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Smoky White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Leeks is comfort food at its finest! You can use smoked turkey legs or leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.


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:

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


Smoky White Cheddar Mac and 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.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely delish!! I used half sharp white cheddar and half smoked gureye. A keeper for sure no less than 5 stars!!!

  2. This sounds fabulous! Love the combo of cheese and leeks. A big bowl of this, a book and a cozy fire sounds like a perfect afternoon.

    Take care

  3. Happy Thanksgiving!! And can I just say that I am finally home and went through your cookbook. What an amazing book it is and you’ve put so much work into it! I can’t wait to try a recipe this coming weekend! :)

  4. Yum, Mac and Cheese a fancy way with Turkey. No Thanksgiving here but will have to get turkey just to make this :-) Happy Thanksgiving

  5. Fabulous!! Love the Mac n cheese… I could eat mac n cheese every day, but this one is special. You have so many wonderful recipes here!! Thank you!

  6. 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)!

  7. i love me some white cheddar! the leeks are a great addition, too. :)

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. Love the sound of this mac and cheese. You had me at smokey.

  11. Ahhh Thanksgiving Leftovers… my fave!! And this mac ‘n cheese sounds incredible. In fact, I’ve got the turkey legs ready to go. :)

  12. 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

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. i think I decided where I want to be on Thanksgiving day – at your house. This mac&cheese sounds delish and I bet you’ll make some killer sandwiches with the leftovers.
    Happy Thanksgiving Faith

  16. 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!

  17. Great roundup Faith! I am most excited about leftovers as well – specifically Turkey Barley Soup (!). You know that I am a fan of any mac n’ cheese – now i just need an excuse to make this one!

  18. That mac ‘n cheese sounds simply delicious! I like the uniqueness of the dish :)

  19. Who doesn’t love a good Mac & Cheese? Especially when it has a unique twist. Yayy for thanksgiving and the leftovers

  20. Scrumptious! I love to cook with leeks.



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