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.
Recipe: Turkey Cranberry Pesto Salad
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
- 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.