7 Ways to Air Fry Your Thanksgiving Leftovers
If there’s one kitchen appliance you can rely on for the holidays, it’s your air fryer. While these convenient gadgets can save on oven space and lighten your favorite dishes, they also make an amazing alternative to your microwave when heating and cooking Thanksgiving leftovers.
“Air fryers are a quick and effective way to reheat your Thanksgiving leftovers and any dish can simply be reinserted into the air fryer without the need for re-plating,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD.
On the day after Thanksgiving, you can use your air fryer to warm or transform everything from turkey to desserts. Because the air fryer evenly circulates heat, leftovers will get perfectly warm without the risk of being dry or mushy.
“Reheat food in the air fryer at 350 degrees for 2-4 minutes for a fresh, crisp texture,” says Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist, Ginger Hultin MS RDN, owner of ChampagneNutrition and author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep and the How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook.
The following tips and recipes, from stuffed pastas to crispy potatoes, will allow you to revitalize your Thanksgiving leftovers — all thanks to your air fryer.
Reheated turkey is a quick and easy way to add a protein boost to a lunch or snack. “While you won't be able to fit an entire turkey in your air fryer, you can air fry a leg (if your machine is big enough) for a crispy and juicy treat. You can also air fry a breast or smaller cut of meat too,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RD.
You can add the heated turkey to a salad or grain bowl or follow Best’s advice and make a healthy sandwich. She says, “For a lighter post-Thanksgiving meal, you can use your leftover turkey and cranberry sauce as a wrap. Place your turkey and cranberry sauce on a tortilla along with lettuce and your preferred toppings for a healthy yet seasonal lunch.”
Many households will have leftover dressing and stuffing, both of which work as a base for a delicious casserole. “Place a layer of leftover turkey and cream cheese on the bottom of an oven safe casserole dish and top it with your leftover stuffing, then air fry for about 30 minutes, checking periodically, and you'll have a delightful Thanksgiving casserole in half an hour,” says Best.
Stuffed Pasta or Squash
There’s more to leftover sweet potatoes than just roasting or mashing. “Cook 6-8 large shells and stuff with sweet potatoes, then bake the shells until they reach an adequate temperature,” says Best.
You can also make stuffing-filled squash. “If you have some extra baked squash (with the shell) and stuffing, put some stuffing in the squash and air fry it until warm and crispy,” says Manaker.
“Air frying potatoes can be a fantastic way to get crunchy spuds without the added fat,” says Manker. You can do the same with greens like Brussels sprouts, too. A maple syrup drizzle and a bit of olive oil spray will give the veggies a crisp texture and deep flavor.
If you’re hosting a leftovers party, try air frying leftover mac and cheese or mashed potatoes for crisp, crunchy appetizers. “Take leftover mac and cheese or mashed potatoes and form ping pong ball sized portions of the leftovers on the pan, then roll each portion in flour, dip them in beaten eggs, and then roll in breadcrumbs before air frying,” says Manaker. They’ll be thick and tasty, plus fun to eat with your hands!
Using store-bought (or leftover) pie crust, make 6-inch circles and fill half of each circle with classic Thanksgiving leftovers like turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. “Seal the ‘pie’ to form a semicircle and air fry until golden brown,” Manaker says. They’ll taste amazing and be perfectly portioned, too!
Whether served as an appetizer or atop a bed of chickpea pasta, meatballs are always a good idea. “Finely chop turkey and mix with seasonings, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs, then form balls with the mixture and air fry together,” says Manaker. Feel free to dip in cranberry sauce for serving!