Chef Karen Davison Shares Her Favorite Holiday Leftover Recipes

The holidays bring with them plenty of delicious food. But hours spent slaving away in the kitchen usually translates to a huge meal with lots of leftovers. Having a plan in place for how to use up those leftovers helps prevent food waste and will give a brand-new life to something that you may not think tastes quite as good on day two. 

Karen Davison is professional chef and culinary blogger from Plano, Texas. From inventive breakfasts to the best sandwiches of your life, she shares a list of creative ways to use leftovers.

Turn Leftovers into Breakfast

One trick for using up leftovers, especially from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, is to make breakfast. Making breakfast with leftovers is not where peoples’ minds automatically go, but Davison is unwavering in her opinion that it is one of the tastiest ways to use them up. Some of her favorite “leftover holiday” breakfast recipes include making a quiche, omelette, or frittata with leftover veggies and shredded turkey (this also works well if you have leftover ham). Another breakfast option is to make a seriously upgraded hash, containing everything from the night before, including sweet potatoes, greens, and eggs. You could also give new life to leftover mashed potatoes by turning them into hash browns. Karen Davison of Plano, Texas, recommends shaping the mashed potatoes into patties, adding some butter, and frying them in a frying pan. Lastly, if you have leftover biscuits, why not enjoy a Southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy? 

Turn Leftovers into Sandwiches

Sandwiches are by far one of the best, and most popular uses, of holiday dinner leftovers. Karen Davison loves a good turkey sandwich as much as the next person. But rather than slapping turkey on some plain whole wheat bread, there are a few suggestions for how to spice up your post-holiday sandwiches. Option number one is to turn your sandwich into a panini. Top it high with shredded turkey, cranberry sauce, and brie, sandwich it between either seven grain bread, a French baguette, or fresh sourdough, and cook it on a panini press or griddle for the best (and classiest) grilled cheese sandwich of your life. Another option is to think beyond bread. Karen Davison loves changing up her sandwiches by swapping out basic sliced bread for a biscuit or English muffin. Finally, when in doubt, go for a hot turkey sandwich. It’s a classic and there’s no denying it’s delicious (the more gravy, the better!). 

Turn Leftovers into Casserole

According to Karen Davison, most people are pretty exhausted after cooking an entire holiday meal, which makes cooking another meal shortly after pretty unappealing. However, if you have the time and energy, Davison recommends turning your leftovers into a whole new meal in the form of a casserole. Although it’ll require a bit more work than assembling a sandwich, they’re still relatively easy to throw together. Plus, once it’s in the dish, you can let the oven do the work. Davison’s favorite casseroles always include pasta, so she recommends combining turkey, veggies, and noodles (like fusilli or penne) and creating a creamy, cheesy oven bake. For best results, she always tops her casseroles with something crunchy. Normally, people go for crushed up crackers or breadcrumbs, but in this instance, she recommends topping it with stuffing. It will provide that delicious crunch, while adding a major boost of flavour. If pasta isn’t your thing, consider upgrading risotto by adding leftover canned pumpkin or mashed up root veggies. There is nothing like a festive autumnal risotto. Lastly, Karen Davison of Plano, Texas, notes that casseroles are a great way to use up a lot of leftovers at once, as well as to create a meal that will feed a large group (ideal for family Christmases or Thanksgivings where you have extended family visiting for days on end).