist with these tangy and slightly rich quesadillas. We love Brie for its depth and elegance, but if you don't have it on hand, substitute any soft cheese.

Get the Quesadillas with Chutney and Brie Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Freeze: Stuffing

Whether you choose to make stuffing inside your bird or in a separate baking dish, this classic side will hold up in the freezer for up to three months. Store in small portions in an airtight container and reheat in a 325-degree oven, covered, for 15 minutes or until warm throughout. Serve in place of other grains alongside pork, steak, or chicken (or give any meal a holiday feel by serving stuffing with a bit of leftover gravy).

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Eat: Green Bean Casserole

Eat your greens! While casseroles are usually known as freezer-friendly meals, this holiday mainstay is best when eaten the same or next day. If frozen, the green will wilt and the fried onions will become slightly soggy.

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Freeze: Cranberry Sauce

Who says cranberry sauce is only for turkey? This sweet-and-sour side will pair equally well with chicken, ham, or pork (a spoonful will add instant brightness to this spiced pork tenderloin with fall vegetables). Freeze in an airtight container or individually in ice cube trays for up to three months and defrost over low heat in a saucepan.

Get the Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fall Vegetables Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Eat: Mashed Potatoes

While turkey tends to get top billing, creamy spuds are always a contender for best dish of the day -- but not longer than that! Mashed potatoes tend to harden and become mealy when frozen, so eat them up at your main meal or use them to make mashed potato and kale cakes for breakfast the next morning (swap cooked mashed potatoes for russet potatoes. Add to the cooked leek and kale mixture before forming patties).

Get the Mashed Potato and Kale Cakes Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Freeze: Potato Pancakes

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year, so many holiday feasts may feature these festive bites. Since the potatoes in pancake recipes have already been drained of their excess liquid, they'll freeze easily without becoming overly moist. Topped with a bit of creme fraiche, pear, and cinnamon, they make for an elegant and easy crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvres. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 250-degree oven for 15 minutes, or until warm throughout.

Get the Potato Latkes Recipe

Eat: Cheese and Dairy

Freeze: Breads and Rolls

Our food editors racked their brains to think of a type of bread that wouldn't freeze well but gave up quickly, as whole loaves, slices, and rolls are easily freezable. While a leftover loaf is ideal for making breadcrumbs or croutons, we like to use one to thicken a runny vegetable soups. Store in freezer bags for up to three months and defrost before cooking.

Get the Tomato-Bread Soup Recipe

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Eat: Dessert!

This time of year, we say let them eat cake, pie, cookies.... Indulge in your favorite festive treats during the holiday season (we doubt you'll have any left over anyway).

Image Credit: Martha Stewart

Pack It Up

Whether you plan on diving into those leftovers the morning after your feast, or saving them for a future meal, store extra food in an airtight container -- and be sure to label!

12-piece glass food storage set, $50,

Image Credit: Martha Stewart


The end of a holiday meal can be daunting. Exhausted and stuffed, you might be ready to simply toss any leftovers and call it a day. But wait -- with a bit of strategizing and creativity, superb meals lie in your future. The real question, of course, is which dishes will hold up in the freezer and which should be enjoyed immediately. Not to fear, our food editors are here to help you distinguish between the two groups. So grab your zip-top bags and airtight containers -- as well as your forks and knives -- and get ready for the ultimate dish debate: Eat vs. Freeze -- Holiday Leftovers Edition.

Check out the slideshow above to learn which Thanksgiving leftovers to eat or freeze.

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