The Day After: What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Turky Pot Pie

When I was growing up, the days immediately after Thanksgiving were as fun as the Big Feast itself (which, for the record, is one of my favorite holidays—what’s better than focusing on the things in life that make you grateful?  Focusing on the things in life that make you grateful while eating).

We’d head out camping.  Seems like no one else went camping after Thanksgiving and we usually had the whole backwoods to ourselves.  A warm fire, lots of hot chocolate or apple cider, and a new place to explore—life was perfect.  We’d always bring along the Thanksgiving leftovers, and cook them up in the Dutch ovens.

So, looking for something to do in the days after you’ve filled your belly?  Forget the Black Friday sales events and crowds, I’ve got the perfect cure for a Turkey-induced hangover.  Head outside to work off the extra calories you and yours ingested the day before.  And bring the leftovers!

Here are two Dutch oven recipes that use up common Thanksgiving leftovers (and one that follows the Thanksgiving theme, but starts from scratch).  For instructions on getting started in this whole Dutch Oven Business, we’ve got this post on Dutch Oven’s 101.  We’ve posted other Dutch oven recipes before, if you’re interested, as well as tasty camping foods that don’t require a Dutch oven at all!  Not sure what kitchen items to bring camping?  Here’s how to build a mobile kitchen.

Ha!  Totally by coincidence, these recipes all have “Pie” in the title—that can’t be a bad thing, can it?


What You’ll Need to Serve Six (to Eight).
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups leftover turkey, shredded or chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 can chicken broth (or 1 chicken bouillion cube and 2 cups water)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • Dried thyme, salt, pepper
  • 1-½ cup  vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups  Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 5 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Utensils You’ll Need
  • Stirring spoon, pastry cutter (you don’t have to take this camping, but if you’re making the pumpkin pie below, you’ll want it in your camp kitchen anyway), rolling pin (I just bring a can of cooking spray with me camping, and that doubles as my rolling pin), serving spoon.
Before You Leave to go Camping
  • Dice up the veggies and put them all in a plastic baggie together.
  • Make the pie crust the day before you go out—better yet, just make an extra when you make your Thanksgiving pies, and throw it in the freezer til it’s time to go.  There are many good pie crust recipes, but I like this one because it’s very forgiving, and thus easier on the camp cook.  It isn’t the tastiest I’ve ever had, nor the flakiest… but it is still pretty darn good!
  • Combine the Crisco and the flour using your pastry cutter, working until the mixture resembles sand.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg, and then pour it into the Crisco/flour mixture.  Add the cold water, the vinegar, and the salt, and stir til combined.
  • Separate the dough into four balls, and place in each in a Ziploc bag.  Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball, then place in the freezer until it’s time to go camping!  You’ll only need to take TWO of the balls for the turkey pot pie…
At Camp
  • Heat coals:  you’ll need twice the number of coals as the size of your Dutch oven plus two (if it is a 12 inch, you’ll need 26 coals).
  • Place twelve hot coals underneath the Dutch oven.  (NOTE:  I give instructions here for doing all the cooking over coals, but you could just as easily place your Dutch oven on the propane stove and do everything except the last four steps there).
  • Melt the butter in the oven, and add the baggie full of onions, carrots, and celery.  Place the lid on and cook about ten minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir, with the lid off, until the flour is absorbed the butter and is a nice brown color.
  • Add in the turkey, the chicken broth and the condensed milk.  Bring to a slow boil.  Cook with the lid off until it thickens (should only take a few minutes).  If it gets too thick, add water to thin it out a little.  Add the salt, pepper, and thyme (and any other seasonings your creative heart wants to add!).
  • Take out your two pie dough balls, and use your fingers and the palm of your hand to flatten each inside its Ziploc bag.  If it is sticking to the baggie too much, sprinkle a little flour between the dough and the bag.
  • When the dough is flattened, take it out and place it on the top of your turkey filling.  Press the sides against the Dutch oven, and cut a few vents in the top of the crust.  I suggested two smaller balls here because they’re easier to work with when camping.  Just pinch them together where they meet when you lay them over the stuff in the Dutch oven.
  • Put the lid on the Dutch oven, and place the remaining coals on top (fourteen coals).  Bake until the crust is golden brown.
  • It’s probably a good idea to let this cool a bit before diving in…

Serve with a large spoon.


What You’ll Need to Serve Six (to Eight)
  • 2 slices diced bacon
  • 2 cups leftover turkey, shredded or chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 can green beans, or (any leftovers from Thanksgiving)
  • About 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Pepper, salt
  • About 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup evaporated milk (about 1/3 of a can of Carnation)
  • Leftover mashed potatoes (2-3 cups)
  • Chives
  • 2 Tablespoons butter OR Cheddar cheese slices
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
Utensils You’ll Need
  • Stirring spoon or spatula, knife and cutting board for chopping bacon, can opener for green beans (unless you’re using leftovers),
Before You Leave to go Camping
  • Chop the onion and carrot, place in a plastic baggy together.
At Camp
  • Heat coals:  you’ll need twice the number of coals as the size of your Dutch oven plus two (if it is a 12 inch, you’ll need 26 coals).
  • Place twelve hot coals underneath the Dutch oven.  (NOTE:  I give instructions here for doing all the cooking over coals, but you could just as easily place your Dutch oven on the propane stove and do everything except the last four steps there).
  • Fry the two strips chopped up bacon until cooked, but not crispy.  If the bottom of the pan looks extra fatty once the bacon is done, pour out a little of the fat.  Add the onions and carrot and cook until soft and the onions are translucent.
  • Add the turkey, the green beans (drained), Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and poultry seasoning.
  • Pull three coals from underneath the Dutch oven, and pour in the ½ cup of cream.
  • Use a spoon or spatula to scoop mashed potatoes onto mixture in Dutch oven, covering completely with potatoes.
  • Sprinkle the potatoes with chives and paprika.  Nestle in a few dollops of butter, or place slices of cheddar cheese over the top.
  • Place on lid, and put 15 hot coals on lid.  Cook for ~20 minutes, until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.


What You’ll Need to Serve Six (to Eight)
  • 1- 29 oz. Can of Pumpkin
  • 3 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup Evaporated Milk (about 2/3 of a can of Carnation)
  • 1 package Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1 cup Chopped Pecans
  • 2 sticks of Butter
Utensils You’ll Need
  • Stirring spoons, mixing bowl, can opener, pastry cutter (or a fork)
Before You Leave to go Camping
  • Nothing to do, but envision how good this will taste!
At Camp
  • Heat coals:  you’ll need twice the number of coals as the size of your Dutch oven (if it is a 12 inch, you’ll need 24 coals).
  • Mix together the pumpkin, the spice, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.
  • Pour into your Dutch oven.
  • Cut the butter into the cake mix with your pastry cutter, and add the nuts.
  • Spread over the top of your pumpkin mix in your Dutch oven.
  • Place 9 or so coals under your Dutch Oven, and 15 on top (the rule is, three less coals than the diameter of your Dutch oven underneath, three more than the diameter on top—I’ve calculated here for a 12” oven).
  • Bake for about an hour, til the pumpkin is done.
  • At home, this is best served warm with ice cream, but since you’re camping serve it up with whipped cream (which travels better than ice cream).

What do you do with your thanksgiving leftovers?

3 Comments so far

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  1. Holy crap…that all looks and sounds SOOOOOO good!

  2. Wasn’t it you who had a delicious Brussels Sprout recipe? I can’t find it now!

    • Jillian – I don’t remember a Brussel Sprout recipe… I’ve never cooked Brussel Sprouts before, so if you find a good recipe, I’d love to what it was!


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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