10 Ways To Upgrade Your Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Sandwich

Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year or spending the day at the home of a friend or family member, chances are you're going to have some leftover turkey to enjoy after the holiday. While you could reheat the leftover turkey to eat alongside the leftover Thanksgiving casserole, stuffing, and other dishes, making a turkey sandwich remains one of the most popular uses for the meat.


If you're thinking that a few slices of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread sounds a bit boring — especially if you have a lot of leftovers to use up — don't fret. There are several ways to take that plain sandwich up a notch or two. This year, upgrade your leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich by adding some exciting toppings, swapping the plain ol' bread for something more gourmet, mixing in a favorite sauce, or trying one of the other scrumptious suggestions shared below.

1. Grill it

A turkey sandwich is traditionally served cold. But, it doesn't have to be. A simple way to elevate an otherwise plain sandwich is to grill it. Grilling the sandwich will leave you with a hot and satisfying meal. The bread will be crisp and crunchy, and the turkey will be warm and toasty. Definitely more appealing than cold turkey between untoasted bread.


If you don't have a grill (or find that it is too cold to stand outside to heat just one sandwich), you can use a grill pan, electric griddle, or even sauté pan to get similar results. The key to making the bread crispy will be to add some butter to the pan — just as you would when making grilled cheese. Without the butter, the bread will end up overly dry, and it won't taste as good. If you want to be a bit healthier, try using ghee, or clarified butter, instead.

2. Add cranberry sauce

There's a reason cranberry sauce is a popular side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Its sweeter flavor pairs so beautifully with turkey. Plus, because turkey is often a bit drier than other meats, adding cranberry sauce to each bite helps to compensate for this by providing extra moisture. If you know first-hand how good turkey and cranberry sauce can be together, why limit yourself?


Try adding some cranberry sauce to your turkey sandwich to enjoy this flavorful combination once again. Each bite will be moist and delicious. You could even take things one step further and turn the cranberry sauce into a dip for the sandwich. Heat the sauce over medium heat on the stovetop. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for a few minutes. The cranberry sauce will now be a bit runnier, so you can pour it into a shallow bowl and dip your sandwich right into it. Since the cranberry sauce will be warm with this approach, you may find that it tastes even better with a hot (or grilled) turkey sandwich.

3. Make it a full Thanksgiving Day feast

Why stop at just cranberry sauce? Consider adding all of your favorite leftovers to make a monster of a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. Pile on the stuffing. Spread some cranberry sauce. Add some of the delicious French onion mashed potatoes that you worked so hard to perfect. And, don't forget to add a generous heap of gravy over the entire thing. If you have leftover crescent rolls or biscuits from dinner, even better. You could use these instead of bread to pull the sandwich together.


This sandwich is not for the faint of heart. It combines a lot of different flavors, but if you enjoyed all of these items on your plate on Thanksgiving, why not put them together to create a crave-wroth sandwich. Between the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce, prepare yourself for this to be a messy sandwich. It is definitely one that you'll want to eat using a knife and fork.

4. Choose a more gourmet bread

Beyond what you put inside a sandwich, there is one key component that often gets overlooked: the bread. Even if you add the most gourmet ingredients to the sandwich, it can really only be as good as the bread that is used to make it. To truly enjoy your leftover turkey sandwich, consider putting aside the pre-sliced loaf of bread and opting for something a bit more gourmet with a better flavor and texture.


If you're feeling really adventurous, you could try baking a loaf of fresh bread. If that isn't an option, visit a local bakery to grab a hearty loaf or two. And, while there's nothing wrong with using classic white or Italian bread, consider experimenting with some other options that will really give the sandwich a unique flavor. Some options you might want to try include sourdough, rye, pumpernickel, or even focaccia.

5. Make some turkey salad

If you enjoy a chicken salad sandwich, then you might want to try making a turkey salad sandwich. This can be a particularly good option if you have a lot of leftover turkey and are looking for more creative ways to use it so you can avoid eating the same sandwich multiple days in a row. Turkey salad will provide a very different taste and texture than sliced turkey, which may be just what your tongue and taste buds are looking for after multiple days of using up Thanksgiving leftovers.


Fortunately, making turkey salad is easy — and you can customize how much you want to make depending on the number of sandwiches you want to create. Just start by chopping up the turkey (customize the size based on how smooth or chunky you want the salad to be). Then, mix in some mayonnaise and a touch of mustard. If desired, you can add some celery or chopped onions for some crunch. Add some salt and pepper to taste, and your turkey salad is ready. Then, just stuff it between two thick slices of artisan bread with some crisp lettuce, or you can even enjoy it straight from the bowl.

6. Add bacon or other meats

A turkey sandwich can be hearty by itself. However, sometimes the turkey alone isn't going to be enough to leave you feeling satisfied after the meal. If you want to make a more satisfying and filling sandwich, piling it high with multiple meats can really do the trick. Plus, when you add other types of meat, you can enjoy multiple flavors and textures in each bite.


There are so many options to choose from, so it really boils down to your preferences. You might want to add some sliced brisket, shredded pork, or deli ham. Planning ahead and stopping by the deli or grocery store before Thanksgiving can ensure that you're prepared with all the fixings you'll need. Some crispy bacon is almost always a welcome addition to a sandwich, too. So, be sure to pick some of that up during your pre-Thanksgiving shopping trip.

7. Slice some avocado to top the turkey

Slicing some avocado and placing it on top of the turkey is a simple addition that can have pretty dramatic results. Avocado is smooth and creamy. So, much like cranberry sauce, it can help revitalize turkey breast that is a little too dry. The combination of the different textures also offers some excitement for your mouth as they mix together with each bit.


Beyond the texture the avocado adds to the sandwich, it will also enhance the overall flavor profile. Avocado has a slightly sweet, mildly nutty, and moderately earthy flavor. These flavors just pair so beautifully with the turkey. The flavor avocado delivers will also be a welcome addition to the turkey salad sandwich idea mentioned above. Or, you could even use mashed avocado in place of the mayonnaise and simply mix the chopped turkey directly with it. Either way you slice it (or mash it) avocado can really upgrade your turkey sandwich.

8. Spice things up a bit

Maybe the reason you feel that your turkey sandwich is boring is because, well, it is. After a few days of eating the same leftover turkey, your mouth may be craving something more exciting. If you are a fan of hot and spicy foods, then why are you eating a bland turkey sandwich? Add some heat and give your taste buds what they're really looking for.


One way you can up the heat is by adding some sliced jalapeño peppers or chili peppers on top of the turkey. Another idea is to make a spicy mayonnaise by mixing in some chili powder, hot sauce, taco seasoning, Cajun seasoning, or any of your favorite spicy seasonings. Add a thicker layer of the mayo to really feel the heat with each bite. You might also want to try spreading some pepper jam (or even peppered cranberry sauce) over the bread if you want to enjoy both sweet and spicy notes with each taste.

9. Make a turkey quesadilla instead

There's no rule saying that you have to make a conventional turkey sandwich. Why not get rid of the bread altogether and swap in a tortilla instead? You can use it to make a turkey quesadilla with your Thanksgiving leftovers and keep yourself from getting bored with the same old, same old. A quesadilla opens the door to new flavors. Beyond the obvious addition of loads of ooey, gooey cheese, you can also enjoy the finished product with some guacamole, salsa, or sour cream. You can even mix in some black beans, peppers, or onions with the turkey and the cheese to elevate this turkey-dilla even further.


To prepare your turkey and cheese quesadilla, you'll want to start by cubing or chopping the turkey. Then, warm up a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the tortilla on the skillet to warm both sides for a few seconds. Leave the tortilla flat in the pan and cover half of it with the cheese, turkey, and any other desired fillings. Fold the other half of the tortilla over and let it cook for a few minutes before carefully flipping it to the other side. Remove from the pan once everything is hot and the cheese is melted. Cut the tortilla into two or three pieces and serve immediately to enjoy it warm.

10. Make it a breakfast sandwich

Skip the scrambled eggs for breakfast and make a turkey breakfast sandwich instead. Think about your favorite bacon, egg, and cheese, or sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, and substitute turkey for the bacon or sausage. Or, if you'd prefer, you can add the turkey along with one of these other breakfast meats which will create new and interesting flavors you don't typically see paired with turkey. Additionally, with an egg on the sandwich, the turkey won't taste as dry, which is always good.


If you want to try making a turkey breakfast sandwich, you'll want to start by heating the turkey up. You don't want to mix cold turkey with a hot-fried egg. It just isn't going to taste good. Heat the pan you plan to use to cook the egg. Place the slices of turkey in the pan for a few minutes on each side before cooking the egg to get them nice and warm. Then, fry your egg and toast the bread. After the egg is cooked, melt a slice of cheese over it before placing it on top of the turkey, then pop it all on the bread or English muffin.