Whether you make this Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie for your main Thanksgiving meal as we did or use the remains of your turkey to make leftover turkey shepherd’s pie with stuffing crust the day after Thanksgiving, you’re going to love this versatile recipe.
All the Thanksgiving flavors in bite after delicious bite!
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Thanksgiving with Uncle Ray
One year, we took an early Thanksgiving meal down to Pinehurst to enjoy with Uncle Ray.
My mom made some of the food, and I made some of the food, and we all ate in Uncle Ray’s room at the nursing home.
One of the many wonderful staff people there brought in a card table from the activities room so we wouldn’t have to serve from the bed, and we all enjoyed a rather festive and tasty time.
Norman Rockwell never painted a Thanksgiving scene like that. And none of us balancing a plate on our knees as we perched on the foam mattress or one of the walkers or wheelchairs would’ve believed that image if someone had mentioned it to us just three years ago.
Time does Things to people and to families. It flows through us and around us and changes us.
It smooths out rough edges through erosion. Erosion which seems to happen more quickly the older one gets.
It leaves us breathless. It makes us more accepting. It requires that we cherish every moment. Because time doesn’t stop, even as we, one by one, fall out of its stream.
Our family meals—the Holiday ones anyway—were always rather formal affairs. There was plenty of laughter and conversation and gravy boats dropped in centerpieces, but there was also candlelight and fine china and polished silver and white tablecloths.
There were forgotten bags of giblets left in 26-pound turkeys and stories where everyone broke something one year, but there was also prayer and ritual and nice clothes. And Auntie Ev’s Traditional English Trifle for dessert. And maybe even Angel Slices, if Auntie Ev made them early that year.
There was always room for one more at the table, but nobody ever ate until the hostess was seated.
How to Have a Relaxed Thanksgiving
So, since we had enjoyed A Very Happy Nursing Home Thanksgiving on Saturday, the name of the game for our meal on actual Thanksgiving was “relaxed.”
I didn’t want a bajillion serving bowls. I didn’t want to have to count out serving spoons.
What I wanted was comfort.
And having just made a pot pie a few weeks before, I figured that Something Similar would definitely fit the bill for Thanksgiving.
Enter: Thanksgiving shepherd’s pie!
Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie
Here’s what I like to eat at Thanksgiving: beige stuff. Potatoes. Stuffing. Gravy. Turkey. In that order.
But, to keep dinner from looking too monochromatic and institutional, I also tossed in some sweet peas, diced sweet potatoes and a big old handful of Craisins.
The beige parts played the part of the bottom crust (stuffing), top crust (mashed potatoes), and the rest of the filling (turkey chunks and gravy).
This dish is a wonderful way to use up your leftovers, so don’t feel like you must Strictly Adhere to this recipe.
But do make the stuffing crust. It was Rather Awesome.
In need of a great stuffing recipe? Try these Stuffing Cubes. If you have any leftover, they’d be great to turn into stuffing crust!
How to Make a Stuffing Crust for your Leftover Turkey Extravaganza
I admit I wasn’t sure if I could make a crust out of stuffing, but I was victorious and am here to tell you it can be done, and it’s not hard, although it is a bit of a process.
- You’ll need about 2 1/2 cups or so of stuffing, leftover or freshly made. This is not an exact science, so use what you have. This recipe for Whole Wheat Stuffing with Chard sounds likely, but use your favorite recipe.
- If using cold leftover stuffing, cut it into chunks.
- Put it in the bowl of your food processor with about 1/4 cup of chicken or turkey stock or broth.
- Pulse to break up the chunks into small pieces.
- Press some of the stuffing mixture together with your fingers to see if it holds together.
- If not, add an additional 1/4 cup of broth and pulse again. Mixture will be sticky.
- Spray your deep dish pie pan with pan spray.
- Dump the stuffing mixture into the pie pan, and then spray your hands with pan spray to keep it from getting your fingers super messy.
- Use your sprayed hands to press the stuffing into the bottom and up the sides and out onto the rim of the pie pan. You want about a 1/4″ layer across the bottom and up the sides.
- Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes until the crust is dry and starting to brown.
- Set aside until ready to fill. If the sides have slumped during baking, you can use a spatula to press them back into place. All will be well. And delicious.
And now you know. The next time someone asks you “What can I do with leftover stuffing?” tell them to make a crust for shepherd’s pie!
NOTE: If for some reason you don’t have any stock or broth, you can use a beaten egg mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water. The egg will give your crust a bit more structure once it bakes.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie with Thanksgiving Leftovers
Once you have your crust, it really is as simple as either layering in your leftovers or gently mixing them together before topping with mashed potatoes and baking.
What can you fill your stuffing crust with? Well, what do you have leftover? You can mix and match, use my recipe exactly, or go an entirely different direction.
Here are some ideas with links to recipes if you need some Thanksgiving side dish ideas:
Roasted Green Cauliflower
Roasted cauliflower is easy to make, and roasting intensifies the flavor.
Braised Baby Artichokes and Mushrooms with Garlic and Lemon
I love the flavors in this dish. The brightness of the lemon will cut through some of the richness of the gravy in your shepherd's pie.
World's Best Cranberry Sauce
Because everyone needs a solid cranberry sauce recipe, whether you put it in your magical leftovers pie or not.
Harvest Maple Carrots and Apples Recipe
I love the option for a bit of sweetness in the pie. Apples and onions cooked together with some maple. Lovely.
Butternut Squash with Maple
For those of you who don't want to go with sweet potatoes, butternut squash is a delicious alternative.
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Of course you can make it from All The Cans, but it's not hard to make from scratch, and it is such a Thanksgiving classic.
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
No marshmallows here, because they would not be tasty at all in the shepherd's pie, but a savory version of sweet potato casserole. Yes please.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
And an even simpler recipe for roasted sweet potatoes. As with any vegetable, roasting intensifies the flavor and brings out the sweetness.
A super old-school comfort side dish that would be right at home in Thanksgiving shepherd's pie.
TIP: To keep from having too many different flavors going on at one time, I suggest limiting the different filling ingredients to no more than turkey meat and gravy plus maybe 3-4 other types of leftovers.
Too many competing flavors may not work in a single bite.
What About Dessert?
If you are a bit less traditional, or you’re looking for some new Thanksgiving traditions, consider my roasted corn cheesecake served with cranberry sauce, caramel pumpkin mousse or maple pumpkin pudding if you’re looking for individual desserts, or spiced apple cake if you want a “slicing dessert.”
One of my favorite desserts I’ve ever made is pumpkin caramel latte flan. Yowza, that stuff is delicious!
Anyway, whatever you put in your turkey shepherd’s pie and whatever you have for dessert, make it a memorable Thanksgiving.
Make Leftover Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Stuffing Crust
NOTE: I give directions for making a basic, thick gravy from scratch in the recipe, but if you have leftover gravy, by all means use that. And if you use jarred gravy, there is no shame in that. Use what you have!
If you love the look and sound of this Thanksgiving leftovers recipe, please rate it and/or leave a comment below. I love hearing from you. And if you make this, please share a photo. Tag me on Instagram at @onlinepastrychef and use hashtag #pcorecipe
For the Crust
- About 2 1/2-3 cups of stuffing/dressing made from the recipe of your choice, (leftover is just fine)
- About 1/2 cup turkey or chicken broth/stock
For the Potatoes
- 2 each medium Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes, (you can use all of one or the other, I'm just letting you know what I did).
- salt and pepper, , to taste
- about 2 ounces butter
- about 1 cup warmed milk, (maybe a bit more. I just put it in a pan over medium heat until it was hot but not scalding)
For the Filling
- 3 Tablespoons fat, (you can use oil, butter, coconut oil, chicken fat--whatever you like here)
- 1 medium onion, , finely diced
- 1 large rib celery, , finely diced
- 1 large carrot, , finely diced
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- salt and pepper, , to taste
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1-1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
- sweet potatoes in 1/2" dice., (I used about 1/2 cup or so, I guess)
- 2-3 cups diced chicken or turkey, (leftover is fine. If you're making "new," the meat doesn't have to be cooked all the way through since it'll bake up in the pie)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
For the Crust
- If you're using cold, leftover stuffing, cut it into kind of manageable 1" chunks.
- Put in the bowl of a food processor.
- Add 1/4 cup of stock and pulse until it still has some texture but isn't too chunky.
- Test to see if it is still crumbly. If it is, add the other 1/4 cup of stock and pulse again.This stuff will be sticky, so look out.
- Spray a deep-dish pie pan lightly with pan spray.
- Dump the stuffing into the pan and roughly press it out with the back of a spatula. Lightly spray this with pan spray so you can work with it, then press the stuffing in the pan and up the sides trying to make it look as nice as possible. It should be about 1/4" thick.
- Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes, until the crust is dry on top and has taken on some color. If any of it has slumped, you may have to futz around with it a bit once it comes out of the oven. Just press it back in place with a spatula or something. It will be fine. Set aside.
For the Mashed Potatoes
- Peel and cut the potatoes into 1" dice (more or less) and place them in a pan of cold water.
- Add a healthy sprinkle of salt and several grinds of black pepper to the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let the potatoes simmer about 12 minutes until tender. Check by stabbing them with a knife. They should offer no resistance. Resistance is futile.
- Drain off all the water, put the lid on the pan and let the potatoes dry over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
- Mash the potatoes with your favorite masher.
- Add a bit of salt and pepper and the butter and mash well to combine.
- Taste for seasoning and add the milk, a bit at a time, until you like the consistency. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cover and set aside to stay warm.
For the Filling
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat until hot.
- Add the fat. When it is melted and shimmering, add the onions, carrots and celery (mirepoix) to the pan along with a heavy pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and the poultry seasoning.
- Stir and saute for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are softened and somewhat translucent.
- Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes or so. The mixture will seem very dry. If you want to add a bit more fat, you can. It's your call.
- Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. The mixture will be quite thick. You can add a bit more stock if you want, if you want your final pie to have a bit more gravy in it. Personally, I think thicker is better.
- Add in the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes, just to give them a head start since they're kinda hard.
- Stir in the meat, peas and cranberries and stir everyone around for a minute.
To Assemble and Bake
- Spread the filling evenly in your stuffing crust.
- Top with the mashed potatoes, making it swirly if you want.
- Tent the pie with foil and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more at 375F.
- Take the pie out of the oven, tent with some foil, and let set up about 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.
I used a blender to make the crust. Use the food processor. It'll be much easier. Trust me.
My stuffing, if you're interested, contained cubed stale Italian bread, onion/celery/carrot (cut up itty bitty in the food processor and sauteed in a boatload of butter), mild pork sausage, dried cranberries, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, stock and an egg.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6
Amount Per ServingCalories 242 Saturated Fat 2g Cholesterol 37mg Sodium 143mg Carbohydrates 28g Fiber 4g Sugar 10g Protein 16g
If you do decide to make turkey shepherd’s pie, either with your leftovers or for a low-key Thanksgiving main meal, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments!
How have your holiday traditions changed over the years?
Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.