Intentional Leftovers: Repurpose Recipes for Brand New Meals | Cook Smarts (2024)

What do you do with leftover food at home? Learn how to turn your leftover food into new meals with recipes that are specifically designed to make leftovers interesting!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • March 10, 2020

Saving time by utilizing leftovers is always a great idea, but how many days can you eat leftovers in a row before your taste buds are screaming for something new and exciting? Luckily, that isn’t a question you need to worry about anymore! We have a solution that will keep both your busy schedule and your taste buds happy.

We know that no one likes to do something twice that they can simply do once, and that’s why we plan recipes that will let you cook up one part of a dish that can be used in two completely different meals. This lets you save a ton of time, while still keeping your loved ones excited when dinnertime rolls around.

Below we have some of our favorite recipes that convert into delicious new meals in under 35 minutes for any type of day, whether you’re keeping it light and simple or indulgent and classic.

Easy, Breezy Days

1. Honey Lime Chicken > Summer Chopped Chicken Salad

Colorful and simple, our Honey Lime Chicken recipe is great for lunch or dinner and can easily be made ahead of time. With fresh corn and black bean salsa on the side, this meal has all the right flavors for a go-to family favorite.

Building off of leftover Honey Lime Chicken, it’s easy to make a refreshing and healthy new meal in under 25 minutes. In fact, this summery chopped salad is perfect for a hot day because there is no cooking required! While fresh cantaloupe might sound like an unusual ingredient to add to a salad, you’ll find it provides the perfect sweet notes to balance out feta cheese, cool cucumbers, and honey dijon vinaigrette.

2. >

Vietnamese noodle salads have two distinctive elements that make them so deliciously satisfying: clean flavors and a lightly tart dressing. Our recipe is a favorite among our cooking community – they love the combination of marinated chicken, crisp lettuce, chopped veggies, and crunchy peanuts. Healthy and fresh, this dinner flawlessly combines many flavors and colors into one bowl.

But, why go to the work of making chicken, carrots, and vermicelli noodles and only use them in one dish? These ingredients also make the perfect fillings for light yet satisfying summer rolls. Just throw in some sliced avocados and herbs and start practicing your rolling skills! In under 30 minutes, you’ll have a refreshing meal that goes beautifully with a velvety peanut dipping sauce.

Indulgent Days

3. Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos > Carnitas Waffle Fry “Nachos”

Mexican pulled pork carnitas folded into tortillas with avocados, onions, and salsa make a quintessential taco that is totally addictive. Spend just 30 minutes of active cooking time and let the slow cooker do the rest. Served with a Mexican side salad, this meal is perfect for a busy week or any time you need a real crowd-pleaser.

After your slow cooker has gone to all the trouble of delivering pulled pork perfection, you might as well enjoy juicy carnitas an additional way. Enter waffle fries that moonlight as nachos! Between the leftover carnitas and a host of quick and customizable toppings, these completely unique “nachos” come together in 35 minutes and have received resounding praise from our Cook Smarts community.

4. Pork Chops with Butternut Squash Soup > Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese

Crisp and refreshing pear and celery slaw adds just the right amount of brightness to pan-seared pork chops. Once you add a cup of creamy, homemade butternut squash soup to the meal, you can enjoy all the warmth of a truly comforting dinner.

Instead of having smooth butternut squash soup bring delight to only one meal, get ready to give depth to a decadent mac and cheese dinner! This 35-minute recipe is made easy and healthy by stirring in leftover pureed soup into cheesy macaroni and pairing it with roasted broccoli for a great balance of flavors.


5. Classic American Chili > Chili Dogs

With beef, beans, and a blend of warming spices, this recipe delivers everything you want in a bowl of chili. When you serve it over healthy sweet potatoes with a dollop of sour cream on top, we know you will be bookmarking this make-ahead, freezer-friendly meal that can be made on the stove or in an Instant Pot.

Instead of having the same chili dinner again later in the week, you can transform it into a fun meal that is worthy of a great ball game. Spend just 30 minutes sauteeing spiced green beans, cooking up your dogs, toasting up your buns, and then pour that leftover chili over the top for a classic dinner the whole family will enjoy.

6. Korean Bulgogi Bolognese > Korean Bulgogi Soup

This Korean-Italian fusion brings beef bulgogi and bolognese together in a spectacular way. Served over ramen noodles, this 50-minute recipe (or less in an Instant Pot!) will have you sitting down to a completely unique dish that you can enjoy with a classic side of pickled cucumbers.

Using leftover bolognese, silken tofu, and some great veggies will let you get a delicious dinner on the table in only 30 minutes! Even though this soup comes together fast, the layers of flavor make it taste like it simmered all day long.

If you are already falling in love with the efficiency of these recipes, check out our Cook Once, Eat Twice free download to get 5 (which really means 10!) recipes:


Save Hours Each Week With These Cook Once, Eat Twice Recipes

Repurposed recipes make cooking easy and quick. Our free mini recipe book has 5 tasty recipes that can be transformed… Read more.

You can also join our meal plan service to utilize all of our time-saving features to make every week stress-free! When we put together a meal plan, we consider how to order the meals and how to include ingredient efficiencies to reduce food waste. You’ll get to enjoy numerous meal plans that use this “cook once, eat twice” method when you sign up for a free 30-day trial:


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Intentional Leftovers: Repurpose Recipes for Brand New Meals | Cook Smarts (2024)
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