This year’s Thanksgiving may be the smallest gathering I’ll ever host, which means the leftovers are sure to be the biggest I’ve ever faced.

While I’m cutting back on the number of dishes we’re making, the basics remain the same. I’m just not ready to relinquish the joy of roasting a turkey or filling our home with the promising scent of simmering cranberries and baking pies. We’ll be mashing potatoes and whisking gravy, and in honor of my late dad, we’ll make his favorite dish of sweet potatoes glazed with browned butter and maple syrup.

Come Friday, I’ll take on that yearly challenge of figuring out how many meals I can fashion from the remains of this feast. They will provide a week’s worth of ingredients, the makings of comforting soups, pot pies, stir-fries, sautés and salads, and give me a break from the need to grocery shop.

Turkey is the easiest of leftovers to dispatch. It seems we never tire of those towering two-fisted sandwiches, but when we do, the meat can be frozen or added to any number of simple dishes. The vegetables, however, demand more creativity and attention because these simply don’t keep.

The trick for all of the day’s leftovers is to give their traditional flavors a bright, swift kick with global seasonings — hot, sour, salty, umami, savory and sweet. It helps to have a few condiments at the ready to ease the work and inspire last-minute innovation. The real fun is in turning what I already have on hand into a completely new dish.

Here are some ideas to get you started, along with a trio of sauces to keep at the ready (see recipes below). A satisfying meal is the measure of Thanksgiving Day leftover success.

Sweet potatoes

Hummus: Purée equal amounts of sweet potatoes and hummus together. Season with lime juice and Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice found in most supermarkets) and serve as a dip for raw vegetables and pita bread.

Pancakes and waffles: Add ¼ cup puréed sweet potatoes to a standard recipe for pancakes and waffles.

Curried Sweet Potato Mash: Whip roasted sweet potatoes with a little coconut milk and curry powder to taste. Or make Curried Sweet Potato Soup — the recipe appears below.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed Potato Cakes: Whip mashed potatoes with Yogurt-Herb Dressing (see recipe) to taste and fill heavily buttered muffin cups with the seasoned mashed potato mix. Bake in a 350-degree oven until browned and crisped on top, about 15 minutes.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie: Toss chopped turkey, leftover vegetables and leftover gravy together and turn into a casserole dish. Cover with leftover mashed potatoes and bake in a 350-degree oven until the filling is bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Maple miso sauce

Glazed Roast Vegetables: Put leftover cooked vegetables into a lightly buttered dish and drizzle with the sauce. Bake in a 350-degree oven to glaze, about 5 to 10 minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Turkey Stir-Fry: Season a quick stir-fry of cooked turkey and vegetables with the sauce and serve over brown or white rice.

Turkey and Soba Salad: Toss the sauce with chopped turkey and cooked soba and serve over dark greens; garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Honey mustard vinaigrette

Wild Rice Turkey Salad: Toss together cooked wild rice, chopped turkey, chopped apples and chopped celery. Serve on dark greens and garnish with a dab of fresh cranberry sauce.

Harvest Salad: Drizzle the vinaigrette over a composed salad of diced turkey, chopped apples, roasted squash, cubes of Cheddar cheese, sliced radishes and hard-cooked eggs. Garnish with toasted pecans.

Pulled Turkey Sandwiches: Shred dark meat turkey and heat in a pan with some of the vinaigrette to taste. Serve on soft buns and top with dill pickles.

Yogurt-herb dressing

Creamy Turkey Salad: Toss the dressing with chopped turkey and chopped celery or fennel and serve over dark greens.

Creamy Vegetable Hot Dish: Toss roasted vegetables with a little of the sauce and turn into a buttered baking dish. Top with buttered breadcrumbs and bake in a 350-degree oven until the top is crisped, about 10 to 15 minutes.


Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4 to 6.

Here’s a warming soup that, though creamy, is dairy-free. It comes together in minutes with leftover roasted sweet potatoes. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 tbsp. coconut oil

• 1 large onion, diced

• 2 cloves garlic, smashed

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh gingerroot

• 2 tsp. curry powder

• 1 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled, cut into 1-in. cubes (see below)

• 3 large tart apples (such as Haralson), peeled, cored and diced

• 2 c. apple cider

• 1 c. coconut milk

• 1 c. vegetable stock or water

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish


In a large deep saucepan set over medium heat, add the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the gingerroot, curry, cumin and cinnamon and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the roasted sweet potatoes, apples and cider. Using the back of a fork, smash the sweet potatoes into the mixture. Stir in the coconut milk and enough vegetable stock or water to cover the mixture by about an inch. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, until it’s hot and the flavors have come together, about 10 minutes. Purée the soup with an immersion blender (or work in batches to process in a blender), returning the soup to the pot. Adjust the consistency by adding more liquid (water or cider) as desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with the cilantro.

To roast sweet potatoes: Cut an X in the sweet potatoes with a sharp knife and set on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350-degree oven until very tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. Remove, allow to cool, and peel.


Yogurt-Herb Dressing and Dip

Makes about 1 cup.

This makes a thick, tangy dip for toasted pita and vegetables. For a thinner, lighter sauce, whisk in a little buttermilk or milk. It’s great spooned over turkey seasoned with hot sauce (i.e. Sambal or Sriracha). You can also drizzle it over a turkey salad paired with sliced avocado, or whisk it into mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for tang. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 c. Greek style whole-milk yogurt

• 1 clove garlic, smashed and minced

• 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

• 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Generous pinch red pepper flakes, to taste


In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, parsley, thyme and oil. Then whisk in the lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 generous cup.

Note: Hazelnut or walnut oil gives this dressing a subtle, nutty flavor, but sunflower oil works equally well. Drizzle this over roasted squash or over turkey leftovers layered on mashed potatoes and warmed in the oven. For a main-dish salad, toss it with wild rice, turkey, chopped apples and chopped fennel. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 tbsp. chopped shallots

• 1/4 c. cider vinegar

• 2 tbsp. coarse mustard

• 1/4 c. honey

• 1/2 c. hazelnut, walnut or sunflower oil


Put the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl or glass jar with a lid and allow the shallots to soften, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the mustard and honey and whisk or shake together. Then add the oil and whisk or shake until the mixture is thickened. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Maple Miso Sauce

Makes about 1 generous cup.

Note: Here’s a sweet-salty glaze for roasted vegetables, a stir-fry sauce and a salad dressing (especially good with soba). Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to a month. A mild (white) or medium (yellow) miso paste works best. Darker (red) miso has a stronger flavor. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/4 c. miso (see Note)

• 1/4 c. maple syrup

• 1/4 c. rice vinegar

• 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. soy sauce

• 1/4 c. sunflower or vegetable oil


In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, maple syrup, vinegar and soy sauce, then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator, and shake well before using.


Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at