How to Transform Last Night's Leftovers Into a Drool-Worthy New Meal

These tips will help you reinvent your leftover food to save you money *and* waste.

Falafel in tortila wrap
Photo: Vesnaandjic/Getty

A delicious meal is a glorious thing. And when you can give it a twist to serve double duty as the next day's dish? The beauty gets amplified — now it's a savior from cooking fatigue and food waste.

"In today's world we want to be cognizant of our time and what we're spending and putting into our bodies," says Ari Bokovza, a chef and partner at Dagon, a new Mediterranean restaurant in New York. "Leftovers play a huge part in this — they're a great way to pare down the effort and cost and to stay healthy. The best advice I have for home cooks is to change your outlook on leftovers. They should be viewed as creative transformations."

Here, Bokovza offers some simple, exciting spins on leftover food. (When Turkey Day rolls around, look to this recipe to use up all of your Thanksgiving leftovers.)

Put It Between Bread

"One of my favorite Israeli sandwiches is called a sabich," says Bokovza. "Any leftover roasted veggies work. It offers a great texture combo of soft and crunchy, plus richness, tang, and heat." Stuff a pita with any leftover food, such as roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Add 2 to 3 slices hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and tomato and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Top with amba, a fermented-mango paste, and harissa, a peppery North African chili paste. Spread on cooling vegan mayo and tahini. (

Sauce It

"A drizzle of an herb-spice schug gives fresh flavor and new life to any dish," says Bokovza. Puree half a jalapeño, 1 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup parsley, 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, and salt to taste. Top your leftover food with the sauce, and you've got an anything-but-bland new meal. (Then, make one of these recipes to use up your leftover fresh herbs.)

Make a Hash

To reinvent chicken or steak for party of four: In a large pan on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil to cover the bottom. Brown 2 cups cubed potatoes. Add 2 cups cubed meat, 1/2 cup each minced onion, and bell pepper, and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Serve the leftover food-based meal topped with 1 tablespoon za'atar, 1/2 cup crumbled feta, and a handful of chopped herbs (dill, parsley, or chives).

Go Herby

"This tabbouleh recipe puts leftover herbs to delicious use. Essentially, it's an herb salad," says Bokovza. For enough tabbouleh to serve four, soak 1/2 cup bulgur in 1 cup lemon juice, and let sit for 3 hours. The bulgur will soften and soak up the juice. Combine with 2 cups finely chopped herbs — use any soft herb you have. Add 1/2 cup diced cucumber, 1/2 cup diced tomato, a pinch of cumin, a pinch of cinnamon, 1/4 cup minced red onion or scallions, 1 1/2 ounces lemon juice, 2 1/2 ounces olive oil, and salt to taste.

Dip It

"This vegan aioli is creamy and garlicky and so satisfying," says Bokovza. "Use it as a dip for leftover fish, meat, or vegetables, or mix it into grains." Blend all ingredients together for enough to serve four eaters: 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Drizzle in 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil. If it feels thick, thin it with a little water. Season with salt and pepper, put it in a shallow bowl next to your leftover food, and enjoy. (Check out: These Plant-Based Dips Are Just As Binge-Worthy As Queso)

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