5 Creative Ways to Transform Leftovers into New Meals

Getting Creative With Leftovers

Leftovers can be a lifesaver, but eating the same meal over and over can get boring. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to transform your leftovers into exciting new dishes. For example, if you have leftover chicken, you can shred it and use it in a variety of meals.

Smoked Brisket Noodle Soup
Food & Wine // Greg Dupree

Think about making chicken tacos by simply adding some taco seasoning and serving it in tortillas with your favorite toppings. Or, mix the chicken with some mayo, celery, and grapes to create a tasty chicken salad that’s perfect for sandwiches or served on a bed of greens.

Turning Basic Ingredients into Gourmet Dishes

Sometimes, it’s the simplest ingredients that can be turned into something special. Leftover rice can be the base for a delicious fried rice. Just stir-fry it with some veggies, soy sauce, and a scrambled egg for an easy meal. If you have leftover pasta, don’t just reheat it. Instead, turn it into a pasta bake by mixing it with some marinara sauce, cheese, and any veggies or meats you have on hand, then bake it until it’s bubbly and golden. Another great idea is to make a breakfast hash with leftover roasted veggies. Just sauté them with some diced potatoes and top with a fried egg for a hearty breakfast.

Making the Most of Leftover Sauces and Sides

Don’t forget about those leftover sauces and side dishes! If you have extra gravy from a roast dinner, use it as a base for a pot pie. Just mix the gravy with leftover meat and veggies, top with a pastry crust, and bake. Leftover mashed potatoes can be turned into delicious potato pancakes. Just mix them with an egg and some flour, form into patties, and fry until crispy. Even leftover bread can be given new life. Turn stale bread into croutons by cutting it into cubes, tossing with olive oil and seasoning, and baking until crunchy. You can also make a sweet bread pudding by mixing the bread with eggs, milk, sugar, and spices, then baking until set.

Reinventing Leftover Protein

Leftover proteins like chicken, beef, or fish can be repurposed into a variety of delicious dishes. For example, leftover grilled chicken can be shredded and mixed with barbecue sauce for a quick and easy barbecue chicken pizza. Or, chop up leftover steak and toss it with some cooked pasta, pesto, and cherry tomatoes for a simple yet satisfying meal. Leftover fish can be used to make fish tacos by heating it up and serving it in tortillas with cabbage slaw and avocado. You can also use leftover protein to make a hearty salad by tossing it with mixed greens, veggies, and your favorite dressing.

Transforming Leftover Vegetables

Leftover vegetables are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. For example, you can chop up leftover roasted vegetables and mix them with cooked quinoa or couscous for a healthy and filling grain bowl. Leftover mashed potatoes can be used to make potato pancakes by mixing them with an egg and some flour, then frying until golden brown.

Leftover Chicken Soup
Food & Wine // Abby Hocking

You can also use leftover veggies to make a delicious soup by simmering them with broth, herbs, and spices until they’re soft and flavorful. Another option is to use leftover vegetables as a filling for omelets or frittatas by sautéing them with some onions and garlic before adding beaten eggs and cooking until set.