The best part of Thanksgiving? It’s definitely not arguing politics with your uncle or slaving in the kitchen for hours before the feast. Depending on who you’re sharing the table with, it might not even be Thanksgiving dinner itself. The best part of this food-filled holiday happens afterwards — when your fridge is filled to the brim with delicious leftovers.
It’s not every day you get to eat your fill of mashed potatoes and pie. Your family isn’t going to make a gigantic stuffed turkey on just any old Tuesday. And as much as you love some of the simple weeknight meals you get to eat year-round, you plan to savor these rare leftovers for as long as you can. Some of these dishes are typically only served once a year! You plan to repurpose them into sandwiches, reheat duplicate turkey dinners, and maybe even eat pie for breakfast once or twice.
While you may never get sick of eating Thanksgiving food, you can get sick from eating Thanksgiving food. As much as you’d love to savor these experiences, you don’t want to hold on to your leftovers for too long. Eating an expired portion of leftover Thanksgiving food can make you seriously sick. Like the doubled-over-on-the-toilet, trying-not-to-puke-for-days kind of sick. Food poisoning is no joke. One bad bout of food poisoning could ruin the memories of your favorite Thanksgiving foods for good. Don’t let that happen — here’s how long you can actually keep your Thanksgiving leftovers before they go bad.
Ah, the turkey. The centerpiece of your meal probably left you a ton of leftover portions. Even though you’re really only supposed to buy one pound of turkey per person, you probably bought more. But that’s OK! Turkey — both the white and the dark meat — is actually pretty great for you, and can be repurposed into all kinds of interesting future dinners. Just make sure you store it correctly so your bird doesn’t make you sick! Cooked turkey can last in your refrigerator for three to four days. So that’s three to four days of delicious leftover turkey sandwiches. But you can also freeze it — in which case, turkey can last for years.
Good gravy, you don’t want to eat bad gravy on accident. It can congeal, grow bacteria, and make you seriously ill. And gravy expires quite quickly! You only have two days before your gravy’s gone bad. When you reheat gravy, make sure you bring it fully to a boil to preserve its best quality. However, if you don’t want your perfectly cooked homemade gravy to go to waste, you can freeze it in airtight bags or containers for up to four months. One particularly useful hack is to freeze gravy in ice cube trays. That way, you can reheat one cube at a time.
Whether you make it yourself or serve it from a can, cranberry sauce lasts longer than most leftovers when stored covered in the fridge. It’s a good thing, too, since there are so many creative ways to use it! Cranberry sauce will stay good for 10 to 14 days, unless you spot mold or the color of the sauce changes. Those are sure signs it’s gone bad. You can also freeze the leftovers in an air-tight container and reheat them for two to three months.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cooked potatoes of any kind, whether or not you’ve coated them with marshmallows, will stay good in your refrigerator for three to five days. Store them in an airtight container or make sure they are fully covered in plastic wrap. When reheating them, though, keep in mind that the marshmallows aren’t going to microwave well — the sugary treats will melt into the sweet potatoes at such a high heat. But regardless of the marshmallow cloud deteriorating, your leftovers will still taste great!
Green Bean Casserole
Doesn’t matter if it’s apple, pumpkin, pecan, or another iconic flavor of pie. Make sure you put away your dessert leftovers right away — pie that’s been sitting out for over two hours can start to grow food-borne bacteria. But pie will last for three to four days once it’s covered and refrigerated. That is, if you can last that long without gobbling it all up!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Really the only Thanksgiving side that isn’t loaded with carbs, Brussels sprouts are a hot commodity on many holiday tables. You’ve got to eat something that’s not doused in gravy, right? Roasted brussels sprouts will lose their crispiness almost as soon as they’re refrigerated, but can last in the fridge for around three days. After that, they could start to rot.
Roasted Root Vegetables
Roasted root vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, might not be the most popular item on your Thanksgiving table, but they do taste great. Just make sure you reheat these leftovers within three days of your feast. After that, these roasted vegetables will start to go bad.
When it’s made right, stuffing can be the best thing on your Thanksgiving plate. Be sure to eat your leftover stuffing until you’re stuffed — because if you don’t, it could quickly go bad. Stuffing will last in an airtight container for around three to five days after it’s made. You should always remove the stuffing from the turkey before refrigerating. That’ll help it best preserve its taste and quality.
Bread goes with just about anything you feel like serving for dinner. And dinner rolls can make a great complement to jam and butter for a light breakfast the morning after the big feast. Just don’t make the common mistake of storing them in the fridge. The harsh climate of a refrigerator can make bread go stale faster due to dry air. Leave your bread on the counter if you plan to eat it in the next couple of days. Bread is OK to eat until it grows mold, which is pretty visible. If the bread has gone stale, eating it won’t do you any harm. But you can prevent your bread from going stale by keeping it in the freezer. Frozen, bread will keep for around three months.
Unlike normal bread, you should store freshly baked cornbread in the refrigerator. It will last much longer this way: refrigerated cornbread can last a week, whereas cornbread stored at room temperature expires in just one to two days. Make sure it’s wrapped in foil or plastic wrap so it’s air-tight. You can also freeze your leftover cornbread and reheat for the following two to three months. Did your family serve something a little less traditional this Thanksgiving? In that case, consult this comprehensive guide to find out how long all types of leftover food are still safe to eat.