Leftovers are the most expensive food in your house. You’ve used money & time to buy, transform, prepare and cook them!
Bear with me, please, as this post is updated. It used to be basically one long list, so this post is going through a complete transformation. Vegetables by type are getting their own pages, so right now this post is a little crazy!! Beans are next and tomatoes coming soon.
This post contains general information for all leftover vegetables, but vegetables by type either have or will eventually have their own pages. See the links at the bottom of the page.
Start to think about how any leftovers might be transformed into something marvelous. As a building block for recipes that rely on an already cooked ingredient; as a shortcut. All you need is inspiration & maybe a recipe.
Think of the recipes you’ll use as “guides” not something set in stone, especially as the amounts of your leftovers might not exactly match an amount in a recipe. Once you have a leftover ingredient to start with, scale recipes up or down, substitute and make do.
If you haven’t used a whole vegetable, wrap in plastic and store in the door of the fridge where you’ll see it and remember to use it. Think of leftover vegetables whenever a recipe already calls for cooked vegetables and use them as a shortcut.
Always keep Food Safety in mind when cooking or dealing with any leftovers.
1. egg dishes:
Add to your frittatas, omelets scrambled eggs. Lot’s of veggies can be added to egg dishes, and leftovers will save you time sautéing them up in the morning.
Reheat leftover vegetables in soups or make a soup from them. Save veggies on their own or in a combination of flavors that go well together. Just add to a Ziploc bag and freeze and keep adding until you have enough.
Since most casseroles start with precooked vegetables, it’s a no-brainer to use your leftover veggies in one.
4. cheese it:
Transform lackluster leftovers with a simple cheese sauce.
5. cream it:
Reheat with cream or a white sauce to revive those leftover vegetables for a second meal.
So many veggies are great on top of a pizza, and leftover ones, already cooked, are even better.
Pickle them and use them as a side or an appetizer or a condiment. Think Asian, Mexican, or traditional American Pickles.
Add to your green smoothies like my Big, Fat Green Smoothie, or use with a combination of fruit for a more palatable option.
9. respice and reheat:
Sprinkle generously with your favorite spice mixtures and reheat with a little butter.
Add to potatoes or sweet potatoes and fry up a marvelous hash, or just make hash on its own.
Stuff vegetables with vegetables! Toss them into the mix for Stuffed Peppers or other Stuffed Vegetables.
12. bubble & squeak:
Fry everything in a saucepan. Or fry, add mashed potatoes and mix together. Try add grated cheese, form into cakes, dust with flour and pan-fried till golden. These little cakes freeze well.
I gave you a lot of general ideas for inspiration, above, but you’ve got to find your way when dealing with a specific type of leftover vegetable. Here are a few ways to make those shine!
Scroll towards the bottom of the page to see links for leftover Cruciferous, Asparagus, Root Vegetables, Corn and leftover Cruidite Platters, which now have their own pages.
Fresh beans go fast in the fridge! If you’re afraid you won’t get to them in time, do a quick blanch in boiling water, shock them in cold water and trim them when you’re ready to use them. Those brownish spots? It’s called rust and it’s harmless but it multiplies quickly. Here are a few ideas to use up any leftovers:
1. three bean salad:
Make three bean salad or use the same method for any bean salad. It’s not set in stone that you’ll need all three beans and that dressing is great! You can always count on AllRecipes for solid recipes that have been tested many times.
2. pickle them:
3. take out style:
When you reheat, saute them. Use this recipe to transform those beans into marvelous Take Out Style Beans. Saute them quickly so they don’t turn to mush.
4. salad nicoise:
Of course, you’ll want to make Salad Nicoise, right? Such a classic. Here’s a recipe from Melissa d’Arabian.
5. tuna with beans & tomatoes:
Or maybe this more American type salad, Tuna with Beans & Tomatoes. So good!
Make quick refrigerator pickles. Just do a search, but basically just boil 1 cup of vinegar with 1 to 2 cups of sugar and pour over cucumbers, let sit at least 2 hours – these will keep for weeks in the fridge.
2. add cream:
It’s a thing. Add a little cream or sour cream, maybe a touch of vinegar. Add some celery seed, caraway or dill if you’d like. A touch of sugar never hurt.
It doesn’t take a lot of cucumber to make Tzatziki and it’s marvelous as a dip for veggies or a spread in all kinds of sandwiches.
Cut into large slices and top with goat’s cheese, maybe mixed with your favorite herbs, or other cheese.
I love this Cream of Spring Vegetable Soup, with the quaint name of “Potage” and already cooked, leftover peas would be ideal. If the peas have been flavored or cooked with herbs, that’s just going to lend a little extra flavor.
Smash them up, add a few herbs: basil, mint, etc. or a combination and serve over pasta or on toasts for a kind of pea pesto.
3. pea salad:
There’s the classic Pea Salad and then there are a few upgrades. Peas & Salmon are a great combo. Check out my post on What To Do With That Canned Salmon Lurking in Your Pantry.
4. add to creamed dishes:
5. toss in creamy pasta:
Pretty much a no-brainer. Add peas to creamy alfredo type pasta dishes, just at the end to cook through. They’ll add a little texture, color and a healthy aspect.
1. roast & freeze:
Assuming the peppers you’re dealing with are raw, any pepper can be roasted under the broiler or over a flame or on a grill, steamed in a covered bowl, peeled and frozen in useful sizes.
Any pepper, hot or mild can be made into a pepper jelly. Scale down a recipe if you’d like. It doesn’t take many peppers to make and if yo make a small batch, just refrigerate instead of canning it.
3. honey glaze:
Finely dice, saute for a minute in a little butter, then add honey. Brush over cornbread or savory muffins. See my Famous Dave’s Cornbread for a recipe to riff off.
4. make a spread:
Don’t waste the little bits around the stem when you’re prepping. Finely dice and mix with a little cream cheese for a sandwich or bagel spread.
5. add to a salad or bowl:
Any cooked peppers can easily be added to a salad or a bowl! Maybe with some brown rice or quinoa and this Lemon Yogurt Dressing?
1. salads & bowls:
Add to salads and salad bowls. Think of mixed with greens, brown rice or quinoa, drizzled with a lemon yogurt, balsamic or tahini dressing.
If your squashes are cooked, puree and serve again.
3. add to soups:
Squash can be added to soups, pureed or in chunks.
4. baked goods:
Back in the day, it was trendy to use applesauce in baked goods to replace some of the eggs, oil, and dairy. Squash can be used the same way.
Squash is just excellent in pies, any hard squash, not just pumpkin. Substitute pureed squash for the same amount of pumpkin.
Always the no-brainer when dealing with pumpkin. If you’ve used pumpkin for something else, though and have leftover, think about pie (I have several on the blog) but flan, cheesecake or these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits also come to mind.
To use up just a bit of pumpkin puree, think about Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
3. add to soups:
Pumpkin, just like squash can be added to soups, pureed or in chunks.
I love pumpkin pancakes but haven’t developed or found my perfect recipe, yet. If you try one you love, let me know!
Add pumpkin to your morning oatmeal, along with pumpkin pie spice.
Don’t forget to roast the seeds.
1. air dry:
Almost any fresh herb that isn’t fleshy can be dried in small quantities. Don’t let them wilt and throw them away! Just spread them on a plate, let air dry and put in Ziploc or jars. Label. For larger quantities, loosely tie and hang.
Freeze chopped herbs in water and toss in soups or stocks. This goes for certain soft, not woody, stems, too, which carry have the same flavor as the herbs. Use an ice-cube tray for this.
3. freeze in oil:
Freeze either plain or chop leftover herbs with a garlic clove, then freeze in ice-cube trays covered with olive oil. This is easy, mess-free option for when you’re ready to cook anything with herbs and garlic.
4. flavored oils:
Save your herbs or scraps to blend with olive oil for a finishing oil for toasted breads, soups, steaks, or you name it. Use your judgment as to what will taste good. Basil and chives come to mind, immediately, and this Cilantro Lime Oil is excellent and gives you a place to start.
5. green sauces:
vegetable parings & potential waste
When buying fresh vegetables, there’s going to be more waste than when buying canned or frozen. You’ve paid for it, so here are a few ways to turn potential waste into a positive.
Keep in a bag in the fridge any carrot tops and peelings, celery pieces, onion skins and other bits of vegetables (use your judgment as to how well something will keep or how it will taste) add to your stock or broth when making. Alternatively, put in a container in the freezer.
2. vegetable stock:
A traditional stock is great but think about Vegetable Stock, too. Just about anything goes. Here’s a recipe from The Kitchn.
Put tough outer greens from kale, chard or beet tops in an oven on low to dehydrate them. Then puree and you’ve got a homemade vitamin-packed powder to add to your morning green smoothie. Some people EAT these and claim to like them, btw.
Save all kinds of vegetable pieces and parts and use in your morning Green Smoothies. Think “nutrient-packed” items like asparagus & broccoli stems. Leave out seeds.
5. spa water:
Make Spa Water with certain vegetable/fruit parings: Tomato, Bell Pepper, and Cucumber are wonderful. Others maybe not so much. Use your judgment.
6. use cooking liquid:
Save the nutrient-rich water you cook vegetables in and use it in your soups, sauces and gravies or smoothies. The same goes for liquids in cans if they aren’t overly salty.
I’m always looking for new ideas – what are your favorite ways to use your leftover vegetables & herbs?
leftover vegetables by type
Slowly but surely, I’m updating this page and making new pages for leftover vegetables by type. There’s just so many different kinds, and this page has gotten long!