Food

Turkey Pot Pie for a Small-Scale Feast

Last week, we got an email from a reader named Claire that I know a lot of us can relate to…

She wrote: “With the holidays approaching, I know my traditions are shifting for this year. My family won’t be able to visit, which I’m sad about, but in an attempt to make the most of the situation, I am going to try my Thanksgiving dream meal: turkey pot pies! Why not put the whole meal into one tasty pie to consume?”

Her only problem? “I have no recipe.”

We can definitely help with that, Claire! Almost everyone I know is hosting an intimate, smaller-scale feast this year — whether that means roasting a 4-pound chicken instead of a 20-pound heirloom turkey or takeout from a favorite restaurant they want to support — but that doesn’t mean we aren’t craving something a little special to eat while we give thanks. I really love the idea of Pot Pie at the center of a family table — rounded out with a favorite Brussels sprouts dish (this or this) and cranberry sauce (two options; one fresh, one cooked) and, yes, you’ve got yourself a dream meal.

Two things to consider with the recipe I came up with: First, this might be controversial, but I tested the pot pie twice in the past three days: Once with roast turkey breast and once with meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. The turkey version was definitely delicious, but I very much preferred the chicken version — turkey breast, as we all know, can veer towards dry, even when submerged in creamy pot pie sauce. If, for you, it’s not Thanksgiving without turkey, you might want to use a mix of turkey breast and dark meat. Second, remember that puff pastry takes about 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator to thaw, so plan accordingly.

Turkey Pot Pie
Makes 4 generous servings or 6 medium servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped into large chunks
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cups peeled and chopped carrots (from about 2-3 medium carrots)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (from 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
3/4 cup milk (any kind, preferably whole)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups shredded cooked roast turkey breast (look for a 2-pound split, skin-on boneless breast if you are roasting yourself) or chicken (don’t forget to chop up that crispy skin, too!)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 store bought puff pastry, such as Dufour brand, rolled out gently on a floured surface, to the approximate size it would take to drape over your baking dish by about 1 inch all around
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add the butter and olive oil to a large pot or Dutch Oven set over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, carrots, thyme leaves, a generous amount of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until onions have browned slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, and add the broth. (Vegetables should just barely be submerged.) Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are mostly tender — they’ll cook more in the oven.

While the vegetables are simmering, in a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the milk and flour. Slowly add the flour–milk mixture, along with Worcestershire sauce, to the pot, and turn up the heat to medium. Stir and cook until the filling gets bubbly and thickened. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chicken and peas.

Add the pot pie filling to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan on top of the filling and cover with the puff pastry, making sure there is a little bit of overhang on all sides. (You don’t have to crimp it.) Cut 6 to 8 slits on the top to allow the steam to escape while baking. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly (and gently) paint the surface with the egg wash, which will result in that gorgeous golden sheen.

Place the pie in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes, but keep an eye on that pie! If the top darkens before 20 minutes, cover loosely with foil (don’t wrap it, just place loosely on top). Bake until the pastry is puffy and golden and the filling is bubbling through the slits. It should look big and puffy all around the perimeter, all the more dramatic for presenting! The middle might collapse a little, but that’s ok.

P.S. Old-school chocolate mousse that would fit the bill for dessert and two fancy-feeling next-level non-alcoholic drinks.

Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo

  1. Sara says...

    Just want to say I made this recipe last night using a rotisserie chicken and the whole family loved it. Even the picky teenager! Thanks for yet another great one to add to “the rotation.”

  2. Jana says...

    What do we think of using drop biscuits instead of puff pastry? Otherwise same method?

  3. anna lorey says...

    This recipe looks delicious! I don’t love chicken so this is just the recipe I’ve been looking for! Super pumped to make it for family around the holidays. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Sophia says...

    I haven’t bought or used puff pastry before and this assumes I know what amount is meant to be used for a recipe this size when (in the UK) there are options for 500g, 280g, 2x215g, 2x200g… Help please!

  5. Kim says...

    I usually make pie crust for my pot pies, but I love the idea of just sliding a puff pastry on top. So easy and elegant.

  6. Sarah K says...

    This looks absolutely delicious.

  7. Sally says...

    If you’re in Portland like me, Lauretta jeans makes the most delicious turkey pot pies that are individual sized. Truly indulgent. Have picked them up multiple times during quarantine. Their fruit pies help pass the time too! Recommended.

  8. Mina says...

    Hi! Thanks for the great inspiration. At what point in the recipe can I stop the prep to do it make-ahead? I would guess you could make the filling and refridgerate until needed?? Thanks again!

  9. E says...

    My favorite Thanksgiving meal was one I had with a friend who lived on a sheep and goat farm. We made pancakes and pumpkin pie, and then went out to take care of the animals.

    • Ria says...

      its always the small little beautiful things which make occasions festive..totaly felt your comment…all my favourite meals if looked back have been simple flavourful meals with good ppl…

  10. Tina, NYC says...

    I know this is an incredibly privileged comment to make, but if you can afford it, maybe order from a local restaurant that your enjoy but wouldn’t use for catering or anything so extravagant.

    They are struggling. And We need them to succeed because these places make what we area you live in, special.

    We placed our order, and for extras, plus a big tip, because we haven’t been eating out and this is a tough time.

    If I can make it a little easier on someone, for even one moment when they saw my order and tip, I’ll take it.

    Covid you suck but you will not win.

  11. Jane I. says...

    Oh heck yes! Pot pie all day everyday!

  12. jennyg says...

    Thanks Jenny! I ordered a medium turkey from our farm delivery and I don’t have the heart to ask if they can replace it with a small after realizing our plans for visitors will not be happening this year. I’m going to make this with the left overs for sure and Dufour is amazing!!

  13. GoldenMoon says...

    Great idea to do an all in one dish. I think many of us are going non-traditional this year for holiday cooking and I’m curious what other out of the box dishes people are making through the holidays. I’m not prepared at all for special meal and need inspiration. I also don’t want the regular stuff as I figure embracing the 2020 shake up year calls for something new. I’m veg too but I’m open to all ideas that can also be modified. I’m also open to multicooker slam dunk dishes to break in my new pot! Thx!

    • Liz says...

      Melissa Clark’s carrot Mac and cheese. So very delicious!

    • Alice says...

      What about a mushroom bourguignon? Feels special and different but is still suuuper delicious? Serve with mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, and some sort of greens, and you’ve got yourself a feast! See also: any kind of vegetarian wellington!

    • Karla H says...

      Seconding Alice’s suggestion. Smitten Kitchen has a mushroom bourguignon recipe that is AMAZING. We often serve it over mashed potatoes, but it’s also delicious with egg noodles.

    • s says...

      Trader Joe’s Gluten Free stuffing is only available seasonally and is really pretty great especially if you add apples or chestnuts etc.

  14. Sadie says...

    My brother and I will celebrate the holiday with just the two of us. We decided to keep it low key and have meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy. We will probably have an apple salad as well. Any drink/cocktail suggestions?

  15. Claire says...

    THANK YOU, Jenny! This post made my day.

  16. SJ says...

    Mmm so cozy

  17. Laura F says...

    My husband and I are doing a Thanksgiving for two. We decided that if there was ever a year to do something different, this is the year! So we are having prime rib and a homemade carrot cake for dessert.

  18. Ruth says...

    Even though it’s only our household, we’re doing a regular turkey, but I am totally using the leftovers to make this on Friday because anything in pie form is BETTER.

  19. Amanda Millstein says...

    Yum!!! Anyone have thoughts on the best way to make this vegetarian? Would love to use a plant-based protein but not sure what might work best. Thank you!!

    • Michelle says...

      The best non-fake swap, in my opinion is chickpeas. :) Haven’t done it for this in particular but it’s worked well for other things!

    • Adrienne says...

      I love soy curls as a replacement for poultry, but white beans are also good (plus cheaper and easier to get)

    • R says...

      Lentils! I’ve made this shepherd’s pie before and it is great! https://pamelasalzman.com/vegan-lentil-shepherds-pie-recipe/

      Obviously, shepherd’s pie does not equal pot pie, but the flavor profiles are similar and you could swap the potato topper for puff pastry and viola, pot pie!

    • s says...

      If you’re ok with gluten use seitan/wheatmeat – would be perfect in potpie. Also you can find amazing wheatmeat in a variety of versions in Asian markets with far greater quality than anything on the US market so far. Because they’ve used it for centuries and therefore have nailed the techniques. Only thing that is disconcerting for US buyers is that they tend to be in cans. But considering that Spain uses cans for it’s best seafood I suppose it is just practical.

    • Elizabethkatt says...

      I’ve made pot pie before and swapped out cannellini beans for the chicken. But I made this last night and it was better (although it was a little soupier than I would think of for pot pie–more like soup with a crust on top): https://www.howsweeteats.com/2019/11/butternut-squash-pot-pie/

    • Claire says...

      I am not sure exactly, but my suggestion would be to use root vegetables, and include some diced white potato and also white beans, in the hope that as they cook they will be a good base for the flavors and also thicken the sauce.

    • Lily says...

      I’ve made a veg version of this a few times–sometimes with chickpeas and sometimes with cannellini beans. Both are delicious!

      If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can also make your own pie crust (not as difficult as people make it out to seem!) I always use this recipe from Serious Eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/06/old-fashioned-flaky-pie-dough-recipe.html

      When I make it with the homemade pie crust, my family fights for the top ;)

  20. Ram says...

    Any recs on how to make this veg, with still some kind of protein-y filling?

    • Emily says...

      We’ve made delicious white bean and leek pot pies based on smitten kitchens recipe (hers has prosciutto, which we skip but it’s still really tasty). Meat eaters sometimes opt for the veg version when we serve it to a mixed crowd!

  21. Stephanie says...

    Jenny, we’re making your Pork Ragu for our super-small Thanksgiving this year. Not traditional at all, but we’re so excited. It’s one of our favorite winter dishes—and we just don’t bust it out often enough. So it will still feel special. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes you share! :)

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That’s so fun! Why not, right???

    • karla h says...

      Jenny’s pork ragu is our Christmas dinner. It’s SO, so good!

  22. Lauren E. says...

    This looks SO delicious! No matter how small our celebration, I always make a big turkey. And then we eat leftovers for a few days and I freeze the rest.

  23. Christa says...

    https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chicken-and-fall-vegetable-pot-pie-102378/amp

    This has been my go-to pot pie recipe for years now—the herb crust comes together easily and is so delicious, the gravy is to die for. I’ve substituted all different vegetable combinations and it’s always worked beautifully. 💛

    Though I love hosting Thanksgiving in non-pandemic times, I’m excited for a low key, no pressure day this year. 💛

  24. Denise says...

    This is a great idea. It’s just 3 of us for holidays this year. A turkey pot pie is just the thing. My Mom makes a turkey casserole very similar to this but instead of puff pastry top, she makes biscuits and rolls them with cranberry sauce into a swirl and lets the biscuits bake right on top the casserole. The cranberry biscuits turn out looking like cinnamon rolls only savory with warm cranberry jammy goodness & on top of a delicious turkey pot pie (casserole). Yum.

    • Kara says...

      Can your mom adopt me?? Yum!

    • Dear sweet jesus, I want to be adopted too!

    • Mary Eaton says...

      Denise
      Can your mom adopt me too?
      My goodness! I can just taste that dish!

    • Julie says...

      OMG we need the recipe!!!!!

  25. A says...

    I am having a really hard time convincing my family that we shouldn’t have a big family celebration this year. My dad especially has been ignoring many covid restrictions, despite my pleas and attempts at having conversations about risk and public responsibility. Does anyone have any advice about how to approach this topic respectfully with family members who are adamant that we celebrate as usual?

    • E says...

      I think no showing up will send a good message. Taking part in it doesn’t make you any better than them if they are being responsible- you don’t want to get sick, they don’t want to get sick, and- worst of all- you don’t want be transmitting anything that will get the other people in life (coworkers, etc) sick. So opt out!

    • E says...

      *not & *irresponsible (one hand on lunch, one hand typing-old!)

    • katie says...

      Honestly, I don’t think you can change anyone’s mind. If you’re not living at home, I’d decline and not participate.

      My immediate family is still getting together, so it’s my parents, my two sisters, their husbands and four grandkids While they’re not celebrating with the extended family per the usual, my husband and I decided not to participate this year. We are having his parents over to our house. They are just as strict as we are with Covid precautions, so we feel ok dining with them. They’re also relatively young and in good health, having had my husband when they were 20. I’m sad I won’t be with my family (and my in-laws normally would have joined, they all get along really well), but it’s just one holiday. I’d rather be safe and keep my loved ones safe.

      If you’re living at home with your parents, I unfortunately have no good advice on how to get them to cancel.

      I’m sorry your family won’t take the necessary precautions and make adjustments. That sucks.

    • Andrea says...

      I just had this conversation with my Mom. I also live far away and don’t go for Tday.

      I think you have to 1) give them info on why it’s not great (the phrase I’ve heard from public health friends is Thanksgiving dinner/Christmas funeral) and 2) give alternatives that are as sun/more fun/novel.

      I am:
      1. Sending my Mom a deep fried turkey, so she can have novel food and not have to cook.
      2. Suggest alternatives for the guests–you can make and drop off the food and then Zoom everyone eating.
      3. Coming in fast and hard with distance entertainment. We are planning a Zoom Bingo or Charades night that will take a lot of time and will involve far-flung family that never get together for Thanksgiving.
      4. Following up with Craft Day on the Friday afterward via Zoom.
      5. Promising we can have Fauxsgiving and Fake Christmas in person 6 months out.

      I think people really want a good day after a hard year. We can make that happen–safely–by making the alternatives shiny and attractive.

      Good luck to us all!

    • rose says...

      Mail a paper copy of this to everyone concerned, TODAY, perhaps with a reassuring message of love, to provide a clear and undeniable picture. It describes official feedback on how small “family” gatherings, esp under 10 people, are radically spiking the curve.

      A paper copy makes more of an impression:
      https://kottke.org/20/11/pandemic-safety-rules

      And it goes without saying but don’t gloat when they recognize this as sound. Let people learn and grow, humbly, so we can all live long and prosper : )

    • jess says...

      Wow, thanks Rose! This stood out:

      “In states with many infections, particularly in the Midwest, contact tracing is all but impossible, so it’s instructive to pay attention to Vermont’s example here: we’re doing the tracing and the TRACERS SAY THE INFECTIONS ARE COMING FROM PEOPLE GATHERING INDOORS ACROSS MULTIPLE HOUSEHOLDS. Which is exactly what public health and medical experts have been urging people not to do for months now.”

    • Stella says...

      I used data from a map about COVID risks for gatherings of a given size to explain to my parents why I’m not coming to their thanksgiving. The map shows the % risk, by county, that there is a COVID positive individual in a gathering of a given number of people. You can select the number of people and your county; mine said that in a gathering of 10, there’s a 40% chance one person there would be positive in my county. Here’s the map, good luck! https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/

  26. Kiana says...

    This looks delicious but my son has his heart set on a traditional whole turkey. I think I can get him to accept if we do a half turkey (like just the legs and a breast or something), but I don’t know if supermarkets even sell turkeys split up like that?

    • Alice says...

      You could buy a whole turkey for Thanksgiving and use the leftovers to make the pot pie. It would make a great weekend meal.

    • L says...

      I don’t know about legs, but you can definitely just buy a breast! I cook mine in the crockpot and it comes out really well!

    • Emma says...

      We’re ordering breasts and legs from a local butcher, if that’s an option for you! I bet a restaurant doing takeout or a la carte meals would also love to sell you some of their turkey this year too. Just some ideas :)

    • Ae says...

      You can find breast and wings at the supermarket. You can also ask the butcher- either there or a stand alone butcher, if you have one near you- to break up full turkey.

    • Simone says...

      Go in on a whole turkey with a friend and then (if it’s not fresh, once thawed) ask your meat counter/butcher to cut it in half for you- the meat counters I frequent have always been so accommodating. You could also freeze the other half for another time.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      You can absolutely buy just the breast or just the legs. Usually they sell them already pre-carved and wrapped, and I’m guessing that if you go to a supermarket with a good butcher, he or she will be very willing to cut up parts for you. You have to imagine they’re not moving a lot of 18 pound whole turkeys this year!

    • Deanna says...

      This isn’t common knowledge, but most grocery stores can and will cut a whole (frozen) turkey in half though the backbone for you so you don’t have to decide what pieces to get. It’s something my mom has been doing for as long as I can remember. You just need to be ask the meat counter and have the freezer space or a friend to split the turkey with!

    • rose says...

      I am vegetarian but my mother is doing a Cornish hen – she’s been single for years and loves having a tiny bird all to herself. I would think a child would also just love this!

      PS: south-east Asian secret is to baste liberally every five mins with coconut water for a shiny lacquered finish!r

    • Mary Eaton says...

      Actually most stores sell turkey parts…thighs, drums, breast. I often oven roast the thighs and legs because they get so tender and juicy. I add stuffing or mashed potatoes and veggies on the side. Perfect for this Thanksgiving

    • Ramya says...

      A related question – we are vegetarian but my son isn’t and is really keen to have a bit of turkey this year. I don’t want to cook it but presume I can buy a small already cooked portion in a grocery deli. Can anyone confirm or offer any suggestions in this regard? Thanks in advance!

  27. Rose says...

    We love Anthony Bourdain’s pot pie recipe from his Appetites cookbook. It is baked in a 9×13 dish like this recipe, and we make it after every Thanksgiving using leftover smoked turkey meat. The smoked turkey adds a rich flavor, so delicious we look forward to it every year!

  28. Anne says...

    This is genius. Who doesn’t love a pot pie!

  29. Veronica says...

    This looks delicious! Another special, small scale Thanksgiving main that my husband and I did last year was sous vide duck breast. It was a special treat and turned out so much better than a large scale turkey usually does.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That sounds amazing!

  30. Morgan Landes says...

    I make a turkey pot pie with my leftover turkey as a post Thanksgiving meal every year. My family loves it! It’s such a comforting meal.

  31. Katie says...

    Just the type recipe I’ve been looking for! Can this be made ahead and frozen? Or can I use frozen turkey meat? I have the cooked meat now and am not sure whether to make the pot pie ahead of time or pull out frozen turkey to make this meal closer to Thanksgiving. Thank you!

    • Christa says...

      Aww @Tina that’s my go-to crust too! So good!

  32. Dawn says...

    I’m doing a variation on this theme… Turkey Shepherd’s Pie – basically removing the potatoes from the filling and replacing the crust with a layer of mashed potatoes! Looking forward to all my favorites in one creamy bite!

    • AE says...

      Ooohhh that sounds SO good

  33. Elizabeth PFB says...

    I cannot find Dufour pastry anywhere in my rural Arkansas area. I did an online search last week and found nothing.

    • Lisa H says...

      That crust made with Dufour puff pastry looks delectable, but I’m sure you could use Pepperidge Farm, or a regular store bought or homemade pie crust.

    • Andrea says...

      The Pepperidge Farms one is great and pretty available in the US.

    • Julie says...

      I use the Pepperidge Farms brand for my chicken pot pies and it’s great.