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27 Recipes That Will Reinvent Your Leftovers

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Being able to make use of your leftovers is great, but being able to make them exciting is something else thing entirely. A little creativity and a well-stocked pantry go a long way here—it’s the difference between using the rest of that chicken to make a run-of-the-mill noodle soup and using it to make a rich and spicy lemongrass-scented tom kha. The difference between tossing yesterday’s farro into a grain bowl and making it into cheesy, savory veggie-packed meatballs.

We asked our staffers what leftover ingredients had them stumped and picked our favorite recipes to give them a little inspiration. Soon they’ll all be reinventing last night’s dinner into something low-waste and surprisingly delicious. (Right, guys?)

CHICKEN

Roasting a chicken once a week is a wonderful ritual that makes your house smell incredible, and with these recipes in your arsenal, you’ll never run out of ideas for keeping those leftovers interesting.

  • Korean Chicken Sliders

    Korean Chicken Sliders

    This recipe is a marriage of American BBQ fare (buns, slaw, and mayo) and the sweet, spicy, fermented flavors of a few key Korean ingredients (gochujang and fish sauce). If you have cooked chicken, just toss it with the Korean marinade and let it simmer for fifteen minutes.

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  • Curry Chicken Salad

    Curry Chicken Salad

    We like to make a big batch of this and snack on it throughout the week or eat it for lunch. If you don’t have time to cook your own chicken, an organic rotisserie chicken works well here.

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  • Tom Kha

    Tom Kha

    Yes, this is our cheat version of the Thai takeout classic. Don’t skip the fresh-squeezed lime at the end—it really makes it.

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  • Kale Caesar with Chicken and Crispy Chickpeas
  • Chicken Bone Broth

    Chicken Bone Broth

    When you’ve picked all the meat from the bones, don’t toss them: Make stock! This versatile broth is great for sipping, making soups, or using in any recipe that calls for chicken stock.

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  • Zucchini and Chicken Lettuce Cup Salad

RICE

The obvious choice for leftover cooked rice is fried rice, of which we have several iterations (kimchi, wakame and zucchini, quick with seaweed, and the Thai-style kitchen-sink edition). But you can change it up other ways, playing into the pleasantly glutinous texture of rice. Note: The congee and rice pudding give directions for using uncooked rice, but you can make those dishes with cooked rice, too. Just start by adding about ½ the amount of liquid called for and let simmer, stirring consistently and adding extra liquid as needed. For the arancini, just skip the first two steps to use cooked rice.

GRAINS

Making a big batch of grains is a pro meal-prep move, and their uses go well beyond salads and grain bowls.

PASTA

We usually don’t recommend cooking extra batches of pasta—the texture tends to suffer if you’re not using it right away. But if you happen to have some left over, these options will still have nice flavor and texture.

  • Vegan Mac ’n’ Cheese
  • Double-Duty Kale Pesto Pasta
  • Cold Dan Dan Noodles

    Cold Dan Dan Noodles

    These super tasty cold dan dan noodles are tossed in a peanut sauce bursting with umami and a subtle but fiery kick, then topped with fresh cilantro and cucumber for a crisply satisfying crunch.

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GREENS

If you’ve got bunches of chard, kale, collard, or spinach to work through from your latest CSA box, try these recipes. Don’t worry: They’ll work even if your greens are looking a little sad.

  • Kale and Butternut Squash Lasagna

    Kale and Butternut Squash Lasagna

    Even carnivores won’t miss the meat in this vegetarian lasagna. The different components do take some prep time, but the whole thing can be made and assembled up to a day in advance.

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  • Green Shakshuka

    Green Shakshuka

    A play on the traditional shakshuka, this flavorful, bright green dish is going to be your new favorite breakfast for dinner, or Sunday brunch at home.

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  • Beans and Greens Soup with Harissa

    Beans and Greens Soup with Harissa

    Sweet and fragrant saffron and earthy, spicy harissa make this soup an upgrade from your average beans and greens soup. The smell of the broth alone will make you really excited about this super healthy dinner.

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HERBS

It can seem like a race against the clock when you’re trying to use all your herbs before they turn. Most of these recipes are herby sauces that are many different cuisines’ answer to that problem. The one nonsauce recipe is a simple chicken soup with cauliflower rice, but almost any version of chicken soup would be improved with a final sprinkling of fresh herbs.

ONIONS

These recipes will work for those stray onion halves that seem to accumulate in the fridge throughout the week. Feel free to combine red, yellow, and white onions or even shallots.

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