People Are Sharing Their Favorite Cooking Hacks For Giving Leftovers A New Life, And Some Are Pure Genius

    "You can take pretty much any savory item and turn it into a delicious quiche or a frittata."

    There's no worse feeling than wasting perfectly good food. So Reddit u/janoseye asked, "Everyone knows you can use stale bread for French toast or yesterday’s rice for fried rice, but what are some other recipes you can use to save ingredients from the trash?” Here's what home cooks had to say.

    1. "Turn over-proofed pizza dough into focaccia, stale focaccia into croutons, croutons into bread crumbs, and bread crumbs into meatballs. It's the circle of life."

    Focaccia Italian Rosemary bread in tray

    2. "Quiche or any kind of baked egg dish. I first learned this from Alton Brown. You can take pretty much any savory item (fresh or leftover) and turn it into a delicious quiche or a frittata."

    Combining ingredients in a bowl for quiche

    3. "When cherry or grape tomatoes start to get prune-y, I like to sauté them with garlic and herbs until blistered and juicy. I top them with lemon juice and they make a great side or appetizer. Or I serve them with your favorite protein, like roast chicken."

    Blistered cherry tomatoes in olive oil.

    4. "I use leftover mashed potatoes to make gnocchi. Just add egg, flour, and salt, and you've got homemade potato dumplings ready to be boiled and served with your favorite sauce."

    Homemade gnocchi on a cutting board

    5. "Save your Parmesan rinds and add them to homemade soups and sauces. It really adds that extra umami flavor boost."

    Close-up shot of Parmesan rinds on a wood cutting board

    6. "Old bananas on the verge of becoming too ripe to eat make for an absolutely glorious milkshake. Just add ice and vanilla ice cream or yogurt."

    A banana smoothie and bananas in the background.

    7. "Save your old, almost-stale tortilla chips and make chilaquiles. This Mexican breakfast is best with old tortillas. Or turn them into migas tacos with scrambled eggs."

    Chilaquiles with salsa verde and cheese

    8. "If you peel shrimp, save the shells to make a homemade seafood stock. The same goes for lobster, mussels, even fish bones or heads. Just freeze it and mix it all together for great seafood stock. And of course, you can do the same with veggie scraps for vegetable broth."

    A person peeling the shells of shrimp

    9. "Turn all your leftover bits of assorted cheese — a little gouda here, a bit of cheddar or Gruyère there — into quiche or fromage fort. Or add them to your mac 'n' cheese sauce. The different cheeses take it to the next level."

    Cooking macaroni and cheese in a skillet

    10. "Bacon grease is indispensable. Use it to fry anything, but know you haven't lived until you've swapped it for butter to make the best-ever chocolate chip cookies."

    Bacon being fried in a skillet

    11. "You can shock old vegetables in ice water to restore the original crispness. If you have veggies like celery, greens, and peppers that haven't gone bad but are beginning to lose their crisp texture, just soak them for two minutes in ice water and they'll taste like new."

    Female hands washing spinach vegetables at the kitchen sink

    12. "I make pasta primavera at the end of the week or as my last meal before grocery shopping. It's a delicious way to use up whatever veggies I have left."

    Pasta with lots of vegetables in a bowl

    13. "Leftover cooked rice becomes rice pudding simply by heating one part rice, one part milk (or condensed milk), and whatever sweeteners or flavors you want on the stove. Just put it into a pot and stir over heat until it thickens to your desired consistency."

    A bowl of rice pudding with cinnamon

    14. "I recently had some stale olive bread. I decided to take a chance and try making savory French toast. Turns out it was amazing. I made an egg dip with herbs and salt and topped the French toast with fig balsamic and olive oil. It was amazing and proof that any stale bread (olives included!) makes for delicious French toast."

    Bread with olives

    15. "I like to caramelize too-ripe bananas sliced in butter. Then I sprinkle them in some brown sugar and a tiny bit of salt. Oh boy — they're amazing on their own or on top of a scoop of ice cream."

    Oatmeal with candied bananas on top

    16. "No one will notice that vegetables are a little bit soft and wrinkly if you roast them. Throw pretty much any old vegetables into the oven with lots of onion, garlic, and paprika powder. I like to wrap them all up in tortillas like veggie tacos. It's so good."

    A bunch of roasted vegetables on a baking sheet

    17. "I make fried rice using pretty much whatever is left over in my fridge⁠ — not just the previous day's rice. I'll throw in anything from chopped-up ribs and egg whites to deli meat that didn't make it into my lunchtime sandwich."

    Home-cooked Chinese fried rice with deli meat

    18. "Take your leftover mashed potatoes and turn them into tater cakes or pierogi. Or make them into croquettes and freeze them for later."

    Homemade tater tot egg cups

    19. "If you have a sourdough starter, use the discard as the batter to make incredible scallion pancakes."

    A homemade scallion pancake

    20. "I blend leftover, semi-stale bread into soups and sauces to thicken them up and make them creamier."

    A thick, creamy sauce cooking on a stove top

    21. "I often make omelets with pretty much any leftover ingredients. I'll toss in bits and bobs of anything from tinned fish to kimchi."

    Preparing an omelet with zucchini

    22. "My favorite way to use leftover food is to take day-old vegetables and mashed potatoes and fry them up into the classic British recipe bubble and squeak."

    Leftover greens and meat in a skillet with fried eggs

    23. "I make shakshuka out of so many different ingredients. Take any sauce, whatever greens you have in the fridge, and any additional leftovers (feta, chickpeas, sweet potato, avocado, etc.) and simmer them together in a skillet. Crack an egg on top, cover until the egg sets a bit, and dig in."

    Making shakshuka in a pot with bread on the side

    24. "Turn leftover hamburgers and buns from a cookout into meat sauce and garlic bread. It's nothing fancy, but it easily becomes a pretty tasty spaghetti dinner."

    Spaghetti and meat sauce on a fork over a plate

    25. "Just about any leftover cooked meat — chicken, sausage, chorizo, meatballs, chuck roast, you name it — can become a very satisfying and hearty jambalaya or dirty rice."

    Creole-style shrimp and sausage jambalaya on a plate

    26. "When I have leftover fried rice from Chinese takeout, I use it to make amazing stuffed peppers. Just slice off the top of bell peppers, stuff them with rice, and bake in the oven."

    Spooning rice into bell peppers

    27. "Take your leftover fish, like cod or salmon, and make fish cakes. In general, I find leftover cooked fish to be pretty gross because it's very difficult to reheat in a way that makes it enjoyable to eat. Plus, it stinks up the house when you put it in the microwave. My solution: Use a fork to flake the fish and toss it into any crab cake recipe with bread crumbs, Dijon, eggs, mayo, and spices. Baked or fried, it’s seriously good."

    Fish cakes on a plate with a side salad

    What's your favorite way to use food scraps or leftovers? Tell me in the comments below!

    Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.