This Thanksgiving Leftover Strata transforms all your leftovers into a layered casserole that’s chock-full of flavor with pockets of gooey cheese, crispy bacon, juicy turkey, sweet and tart cranberry sauce, all topped with crunchy croutons and a drizzle of cheesy turkey gravy! You’ll never have Thanksgiving leftovers any other way once you’ve had this! 🙂
I can safely say that I won’t be having Thanksgiving leftovers any other way – this Thanksgiving Leftover Strata is SO freaking good! I’ve made a few different versions of Thanksgiving leftover savory bread puddings over the years, but I’ve found a keeper. This breakfast strata is PACKED with flavor, you wouldn’t believe that you’re having Thanksgiving leftovers (that have been re-purposed into one kick-ass breakfast/brunch strata).
Here’s why this Thanksgiving leftover casserole is the PERFECT way to use up leftovers.
- Custard-soaked bread, flavored with garlic and thyme, and then layered with,
- Juicy leftover turkey,
- Chunks of cheese,
- Crispy bacon,
- Sweet onions (or caramelized onions),
- Sweet and tart cranberry sauce,
- And finally a layer of cheesy, gravy-soaked crispy bread (or croutons).
It’s a party in your mouth!
What is a Strata?
A strata is a type of casserole made with bread – much like bread pudding. The word strata comes from the Latin word stratum, which means layer. So strata being – layers.
So this Thanksgiving leftover strata is basically a bread casserole with layers of ingredients. And each one of those layers makes this Thanksgiving leftover casserole absolutely scrumptious.
So isn’t this just a savory bread pudding then?
Yes and No. A bread pudding (sweet or savory) has more or less an equal amount of milk and eggs, making it more custardy. A strata however, in addition to having layers, has MORE eggs than milk, making it more eggy. This would make a strata more similar to a French toast casserole (just in terms of texture, not the layers).
Personally though, I see nothing wrong with serving this as a Thanksgiving savory bread pudding, if inclined to do so! 🙂 Words don’t have flavor, you know. This bad boy tastes so good no matter what you call it.
So what makes this Thanksgiving leftover strata so good?
I like to cube the turkey and cheese for this Thanksgiving leftover casserole. If you only have shredded leftover turkey, that’s OK. But I DO strongly recommend that you use a block of cheese and cut it into ½ inch chunks for the filling. The reason is that the cheese cubes melt and create insanely delicious, gooey, cheesy pockets inside the strata.
Another crucial reason why this Thanksgiving leftover casserole is so irresistible is the topping. The bread cubes on top aren’t soaked in the custard at all, so they become nice and crispy in the oven, creating a crunchy topping. And then, instead of simply adding a little cheese on top, I mixed some shredded cheese with gravy and poured that on top! The result is deeply flavorful, cheese croutons!
The great thing about this Thanksgiving leftover strata is that you can adapt it to include whatever Thanksgiving leftovers you have at hand.
Can I make this Thanksgiving leftover casserole ahead of time?
You can make this strata a day ahead. I would recommend preparing this strata, and then keeping it in the fridge until you need it and bake it before you serve it.
Since it needs a minimum of an hour for all the flavors to soak through the casserole, you can easily keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I prefer to make this the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight allowing for the egg mixture to really soak through the bread.
You can serve this for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. I know that because I’ve had this for all of those meals, and multiple times a day too! 🙂 So go ahead and make this with all your fantastic Thanksgiving leftovers this year, and see what I mean!
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Thanksgiving Leftover Strata
Thanksgiving Leftover Strata - Transform your Thanksgiving leftovers into this layered casserole with pockets of gooey cheese, cranberry sauce, turkey, French toast filling, and gravy-soaked croutons on top!
- 14 ounce Italian or French bread loaf cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 - 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced, OR 1 tsp garlic powder
Cheesy gravy topping (see notes)
- 1 cup leftover gravy
- 4 oz of cheddar cheese or gruyere or a mix of both, grated
- 10 eggs
- 1 ½ cup of milk, or half and half
- ½ tsp of kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper optional
Filling (see notes)
- 2 sprigs of rosemary stalk removed
- 3 sprigs of thyme leaves only
- 3 cups leftover turkey cubed or shredded
- 8 - 10 slices of bacon cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
- 12 oz of cheddar and mozzarella cubed into ½ inch pieces
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- 1 cup leftover cranberry sauce
- About ½ - 1 cup sauteed spinach chard or brussels sprouts
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place the cubed bread in a bowl and drizzle the olive oil (2 tbsp first and more as needed), add the minced garlic cloves and toss to combine.
Place the bread cubes on a baking tray or roasting pan, and allow the bread to roast in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes, while tossing them occasionally. When the bread cubes are fairly dry and crisp (but not colored), remove from the oven and let them cool down.
Cheesy Gravy Topping
While the bread cubes are cooling down, prepare the gravy.
Put the gravy in a small saucepan or a microwave-safe bowl. Heat until hot, but not boiling.
Add the cheese and stir in gently to partially melt the cheese. The cheese should not be completely melted. Set aside until needed.
Add all the eggs, milk, salt and black pepper into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Set aside until needed.
Layering the strata
Chop the thyme and rosemary together and place in a small bowl.
Put all of the other fillings in separate bowls as well.
Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan or casserole dish.
Place half of the bread cubes on the bottom of the prepared pan/dish. Sprinkle half of the chopped herbs over the bread.
Next, add HALF of the turkey and HALF of the bacon on top of the bread layer, followed by HALF of the cheese.
Add HALF of the sliced onions, then dollop HALF of the cranberry sauce, followed by all of the sauteed greens of your choice (you can leave out the greens if you like). Then layer the remaining ingredients in the same order (turkey, bacon, cheese, onion and cranberry sauce).
Top it all off with the rest of the bread cubes, chopped herbs and black pepper (optional).
Evenly pour the EGG MIX over the bread. Use a spatula to gently press the mixture into the dish.
Finally, evenly pour the cheesy gravy over the bread cubes. If you don’t have gravy, you can just sprinkle some cheese on top instead.
Cover the dish and let the strata soak up all the flavor for at least 1 hour. You can also cover the dish and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours at this point.
Baking the Thanksgiving Leftover Strata
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake the strata in the oven (uncovered) for 45 - 50 minutes. Check on the strata half way through, and again occasionally after that. Cover the strata with foil if the bread layer on top is browning too much.
Remove the strata from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Notes on the Cheesy Gravy
- If you don't have leftover gravy, you can skip this and just add grated cheese over the bread layer on top instead.
Notes on the Filling
- This strata is very adaptable, you can adjust the filling to use up whatever leftovers you have at hand.
- If you have mashed potatoes, you can add this as a layer as well. Just dollop in the mashed potatoes, rather than spreading it as a thick layer.
- If you have ham, you can add that instead of bacon.
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