Serious Sandwiches: The Ideal Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich Recipe

Serious Sandwiches: The Ideal Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich Recipe

For sandwich lovers all around the country, Friday is pretty much our Super Bowl. Starting late on Thursday night and continuing until the Thanksgiving meal is exhausted, amateur sandwich chefs will engage in a ritual that is as American as Thanksgiving itself—the transformation of Thanksgiving leftovers into a very serious sandwich. My concoction is pretty standard (roll, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce), so I decided to turn to Serious Eats' contributors for some day-after-Thanksgiving, sandwich-making inspiration.

The answers run the gamut and should provide you with more than enough ideas for your pile of leftovers. Not surprisingly, every sandwich contained turkey, and all but two called for cranberry sauce of some kind. Cheese showed up on three sandwiches (brie being the most popular), and mayo is the clear condiment of choice, appearing four times (five if you count aioli), beating out mustard (one sandwich) and butter (two sandwiches). And bacon shows its almighty power in appearing twice, despite the fact that it requires you to cook more food, thereby totally defeating the purpose of the day after Thanksgiving, "leftovers" sandwich (but undoubtedly making it more delicious).

A list of Serious Thanksgiving Sandwiches, courtesy of the Serious Eats Team, after the jump.

MATTHEW AMSTER-BURTON, Roots & Grubs I don't make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm imagining myself faced with the leftovers from one and challenged to make a sandwich. I would do day-after-Thanksgiving banh mi. Start with a baguette, turkey, nuoc cham, fresh cilantro, and sliced jalapeño. I am assuming there's a raw carrot in the fridge that never got turned into glazed carrots, so I will shred that and make a quick, fresh Vietnamese-style pickle. And, let's see, some leftover brussels sprouts would be great on there, especially if they have a lot of lemon juice. This is sounding pretty good!

LUCY BAKER, Serious Eats roving reporter Brie and cranberry sauce on toasted leftover dinner rolls!

ALAINA BROWNE, Serious Eats general manager My ideal Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is pretty simple. Sandwich making and eating must take place at my parents' house, the morning after. Sandwich must consist of two slices of bread, any kind will do; leftover white turkey meat; cranberry sauce; a little bit of mayo, salt, and pepper. Must be eaten standing over kitchen counter and chased with a small slice of pumpkin pie.

JOE CAMPANALE, Debonair Magazine In the form of a recipe, it is:

Joe Campanale's Ideal Leftover Thanksgiving Sandwich


Balthazar brioche, 2 slices, toasted Roast turkey, dark meat, lots of skin Frisée Sweet German mustard, a schmear A glass of Riesling, to wash it down

AMANDA CLARKE, In Design and In Gear contributor
This might be a stretch for a sandwich, in that stuffing stands in for the bread (pictured, above and right), but it's delicious. Form some leftover bread-based stuffing into two thin patties (you may need to moisten the stuffing a bit with stock or water to get it to good packing consistency). Layer fillings of your choice between the patties -maybe some shavings of leftover turkey, a few slices of cooked bacon, a slice or two of sharp cheddar, and a little hint of cranberry or barbecue sauce. Melt a good bit of butter in a skillet until it foams. Cook the stuffing sandwich on both sides, until it gets a nice brown crust on the outside and is warmed through (it's important to make sure the stuffing patties are fairly thin, otherwise, the sandwich will never warm through before it starts to stick and burn). Then, eat it!

JAMIE FORREST, I'll describe it in layers, from the bottom up: bread, mayo, turkey, stuffing, gravy-soaked bread, turkey, cranberry sauce, bread.

DORIE GREENSPAN, My favorite day-after sandwich is a simple one: sliced turkey, preferably dark meat, and some of my homemade cranberry sauce (which is thick and chunky and has raisins and apples). It's nice on crusty New York rye bread with a few leaves of romaine lettuce and a swish of either Russian dressing or sharp mustard. Not so interesting, I know--but it's what I'm going to be having on Friday.

NICK KINDELSPERGER, The Paupered Chef The perfect leftover sandwich can have many a thing plopped upon it. That's what makes it such a wonderful experience. I love a little cranberry sauce smeared on the bread, or even extra dressing. But the one ingredient that sends a leftover sandwich into a different realm of pleasure is bacon. It would seem like the last thing needed on that day is to cook something even more fattening, but glorious bacon makes those turkey sandwiches something I crave even more than the main event. Be sure to add plenty of black pepper and mayo and everything is right with the world.

ADAM KUBAN, Serious Eats managing editor I don't have an ideal "leftover" Thanksgiving sandwich because I eat my "leftover" sandwich preemptively during the Thanksgiving meal itself. As long as there are dinner rolls or bread of some sort, I'm in business and can make my starch-laden Thanksgiving Slider. Start with one dinner roll (a staple of my family's Thanksgiving meal), smear butter on both halves, and then layer with small amounts of everything on the plate: mashed potatoes; corn kernels, peas, or whatever vegetable is handy; stuffing; turkey; gravy. Add some more mashers to hold everything down, and then, for some tartness, spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on the roll top before closing the sandwich. Now you're good to go. Layer order is important here. Mashed potatoes must come first to "glue" all these elements together, particularly the veggies, which should come next. Stuffing tends to stay put, especially if you use a nice (relatively) big turkey slice to hold it down. At this point, a second layer of mashed potatoes does little as mortar, but it's necessary for taste. The cranberry sauce is optional; I usually do one sandwich with and one without. Yes, I make at least two of these—as with all sliders, you can't eat just one. It's best to wait till you're on your second helping of food to do this, since you should probably eat at least one plateful of food as a civilized human being before becoming a Thanksgiving glutton. It's also less embarrassing if you assemble these around family or people you know well. They already know you at your worst and won't hold it against you. I'd advise against making in-meal sandwiches around folks you don't know that well.

ED LEVINE, Serious Eats founder I'm afraid my leftover turkey sandwich is pretty standard. I just make a hot turkey sandwich on white bread, although if I'm feeling ambitious I use the pullman loaf from the Sullivan Street Bakery. The gravy is key. Sometimes I dip every other bite into a cranberry-orange relish. The stuffing never comes near my sandwich. I don't like the bread-on-bread thing.

WAN YAN LING, Grocery Ninja Here's what I do with leftovers, though it's not exactly a traditional sandwich: I grab a pack of Brahim's Kuah Kari Daging, which is the meat curry sauce us international students from Southeast Asia swear by. It's packed with spices and already has coconut milk, so all you do is bring it to a simmer and throw in the leftover turkey and potatoes. Scoop it all up with warm, toasty bread ... mmm!

REE aka THE PIONEER WOMAN, The Pioneer Woman Cooks I love to do a grilled sandwich or panini using shredded or sliced turkey, mozzarella cheese, sliced roma tomatoes, basil leaves (if I have it), a tiny splash of olive oil/balsamic, then grill it on crusty French bread that's been spread generously with butter. If I don't have basil, I'll spread jarred pesto sauce (from the fridge) on the inside of each slice of bread. Of course, there's nothing wrong with leftover turkey and giblet gravy smashed between two slices of white bread. Talk about the ultimate comfort food. And artery clogger. I also like to just stand with the refrigerator door open, reach in, grab chunks of turkey, and pop them in my mouth. If I don't close the refrigerator door while I'm eating, the calories don't count. Magic!

ADAM ROBERTS, The Amateur Gourmet Ciabatta bread sliced in half (duh) with leftover turkey (double duh), aioli (oh), cranberry sauce (eh), mustard (hm), and maybe, just for the hell of it, some stuffing—just to double the carbs (oy).

JENN SMITH, Old Stove Aside from the basics (turkey, homemade cranberry relish, stuffing), for me the critical elements in the next-day (or in actuality, midnight-day-of) Thanksgiving sandwich are:

  • Deli-style seede rye bread. Sturdy, but streamlined for minimal stomach real estate lost to bread. And flavorful
  • Hellman's mayonaisse. Yep. I'm a professional cook, but there are some things for which only The Best will do
  • Tons of salt: The combo of sweet mayo, tart cranberries, and salt is something I crave the other 363 days in which I don't eat this sandwich
  • Iceberg lettuce: Unconventional, yes, but the crispness adds something perfect

Unheated, no gravy, dark meat, closed-face for sure. Preferred beverage is a seltzer.

EMILY STONE Chocolate in Context I vote for homemade cacao nib mayonnaise.

ERIN ZIMMER, Serious Eats D.C. bureau chief One I had at a coffee shop recently was a dream come true. A "Thanksgiving panini" on sourdough with melted brie, chunky cranberry sauce, and oven-roasted turkey. It didn't have stuffing, but really could/should have. I'd want the sausage and chestnut one we posted about here.

You've got ours. Now let's hear yours...