Is your fridge overflowing with leftovers? Want inspiration for how to use up surplus food and reduce waste? Good Food's food director Cassie Best and food editor Ailsa Burt share their top tips for making the most of surplus fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, condiments, cheese, bread and more to breathe new life into your leftovers. Whether it's freezing browning bananas for smoothies, cakes and pancakes, or whizzing stale bread up into a crunchy topping for pasta dishes, consider your leftovers transformed, food waste averted and money saved in the process.


Now discover leftover chicken recipes, leftover turkey recipes, uses for leftover bread and top ways with leftover egg whites and yolks.

Leftover fruit ideas

1. Peaches

If you have an excess of ripe peaches, a shrub is the ideal thing to make. You can use most vinegars for this – a mixture of champagne and cider vinegar, or white balsamic and cider. Muddle the fruit, combine with the vinegar and leave for 1 hr. With stronger, fuller-flavoured berries like blackberries, you can use white malt or white wine vinegar. Mix with fizzy water and serve over ice, or turn into a cocktail with a dash of gin and some soda water. You can also roast peaches with a drizzle of honey and a few sprigs of thyme. They pair well with chipotle roast chicken, BBQ pork, or a pavlova.

2. Mangoes

If you have hard mangoes that won’t ripen, peel the flesh into strips and use instead of green papaya in a Thai-inspired som tam salad. Or, finely dice and mix with chopped chilli, coriander and lime juice for a salsa that pairs well with grilled buttery prawns. For a sweet and refreshing drink, blend into a mango lassi with yogurt, honey, cardamom and lime juice. Try our mango lassi recipe.

3. Grapes

Don’t neglect the bunch of grapes at the back of your fridge – they work in more than just fruit salads. Space them out on a baking tray, then freeze for a cooling summer snack. Another idea is to halve a large handful of grapes and divide between lolly moulds. Pour over coconut water to fill, and freeze for 12 hrs for another refreshing treat. Or, to make an easy bruschetta, roast them with the stalks on until darkened and falling apart, then spread soft goat’s cheese over some toasted baguette and scatter over the roasted grapes.

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4. Easy peelers

Juice and combine with a little five-spice to drizzle over pan-fried duck or pork chops. For a snack that will please chocolate lovers, dip the segments into melted dark chocolate and place on a lined baking tray, sprinkle over a pinch of flaky sea salt and leave to set. To use up the scented peel, put this and any leftover segments in a pan with equal quantities of caster sugar and water. Heat gently until the sugar has melted, then simmer for 10-15 mins, leave to cool and strain. Use in cocktails to add some zing.

5. Apples

If you have sharper apples like Granny Smith, grate them into a creamy slaw. If your red apples are looking a bit mealy, chop and gently fry them in butter with shredded red cabbage until soft – this is a great side dish for pan-fried pork chops. Having a Sunday roast? Simply stir finely chopped apples through your stuffing mixture to fill out a joint of pork. Use up slightly soft or spoiled apples by adding them to your toad-in-the-hole. Core and slice 2 apples, bake with the sausages until golden, then pour over a batter made with added chopped sage.

6. Bananas

Black bananas are for more than just banana bread! Chop them and store in the freezer as soon as you notice those brown spots. They can be added to fruit smoothies – you don’t need to discard the peel. For a decadent pudding, cook halved bananas in shop-bought caramel and place a sheet of puff pastry on top. Cook as you would a tarte tatin, then drizzle with chocolate sauce to serve. Don’t waste the peel – trim the ends off the bananas and blitz them, skin on, to use in banana bread. Don’t just take our word for it – try our breakfast cake recipe or mash for a delicious banana cake or banana pancakes. Discover more ideas for ripe bananas.

7. Dried fruit

Gather all the leftover dried fruit and nuts from your Christmas recipes, cut into small pieces and add to cooked and fluffed-up couscous along with fresh herbs and lemon juice. Serve with lamb chops or grilled chicken.

8. Citrus fruit

Thinly slice citrus fruits, then arrange on a couple of baking sheets lined with baking parchment. Bake at 140C/120C fan/gas 2 for 45 mins-1 hr until completely dried out. Tie a piece of string through the centre, then hang from the Christmas tree; or if Christmas is over, save for next year – they will keep for years. Discover more DIY Christmas crafts.

Add lime halves to rice as it cooks. Or try making a lime & chilli salad dressing by mixing remaining lime juice with finely chopped coriander, honey, sunflower oil and chopped jalapeños to taste.

Sliced open citrus fruits

Leftover veg ideas

9. Carrots

Grate 1 large carrot into a bowl, add 50g rolled oats, 4 tbsp apple juice or milk, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tbsp chopped apricots or raisins. Mix well, then chill overnight. To serve, mix in 50g natural yogurt and top with chopped walnuts. Now try our carrot cake overnight oats.

10. Salad leaves

If your leaves are starting to turn limp, stir-fry iceberg or Gem lettuce with some sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce for a speedy Asian-inspired side dish. Discover Asian-style stir-fried lettuce and griddled lettuce & peas.

11. Chillies

Fill a sterilised jam jar halfway with a mild olive oil, add a thyme sprig and 1 garlic clove. Every time you have a spare chilli, thinly slice and add to the oil, topping up with oil to cover. The chillies will keep for months. Add them to curries, or drizzle the oil over pizzas, salads or pasta.

12. Beetroot leaves

Don’t discard your beetroot leave – finely chop and add to the curry in the final 10 minutes. Or, try spiced beetroot leaves to serve as a side. Simply stir-fry the stems and leaves in a splash of oil until soft, then combine with 1 finely chopped chilli, 1 tbsp desiccated coconut and cook until just wilted. Discover more ways with beetroot.

13. Mixed root veg

Use a combination of leftover uncooked carrots, celeriac and beetroot with shredded cabbages or sprouts. Mix with a dressing of mayonnaise, lemon juice and a little mustard, and serve with cold meats, cheeses and jacket potatoes.

Healthy coleslaw

Leftover herbs and spices ideas

14. Fresh herbs

Clear out unused fresh herbs to create a tasty twist on salsa verde. Blitz a large bunch of mixed soft herbs (such as basil, coriander, chives, tarragon, mint or parsley) with the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tsp capers and 3 tbsp olive oil. Season, then chill until serving. Particularly good with fish.

15. Lemongrass

Add bashed lemongrass and cardamom pods to classic rice pudding to give it a heady, aromatic flavor.

16. Stem ginger

Mix the syrup from a jar of stem ginger with lime juice, soda and ice for a spicy mocktail perfect for the drivers. Next try our apple, cardamom and stem ginger granola as a gift for a loved one, or just a tasty treat for yourself.

When it comes to fresh ginger, there's no need to peel - simply give it a scrub under running water and grate. The skin will dissolve as you cook and it’s a bit of extra fibre, too.

17. Fresh curry leaves

These often come in a large bunch. Take the leaves off the stems, then wash and dry them. Store in a container or reusable bag in the freezer and use straight from frozen. You can do the same with lime leaves.

chicken curry with lime leaf, lemongrass and mango

Leftover condiments ideas

18. From-the-fridge pizza ​

Mix 2 tbsp curry paste with 2 tbsp mango chutney and 1 tbsp tomato purée. Spread over 2 naan breads, top with 1 thinly sliced red onion, 1/2 chopped red pepper and a handful of chopped cooked meat – chicken, ham or salami all work well. Tear a ball of mozzarella into small chunks and dot over the pizzas. Bake at 200C/180C fan/gas 4 for 20 mins or until the naans are crisp and the cheese has melted. Scatter with coriander and serve. Discover our naan bread pizza, too.

19. Waste-not-want-not dressing

Pour 1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp honey and 3 tbsp olive oil into a jar of mustard that’s nearly empty. Season, then replace the lid and shake well to mix. Pour over salad leaves or steamed green vegetables. Discover more salad dressing ideas.

20. Orange marmalade

A glam way to use up that last spoonful of marmalade in the jar. Pour 50ml gin into a nearly empty jar of marmalade. Put the lid back on and shake the jar well to combine. Add 2 tbsp orange liqueur (I used Cointreau), then juice 1/2 lemon and the juice 1 clementine. Shake well, strain into 2 chilled Martini glasses and serve.

Make a sticky, spicy glaze for chicken drumsticks by combining the marmalade with crushed garlic, chopped red chilli and olive oil. Slather this over the chicken and roast until cooked through and sticky. Or, give our easy marmalade muffins a go.

For a simple canapé, spread marmalade over small squares of puff pastry and top with slices of brie and a pinch of chilli flakes. Bake until crispy and golden. For a sweeter take, use it instead of raisins in a bread & butter pudding. Marmalade works well in our spicy roasted roots recipe featuring carrots and parsnips. Try our harissa & marmalade roasted roots.

21. Onion marmalade

Onion marmalade brings rich flavour to everyday classics like cheese toasties or sausages for toad-in-the-hole. Or, stir into a quiche mixture for a hint of sweetness, or mix into a Dijon mustard salad dressing.

22. Lemon curd

Add 2 tbsp lemon curd to a cocktail shaker with 50ml gin, 2 tsp elderflower cordial and 1 tsp vermouth bianco, give it a good shake, add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled glass and serve with a lemon peel twist.

Gently warm lemon curd for a lovely drizzle for crêpes or ice cream – it’s just as good stirred into Greek yogurt with raspberries for a refreshing fool dessert. For an easy showstopper, try our lemon curd & passion fruit tart.

23. Fruit jams

The sweet fruit in jam pairs well with savoury foods like pork chops. To make a glaze, mix a few tablespoons of blackcurrant jam with Dijon mustard and a good glug of cider or sherry vinegar. Once the pork chops are almost cooked through, add this mixture to the pan along with a knob of butter and cook, spooning the glaze over the pork until glossy and reduced. Or, try thinning apricot jam with a splash of water – fry halloumi until golden, then spoon the apricot jam over and cook until reduced. Serve with salad or in a toastie. Discover more ways for leftover jam.

24. Chilli jam

Stir a spoonful into pasta sauces or shakshuka (a North African dish of eggs in a spiced tomato sauce) for a bit of sweetness and heat, or use in place of sweet chilli sauce in your next stir-fry. Chilli jam is also great as a marinade for prawns with a squeeze of lime juice, or stirred into a vinegary slaw to add a bit of spice.

Platter of croquettes filled with cheese and topped with chilli jam, next to a ramekin of chilli jam

25. Tomato ketchup

Found on most tables throughout the UK, this beloved sauce is well known for getting children to eat their dinner, but it’s much more than that. You can use it instead of tomato purée in a pinch, or add it to bolognese to add some sweetness.

26. Honey

Swirl it into dips, marinades or dressings for natural sweetness. Drizzle it over freshly baked cakes for a sticky glaze – it works well with carrot cake. Or, mix into softened butter and spread over crumpets. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.

Make a hot honey sauce by heating 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan and fry 2 chopped garlic cloves and 1 chopped red chilli until fragrant and lightly browned. Stir in a pinch of salt and 100ml honey. Remove from the heat, add a splash of vinegar, then set aside to infuse for 1 hr. Drizzle over fried chicken or pizza.

27. Hot sauce

There are many different varieties, but you can easily make a delicious buffalo sauce for dousing over crispy wings with most (although a vinegary one works especially well). Whisk 125ml hot sauce with 2 tbsp melted butter. Add a squeeze of honey or spices for a bit more oomph, if you like, and toss with crispy chicken wings. Swirl hot sauce into mayo for a spicy dip to serve with sweet potato wedges.

Hot sauces like gochujang also work well in marinades for steak, and sriracha is excellent in stir-fries as it lends some funk to the sauce. You can store them in the fridge once opened, if you don't use them often.

28. Wine vinegar

Wine vinegars are ideal for dressings and pickling. If open for a while, a cloudy sediment forms, but this doesn't affect the quality. Red wine vinegars are great for mixing with leftover herbs for chimichurri and hollandaise sauce also uses white wine vinegar.

Or, for something simpler, try a garlicky salad dressing. Mix 2 tbsp vinegar with 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 4 tbsp olive oil and 1 small grated garlic clove. To make pickled cucumber & onions, combine 75ml white wine vinegar with 2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp salt, and pour over finely sliced cucumbers or onions. Chill for a few hours, then serve.

29. Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise can be used in sauces, creamy salad dressings or sandwiches instead of butter. Spread over the outside of a cheese toastie for an even crispier finish. Mix mayonnaise with shredded cooked chicken, a handful of chopped soft herbs like dill or chives and some gherkins, and serve on toasted sourdough for an open-top sandwich. Or, combine with a few tablespoons of pesto, a grated garlic clove and a grating of parmesan to serve with roast chicken and chargrilled vegetables. Store in the fridge once opened.

30. Soy sauce

If you find a sauce is lacking a bit of umami punch or needs some greater depth, add a drizzle of soy sauce. You can use it with caramel, too, like in our soy sauce caramel milkshake recipe.

Try soy-marinated eggs: boil 2 eggs for 6½ mins, then drain and peel. Combine 75ml soy sauce and 25ml mirin and submerge the eggs in the mixture. Leave to marinate for at least 30 mins or up to 4 hrs, turning every so often. Serve with ramen.

For an easy glaze for ribs, mix equal parts ketchup and apricot jam with a squeeze of lemon juice and splash of soy sauce. Use it to glaze ribs, or add 1-2 tbsp to a burger or meatball mixture. Keep leftovers chilled.

Soy sauce caramel milkshake served in two milkshake glasses

Leftover cheese and dairy ideas

31. Parmesan rind

Use the rind from Parmesan to add flavour to risotto, soup or stew – just remember to take it out before serving.

32. Cheeseboard

Make a simple white sauce, then stir in your cheeseboard leftovers – try a mix of grated hard cheese, a spoonful of cream cheese and crumbled blue cheese, or any others you might have. Season, then add ground nutmeg and Dijon mustard for a rich, delicious sauce for cooked pasta or cauliflower – or serve with a gammon steak.

33. Yogurt

Mix natural yogurt with an equal quantity of self-raising flour and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Divide the dough into walnut-sized balls, roll as thinly as you can and cook on a hot griddle pan for 1-2 mins each side.

34. Crème fraîche

If you have a small amount of crème fraîche left in the tub, add it to mashed potato instead of milk, or combine with chopped anchovies, lemon juice and chives for a quick Caesar-salad-style dressing.

One serving of caesar salad

Leftover bread ideas

35. Sliced bread

Whizz up leftover herbs and stale bread in your food processor to make herby breadcrumbs, then freeze. Use from frozen for a great coating for fried or baked fish, or add cheese and make a topping for baked mushrooms. Now try them with our aubergine katsu curry, Italian chicken bake or chilli prawn spaghetti with gremolata breadcrumbs.

36. Stale pitta & tortilla

Break up stale pitta or tortilla wraps, lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Grill until turning golden brown at the edges. Eat like crisps or for a Lebanese-style salad, scatter over lettuce, tomatoes, parsley and cucumber, dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and sumac. Now try our homemade tortilla chips.

Tortilla chips with dips in bowl

More leftovers ideas

37. Ham

Thinly slice any leftovers from a joint of ham, then stack in 2-3 slice bundles (enough for a sandwich) between layers of baking parchment. Put the sliced ham in a sandwich bag, freeze, then remove and defrost a bundle at a time, whenever you want to make a sandwich.

38. Marzipan

Any leftover marzipan can be used to stuff dried apricots and dates, which you then dip in dark chocolate and finely chopped pistachios. Leave to set and serve as after-dinner petits fours with coffee.

39. Coconut milk

Leftover coconut milk mixed with icing sugar makes a deliciously different icing to drizzle over mince pies.

40. Ground almonds

Leftover ground almonds will add richness and texture to your turkey korma.

41. Cooked rice

Fry 1 chopped onion in a drizzle of oil, add 2 tbsp mild curry powder and 300g cooked leftover rice. Flake through some hot smoked fish – mackerel, salmon or trout all work well. Heat for a few more mins, then scatter with chopped parsley. Serve with a poached egg for a hearty breakfast or lunch. Discover more ways to use up leftover rice.

Enjoyed this? Find more inspiration for Christmas leftovers...

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Leftover Christmas turkey recipes
Healthy Christmas leftovers recipes
Love your leftovers: How to use up common surplus ingredients


Do you have any tips for using up leftovers? We'd love to hear your leftovers recipes...

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