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10 Leftover Makeovers You Won't Believe

Let's make pizza croutons and also reduce food waste!

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Did you know you can make croutons out of leftover pizza? And put them on tomato soup? You can.

Leftovers can be sticky business. They're sometimes tolerated, potentially reheated, never really enjoyed and more often wasted. And that's a problem: Americans throw out approximately 35 million tons of food a year.

Spoon University's University of Illinois team joined up with Food & Wine magazine to increase awareness about the problem of food waste on our campus. With a micro-grant of just under $100, we created 10 original recipes to show you how you can transform leftover late-night eats into something amazing the next day.

We believe the US can do better than wasting $161 billion in uneaten food per year. And change can start with us, right now, on every college campus with small changes in our habits that will have a huge impact – like promising to use all of our takeout leftovers.

This roundup teaches you how to repurpose the top five most common leftovers, (according to our poll) into entirely new dishes. They'll not only revitalize your sad, goopy box of day-old orange chicken, but also aim to put a dent in reducing personal waste. Because giving leftover food an appetizing makeover is one hell of a way to make a difference.

Original post by Shalayne Pulia for Spoon University – UIUC.

2. Carne Asada Burrito Fried Rice

Julia Marks / Via

You know what makes fried rice better? Cheese. Lots of cheese. And corn, and the rest of the contents of last night’s burrito binge. This recipe will give your lifeless burrito a facelift. So whip out that rice cooker (or pop instant rice in the microwave, like I did) and get cooking.

3. Leftover Beef Taco Brunch Chilaquiles

Shalayne Pulia / Via

Heaven is a place where avocado and eggs mingle at brunch. Step past the golden gates, my friends, into the land of beefy brunch chilaquiles. It’s a simple recipe that looks like you’ve been cooking for hours and goes perfectly well with your morning mimosa… or just water, lots of water.


5. Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Citrus Ginger Sauce

Julia Marks / Via

This recipe’s play on citrus, ginger and toasted cashews makes a refreshing take on goopy leftover orange chicken. It only takes five ingredients and about ten minutes to make, which means it takes less time and effort than it did to wait for your takeout. Mind blown? We know.

6. Buffalo Tater Tot Bake

Divneet Dhillon / Via

Forget the game. Forget the commercials. What’s everybody’s favorite part of any Super Bowl party? The snacks, you’re right. These buffalo tater tot nachos, or tot-chos, will revolutionize your next party, football-based or otherwise, even if the tots are reheated. Disclaimer: Highly addictive finger food snack. Cheesy potato lovers beware. Make it like this.

#SpoonTip: Break apart leftover chicken wings and add over tots before baking for an extra chicken kick. Also, try substituting leftover french fries for tots. Noms.

7. Fried Rice Arancini Balls

Shalayne Pulia / Via

What to do when you’ve got a massive carton of leftover fried rice? The stuff grows in the container I swear, but you’re craving Italian home-cooking. Make my Nana proud and put together these Italian fried rice arancini, which are essentially simple risotto balls. Sing to me Paolo… right after this bite.


8. Pizza Scrambled Eggs

Caroline Pernai / Via

Pizza for breakfast. This is not a drill. This is PIZZA SCRAMBLED EGGS. This recipe lets you get creative so you can add, subtract and divide your pie (pizza pie, not your calculus homework, that sh*t’s complicated), then scramble ingredients to your liking.

9. Orange Chicken and Lime Avocado Tacos

Shalayne Pulia / Via

The only “cooking” required in this recipe is toasting the tortillas in the oven. Otherwise, it’s all been done for you by your Chinese takeout destination of choice. And your microwave, I guess, that gets a little play in here, too.

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