The Thanksgiving sandwich: King of leftover meals

An ode to the aftermath of Turkey Day


The ultimate Thanksgiving sandwich can be made from leftover stuffing, bread slices slathered with gravy and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and turkey. 

Hildy Maxwell | Cavalier Daily

Ah, Thanksgiving. The one day a year when it is socially acceptable to consume a week’s worth of calories in one sitting. Some people — like me — thrive on Thanksgiving. But for others, Thanksgiving means crazy and awkwardly-forced family interactions. 

Sometimes food on Turkey Day can be just as dysfunctional as our families. Since this glorious day of eating only comes once every 365 days, people tend to get a little nutty when it comes to their food. Let’s be real, we’ve all held a tiny grudge throughout the meal when the person ahead of us in line takes the one perfect piece of turkey we’d been eyeing since the moment the bird was carved. How dare they snatch that last drumstick! 

In my family, Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. It’s considered an accomplishment to have to loosen your belt a notch after downing seconds — and sometimes thirds  — but even so, there always seem to be enough leftovers to feed a small army. As a result, we’ve gotten pretty creative with our leftover meals. Turkey features in every dish for at least three days after the initial feast in various shapes and forms, from turkey soup to turkey paninis and turkey tetrazzini. 

The same territorial lunacy that we feel during the meal also exists around Thanksgiving leftovers. So much effort goes into crafting the feast itself that the leftovers are coveted — both by those of us who want to make the holiday last for as long as humanly possible and those of us who want an excuse not to cook for a week. Most of the time, Thanksgiving recipes only come out at Thanksgiving — so leftovers are our only way to enjoy grandma’s legendary cornbread stuffing more than once. 

Maybe one of the most famous instances of this Thanksgiving leftover obsession is Ross’s “Moist Maker” from “Friends.” Ross completely loses his mind when he finds out that his boss has eaten his “Moist Maker” sandwich out of the fridge at work. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the “Moist Maker” is a sandwich made of Thanksgiving leftovers with a slice of gravy-soaked bread in the middle. As a huge fan of “Friends” and Thanksgiving, I had to give Ross’s sandwich a shot this year. 

My dad’s go-to Thanksgiving leftover meal is the turkey sandwich. As delicious as it usually is, the sandwich tends to stick to the basic turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo structure — a little boring, sorry Dad! So going into this, I had never really had a Thanksgiving dinner in sandwich form. 

Somehow I managed to sneak a box of leftovers out of my aunt’s house this year — but just enough to make one sandwich. I only had one shot to see what all the hype is about. It didn’t take much effort to make this meal. I basically just heated up everything in the microwave, threw it haphazardly onto some toasted MarieBette sourdough — my favorite sandwich bread — and dug in. 

Unfortunately, the gravy I had was too thick to really soak into the bread so my sandwich wouldn’t be Ross Geller approved. But it had everything else — sweet potato casserole, turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing complete with cranberry sauce and gravy spread on each slice of bread. 

This sandwich was next level. This is a big statement coming from someone who doesn’t typically love sandwiches. Despite missing the “Moist Maker” in the middle, every bite of the sandwich had the amazing combo of sweet and savory that you get from the perfect bite of a Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re someone who doesn’t like their food touching, the idea of this might be what keeps you up at night — but I can’t imagine a better iteration of the Thanksgiving experience — portable, quicker, easier and just as tasty as the original. 

I finally understand Ross’s rage upon losing his precious Thanksgiving sandwich. Turkey Day leftovers are irreplaceable  — at least until next year  — and deserve to be eaten in the best way possible. The sandwich checks all the boxes if you’re looking for a simple yet scrumptious way to rework your mountain of leftover food. 

Thanksgiving sandwich


A little bit of all your favorite Thanksgiving foods

Two slices of any kind of bread


I recommend using the cranberry sauce and gravy like mayo and slathering them on each slice of bread — making your sandwich moist and eliminating a bit of the inevitable squish-out that happens once you take a bite. 

I also found the ideal layering scheme goes as follows — the gravy side of bread, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey and sweet potato casserole topped with the cranberry slice of bread. This way the mashed potatoes act as a sort of glue for the often crumbly stuffing, and the sticky sweet potatoes help keep the turkey place while you eat. 

Of course, everyone does Thanksgiving a little differently, so everyone’s sandwiches will be different, but that’s part of the fun! Never underestimate the power of a well-made sandwich — especially one filled with all your favorite holiday sides. 

Hildy Maxwell is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

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