Creative, Fresh Ways to Use Up Leftover Ingredients


[updated August 4, 2019. The post below may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a small commission for anything you purchase via a link. In other words, thanks for the coffee money!]

Stop! Don’t throw out those leftovers before reading this first. 

Here’s a handy guide to repurposing and reusing leftover food.

It’s the hallmark of good meal planning; stretching one dinner into two. Of course, it’s a simple change to turn a roast chicken dinner one night into chicken salad the next; but what do you do with those really random ingredients, which might not be so obvious? Reusing leftover food can save you so much time and money!

You have to think outside the box and figure out just how you’re going to use up the rest of that buttermilk, but that’s not always so easy when you’re busy and dinner needs to get on the table, pronto.

One Meal, Two Dinners

I have totally been there! So I put on my designer hat and created a handy cheat sheet that helps you figure out just how go about reusing leftover food in your own kitchen.

Reusing Leftover Food #1: red or white miso paste

Miso paste is a umami-bomb that punches up the flavor of many a salad dressing or ramen soup, and it also lasts a ridiculously long time in the fridge. Miso is made from fermented soybeans, but a little goes a long way. Since it’s often sold in package form, it’s almost too easy to buy way more miso than you know what to do with. Here are two recipes that will make light work of emptying out that little tub at the back of your refrigerator.

Creamy Tahini-Miso Dressing

 Reusing Leftover Food #2: old cheese

Listen, I get it. It sounded like a great idea at the time, buying all.the.cheese!

One time I bought so much cheese that the guy at the cheese counter asked me if I was having a party (it was all for me!) but I got embarrassed and lied and said yes. I know how it feels to love cheese. But that doesn’t mean it all gets eaten at its prime, so here are two simple ways to use all those old heels and dried out hunks at once, instead of throwing them away:

Super Creamy Extra Cheesy 15-Minute Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Reusing Leftover Food #3: buttermilk

Buttermilk is another one of those ingredients where a little goes a long way. Its acidity is an advantage when used in baked goods, because it helps break down strands of gluten, resulting in moist cakes and muffins that bear a slight tang. But if you bought buttermilk to bake a cake, and didn’t use it all… how the heck are you gonna get rid of this stuff?

5-Minute Blender Green Goddess Dressing

Irish Soda Bread

Reusing Leftover Food #4: tomato sauce

It’s easy to go overboard on making marinara, red sauce, gravy, or any other iteration of tomato sauce. It smells and tastes amazing, and is usually pretty simple to prepare. It also freezes great. But since it’s so good in so many recipes, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Here’s a recipe to help bust you out:

‘Baked’ Crockpot Ziti

Reusing Leftover Food #5: egg yolks

Make an eggwhite omelet recently? Or perhaps whipped meringue? Both leave you with random egg yolks, and it would be criminal to throw them away when you could make them into these:

I've only ever made pudding from a box lol so I wasn't so sure about this homemade pudding recipe, but I was really surprised at how easy it is! he says this recipe is for dark chocolate with sea salt (so yum) but she also includes instructions for making just regular chocolate pudding from scratch, too. Made for a great Valentine's Day dinner dessert!

Dark Chocolate Pudding

Reusing Leftover Food #6: chicken stock

Sometimes, a recipe calls for just one cup of chicken stock. But a box of chicken stock purchased from the store is at least a quart or two, and if you defrosted a container of homemade stock, there’s a good chance you didn’t use it all up, either. Here my favorite Instant Pot recipe that uses chicken stock (I call it “magic” because it is!)

‘Magic’ White Chicken Chili in the Instant Pot

I hope these recipes and recipes ideas helped you guys! Reusing leftover food can really help you up your game in the kitchen, especially when you’ve got uncommon ingredients from a recipe that might not be in your regular rotation.

This post is the second in the series so far. Here’s what else I’ll be covering in the next couple of weeks:

#1: How You Can Cook Family Meal Just Like a Chef

#2 The 5+ Best, ‘Must-Have’ Kitchen Appliances Every Cook Needs 

#3 Reasons Why You Need Better Kitchen Organization