Smoky White Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Leeks {And a Round-Up of Recipes Using Thanksgiving Leftovers}

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


In just a few days we’ll be enjoying my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner – leftovers! Lately I’ve been going crazy making a sandwich with deli turkey, and I can’t wait to try it with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Here’s what goes into that glorious sandwich…

Thin-sliced turkey, peppery arugala, sliced red onion, sweet/tart cranberry chutney, sharp white cheddar, and the secret ingredient – a little sprinkle of cinnamon. All sandwiched between two slabs of the best quality bread you can find. I prefer mine pressed on a hot griddle so the cheese melts and the arugala wilts a bit, but it’s also pretty fabulous cold if you don’t have time to press it. It’s been my lunch-on-the-go every day for the past week or so, and if I can find time, I’ll snap a shot to share next time I make it. It is so good.

So, anyway, back to Thanksgiving leftovers.

I used hickory smoked turkey legs in this mac and cheese, but leftover turkey from Thanksgiving would also work (you’ll need about 4 cups of diced meat), and if you want to keep the smoky flavor, crisp up some diced turkey bacon. It’s cheesy and comforting with a great blend of savory flavors. It also reheats like a dream (cover with foil and heat until warm in a 350F oven), which makes it perfect for busy weekends – like this coming weekend! We’re going to be doing some holiday baking, and we’re also decorating my parents’ house this weekend. If you’re heading out to brave the Black Friday sales, stay safe!

After the big feast, you might be looking for ideas on how to use your Thanksgiving leftovers…

Here is some inspiration for using leftover turkey:

Turkey Stock and Turkey Soba Noodle Soup from Jeanette’s Healthy Living

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup from Recipe Girl

Turkey Tetrazzini from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Leftover Turkey Sushi and Crostini from Bev Cooks

Pilgrim Sandwiches from Pass the Sushi

Turkey Pot Pie from A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis

Thanksgiving Stromboli from Sweetnicks

Curry Turkey Salad from Simply Recipes

Brown Rice Salad with Leftover Turkey, Red Cabbage, and Pecans from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Artichoke,Turkey, and Kalamatta Risotto from Sarah’s Cucina Bella


And here are a few recipes using other leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner:

Cranberry Sauce Crumb Bars from Girlichef {cranberry sauce}

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup from Lick My Spoon {butternut squash}

Corn and Green Bean Salad from The Sweet Beet {green beans}

Herb Stuffing Muffins from Cooking on the Side {stuffing}

Sweet Potato Crisp from Family Fresh Cooking {sweet potatoes}

Goat Cheese Cranberry Kisses from Liv Life {cranberry sauce}

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins from Healthy Green Kitchen {pumpkin}

Garlicky Mashed Potato Cakes from An Edible Mosaic {mashed potatoes}

Smoky White Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Leeks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
  • 1 lb pasta, any small shape you like (I used gemeli this time)
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium-large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 hickory smoked turkey legs, skin removed, meat cut off the bone, and cubed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 1¼ lbs sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional; more or less to taste)
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 450F; use 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish (or you can use 8 to 10 individual-sized gratin dishes or ramekins). Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions, then drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add the leeks and sauté until softened and just starting to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the turkey and thyme and cook 2 minutes more.
  3. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat; whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, then bring up to a boil, whisking frequently; cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn off heat and whisk in the cheese, salt, mustard powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  4. Mix together the pasta, turkey mixture, and cheese sauce in a large bowl, then pour it into the prepared baking dish (or dishes).
  5. Stir together the breadcrumbs and olive oil, then sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese bubbles, about 15 minutes in individual ramekins or 25 minutes in a large pan.
Hickory Smoked Turkey Legs: I buy hickory smoked turkey legs in the meat section of my grocery store; each leg gives about 2 cups of cubed meat, so this recipe uses 4 cups total. If you can’t find smoked turkey legs, you can substitute 4 cups of diced turkey ham (Mike and I don’t eat pork so we stick with turkey products). Or you can use a combo of leftover turkey and turkey bacon like I mentioned above.

To Reheat: Cover with foil and heat until warm in a 350F oven.

Wishing everyone a safe, happy Thanksgiving! If you can, try to spread a little joy and give someone else something to be thankful for this holiday…could be as simple as a hot meal, a cup of coffee and good conversation, or even just a thoughtful card or phone call.

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends



  1. Urban Wife says

    Wow, this looks amazing! I always feel like leeks are overlooked and I love being able to find a delicious recipe to use them in. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. says

    I’m bouncing in my chair a little, totally rocking out to this recipe! LOL! This sounds sooo delish! Great idea putting smoked turkey in with mac & cheese. Glorious. Your sandwich also sounds fabulous! I think I’d actually like eating that over a turkey dinner–sandwiches win with me almost every time.

  3. says

    Looks lush! Not likely to find smoked turkey legs easily here in the UK, but this still looks amazing, and beautifully photographed too. Wish we had the equivalent of Thanksgiving here (but I guess part of the celebration’s origins to do with getting away from England!), but all these links will come in handy come Christmas. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

  4. says

    Looks like you got the leftovers well and truly covered. I will have to save a few ideas here fopr Christmas. I must say mac and cheese is not one of my favourite foods but with smoky cheese and leeks I dont think there could be a better versiobn

  5. says

    This twist on mac and cheese looks so comforting! Will definitely be saving some of the other leftovers recipes too, they will be so useful.

  6. says

    I never grew up with mac and cheese and the thought of it was not appealing to me – the only mac and cheese I knew of were those instant kraft dishes! However, recently my husband made me his version and I knew it was love! Will def be trying this one out soon!

  7. says

    Happy Thanksgiving Faith! My kids love leftovers from Thanksgiving. Never thought to make mac n cheese using leftover turkey, but what a great idea! Lots of inspiration in this post – thank you (and thanks for including me)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Rate this recipe: