What to do with leftover turkey

By Annette Tan
26 December 2012 1:49 AM Updated 24 Dec 2013

What to do with leftover turkey

Turkey and Spam sambal | Photo: Mervin Chua

Turkey—that once-a-year grand centrepiece at the holiday table which invariably evolves into a week’s worth of leftovers. If all you’ve been doing with the fowl surplus is turning it into a large vat of turkey porridge, then no wonder the leftovers seem like a bore. But with a bunch of pantry staples, the turkey’s robustly-flavoured meat and bones that yield a rich stock can be turned into a glut of quick meals.

The morning after your holiday dinner, make a turkey bubble and squeak by frying shredded turkey meat with leftover mashed potatoes, pumpkin or sweet potatoes, until it all crisps up around the edges. Any leftover stuffing works well in this fry-up too.

Turkey noodle salad with peanut dressing
Turkey noodle salad with peanut dressing | Photo: Mervin Chua

When you’ve taken the meat off the bones, boil the bones with water to make turkey stock. A few root vegetables thrown in helps to up the flavour quotient in this too. This intensely savoury stock lends itself well to pumpkin soup. Just blitz some cooked pumpkin with the stock to a smooth puree and season.

Take your cue from Eurasian curry debal (a very spicy curry typically made with Christmas leftovers) by making a turkey and Spam sambal. Make a rempah by blending two medium onions with 4 fresh chillies and 8 dried chillies (that have been soaked in hot water for 10 minutes) to a smooth paste and add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Fry this in half a cup of oil for about 20 minutes, stirring often, then add 250 grams of leftover turkey and half a can of cubed luncheon meat. Add water or turkey stock and mix well. Fry for a further eight minutes, season to taste, then serve with crusty bread. 

With leftover turkey breast meat, make a hot turkey sandwich. Spread a layer of wasabi mayo, garlic aioli or plain mayo on two slices of toasted crusty bread, slap on some sliced cucumbers or avocados, and turkey meat. Then squirt on as much of the Thai Sriracha sauce or garlic chilli sauce as you like. Top with the second slice of bread and devour. 

For an elegant lunch, make a turkey noodle salad with peanut dressing. Slather chunks of turkey meat with mix of a few tablespoons of peanut butter, vegetable oil and sweet chilli sauce, along with a drizzle of sesame oil. Place in a very hot oven for 5 minutes, then serve with chor bee hoon (Chinese dialect for ‘thick rice vermicelli’) or tung hoon (Chinese dialect for ‘glass noodles’), with a dressing made from lime juice, vinegar, sugar, chopped red chilli and chopped roasted peanuts.

For a quick turkey pasta salad, mix cold shredded turkey meat with pesto and cooked penne (or any pasta of your choice). Add a drizzle orange or lemon juice and a dollop of mayo to loosen the mix if necessary. Serve cold.

Make turkey and cheese frittatas for weekend brunch by tossing shredded turkey meat, diced boiled potatoes or sweet potatoes, and shredded cheese in an ovenproof skillet. Mix in a few eggs, some cream, salt and pepper and bake in a 180°C oven till cooked and golden.

Throw a do-it-yourself turkey taco party, laying out taco shells or tortillas, shredded turkey meat tossed in ready-to-use taco spices from the Mexican shelf in the supermarket, bowls of guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa and diced tomatoes.

A chopped turkey salad makes for great solo eating. Chop salad greens of your choice, throw in a few nuts (chop up bigger nuts like walnuts and pecans), and add in some chopped turkey meat and raisins. Toss with bottled Japanese sesame dressing.

Make a turkey tonnato as an appetiser for your next dinner party by arranging thinly sliced turkey breast on a platter. Then drizzle with a sauce made by blitzing canned tuna and mayonnaise in a food processor. Top with a few capers and serve.

A Thai-inspired turkey red curry hits the spot on cool evenings and is a cinch to make. Cook a packet of red curry paste with coconut milk, then add chunks of turkey meat, leftover pumpkin (optional) and tinned lychees (drained). Cook for 10 minutes and serve with hot steamed rice.


Turkey tips:
Roasted turkey will keep in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for a month.
- Store your leftover turkey in batches in Zip-lock bags so you can thaw them one portion at a time.
- Store turkey stock in the freezer in small containers and in an ice cube tray so you can use a little at a time.
- To heat up leftover turkey meat, steam for five minutes or wrap in foil and heat in a 180°C oven for 8 minutes. Do note that turkey warmed in an oven tends to dry out a little.


Passion (and gluttony) for good food led Annette Tan to pursue a career that marries her talent for writing with her love for beautiful plates. Food writer, stylist and instructor, Tan contributes recipes and images to magazines like Appetite (Singapore) and BBC Good Food (Asian Edition), and is the restaurant reviewer for Today newspaper. Also the editor of The Miele Guide, she somehow manages to find time to feed her family and friends often.

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