How to Use Up Leftover Fruit

Transform your overripe fruit into smoothies, dressings and much more.

June 25, 2020

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Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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By Katherine Lok for Food Network Kitchen

When fruit is in season and at its peak, it's hard to resist loading up on the good stuff. But if your eyes are bigger than your appetite for fruit, it can be hard to eat it all before it goes bad. Whether you have leftover scraps from baking a pie, a pile of fruit about to turn bad or an abundance of fruit salad, you can easily transform leftover fruit into something new and help reduce food waste in your kitchen at the same time.

As is often the case, more delicate fruit like strawberries and raspberries can deteriorate faster depending on how you wash and store them. Here's a primer on how to wash berries correctly and the best way to store strawberries.

Make a Spread or Sauce

If you have leftover fresh fruit, you can easily turn it into a spread to slather on toast or a sweet sauce to drizzle over pancakes or a slice of cake. While cooking down fruit with sugar will create a thick sauce, it won't be the same consistency as a jam or curd, since those usually require a thickener, such as pectin or eggs. This is especially the case if you're using frozen fruit, as the ice crystals in the fruit can add more water, which could make the mixture runny.

The great thing about making a homemade fruit spread is that you can adjust the amount of sugar to the sweetness level you prefer. Take your leftover fruit, add it to a pot and simmer over low heat with sugar to taste. Keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools. Blend it into a smooth sauce or keep it chunky for a spread with some texture. Or, if you don't want to babysit a pot over the stove, roasting fruit is a great option, as it helps to caramelize the fruit to augment its natural sweetness.

Stir Up a Shrub

Though shrubs have grown in popularity over the years, this syrupy vinegar-based drink dates as far back as Babylonian times when people would mix vinegar with water to make it safe to drink. Derived from the Arabic word sharbah, which means "to drink," shrubs are essentially drinking vinegars commonly infused with fruit and mixed with sparkling water or alcohol for a refreshing cocktail (or mocktail) that you can enjoy year-round. Though there are different methods for making a shrub, the basic formula is the same: fruit (any kind works, and it doesn't need to be perfectly ripe), vinegar (common ones that pair well with fruit are apple cider vinegar, white or red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar) and sugar.

Though it depends on how tart or sweet you like your drinks, a shrub follows an easy ratio of 1:1:1 (fruit to vinegar to sugar). Mix together equal parts fruit and sugar (for instance, if you have 4 ounces of fruit, add a 1/2 cup of sugar). Let it sit for up to two days in your fridge, then strain out the liquid and add an equal amount of vinegar (so for the previous example, it would be 1/2 cup). Adjust the sugar and vinegar level to your taste, then add a splash of your homemade shrub to your drink of choice, such as a sparkling wine, your favorite liquor or some seltzer. It's as easy as that!

Bake into a Cake

Whether you bake from scratch or from a store-bought mix, adding fruit that's a bit overripe is a great way to punch up the flavor of basic yellow cake. Fruits like mixed berries or peaches would work great; you want a fruit that's not too overpowering and doesn't hold a ton of water, so leave the citrus and watermelon for another use. Simply mash up your fruit to let out some of the natural juices and swirl it into your cake batter.

Here are our other favorite ways to use up leftover fruit:

Blend Up a Smoothie

Take your leftover fruit, whether it be fresh or frozen, and blend it into a smoothie that you can enjoy for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Follow these guidelines for how to freeze fresh berries and how to freeze bananas if you plan on freezing your fruit for future use.

Freeze into Pops or Cubes

Making your own homemade ice pops is a breeze when you have leftover fruit on hand. Simply combine your fruit with some juice or milk and freeze into molds. You can also make a batch of fruit ice cubes to bump up the fruit flavor in a pitcher of sangria or add some fun to a glass of sparkling water.

Make a Dressing

Fruit is a perfect pairing when it comes to salad dressings. You can't go wrong with any type of fruit you choose. Try these easy recipes for mango vinaigrette and raspberry vinaigrette as a starting place to experiment with your favorite fruits.

Make Your Own Fruit Leather

If you're a fan of those iconic fruit snacks from the '80s and '90s, you'll love these Fruit Leather Roll-Ups. Blend your fruit(s) of choice with some sugar and lemon juice and let the mixture dry out in an oven on low heat for a few hours. Wait until they're cool and pliable, then roll up strips of homemade fruit leather for a delicious snack that both kids and adults will love.

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