How Long Does Turkey Salad Last in the Fridge? A Comprehensive Guide to Leftover Storage and Consumption

With a few new twists, turn your leftover turkey into a flavorful salad that will remind you of Thanksgiving dinner. Serve it in a wrap, in a sandwich, or on lettuce.

Why you’ll love it: After the heavier Thanksgiving fare, the yogurt-based dressing is tangy and subtly sweetened with honey, making it incredibly refreshing.

This turkey salad tastes nothing like leftovers, in fact, you might want to prepare extra turkey in advance so you have enough “left over” to make this salad.

I always love leftovers the first day. I think I actually enjoy my turkey dinner more on Friday than I do on Thursday. There’s no pressure. When you’re the cook and hostess, it can be pretty darn busy cooking and entertaining. When it’s time for dinner, I’m usually too preoccupied and sometimes even too nervous to enjoy my food.

I can enjoy a leisurely selection of my favorites on Friday and enjoy a delicious “Day 2” Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the fixings. But then there’s Day 3. Another Thanksgiving dinner of leftovers doesn’t sound quite as appealing. That’s when it’s time to rethink that leftover turkey and turn it into this healthy salad.

I don’t know about you but I’m all about the chicken salad wraps that restaurants offer. They’re probably a bazillion calories: mayo, nuts, dried fruit, and chicken, plus a great big wrap. This is my healthier version and I think you’ll love it.

This turkey salad recipe is based on my popular chicken salad with grapes and walnuts. That is a traditional chicken salad that has chicken added to it, kind of like a traditional Waldorf salad.

I changed it up just a bit. I added green onions and Dijon mustard to the dressing to bring out the savory flavor of the turkey meat, which I believe to be a little more flavorful than chicken. I took out the grapes and walnuts but left in the dried cranberries.

This salad’s benefit is that you can easily customize it to “make it your own.” ” There are plenty of ways to make substitutions and adjustments. Keep reading for inspiration. I have lots of ideas for you later on in the post.

Turkey salad is a delicious and versatile dish, perfect for sandwiches, wraps, or a light lunch. However, like all food, it doesn’t last forever. This guide will delve into the intricacies of storing and consuming turkey salad, ensuring you enjoy its freshness while avoiding potential food safety issues.

Understanding Leftover Storage:

  • Proper Refrigeration: The key to preserving turkey salad is proper refrigeration. Store it in an airtight container to prevent bacteria growth and maintain its freshness.
  • Temperature Matters: Ideally, keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F. This will slow down the growth of microorganisms and extend the shelf life of your turkey salad.
  • Timeframe for Consumption: Generally, turkey salad can last in the fridge for 3-5 days. However, this timeframe can be influenced by factors like the freshness of the ingredients and how the salad was stored.

Factors Affecting Shelf Life:

  • Freshness of Ingredients: Using freshly cooked turkey and crisp vegetables will naturally extend the salad’s shelf life compared to using ingredients that have been sitting out for a while.
  • Storage Container: Opt for airtight containers over loosely covered bowls or plastic wrap. Air exposure can accelerate spoilage.
  • Temperature Fluctuations: Avoid frequent opening and closing of the refrigerator, as this can cause temperature fluctuations that compromise the salad’s freshness.

Signs of Spoilage:

  • Off Smell: If your turkey salad develops an unpleasant or sour odor, it’s best to discard it.
  • Discoloration: Changes in color, such as the turkey turning grayish or the vegetables becoming slimy, indicate spoilage.
  • Mold Growth: Any visible mold growth is a clear sign that the salad is no longer safe to consume.

Additional Tips:

  • Label and Date: Label your container with the date you made the salad. This helps you keep track of how long it’s been in the fridge.
  • Consume Leftovers Promptly: While turkey salad can last for a few days, it’s best to consume it within 3 days for optimal taste and freshness.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out: If you’re unsure about the freshness of your turkey salad, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard it.

By following these guidelines, you can safely store and enjoy leftover turkey salad for several days. Remember to prioritize proper refrigeration, pay attention to signs of spoilage, and consume leftovers promptly for the best experience.


  • Can I freeze turkey salad?
    • While technically possible, freezing turkey salad isn’t recommended. The freezing and thawing process can affect the texture and flavor of the salad.
  • How can I tell if my turkey salad is still good?
    • Look for any signs of spoilage, such as off smell, discoloration, or mold growth. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • What can I do with leftover turkey salad?
    • You can use it in sandwiches, wraps, salads, or even as a topping for crackers.

By understanding the factors affecting turkey salad’s shelf life and following safe storage practices, you can enjoy this versatile dish without worrying about food safety issues.

How To Make This Recipe

Cut or shred the leftover turkey into bite-sized pieces. The recipe calls for 3 cups but don’t worry if you have a bit more.

Be meticulous about removing any skin or bones. Little bones are common among the meat, and it’s not enjoyable to bite into or, worse, swallow one.

Put the turkey in a large mixing bowl and add the chopped onions, celery, and dried cranberries.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Give everything a light stir.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Next, measure out the Greek yogurt in a large measuring cup. Add the vinegar, honey, mustard, celery seed, salt and pepper.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Whisk it all together until the dressing is smooth.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Pour the dressing into the mixing bowl.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Stir well until everything is coated with dressing. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

The salad can be served immediately or you can cover the bowl and refrigerate it to serve later.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

Serve your turkey salad on a wrap, if you like. Put a big scoop of the salad on the wrap and add some baby spinach leaves or lettuce. Roll it all up tightly and stick a fancy toothpick in it to hold it together.

The salad can be served on a croissant, bun, or sandwich bread (with tender leaf lettuce (pictured). If you have leftover rolls from your Thanksgiving dinner, they would be perfect with the turkey salad.

Serve the turkey salad over a bed of crisp lettuce if you’re feeling bloated from a carb overload (all that stuffing, rolls, casseroles, and pie!).

Are you unsure about what to serve with turkey salad? You can have it as a light meal on its own, see if there are any leftovers in the fridge, or just have the salad with chips.

The USDA recommends eating all leftovers, including cooked turkey, within 3 to 4 days, assuming it was refrigerated promptly at 40°F or lower. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria but doesn’t stop it. If you open the container and the contents smell off or look slimy, throw them out. Please don’t take a chance with food poisoning; it isn’t worth the risk. If you want to keep cooked turkey for a longer period of time, freeze it until you’re ready to use it. It can be frozen for up to 4 months.

When made with freshly cooked turkey, turkey salad keeps well in the refrigerator for three to four days. But, you must account for the time the cooked turkey was refrigerated prior to making the salad if you are using leftovers. To put it another way, you should probably use the leftover meat on Thursday if you prepare the turkey on Thursday and plan to use it for a salad on Saturday.

Best Way To Store Leftover Turkey

It’s always best to remove the meat from the bones before storing the turkey in shallow covered containers. Bones retain a lot of heat and tend to keep the meat warm. Put the leftover turkey in the refrigerator as soon as you can to help it cool down as soon as possible. Place it near the back of the refrigerator where there is less temperature fluctuation.

  • 3 cups of leftover turkey meat are needed for this recipe. This can include just about anything that’s left over, including white and dark meat. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces or lightly shred it. If you think this salad sounds good and you don’t have any leftover turkey, you can always replace it with cooked chicken.
  • Celery: After preparing stuffing, you might have a few stalks of celery lingering in the refrigerator. Crisp green celery bits give the salad a wonderful texture and flavor.
  • Green Onions (Scallions): A few green onions, with their green and white portions combined, give a subtle yet flavorful touch. If you prefer, substitute sweet white onion or red onion.
  • Dried Cranberries: On Thanksgiving tables, cranberries are a common sight. You will adore this salad’s tart-yet-sweet dried cranberries. If you don’t have dried cranberries, you can also use raisins or sliced grapes.
  • Greek Yogurt: I frequently combine or substitute tart Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in my salad dressings. It has two benefits: it has more protein and less fat. Make sure you choose plain Greek yogurt (unflavored).
  • Apple cider vinegar: Less tart than regular white vinegar, this vinegar has a fruity taste. I use it often for salad dressings.
  • Honey: A sweetener balances out the tangy yogurt and vinegar.
  • Dijon Mustard: For a more earthy mustard flavor, try whole grain or coarsely ground Dijon mustard. While regular Dijon is acceptable as well, resist the urge to substitute plain yellow mustard. Save that for your hotdogs or hamburgers.
  • Celery Seed: Packed with a ton of celery flavor, these tiny brown seeds They give the salad the Wow! factor.
  • Salt In other words, season to taste.

how long does turkey salad last in the fridge

How long is leftover turkey good for in the fridge?

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