12 Ways to Make Dinner With Last Night's Leftovers
Meal prep isn’t just for lunch.
You’ve probably been eating leftovers a lot lately, and while leftovers are a great way to save yourself the hassle of coming up with a brand-new idea for dinner every single night of the week, reheating a large-format lasagna or baked chicken can get boring quickly. Our advice? Think of your dinners for the week like meal prep.
Though it's often associated with lunchtime, meal prep offers a creative way to turn Monday’s meatballs into Tuesday’s frittatas and Wednesday’s burritos. Keep reading to see how you can meal prep your dinner this week and be sure to share what you make with us by using the hashtag #WeCook on Instagram.
If you’ve never made pulled pork (pictured above) from scratch before, this recipe is a great one to start with. Eight ingredients are all you need to make it, plus you can set your pork shoulder to cook in a Dutch oven while you finish up work or homeschooling for the day. When it's done, add it to a hamburger bun and top with some crunchy slaw or load it into some warmed tortillas for a refreshing summery bite. This recipe yields six cups of pulled pork — which you’ll be able to store in your refrigerator for up to 1 week — and can use to make the next three recipes.
Twenty-five minutes is all you need to make this ultra-flavorful weeknight dinner. Cajun seasoning gives your leftover pulled pork a zesty kick, while fresh bell pepper and hot sauce give it welcomed heat. If you don’t have grits on hand, fear not! The pork also pairs nicely with mashed potatoes, white rice or polenta.
You just can’t beat a bubbly layered casserole at the end of a long day. To make this Tex-Mex inspired one, you’ll repeatedly layer store-bought tortillas with fire-roasted corn, black beans, leftover pulled pork, shredded cheese and canned enchilada sauce. It’s a great substitute if all you’ve been making recently is lasagna or baked ziti.
Get dinner on the table in no time with this healthier weeknight dish. Though you’ll use traditional salad fixings like carrots, cucumber and lettuce to make this Asian-inspired meal, rice noodles, fish sauce and sriracha take it to the next level. It’s a refreshing way to have your veggies and eat noodles, too.
Add a little comfort to your weeknight dinner rotation with these sheet-pan meatballs. You’ll add garlic and parsley directly into your ground beef mixture to create a flavorful base for layering even more flavor. Nestle them in between sliced bread and top with some jarred pasta sauce for a makeshift meatball sub or add them on top of spaghetti for a restaurant-worthy bite right at home. This recipe yields 36 meatballs, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers, plus they can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days, so you can make one, or all, of the three recipes that follow.
To meal prep in advance of making this recipe, you’ll want to take your leftover meatballs and quarter them the night before. You’ll then combine them with store-bought chipotle salsa, simmering until a thick sauce forms the next day. Follow the rest of the recipe and use pantry staples like black beans and packaged brown rice to make the burrito filling; or use whatever else you have on hand, like quinoa or bagged salad mix, to make it your very own. With just 20 minutes of cook time, it’ll give everyone in your house a reason to fiesta!
You might eat frittatas for breakfast and brunch, and they make a super satisfying dinner, too! This savory version with those leftover meatballs also offers an innovative approach to cooking with mushrooms, leeks and creamy goat cheese.
If you’re looking for a meal that’ll fill you up at the end of a long day, this veggie-packed soup is sure to fit the bill. Along with your leftover meatballs, you’ll use carrots, red onion, escarole, cannellini beans and rosemary to make the hearty broth. We love this soup as a way to use freezer, fridge and pantry ingredients that are expiring soon.
Roast Chicken is the perfect family meal. Whether you make it during the week or save it for the weekend, this simple, yet flavorful dish is sure to impress. You’ll season the outside of your chicken with salt and pepper and stuff it with a garlic, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and lemon to infuse it with flavor while it cooks. Serve with some roasted lemon potatoes or some creamy lemon orzo for a bright taste of spring. After you finish your meal, shred and store any leftover chicken you may have — and use it in the days that follow to make any of the next three dishes.
If you’ve been looking for a way to use up that stockpile of canned chickpeas you have in your pantry, look no further than this nutrient-packed salad. You’ll pair two cups of your leftover chicken with roasted carrots, browned chickpeas, crunchy snap peas and crumbly feta cheese and top it with an aromatic dressing made from honey, shallots and za’atar. It’s tangy, nutty, herby and toasty all in one, plus it makes enough for four servings, so you can also eat it for lunch or dinner the next day.
Turn your go-to takeout order into a weeknight favorite with this super easy Chicken Vindaloo recipe. You’ll use a fiery blend of fresh ginger, curry powder, Fresno chile peppers and paprika to give your leftover chicken new life. Pair your curry with boxed white rice and top with fresh cilantro for a unique dinner in just 40 minutes.
If you’re finding it hard to get kids (or your roommates or spouse) to eat their veggies, consider making a big batch of these cheesy calzones one night for dinner this week. This recipe calls for frozen spinach, roasted red peppers and shredded mozzarella cheese to make the calzone’s yummy filling, but you can totally use whatever frozen veg you have in the freezer, too. Don’t forget to brush your refrigerated pizza dough with egg yolk and make a few slits into each calzone before baking to ensure each one gets nice and golden-brown.