16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

Not everyone loves eating leftovers, but that doesn’t have to mean they’re destined for the trash. Try these fun ways to transform leftovers into a satisfying, fresh meal.

Okay, I’ll be honest here: I actually love leftovers. Growing up, we’d eat leftovers from supper for breakfast in the morning, so there’s something about reheating yesterday’s meal that’s nostalgic for me. But I married a man who is super not into leftovers. He—and a lot of other people—think that eating the same meal two days in a row is boring. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be.

Related: 14 Ways to Cook with Food Scraps

Cooking with leftovers is more than budget-friendly. It’s an important part of fighting our food waste problem. We throw away about a quarter of the food that we buy (pdf alert). Some of that is food that spoils before we even get a chance to cook it, but some of it is food that we cooked too much of. Cooking with leftovers saves money and puts a little dent in that 25 percent!

16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

One caveat before you start cooking: If your leftovers sat in the fridge for too long, you might want to consider food safety before you use them again. The Mayo Clinic has a helpful article on how long leftovers stay good. In general, you’re safe for three to four days, as long as you refrigerated the food promptly after you finished dishing it up.

Right! Got those safe, properly-stored leftovers ready? Here are some tasty ways to make them fun again.

16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

1. Southwest Pumpkin Risotto Quesadillas – Turn yesterday’s risotto into tonight’s Tex-Mex fiesta!

2. Cranberry Smoothie – Save this leftovers idea for Thanksgiving: turn leftover cranberry sauce into the base for a healthy breakfast smoothie.

3. Gut-Healing Veggie Broth – Leftover veggies and even veggie scraps all go into this healing pot of goodness.

4. Baked Bubble and Squeak Cakes – Got leftover roasted vegetables? Bake them up into tasty patties.

5. Chili Dog Pizza – Yup, this recipe using leftover chili is totally vegan.

16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

6. Black Bean Taco Pizza – Last night’s black beans are the stars of this healthy pizza recipe.

7. Veggie and Rice Buddha Bowl – Raid the produce drawer for veggies that need cooking, and throw this cozy bowl of goodness together.

8. Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies – These decadent vegan cookies use leftover pulp from making homemade oat milk.

9. Chocolate Smoothie – Got some leftover sweet potatoes in the fridge? Throw them into the blender for a healthy treat that tastes super decadent.

10. Tortilla Pizza – It might be hard to think of leftovers that wouldn’t be delicious piled onto a crispy, thin tortilla crust.

16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

11. Green Juice Pulp Crackers – Juicing creates a lot of waste, but you can use all of that nutritious pulp to make these crunchy crackers.

12. Banana Bread Pudding – Turn stale bread into a surprisingly healthy dessert with the power of bananas and peanut butter.

13. Tomato Rice Patties – Use up your leftover rice in these simple, delicious tomato patties.

14. Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding – Stale raisin bread is the base for this decadent bread pudding that you can serve as breakfast or dessert.

16 Delicious Ways to Cook with Leftovers

15. Chili Pie – Got leftover chili or mashed potatoes? Bake them into a hearty chili pie. You won’t be sorry!

16. Beans and Rice Casserole – Bulk out yesterday’s beans and rice with veggies and diced potato, and bake it up into a cozy casserole.


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