As much as I love eating roasted turkey at Thanksgiving, I confess I’m not a big fan of turkey leftovers. The only explanation I can come up with for my disdain for leftover turkey is the dried out texture of what was once a moist and succulent roasted bird days earlier. With that said, I also believe in not wasting food.

In my opinion, the key to incorporating any type of leftovers into a delicious meal is to use it in a completely different way than the original dish. After all, most of us don’t want our families to eat leftover turkey begrudgingly. Truthfully, this is how I feel about leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

However, I thought about how I could use the leftover meat in a creative and appetizing way. I challenged myself to come up with a recipe my family and I would enjoy eating. With a quart size bag of leftover turkey meat in my refrigerator, I scoped within my kitchen other ingredients I had on hand to see what I could make for lunch today.

When I saw I had some dried cranberries, pecans, and celery, I knew that I would make some sort of turkey salad, similar to a traditional chicken salad filling commonly used in sandwiches and salads. I thought about adding some curry powder to mayonnaise and mixing everything together. But instead, I decided on incorporating pesto to give it a familiar yet very different flavor from anything I would have eaten during our Thanksgiving feast.

The end result was fantastic. I made a big batch of this Turkey Cranberry Pesto Salad for lunch today. I used it as the main protein element on top of a bed of greens for my husband and I; and I used it as a sandwich filling between sliced bagels for the kids. The pesto was the key ingredient to making this recipe feel like something I would make on any given day, just not after Thanksgiving for the sake of using up leftover turkey.

If you find yourself feeling unmotivated to use any remaining leftover turkey, this recipe is perfect for you! Enjoy!

Recipe: Turkey Cranberry Pesto Salad

  • Prep Time: 5 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 1 min(s)
  • Total Time: 6 min(s)

A great sandwich filling using leftover turkey.


  • 2 cups cooked turkey meat
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. Chop cooked turkey finely. A food processor works great for this. Mix the turkey, mayonnaise, cranberries, celery, pecans, pesto, and pepper in a medium bowl until well combined. Use immediately or store in the refridgerator for up to a week in a sealed container.

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