Usually, the term “leftovers” doesn’t conjure up much excitement, implying the same meal day after day. But these clever and easy leftover recipes transform one dish into an entirely new culinary experience.
They’re perfect for kids, adults, and company, so you won’t waste a scrap and you’ll have a new meal that’s just as good (if not better) than the original. To cut back your food budget even further, check out these great food coupons, ways to reduce food waste, and helpful tips for savvy grocery shopping.
1. Hot Dog Bread Pudding
Sometimes that big batch of hot dogs is just a bit too big. Rather than repeating the meal, reform it into a cheesy, delicious bread pudding. All you need is half and half, eggs, seasonings of your choosing, and cheese to top it off.
- 8-inch square casserole dish
- About 8 hot dogs and buns
- 1 cup half and half (or 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup whole milk)
- 3 eggs
- Fresh thyme (or seasoning of your choosing)
- Fresh rosemary (or seasoning of your choosing)
- 2/3 cup cheese (I used cheddar)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut up the hot dogs in their buns into pieces about 1-1/2 inches long. Arrange them in the baking pan so they’re tightly packed.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the hot dogs. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grate the cheese over the top of the pudding. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the top is golden and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
2. Mashed Potato Pancakes
Source: Just a Taste
Mashed potatoes lose their creamy texture very quickly, but they can be used to make delicious pancakes even a couple of days later. Cheddar cheese adds a delicious zing to these crispy treats topped with cool sour cream.
3. Spaghetti Frittata
Source: Shoestring Magazine
There’s no great way to reheat pasta, so instead of settling for mediocre noodles, turn them into a frittata or pizza-like creation. Simply mix leftover spaghetti with eggs and cheese, then cook on the stovetop until crisp on both sides.
4. Hamburger Chili
Source: Food Network
By combining them with beans, you can turn two cooked patties into a meal for the whole family. Just crumble them into an easy chili that’s ready in 20 minutes.
5. Waffled Pizza Pocket
Turn cold, leftover pizza into a delectable, gooey treat by pressing it in a waffle iron. It’s ready when the cheese starts to ooze out.
Source: Good to Know
One morning’s pancakes can be turned into that evening’s dinner. Stuff them with chicken, then cover with a cheesy tomato sauce and you’ve got enchiladas.
7. Chinese Food Arancini
Source: Cooking Channel
Arancini might be a Sicilian staple, but they’re equally delicious when made with leftover Chinese food. To make, combine chopped-up stir-fry and rice, roll it into balls, and fry until crispy.
8. Deviled Ham
Source: From Away
A hunk of honey-baked ham is great for sandwich making, but there’s always that extra bit that’s left behind. Use up remaining bits by deviling them — blending with mayonnaise, mustard, and other seasonings — and use the resulting paste as a spread or sandwich filler.
9. Steak Fajita Rice Bowl
Source: Super Healthy Kids
Let’s face it, steak just isn’t the same when it’s not fresh off the grill. But if you slice it up and add it to a Mexican-inspired rice bowl, it’ll make for a hearty and totally delicious alternative.
10. French Fry Tortilla
Fries are best fresh, but don’t toss the leftovers. This recipe calls for chopped up, cold French fries, which are baked with eggs and onions into a tortilla-like treat. Top them with the sauce or cheese of your choosing.
11. Leftover Fish Cakes
Source: Food For My Family
These soft, flaky fish cakes might even taste better than the original filets. They’re also a great way to use up leftover rice if you have it, and if you happen to have mashed potatoes instead, check out this variation from Foodess.
12. Curried Chicken Salad
Source: The Art of Doing Stuff
Rotisserie chicken is so versatile: it’s a delicious a pizza topping, taco filling, and pasta addition. But this curried chicken salad is an especially tasty alternative — a perfect dish to make in bulk and keep on hand for guests. Apples, pecans, and celery add some sweetness and crunch, while curry and cayenne pepper give it a kick.
13. Cake Balls
Source: Persia Lou
Throwing away cake is a travesty, but it’s easy for this celebratory dessert to be forgotten on the following day. These cake balls are so easy to make with just about any cake. Simply knead the cake and frosting together to form a dough, shape it into balls, dip in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nonpareils or other decorative toppings.
14. Lettuce Soup
Source: Ben Greenfield Fitness
Especially at this time of year (and especially if you’re lucky enough to be growing your own garden), it isn’t uncommon to wind up with bags of lettuce in the fridge. If you just can’t take another salad, turn it into a light and healthy soup instead.
15. Scrambled Egg Salad
Source: Noble Pig
Scrambled eggs just aren’t the same after a few hours in the fridge — unless, of course, you turn them into egg salad first. All you have to do is mix them with mayonnaise, mustard, chopped green onion, sweet pickles, salt, and pepper, and you’ve got a perfect sandwich filler.
16. Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf
Source: Bon Appétit
This super healthy South American protein is great to make in large quantities. Use leftover quinoa to make a nutritious meatloaf with lots of vegetables, turkey, and barbeque sauce.
17. Banana Ice Cream
Source: BBC Good Food
It always feels like that bananas ripen faster than they can be eaten. While banana bread is a common fix, ice cream is an even easier way to use them up. Simply freeze them in chunks, then blend with milk until you have a nice creamy texture and top with chopped nuts or chocolate.
18. Corn, Roasted Red Pepper & Cilantro Salad
Source: Food Network
Corn on the cob is a summer grilling staple. If you don’t eat it all, you can slice off the kernels and turn them into a refreshing salad that keeps well for days.
19. Fruit Smoothie
Source: Spoon University
Pretty much any fruit can be frozen and used as the base of this simple and healthy smoothie. So, as soon as your produce looks like it’s nearing the end of its days, stick it in the freezer for your next drink.
20. Guacamole Pesto
Source: Houston Press
Guacamole is infamous for saving poorly and turning brown, but if you turn it into pesto you’ll have a sauce for pastas and sandwiches that has a bit more longevity.
Conserving food saves both time and money, but it needn’t doom you to boring repetition either. Transform one meal into an entirely new one with these simple recipes and you’ll get the most out of your grocery shopping and cooking time — and you’ll keep friends and family happily well fed.