Takeout is perfect when you’re too lazy or busy to cook, but the leftovers don’t always hold up. Sure, you can stick yesterday’s dinner in the microwave, but the results aren’t always that appetizing. Rather than tossing those containers full of leftovers in the trash, give your food a second life with these five recipes for leftover takeout items like rice, fried chicken, and pizza.
1. Shrimp Fried Rice
When you’re left with an extra box of rice after finishing off your garlic chicken or Kung Pao beef, don’t let it languish in the fridge. Leftover cooked rice is the ideal base for homemade fried rice, since if you use just-cooked grains, it leads to a lumpy, gooey final product — not exactly what you want. This recipe for shrimp fried rice from Bon Appétit calls for 3 cups of cooked rice, but you can adjust the proportions down if you don’t have that much on hand.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 12 peeled deveined small shrimp, thawed if frozen
- Kosher salt
- 8 scallions, whites chopped, greens thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
- 3 cups cold cooked white rice
- 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
- ½ cup frozen edamame, thawed
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and cook, turning once, until just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in same skillet; add scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat. Cook until rice is crisp, about 2 minutes. Push rice to one side of skillet; add eggs to other side and cook, stirring and working into rice mixture, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add edamame, peas, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and cooked shrimp. Cook, tossing constantly, until shrimp and vegetables are heated through, about 1 minute. Top with scallion greens.
2. Fried Chicken Tacos with Buttermilk Jalapeño Sauce
That big bucket of KFC seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you have a bunch of leftovers – and you want something a little different than chicken and biscuits for dinner. This dish from Southern Living transforms leftover fried chicken tenders into spicy chicken tacos. And because the chicken is already cooked, the prep time is just 15 minutes.
- 1 cup refrigerated light ranch dressing
- 1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro (about 1½ cups loosely packed)
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 12 fried chicken breast tenders
- 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
- Sliced radishes
Directions: Process ranch dressing, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice in a blender or food processor 2 to 3 seconds or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Place 1 fried chicken breast tender in each warmed corn tortilla. Serve with dressing and sliced radishes.
3. Restaurant Leftovers Hand Pies
The beauty of this recipe from Pillsbury is its simplicity. You can stuff your hand pies with virtually any type of leftovers, from chicken tikka masala to rice and vegetables.
- 1⅔ cups restaurant leftovers, such as chicken tikka masala, Asian noodles, or curried rice and vegetables
- 1 (10.2-ounce) can refrigerated biscuits
Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In microwavable bowl, microwave leftovers uncovered on high until hot. Separate dough into 5 biscuits. Press or roll each to form 6-inch round. Spoon ⅓ cup leftovers onto center of each round. (If leftovers are saucy, drain off part of the sauce.) Fold dough in half over filling; press to seal. Place on greased or sprayed cookie sheet. Bake 9 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Smoked Salmon and Corn Chowder
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
- 2½ tablespoons flour
- 1 (14½-ounce) can chicken broth
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups leftover fettuccine Alfredo, cut into 4-inch pieces
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
- 4 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced
Directions: In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened but not brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add the fettuccine Alfredo, corn, and chopped dill and simmer until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Add the salmon and cook until opaque, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and top with more dill.
5. Pizza Waffle
Some people may be perfectly satisfied with cold pizza for breakfast. But if you’re looking to do something a bit more exciting with those leftover slices, try this recipe from Serious Eats, which uses a waffle iron to turn “stale, cold, lifeless pizza into a crisp-crusted, gooey-cheesed, brown-edged, stretchy, saucy, hand-held treat.”
- Leftover pizza
- Toppings of your choice
Directions: Place any toppings on the upper left quadrant of a slice of pizza. Fold the tip of the slice up over the toppings to meet the upper corner of the crust. Cut off the exposed crust so that you have a triangle of folded pizza. If your pizza is square cut, layer the slices on top of each other with the fillings in the middle.
Place the folded pizza in a preheated waffle iron and close the iron. Let cook for about 5 minutes. If the slices stick when you open the iron, continue cooking for another minute or two. The pizza waffle is done when you can remove it easily from the waffle iron.
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