Leftovers are king when you cook from scratch as much as we do (a necessary evil to avoid processed food)! I love having prepared food on hand that’s ready to eat (as opposed to just “ingredients“), but that doesn’t mean leftovers don’t get boring after eating them 2 or 3 times in a row. So, the solution is to reinvent those leftovers to make them more exciting – one of my favorite things to do come lunchtime – and today I’m sharing some simple ideas for leftovers that do exactly that.
10 Exciting Ideas for Leftovers
- Leftover Fish > Fish Cakes
Most of the time I honestly like the fish cakes I make with leftover fish better than the original fish we had the night before! They are especially good for lunch over a big salad and so easy to make by mixing breadcrumbs and egg into the cooked fish (and pan frying them).–
- Leftover Homemade Pizza > Crispy Hot Pizza (in a skillet)
Please don’t ever reheat leftover pizza in the microwave! A tiny bit of extra effort can go a long way. Simply place the pizza in a skillet with melted butter and heat it until it’s crispy on the bottom and warm on top (covering with a lid can help ensure even heating all the way through). Top with freshly grated parmesan and voila … it will easily be just as good (and maybe even better) than it was the day before!–
- Leftover Plain Pasta > Pasta Salad
Make pasta salad out of leftover (plain) whole-grain pasta noodles, or even leftover couscous if you have some on hand. The base for any good pasta salad very much resembles a salad dressing. Once tossed with dressing, simply add in veggies, fresh herbs and your favorite cheese (grated or crumbled). The “Feta and Avocado Pasta Salad” pictured below is in my Fast & Fabulous cookbook.–
- Leftover Meat and/or Veggies > Quesadillas
Stretch any leftover meat (chicken, steak, taco meat, pork chops, etc.) by chopping it up, mixing it with cooked veggies, cheese, and spices (such as chili powder and cumin), placing it all between two whole-grain tortillas and pan frying it for a whole new meal. Sweet potato is a great vegetable for this. One of my all-time favorites!–
- Leftover Mashed Potatoes > Gnocchi
All you have to do is add some flour and egg to leftover mashed potatoes to make homemade gnocchi (sub whole-wheat flour)! My grandmother taught me this trick, and it truly is the best way to reinvent your mashed potato leftovers. A good tip to remember as we approach Thanksgiving – thanks, Grandma!
- Leftover Chicken or Steak > Grilled Open-Faced Sandwich
I’m not a huge fan of the “leftover” flavor that meat can sometimes have, so if I’m gonna eat it, I always work to cover it up with additional flavor (using something like a sauce, such as gravy, or cheese). You can see why this super easy grilled sandwich is right up my alley! Similar to the pizza above, you simply melt a little butter in a skillet, place the sandwich bread-side down, and use a lid to help evenly distribute the heat and melt the cheese on top. Great with chicken of course, but especially good with steak, too! –
- Leftover Rice > Fried Rice Dinner
Since plain brown rice can get a little boring (whether it’s leftover or not!) I love to add some flavor, and turning it into fried rice or a stir-fry is much more exciting! Simply combine frozen chopped veggies, egg, some soy sauce (and other flavors, like sesame oil), and you have yourself an easy dinner dish that’ll rival take-out. –
- Leftover Taco Meat > Taco Salad
We happily eat cold leftover taco meat at my house when it’s mixed with a bunch of yummy salad fixings. Who would ever say no to a tasty lunch like this?
- Leftover Cornbread > Croutons (for salad or soup)
Cornbread croutons are a fabulous topping for soups and stews (like chili – yum!) and also salads, too. There are a couple of ways to make the cornbread crispy after you chop it into little cubes … either bake them in the oven or toaster oven or pan fry them in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil.
- Leftover Beans > Tostada
Mash leftover black or pinto beans and spread them onto a corn tortilla, top with cheese and spices (I like chili powder and cumin on this one as well), and stick it in the oven until the cheese melts and turns golden brown for a quick and tasty lunch.
What’s your favorite way to reinvent leftovers and make them exciting and new again? Please share your ideas for leftovers with me in the comments so I can give them a go!
12 thoughts on “10 Exciting Ideas for Leftovers!”
I turn leftover stuffed peppers into shepherds pie and add a little cheese over the top of the mashed potatoes for added flavour
Sounds delicious! – Nicole
Nice tips but I would never advise anyone to reheat cooked rice. Big food poisoning risk if not heated sufficiently.!
I’ve done quesadillas with various leftovers, but also roll-up style. I’ve made them cold or warmed them up on a skillet. Luckily we don’t buck leftovers too much at our house – they become lunch the next day, as I’m terrible at having lunch plans.
I love the idea of using leftover fish for fish cakes! I have only made them on purpose but left overs is great way to extend those leftovers into something new!
I want to dd this I always here the term REAL FOOD and wondered what it meant
Thank you I will do the 100 day challenge .
This was so practical! Love using something that might otherwise go to waste, and making it even better than it was for round 1. My 6yo declared the fish cakes we had this weekend MUCH better than our typical salmon patties. Thank you!
Truly thankful for the post. Also cook from scratch and take care of leftovers. You share great solutions so we all become more creative and frugal. Will be back. Thank you !
I recently discovered a way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce with meat in it or an incentive to make double so the next night you can stuff that sauce into green, red and yellow peppers, top with lots of mozzarella cheese, cook until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted. Yum!
I make the meat planner the first time and then Can add spices later. For example rotisserie chicken the first night becomes a chicken casserole 2 days later.
I made your Italian chuck roast in the crock of recently and then we ate it with different side dishes for 2 nights and as quesadillas one night! Next time I may make it with just onion and garlic so I can make it taste different for 4-5 meals!
Turn leftover pot roast into French dip sandwiches. If we have two leftover soups, it usually tastes good mixing them together. If the flavors won’t mesh well, we freeze for a later date. I love mixing up our leftovers!
My favorite leftover tip is to minimize them in the first place. When making cassarole type things like, cauliflower gratain, shepherds pie, spaghetti pie, lasagna, tuna noodle casserole, etc. I put the recipe in two rectangle 6 cup glass Pyrex dishes. Then I put one in the oven for dinner and put the other in the freezer for another week. The hot dishes taste best when freshly cooked anyway and then I have a heat and eat meal for a busy school night.