How to Make Your Thanksgiving Leftovers Into a Killer Burrito

Use these pro tips from Danny Bowien and Pepe Urquijo, two bicoastal burrito experts, to make your leftovers burrito into a foil-wrapped dream. Ever mixed pumpkin pie into a mole sauce?

Nov 24 2016, 6:00pm

On Thanksgiving night, we face down titanic heaps of turkey, mountains of mashed potatoes, and overflowing scoops of yams, cranberry sauce, stuffing. Ever-fearful of not having enough to go around, we cook 20-pound turkeys and prepare a dozen dishes even if we're only expecting five guests.

Leftovers are when the real ingenuity begins.

And what better way to roll together a bunch of meat, carbs, and sauce than in a burrito?

We made the leftovers from the MUNCHIES Thanksgiving spread into your basic overstuffed burrito, then asked two bicoastal burrito masters to share their tips for jazzing up your leftover turkey and making it into a foil-wrapped thing of edible beauty.


For starters, Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food and Mission Cantina has a crucial tip for making the most of your leftover turkey—and it involves a sauce as black as this Friday. We're talking blackened mole, or recado negro.

You just need roughly five to seven ingredients to make a great mole. Start on Thanksgiving night by soaking dried chillies—ancho or pasilla are two good choices—in warm water for a few hours or overnight. When they're reconstituted, reserve the liquid.

Here's where leftover stuffing comes into play. Mole sauces often use bread as a thickener, so, ta-da—substitute cornbread or stuffing.

In a blender, add leftover stuffing, toasted or fried garlic, the chilies, and melted super dark chocolate (or Mexican chocolate if you can find it). You can also add a spoonful of pumpkin pie puree, as plantain or pumpkin are also traditional components of mole sauces. Thin with water until you reach the right consistency. Season with salt, adjust the heat, and your sauce is good to go.

RECIPE: Shredded Turkey in Blackened Chile Mole

Shred up your leftover turkey and warm it gently in the mole. "I don't know how intensive people will get it with this," Danny says, "but if there's any turkey or chicken fat left, fry the mole in the fat. It cooks the chilies a little more and gives it a little sheen. That's all you really need."


Seasoning the turkey this way will add dimension to your burrito that might otherwise be lacking, especially if you're a lover of spicy food and are getting maxed out on the sweet and savory mild flavors that dominate the Thanksgiving table. Lube up your meat with this hot mole sauce, add some beans and avocado, and your leftovers are transformed. "There's no spice in Thanksgiving, it's all carbs and fat," Danny says. "It's nice to do the mole and get some spice in there."

If you want to be "gnarly and gross," in Danny's words, you can even make your burrito into a chimichanga. There are no rules on Black Friday.

Pepe Urquijo of B'klyn Burro has a different approach, and says to start with an "awesome flour tortilla" that's at least 12 inches across. Melt a handful of Monterey jack cheese on it while it's warming up, then add your turkey and either potatoes or stuffing ("not both unless you have a death wish"). Top it off with three slices of fresh avocado, a trail of sour cream, and homemade chipotle salsa. Your awesome turkey burro is ready to roll.


There are four rules, according to Pepe: No cranberry, no salad, no gravy, and all burritos must contain pico de gallo. "The smokiness of the chipotle compliments the turkey and potatoes way better though," he says.

Pepe also argues that to truly embrace a post-Thanksgiving burrito, you're going to have to let up on your aversion to carbs. "If you're worried about carbs and you're thinking of maximizing Thanksgiving leftovers with a burrito as a vessel, you need to grab a smoothie [instead]. Carbs go hand and aluminum with burritos," he says.

However, if you're still too overstuffed from last night for a proper burrito, he recommends making a couple of tacos with corn tortillas, shredded turkey, finely chopped onions, cilantro, and chipotle or green salsa. And, naturally, a slice of avocado. No need for cheese and sour cream if you're not feelin' it: "You've now left a minimal carb imprint on yourself."

Also, use some decent foil. Pro-quality foil is clutch.


There you have it: a Black Friday deal that you didn't even have to camp out in front of a Best Buy to enjoy.