How to Freeze Cooked Turkey: A Simple and Delicious Way to Extend the Leftovers

The holiday season is a time of joy, family gatherings, and, of course, delicious meals. One of the most iconic dishes during this time is the classic roasted turkey. However, more often than not, we find ourselves with an abundance of leftovers, leaving us wondering how to make the most of this delicious bird. The answer lies in freezing cooked turkey, a simple and effective way to preserve its flavor and texture for future meals.

Why Freeze Cooked Turkey?

Freezing cooked turkey is a practical solution for several reasons:

  1. Extends the Shelf Life: Properly frozen, cooked turkey can last up to 3-4 months in the freezer, allowing you to enjoy those delicious leftovers long after the holidays have passed.

  2. Reduces Food Waste: By freezing your cooked turkey, you can prevent it from going stale or spoiling, ensuring that no part of your holiday feast goes to waste.

  3. Meal Prep Convenience: Having pre-cooked turkey on hand makes meal preparation a breeze. Simply thaw and incorporate it into various dishes, from soups and casseroles to sandwiches and salads.

  4. Versatility: Frozen cooked turkey can be used in a wide range of recipes, allowing you to explore new flavors and dishes without the hassle of cooking a whole turkey from scratch.

How to Freeze Cooked Turkey

Freezing cooked turkey is a straightforward process, but following a few simple steps can ensure that your leftovers retain their quality and flavor. Here’s how to do it:


  1. Cool the Turkey: Allow the cooked turkey to cool completely before freezing. Placing hot turkey in the freezer can promote bacterial growth and compromise its safety.

  2. Remove the Bones: If your turkey is still on the bone, remove the meat from the carcass. This will make it easier to store and portion out the turkey later.

  3. Slice or Shred: Depending on your intended use, you can slice or shred the turkey meat. Sliced turkey is ideal for sandwiches, while shredded turkey works well in soups, casseroles, and other dishes.


  1. Portion It Out: Divide the turkey into portion sizes that suit your needs. This will make it easier to thaw and use only what you need, reducing waste.

  2. Use Airtight Containers or Bags: Transfer the portioned turkey into airtight containers or freezer-safe bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

  3. Label and Date: Clearly label the containers or bags with the contents and the date of freezing. This will help you keep track of how long the turkey has been in the freezer.

  4. Freeze Flat: If using freezer bags, lay them flat in the freezer initially. This will help the turkey freeze more quickly and evenly, and it will be easier to stack the bags once frozen.

Thawing and Reheating

When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen cooked turkey, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Thawing: For best results, thaw the turkey in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can thaw it in the microwave on the defrost setting, but be cautious not to overheat and cook the turkey further.

  • Reheating: Once thawed, you can reheat the turkey in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the microwave. Be sure to heat it thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure food safety.

Delicious Recipes with Frozen Cooked Turkey

Frozen cooked turkey is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. Here are a few delicious recipe ideas to inspire you:

  • Turkey Noodle Soup: Combine shredded turkey, broth, vegetables, and egg noodles for a comforting and hearty soup.
  • Turkey Pot Pie: Use leftover turkey in a classic pot pie with a flaky crust and creamy filling.
  • Turkey Tetrazzini: This baked pasta dish is a delicious way to use up turkey, mixed with mushrooms, peas, and a creamy sauce.
  • Turkey Salad Sandwiches: Mix shredded turkey with mayonnaise, celery, and seasonings for a tasty sandwich filling.
  • Turkey Enchiladas: Roll shredded turkey and your favorite enchilada fillings in tortillas, cover with enchilada sauce, and bake.

Tips and FAQs


  • Don’t Overstuff Containers: Leave a little headspace in your containers or bags to allow for expansion during freezing.
  • Freeze in Batches: If you have a large amount of turkey, consider freezing it in smaller batches for easier thawing and reheating.
  • Use Within 3-4 Months: While frozen cooked turkey can technically last longer, it’s best to consume it within 3-4 months for optimal quality and flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze cooked turkey?

Yes, you can absolutely freeze cooked turkey. When done properly, freezing can preserve the turkey’s flavor and texture for several months.

How long can you freeze cooked turkey?

Cooked turkey can be safely frozen for up to 3-4 months when stored at 0°F (-18°C) or below.

Do you need to thaw frozen turkey before reheating?

It’s generally recommended to thaw frozen turkey before reheating it. However, if you’re adding it to a dish like soup or casserole, you can incorporate the frozen turkey directly and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Can you freeze turkey with gravy or stuffing?

While it’s possible to freeze turkey with gravy or stuffing, it’s best to store them separately. The textures and flavors may change during freezing and thawing, and it’s easier to reheat and combine them later.


Freezing cooked turkey is a simple and effective way to extend the life of your holiday leftovers and reduce food waste. By following the proper steps for preparation, freezing, and reheating, you can enjoy the delicious flavors of your turkey for months to come. So, don’t let those leftovers go to waste – freeze them and embrace the convenience and versatility of having pre-cooked turkey on hand for countless delicious meals.

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