Half a head of cabbage? A few sorry carrots? A half-eaten rotisserie chicken? You could say: just bin it. Or you can accept the challenge and transform leftover ingredients into new culinary creations. You’ll reduce waste and save both time and money, but it’s also just satisfying to create something yummy and experiment with new flavours. We’ll help you on your way.

Leftover Roasted Chicken

With an entire roasted bird or store-bought rotisserie chicken, you almost always end up with leftovers. Clean the carcass while the meat is still warm for a next-day dinner in a cinch. You can just grab the shredded chicken for quick sandwiches or use some as a protein component in your next salad. For something a little fancier, we like to make this creamy vol-au-vent; with store-bought pastry cups, you can create this French treat in no time. Another favourite is a Greek lemon orzo soup

Leftover Chilli

What do you do when you have some chilli con (or sin) carne left, but it’s not enough for a full dinner? Repurpose it! Whip up chilli cheese sloppy joes in 20 minutes, use it in quesadillas, stuff it into bell peppers or make a comforting bowl of chilli mac ‘n cheese. Another fast and satisfying idea is the chilli cheese burritos below. Just make sure to drain your chilli carefully before you fill your burritos.

Leftover Pizza

Grabbing a piece of cold, leftover pizza straight from the box is a student-era breakfast memory for many of us (and if you still enjoy it: no shame!). But with a little bit of effort, you can transform your remaining slices into other things: French toast pizza, pizza eggs, a leftover pizza breakfast casserole or, the ultimate treat, these leftover loaded pizza fries.

Leftover Potatoes

Surely you know that boiled potatoes are lovely when pan-fried the next day, but there are so many other uses for your uneaten taters. Why not mash them, then add some cheese, an egg and a bit of flour, and transform them into golden brown pancakes? Throw in some chives, paprika or other seasonings, and serve with a dollop of sour cream on the side. Another great idea, in case you have a bit more time, is Spanish potato croquettes.

Leftover Veggies

Try pan-frying or roasting all your veggies whenever you suspect stragglers are otherwise going to sit in your fridge and turn to mush. This way, you can grab the cooked veggies for a quick frittata or casserole the next day. Make sure you always have some grated cheese at hand, because everything tastes better with some melted cheese on top. If you keep a roll of ready-made dough in the fridge or freezer, you can make a quick sheet pan pizza or tart with the prepped veggies. Another awesome way to use up every scrap is to make these yachaejeon, aka Korean vegetable pancakes.

Leftover Cabbage

Are you always left with more than half a head of cabbage after using some in a stir-fry? One cabbage seems to feed 100 people, and we’re always short on ideas for what to do with leftovers. If you’re going to be using shredded cabbage, make a point to shred the whole head right away, and store whatever you’re not using. Do this, and you’re well on your way to making a quick cole slaw or cabbage pickle the next day. Alternatively, use whole cabbage leaves as wraps or a burger ‘bun’ by blanching leaves for about 30 seconds.

Leftover Rice

The answer to leftover risotto or rice is arancini, the Sicilian deep-fried delicacy. You add parmesan, mozzarella and an egg, then coat with breadcrumbs and deep-fry; you can also use different fillings. Day-old medium- or long-grain rice is an essential component of fried rice, but leftover rice can also find its way into rice salads. Leave it to Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen chef Chris Morocco to present you with more great leftover rice ideas – we’re making all of them!

Leftover Herbs

The most likely suspect to wilt and wither in your fridge: fresh, tender herbs. You usually need only a sprinkling for your planned recipes, and end up forgetting about the rest. Avoid slimy messes in the back of your fridge by chopping up your herbs and mixing them into room-temperature butter. Wrap the compound butter up tightly in cling film, freeze and use slices of it on bread or melted over a piece of meat. You can also freeze herbs with oil, water or wine in ice cube trays, for handy seasoning cubes.

Leftover Stale Bread

Bread has been a repurposed staple for centuries. It has a prominent role in the Italian cucina povera, the cuisine of rural Italian peasants known for their inventive use of humble ingredients. Try a Tuscan ribollita, a hearty soup using stale bread as a thickener, a pappa al pomodoro, a thick bread and tomato soup, or pasta con la mollica, with toasted breadcrumbs as faux pecorino. For a sweet treat, combine stale bread with eggs, milk, cream sugar and spices to create a basic but delectable warm bread pudding. 

Leftover Stale Cake

Has your homemade cake gotten a little too crumbly? Stale cake can find redemption in a quick, satisfying dessert by layering it with yoghurt and fresh fruit in a yummy parfait. Day-old cake can also be transformed into chocolate cake balls (which can be frozen, too). Check out the video for even more ideas: cake pops, hazelnut-filled chocolate cariocas, sweet French toast and Black Forest trifle. These transformations also come in handy if you mess up your homemade cake, which happens to the best of us!

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