10 Ways to Give Leftovers a Lift

Ended up with a fridge full of leftovers post-party or holiday dinner? Avoid meal boredom and waste with these great ideas for sprucing up leftover food. You may end up liking it even better the second time around!

1. Sandwiches

Leftover roast or ham makes the perfect base for a grilled sandwich. Have a load of turkey from Thanksgiving? Here’s two quick ideas. First, tuck it between country bread, layer leftover cranberry sauce or chutney, a melting cheese like fontina or gruyere, some red onions, and peppery greens like arugula. Cook in a panini press or grill pan. Or, you could make turkey salad with a mixture of mayo, cranberry sauce, and minced onion or celery—perfect for a packable lunch wrap. See how easy it is?

2. Potato Cakes

Leftovers don’t have to be restricted to family meals. Say you’ve got a bunch of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes chilling in the fridge after Friday night dinner? Just combine with flour, egg, and a few spices to make my appetizer-sized Crispy Cheddar-Scallion Potato Pancakes!

3. Frittatas

Perfect for brunch or a light dinner, these one-pan wonders are an excellent recipe-free way to use up veggie dishes and cooked holiday ham. Toss some onions in a sauté pan, stir in leftover chopped veggies and ham, pour over a mixture of egg and grated cheese, then cook it all on the stovetop till the bottom is set. Pop under the broiler to finish. Serve hot from the oven or they’re even tasty at room temp.

4. Shepherd’s Pies

Prepare this comfort food staple in a snap! Dice leftover turkey or roast, then mix it with any gravy, and chopped cooked veggies you’ve got, along with some minced poultry herbs. Pour it all into a greased casserole or individual ramekins and top with a layer of leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing, or pie crust. Heat in a 350-degree oven until the filling is bubbly and the top is lightly browned.

5. Soups

Use up food scraps the same way Grandma did. Your turkey carcass will make a great stock, or you could combine chopped leftover chicken and cooked veggies with store-bought broth and pasta for an easy, kid-friendly dinner. Want to take it up a notch? Make our Turkey & Black Bean Tortilla Soup. Tip! Freeze any soup leftovers to enjoy later in the winter.

6. Pastas

Any leftover chopped, cooked meats and veggies can be added to your favorite pasta dishes—such as turkey tetrazzini or spaghetti carbonara. Want to really wow them? Use leftover mashed potatoes to make my Ricotta Gnocchi w Brown Butter & Sage Sauce.

7. Stir-Fries

You can completely transform cooked turkey and veggies into something entirely new in a simple stir-fry with Asian flair. Combine with your favorite bottled stir-fry sauce, or try our easy Spicy Hoisin Turkey Stir Fry

8. Tex Mex

Spice up leftover roast, potatoes, and cheese in simple Tex Mex style in quesadillas, enchiladas, or burritos. Just add cooked rice, black beans, hot sauce, and jack cheese, and layer in your favorite tortillas. For easy enchiladas, just roll them up, place in a casserole, top with salsa and cheese and bake until heated through.

9. Vinaigrettes or Sauces

Ever wondered what to do with all that leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving dinner? Why not whisk it into your favorite vinaigrette to top salads? It’s especially delicious paired with goat cheese or feta! You could also add cranberry sauce to a red wine pan reduction to top pork chops or sautéed chicken breasts.

10. Baked Goods

Leftover fruit sides and condiments like cranberry sauce or chutney? Mix them with diced apple or pear in your favorite cobbler or fruit crumble recipe. You can also substitute plain mashed sweet potatoes or puréed butternut squash for pumpkin in your favorite recipes for pancakes, muffins or loaf breads. They’ll never know the difference!


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