5 ways to totally transform your big feast leftovers

From curry enchiladas to hot and sour turkey soup, you won’t even recognize your holiday or party food!

From curry enchiladas to hot and sour turkey soup, you won’t even recognize your holiday or party food!

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

When you just can't stomach another serving of last night's holiday feast, you know it's time to make your leftovers into something brand new. Simple tricks, techniques and flavourings breathe new life into day-old (or two-day- or three-day-old) holiday food, be that leftover turkey, fried plantains, potatoes, gravy, raita, curry, tofu or cranberry sauce. These are leftovers you'll actually be excited to re-eat!

Leftover stew, chili and curry? Bring out the casserole dish 

You've already done the hard work building layers of flavour into that beef stew, lentil chili and goat curry, making a transformation into something almost brand new simple. For this task, turn to the humble casserole dish. 

Turn beef stew into shepherd's pie by layering it with a mashed potato topper (either leftover or freshly-made), then bake and enjoy. 

If you find yourself with a too-big pot of chili (any kind, be that tempeh, lentil, beef or turkey), spread the leftovers into a casserole dish and top with a cornbread batter, bake until the cornbread is cooked through and the chili is bubbling, and serve. 

Curry leftovers taste even better than on day one, and of course, is delicious wrapped in roti. Consider making enchiladas of sorts by wrapping leftover, chilled curry (the thicker, the better) in rotis, spreading a layer of the curry sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish and line up the stuffed roti, spoon over more curry sauce and then bake until bubbling. 

Leftover meat, poultry, fish and tofu? Stir up some soup 

If leftover protein is piling up faster than you can eat it, or you just can't stand to look at a large hunk of meat on your plate again, consider adding your protein of choice as a seasoning to vibrant, flavour-forward soups. 

Turn slices of leftover roast beef or pork into a fragrant pho-inspired soup by infusing broth with spices (especially a star anise pod if you have it), green onions and soy sauce, and adding it to bowls along with rehydrated rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, basil and your leftover meat. Spice things up with a little Sriracha or red chilies when serving. 

Leftover turkey, chicken, duck, shrimp and tofu are blank canvases for bold flavours, making them ideal additions to hot and sour soup. Infuse broth with rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, chili-garlic sauce and mushrooms, then add bite-sized pieces of your leftover protein. Heat until everything is warmed through, and eat. 

Leftover cranberry sauce, gravy and raita? Build in some spice 

Condiments make an appearance at so many holiday gatherings, but we're often left with too much of one sauce or another. Take that cranberry sauce, gravy and raita, salsa, etc., to the next level with added spices.

Cranberry sauce is tart, tangy and asking for a kick. Stir in hot sauce sauce or chopped pickled jalapenos and add it to a quesadilla along with any meltable cheese left from your cheese board (cheddar, brie, mozzarella). Griddle until crispy and serve wedges with sour cream and more hot-cranberry sauce. 

Make gravy the main event and use it as a quick base for swedish meatballs. Add a pinch of nutmeg and allspice when heating the gravy and meatballs together, and serve over egg noodles or leftover mashed potatoes. 

Raita or any other yogurt-based condiment, like tzatziki, can be used to make yogurt rice. Spice up the raita with a pinch of turmeric and curry powder, and fold into cooked, warm basmati rice along with a handful of currants, sliced almonds and cilantro. 

Leftover vegetables? Think rich and creamy 

Whether you've roasted, steamed, fried or sautéed your holiday vegetables, you're likely to have a few leftovers that need some attention to bring them back to life. And that's easy to do when they're paired with something creamy. 

Make roasted sweet potatoes or squash into a creamy pureed soup with coconut milk, broth, lime juice and Thai red curry paste. 

Toss steamed greens (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chard) with heavy cream, tip into a baking dish and top with buttered bread crumbs and cheese, and then bake for a fantastically decadent way to eat your vegetables. 

Give fried vegetables like eggplant, plantain and zucchini the parm treatment. Simply layer slices of fried vegetables with tomato sauce, grated mozzarella and Parmesan, bake and enjoy. 

With sautéed vegetables, you're halfway to sesame noodles. Toss sautéed vegetables and cooked noodles (soba, spaghetti, ramen) with a creamy sesame tahini sauce and devour warm or cold. 

Leftover potatoes? Get them crispy in your skillet

Potatoes feature in dishes across the world, and many of us have them on our holiday tables – often too many! From white potatoes to sweet potatoes and everything in between, get inspired to eat them up with crisping assistance from your trusty frying pan. 

Leftover, cold mashed potatoes make fancy fish cakes, a gourmet alternative to the standard English muffin eggs benedict base. Mix leftover mashed potatoes with a tin of wild salmon, chopped dill, lemon zest and juice and capers, and fry in a bit of oil to make crispy patties in a non-stick skillet. Top with leftover ham, smoked salmon or steamed spinach, a poached egg and hollandaise, and you've got yourself an elegant holiday brunch. 

Greek lemon potatoes are so moreish, you likely don't have leftovers. But in the rare case you do, chop them into cubes revamp into a skillet hash with leftover roasted lamb, peas and red pepper. Serve this up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and wedges of lemon. 

Candied yams or sweet potatoes can be magicked into morning pancakes. Just mash them well and stir into plain pancake batter. Fry pancakes in a buttered non-stick or cast-iron skillet and serve with requisite maple syrup. 

Allison Day is the cookbook author of Modern Lunch. Find her online at and Yummy Beet, and on Instagram @allisondaycooks


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