Sustainability Tip: Recipes to Recycle Thanksgiving Dinner

Americans waste millions of pounds of food during the holidays. In 2016, more than 6 million turkeys ended up in the trash, according to the NRDC.

The thing is, when we waste food, we’re also wasting all the resources that went into growing, transporting and processing it. We’re also greatly contributing to our carbon footprint. When food rots in the landfill, it turns into methane — a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In fact, our global food system is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

As part of our mission to promote a sustainable future, we feel it immensely important to do what we can to divert waste from our landfills. There are many ways to combat food waste, with proper planning, conscious cooking and reasonable portions, but one fun and approachable way to waste less this holiday season is by transforming leftovers into new and delicious dishes.

We found a few recipes we thought we’d suggest:

Simple staple: Turkey Stock

If you’re not already using your turkey carcass to make stock or broth, you are missing out! This is a great way to use the entire bird so nothing goes to waste. Plus, you can use it to make delicious turkey soups, like this one with stuffing dumplings from the the Food Network!

Recipe from The Kitchn:


  • 1 cooked turkey carcass (about 4 pounds), meat mostly removed and bones broken into large pieces
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Few sprigs of fresh parsley or thyme (optional)


  • Fill the stockpot. Place the turkey, onions, celery, and carrots in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover, about 1 gallon.
  • Bring to a boil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Simmer about 3 hours. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer until reduced by half, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
  • Strain. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Use tongs to transfer the big bones and vegetables from the stockpot to the strainer. When only small bits remain, pour the stock through the strainer and into the bowl. If you’d like a cleaner, clearer stock, clean out your strainer, line it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and strain the stock again into another bowl or clean pot.
  • Cool and store the stock. If not using immediately, divide the stock between several small jars or storage containers. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Breakfast: Thanksgiving Leftovers Hash

Hash is a great way to combine multiple ingredients into one dish. There are lots of variations on Thanksgiving hashes, so depending on your what your leftovers are, you may want to search for a recipe that better fits your ingredients. Either way, anything topped with a runny egg and gravy is bound to be delicious.

Recipe from Serious Eats:


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or turkey fat
  • 3 cups finely shredded leftover brussels sprouts (see note)
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups leftover roasted potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 pound roasted turkey meat, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • Turkey gravy


  • Heat oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over high heat until smoking. Add brussels sprouts, onions, and potatoes. Stir once then cook without moving until charred, about 2 minutes. Flip, stir, and repeat until well charred all over, about 10 minutes total, adding turkey half way through cooking. Add chili sauce and hot sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer mixture to 10-inch cast iron skillet. Make 2 to 4 wells on surface and add an egg to each. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until bottom is charred and eggs are cooked to desired level of doneness, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve with turkey gravy.
Lunch: Leftover Thanksgiving Pull-Apart Sliders

Leftover turkey sandwiches are nothing new, but a baked, pull-apart slider? Looks like an irresistible twist on a classic to me.

Recipe from the Food Network.


  • 1 1/4 cups leftover gravy
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded leftover turkey
  • One 12-pack pull-apart dinner rolls
  • 2 cups leftover stuffing
  • 1/2 cup leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1 heaping cup leftover mashed potatoes, warmed
  • 6 slices provolone
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling


  • Combine the gravy and turkey in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is hot and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and set aside.
  • Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the broiler.
  • Split the attached dinner rolls in half horizontally, keeping them attached. Put the top and bottom halves cut-side up on a baking sheet. Cover the bottom half with the stuffing. Broil until toasted, 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Spread the cut side of the roll tops with cranberry sauce. Cover the stuffing with mashed potatoes, then use the back of a small spoon to make 12 wells (1 for each slider) in the potatoes. Spoon the turkey and gravy into the wells (it will spill over the wells but this is okay) then cover with overlapping slices of provolone. Cover with the roll tops, then brush the tops with the melted butter. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  • Bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately.
Dinner: Turkey and Cranberry BBQ Sauce Pizza

Thanksgiving leftovers meet pizza. What more needs to be said?

Recipe from Recipe Runner:


  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 3/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 T. BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup turkey, diced or shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (mozzarella, fontina, or smoked gouda may also be used)
  • 3 T. red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T. cilantro, chopped


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray a baking sheet or pizza stone with cooking spray.
  • Roll out the pizza dough on the pizza stone or baking sheet and set aside.
  • In a small bowl stir together the cranberry sauce and BBQ sauce.
  • Spread half of the sauce onto the pizza and add the diced turkey to the other half, stirring until the turkey is completely coated.
  • Top the pizza with the cheese, turkey, and sliced red onion.
  • Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.
  • Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the chopped cilantro.
Sweet treat: Cranberry Turnovers

Great as a dessert or breakfast pastry!

Recipe from Country Living:


  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 package Puff Pastry
  • 3/4 c. leftover cranberry sauce


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium bowl and using an electric mixer set on low, beat cream cheese, egg yolks, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
  • Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet into a 10-inch square. Cut into four 5-inch squares. Place 2 tablespoons cream cheese mixture in center of each square. Top each with 1 1/2 tablespoons cranberry sauce. Dampen edges of each square with water and fold over to form a triangle. Press edges together with a fork to seal. Transfer turnovers to a parchment-lined baking pan. Repeat with second puff pastry sheet to make remaining turnovers.
  • Bake turnovers until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer turnovers to a wire rack to cool, about 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, stir together remaining confectioners’ sugar and 4 tablespoons water until a thick but flowing icing forms. (If icing is too thick, add more water, a few drops at a time.) Fill a resealable plastic bag with icing, seal bag, and snip off a tiny corner. Pipe icing over turnovers, as shown.

These are just a few recipes we tracked down, but with so many great ideas out there, we’re curious to hear your favorites! Share with us in the comments.

Other easy ways to avoid holiday food waste:
  • Send guests home with to-go bags so they can enjoy leftovers, too!
  • Freeze leftovers for a time when you’re not tired of turkey.
  • Feed the soil by composting any spoiled food.
  • Share your scraps with your pets (as long as they are safe for them to eat). They’ve been doing such a great job begging!
  • Donate shelf stable food items to local food pantries and shelters.

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compost, food, food waste, leftovers, recipe, recycle, sustainability, thanksgiving
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