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27 leftover turkey recipes to breathe new life into your bird

A little turkey can go a long way.
/ Source: TODAY

When shopping for their Thanksgiving turkey, many people order by the pound based on how many people will be feasting. But we say, if you can, order extra to ensure you can make many meals with leftovers in the following days. After all that cooking, having enough turkey leftover to create easy meals for a few days, or at least brunch and dinner the next day, will keep you cool as an autumn breeze.

And if you can't budget for a bunch of extra meat, don’t fret: Many of these recipes only require a cup or two of turkey, and some will take just the carcass and transform it into inventive meals. Plus, it's always best to use up as much of the bird as possible in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

With this recipe roundup, we encourage you to look beyond your average leftover turkey sandwich (no hate to Ross from “Friends” and his “Moist Maker”) and think a little more creatively about dishes you can make with your holiday centerpiece.

Whether you’re looking for breakfast recipes, from leftover stuffing waffles to a turkey frittata, lunch recipes, from turkey-cranberry salad to turkey banh mi, or dinner recipes, from spicy enchiladas and shawarma tacos to pots of gumbo and pho, these simple but flavorful turkey dishes will breathe new and exciting life into your leftover bird.

A little turkey goes a long way, and you'll be ready to entertain guests who linger the next day or just wind with family without having to do too much at all.

When it comes to turkey leftovers, we'll take crispy fritters over a sandwich any day. Each savory bite of creamy gravy, plump peas, veggies and meat taste like a potpie. When fried in oil, the texture becomes crispy on the outside and warm and tender on the inside.

This hearty salad is easy, quick and can be served as a side dish or a main entrée. It's filled with flavorful, seasonal ingredients and helps use up holiday leftovers.

Black-Eyed Pea Turkey Chili

This chili is a win-win, no matter which team everyone's rooting for Thanksgiving weekend. Using shredded turkey, instead of ground beef, is a nice way to lighten up the often-heavy dish. Also, the spices are a nice kick to the taste buds after all that turkey and gravy.

Leftover Turkey Banh Mi

Crunchy pickled vegetables, spicy Sriracha mayo and a tender baguette work perfectly with any savory poultry leftovers. You won't go back to turkey on boring sandwich bread after trying this.

Thanksgiving Turkey Sliders

If everyone's demanding a turkey sandwich, but there's only a little bit of turkey left, consider whipping up a batch of these sliders. They can feed a bunch of people since they're mini. Topped with Swiss cheese and leftover cranberry sauce, they're also easy to bake all at once.

Turkey Pozole

As much as Laura Vitale loves a classic roasted turkey, by the time Thanksgiving night approaches, she wants nothing more to do with it, so she takes the leftovers and transforms them into something vibrant and exciting. And this stew is no exception. We love the heat this stew provides and using leftovers to really wake them up into something so delicious.

Turkey Potpies

These potpies transport Melba Wilson back to her grandmother's home where she often made them with ingredients left over from big holiday meals. We love a good one-pot dish, especially after a day full of so much cooking.

After all that Thanksgiving food, you're going to need greens. Try this satisfying salad topped with crispy turkey. It's hearty but not overly filling.

Turkey Shawarma Tacos

The spices in these leftover turkey tacos are vibrant and delicious and taste just like shawarma seasonings — curry and garam masala, heavy on the cumin and coriander — but there are also warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.

Leftover Stuffing and Turkey Strata

Matt Abdoo likes to serve this easy breakfast the day after Thanksgiving because it's comforting and delicious — without being too heavy — and it uses leftovers from the day before.

Yes, leftover turkey can work in most recipes that call for leftover chicken. This one's ideal because you can use the bones and all for the stock, plus some other leftover sides like root veggies.

Create a second-day snack by mixing chopped leftover turkey with leftover mashed potatoes, cheese, scallions and eggs. Then simply roll the mixture into balls, coat the balls in breadcrumbs and fry them until golden-brown and crispy. And don’t forget leftover cranberry sauce or gravy for dipping!

Have lots of leftover turkey? Skip the boring next-day sandwiches and make David Slater's hearty turkey gumbo instead.

Turkey Panini with Cranberry Sauce

Give the old-fashioned turkey sandwich a melty makeover with this elevated version of a grilled cheese sandwich — with refreshing zing from the cranberry sauce.

Turkey Sesame Noodle Salad

Soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger and cilantro contribute to this 30-minute meal's wow-factor. The earthy leftover turkey takes on the flavors beautifully, and when tossed into some nice soba noodles, it's a light yet satisfying dish.

Enchiladas are a great way to throw together a quick meal while using up, well, the whole enchilada. Siri's recipe is warm, smoky and can get topped with some creamy avocado and zesty cilantro.

In this easy recipe, Sandra Lee swaps ground lamb or beef with turkey for a less traditional but equally as delicious version of shepherd's pie. Any hot, baked dish topped with mashed potatoes is a win.

This dish is similar to a Waldorf salad, and you can even add apples, walnuts or pecans. It's light, refreshing and filling all on its own, but it's also great served in a wrap, as a sandwich or over a bed of greens.

Grab some extra pre-made pie crusts at the store so you're ready to whip up a batch of Alejandra Ramos' delicious empanadas. Inside the pockets is a mixture of the turkey and all the fixings for a savory, satiating dinner or snack that's best served with some sweet, tart cranberry sauce.

Topping this pantry-friendly recipe with a perfectly runny, fried egg gives it a rich, luxurious finish and makes for an even more delicious dish.

Turkey Wild Rice Hotdish

A hotdish is a type of casserole that's a full meal in a dish — meat, veggies and a starch held together with creamed soup. It's big in the upper Midwest, where Molly Yeh lives. The wild rice in this version adds is chewy, earthy, nutty and makes this casserole extra hearty. This is basically a leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich that you can eat from a bowl!

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Pho

The savory spices and rich broth in this classic Vietnamese dish are as refreshing as they are comforting, which makes it perfect for full bellies and tired minds the day after the big feast.

Instead of just making more dinners from Thanksgiving leftovers, we like to use them to create great breakfasts and lunches, too. This easy recipe takes turkey and incorporates it into a fluffy frittata with fresh veggies and cheese.

A cauliflower pasta bake — what's not to love? This crowd-pleasing 30-minute casserole is hot and comforting with creamy cheeses, tender noodles and, of course, turkey.

Leftover Stuffing Waffles

Here's a fun way to add some excitement to leftover stuffing. Waffle it! It's a savory spin that's delicious for any meal after turkey day. Just be sure to warm the stuffing a bit before mixing it up and putting it in the waffle maker.

Thanksgiving Bacon Melt

Your leftover turkey belongs in Kwame Onwachi's decadent bacon melt, which is totally customizable. Feel free to play around with different breads and cheeses. How about something crustier like sourdough? Don't like Swiss? Use cheddar. Want something with a little heat? Try pepper jack.

This Buffalo turkey dip is perfect because it only requires two cups of shredded turkey, which may be all that's left after the big meal. Throw everything in a slow cooker for just 25 minutes and get back to that family fun time.