As ambitious as we might all convince ourselves we are on Thanksgiving (especially when we smell stuffing and pumpkin pie), we're bound to leave leftovers. Leftovers are just an inevitable byproduct of the holidays — one that, unlike carpets coated in pine needles and wasted gift wrapping — is actually welcome. Very welcome.
After all, 96 percent of Americans gather with their families for a Thanksgiving meal, cooking, on average for seven hours, according to Nationwide research. And, despite how long we spend cooking 46 million turkeys that day, we eat our meals in an average of just 16 minutes. And we fill up fast, too. Only 57 percent of us have room for pumpkin pie — and that's saying a lot.
Perhaps that's why statistics show that 79 percent of Americans actually value their Thanksgiving leftovers more than their Thanksgiving meal itself. But how do you make Thanksgiving leftovers, and how long is it safe to eat Thanksgiving leftovers?
We've rounded up 20 of the most scrumptiously satiating Thanksgiving leftover recipes that'll last you for days, if not weeks, long after you've put away your pumpkins and your ornaments. Forget meal prepping — you've got lunch that'll have your co-workers growing envious.
Warning: You might feel mounting peer pressure to share. We don't blame you if you choose to hide out in the quietest conference room far from other forks poking at your plate, but below are enough Thanksgiving meal recipes to go around.
1. Fried Mashed Potato Balls
It's difficult to not eat mashed potatoes when they're on your plate. But when there are a million other foods in front of you, there's not always enough room in your stomach. The result: leftover mashed potatoes. Make some fried mashed potato balls to give you your fill when you've finally digested the rest of it all days later. Get the recipe here.
2. Thanksgiving Ring
If you have a ton of leftovers sitting in Tupperware in your fridge, consider putting it all together in a crescent roll for a Thanksgiving Ring. You'll practically experience the whole meal all over again. Get the recipe here.
3. Turkey Shepherd's Pie
Thanksgiving isn't complete without Shepherd's pie. Think: leftover turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy mixed together in a pie crust. Get the recipe here.
4. Croque Madame
Impress those around you with this creative leftover idea. Croque Madame might not be the most American thing ever (it's French, after all), but it is one of the most delicious things ever. Get the recipe here.
5. Cranberry Meatballs
You can't let the cranberry sauce go to waste — it's just too good. So why not make a sauce out of it instead, and use it to glaze some meatballs? Or, really, anything you opt to cook up in the days and weeks following Thanksgiving. Get the recipe here.
6. Turkey Cheese Dip
There's a lot you can do with turkey leftovers — like pair the turkey with vegetables for another meal down the line. Or, however, you can get creative and make some Turkey cheese dip instead. What sounds more delicious? Get the recipe here.
7. Turkey Pizza
Who doesn't love pizza? Everyone loves pizza — and you can get innovative with your toppings to make your pizza the best pizza. So why not turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into pizza toppings? Get the recipe here.
8. Cranberry Asiago Turkey Sandwiches
This sandwich is the queen of all sandwiches — slap your Thanksgiving leftovers onto some pretzel slider buns and you've got a lunch of champions. Get the recipe here.
9. Thanksgiving Egg Rolls
Thanksgiving might not summon cravings for egg rolls, but once you try out this leftover masterpiece, you'll be wondering why they weren't on the Thanksgiving table in the first place. Get the recipe here.
10. Slow Cooker Turkey Pumpkin Chili
As the weather gets warmer, chili gets more appealing. Try your hand at some turkey pumpkin chili with your leftovers from Thanksgiving. Get the recipe here.
11. Turkey, Cranberry and Almond Salad Sandwich
You've already got the turkey and the cranberry; get yourself some almonds and you've got yourself a sandwich. Get the recipe here.
12. Thanksgiving Nachos
Thanksgiving nachos — need we say more? Get the recipe here.
13. Turkey Waldorf Salad
If you're craving a wweet, tart, crunchy and creamy salad, this Turkey Waldorf Salad will hit the spot with its mix of apples, celery and toasted pecans. Get the recipe here.
14. Vegetable Samosas
Craving Indian food but waiting to get through all of your leftovers so they don't go to waste first? Why not make your own Indian food: Thanksgiving edition. Think: mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce mixed in with turmeric, ginger and curry powder. Get the recipe here.
15. Cranberry Sauce and Brie Puff Pastry Tart
Is there anything better than cranberry sauce and brie stuffed in a pastry? We didn't think so either. Get the recipe here.
16. Sweet-Potato Spoon Bread with Caramel-Pecan Topping
Sweet potatoes scream Thanksgiving — as does spoon bread. Combine the two and top it off with caramel pecans, and you've got yourself a delicious dessert. Get the recipe here.
17. Turkey Dumpling Stew
This dumpling soup topped with herbs like thyme and parsley will warm your belly this winter. Get the recipe here.
18. Grilled Turkey, Brie and Apple Butter Sandwich
There's nothing like brie melted on turkey with apples and argula. This mouthwatering sandwich is sure to sate your appetite. Get the recipe here.
19. Turkey Bolognese
Turkey Bolognese is a spin on traditional bolognese that's just not quite as good around Thanksgiving time. Get the recipe here.
20. Harvest Pumpkin Soup
There's never enough pumpkin soup to go around. Get the recipe here.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,