Leftover Turkey Fried in Garlic-Thyme Oil

December 7, 2018

The turkey wasn’t great the first time around.

We’ve all been there- we research brining techniques (wet or dry?), cooking methods (oven or grill?), how to achieve a crisp and golden skin (to baste or not to baste?) for weeks before Thanksgiving.

Every “expert” claims The One And Only Way to cook a turkey, and it turns out mediocre every damn year. That’s what gravy is for.

So there will be leftovers, because no one really likes turkey anyway.

But what do you do with the leftover turkey if the mashed potatoes are all gone and the gravy has gotten jellied and you gave away all the extra stuffing?

Yes, you can make the ubiquitous Sandwich, but I was looking for a slightly more elegant option for dinner. Turns out elegance can be as simple as 1, 2, 3 ingredients.

Especially if ingredient number 1 is olive oil. The golden liquid perfumes the turkey meat while hardening its exterior into a lacquered sheet of crisp skin. Fat rounds of smashed garlic, as many or as few as you’d like, give bite to the bland bird while tiny leaves of fried thyme boast big flavor and a subtle crunch.

It’s cooking with leftovers at its most delicious- and absolute easiest.

Roasted turkey leg on a white plate with olive oil.

The harvest of leftovers is bountiful during the final weeks of the year, when endless holiday parties leave us with slabs of roast meat, half-empty containers of sauces and dips, jars of herbs and spices we bought for a single recipe.

It’s easy to microwave, even preferable the day after a holiday (or later that night), but I think many home cooks miss the opportunity that leftovers-as-an-ingredient presents.

What if roast turkey was a step in your delicious journey and not the finished product? What if you had some in your refrigerator right now?

This recipe works with bone-in, skin-on turkey or chicken. You could drizzle the garlic-thyme oil on leftover roasted vegetables or even stir it into Greek yogurt for a savory dip.

So really, this isn’t a specific recipe that I want you to make right now. It’s a call to action to approach the wilting scraps in your refrigerator differently, avoiding the microwave at all costs.

The turkey will not be great the first time around- just don’t make the same mistake twice.

Leftover Turkey Fried in Garlic-Thyme Oil

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
Dinner; Lunch American
By Samantha Serves: 2-3
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 10 minutes

The best way to reheat Thanksgiving turkey.


  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme, leaves mostly removed (about 1 Tbsp total)
  • 3-4 pieces leftover turkey or chicken, preferably the bone-in, skin-on



Heat oil, garlic, and thyme in a large skillet on medium-low until the garlic is fragrant and soft. Stir occasionally. You don’t want to get any color on the garlic at this point, it will cook more after you add the turkey (3-5 minutes).


Add the turkey pieces and toss them around in the oil. Turn the pieces skin side down, cover the skillet, and continue to cook on medium-low for 5 minutes. Check for doneness at this point; the turkey should be golden-brown on one side and heated through. If it’s not, cover the pan again and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

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