Leftover Turkey Recipe: Turkey Gumbo

I know it’s a little early to think about Thanksgiving leftovers, but believe me, time goes by so crazy fast! Once the big meal is over, even after the late-night refrigerator raid (you sneak in and pick at the turkey in the refrigerator too, right?!), we’ll always have more than enough leftover turkey for Turkey Gumbo.

Since Thanksgiving is such a big, heavy dinner, I created this recipe with restraint in mind. ย It’s a lighter, milder version of gumbo than what you may be used to, a little more broth-y and no mouth-burning cayenne pepper or hot sauce, since the little kids will be enjoying this too (but feel free to douse your version with as much hot chili pepper as you like!)

While the ingredient list may look long, it is ingredients that you’ll probably have on hand anyways from cooking Thanksgiving meal. Leftover turkey meat is stirred into the gumbo at the end, just to heat through. The slow-simmered, richly flavored Turkey Gumbo served over steaming hot rice may just break the monotony of leftover turkey sandwiches this year for you too.

Making the Roux for Turkey Gumbo

Roux is cooking fat+flour over low heat to create a nutty thickener used in much of Southern cooking. It’s a simple, essential step for the gumbo, but takes a little patience as you have to cook the roux over low heat and stir frequently.

Traditional recipes call for 1:1 ratio of fat to flour, but I’ve found that I could use less fat and still achieve the same results, though I think Paula Deen would heartily disagree with me.

I like using butter as my fat, it’s the the most flavor — uh — unless you want to use bacon drippings (yay!) or even lard (double-yay!).

4 tablespoons of butter + 6 tablespoons all purpose flour. For gluten-free version, many have recommended using potato starch or rice flour.

Use a heavy-bottomed pot for best results. Thin pots = more likihood for burned roux. Once the butter starts bubblin’ a bit, sprinkle in the flour and stir.

Stir until the flour is totally incorporated. I use a silicone rubber spatula – here’s why: I’m not patient enough to stand over the stove constantly stirring nonstop. So I leave the silicone spatula in the pot – it doesn’t burn nor does it get hot. Every 30-40 seconds or so, I’ll stir. In the meantime, I’m choppin’ vegetables on a cutting board right next to the stove.

After a nearly 10 minutes, it will look smooth and the color of peanut butter. This is where I stop. By this time not only am I bored to tears, but a lighter roux makes a lighter gumbo. Feel free to keep cookin’ the roux if you have nothing else to do!

I’ve got onions, celery, green pepper, smoked sausage and whatever bits and pieces of vegetable I have in the refrigerator, basically any unused vegetables (like carrots, red bell pepper) from cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

Everything gets s simmered with a can of tomatoes and chicken broth for an hour or so.

In goes the frozen (no need to defrost) or fresh okra

and at the end, stir in the cooked, leftover turkey

Serve over rice.ย Isn’t this Turkey Gumbo better than your 48th turkey sandwich!?? Serve over rice!


Turkey Gumbo Recipe (with leftover Thanksgiving turkey)

Servings: 8 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour
Turkey Gumbo Recipe

Don't worry about the long ingredient list, most of the ingredients are things you'll have in your refrigerator anyways, from cooking Thanksgiving feast! For gluten-free Turkey Gumbo, use rice flour, corn flour or potato starch in place of the flour.


4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 bell peppers, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon each: dried oregano, dried thyme
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound kielbasa, smoked or polish sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
8 cups water
2-3 cups frozen or fresh okra
2 cups cooked, shredded leftover turkey
salt and pepper to taste
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
cooked rice


Heat a large stockpot with the butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble a bit, use a whisk or wooden spoon to add in the flour, a little at a time. Continue stirring for a 2 minutes, until the flour is fully incorporated into the butter. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the roux has turned into the color of peanut butter. Make sure that the roux does not burn - stay close by!

Return heat to medium and add in the bell peppers, celery and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook another minute or so until fragrant. Add in the bay leaves, oregano, thyme, tomatoes, smoked sausage, broth and water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 hour.

Add in the okra, cook 2 minutes, then add in the cooked turkey. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped parsley. Serve over cooked rice.

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Comments 23

  1. The Duo Dishes

    Admittedly, a leftover turkey sandwich is still awesome, even on the 48th day. Now if there’s a way to do a half and half combination, then of course, it’s all good!

  2. Food on the Table

    What a great leftover idea beyond a turkey on a dinner roll sandwich! I especially like the addition of okra and sausage, yummm. I’ll have to whip up this gumbo post-Thanksgiving.

  3. Butternbourbon

    Great idea!!! And I love that you don’t mess around. A roux is required!!! And none of that 2 mins an your done. Great color!!! We will defintely be doing this!!!

  4. Amanda

    Sounds delish, Jade! I’m wondering something: Last time I attempted Gumbo, I used frozen okra and it instantly turned the entire thing slimy. Now, it was still tasty – I ate it with bliss – but my family wouldn’t go near it because of the slime. Do you think it’s because I used frozen? Or do you have any pointers for avoiding this problem a bit?

  5. Martin D Redmond

    You can keep the okra from getting slimy by frying (sliced thin and cooked at a high temp in small batches – of course fresh is best…but I think it will work for frozen too) it and adding it last. Otherwise it very challenging to not have it go all slimy…

  6. Martin D Redmond

    I made this tonite. It was quite tasty. I’ll make again! Didn’t have canned diced tomatoes, so used fresh and tomato paste + halved the amount of water in the recipe + didn’t add okra since I didn’t have any…but turned out quite well!

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  12. Linda Johnson

    I made this recipe exactly, except I added one carrot diced, and it was delicious. I took the turkey carcass plus wings, thigh and leg bones and put it in my crock pot for 5 hours on low. All the meat fell off the bone and was almost the 2 cups the recipe called for. This is so easy and highly flavorful!

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  16. BeccaS


    Any tips for making this recipe with raw diced turkey, instead of the left-over roast? I’ve got a pack in the fridge and would love to try something like this…


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