Easy Recipes to Cook With Kitchen Scraps When Times Are Tight

fresh italian summer salad panzanella, close-up


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fresh italian summer salad panzanella, close-up
Broth with carrots, onions various fresh vegetables in a pot - colorful fresh clear spring soup. Rural kitchen scenery vegetarian bouillon stock

Vegetable Stock with Kitchen Scraps

Vegetable stock is one of the best ways to use up all the odds and ends in your refrigerator, including scraps of onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, peppers, and any other vegetables you have laying around. Simmer in a pot with herbs, and you have homemade vegetable stock that can be used for multiple soups and stews for weeks to come. 

Recipe: EatingWell

Related: 25 Ways to Stop Wasting Food and Save Money

Fresh green broccoli on a wooden cutting board. Macro photo green fresh vegetable broccoli.
Varvara Kalashnikova/istockphoto
Squeezed Lemons

Fresh Lemon Syrup

When life gives you (too many) lemons, make lemon syrup. This no-cook recipe utilizes leftover lemon rinds and sugar, resulting in a sweet and slightly tart syrup that can be drizzled over sorbet, stirred into granola, or mixed up in cocktails. A refrigerated bottle can last up to three months.

RecipeSerious Eats

Related: 21 Creative Ways to Spice Up Leftovers

Homemade Peach Ice Cream

Peach Ice Cream

If you can’t stand the thought of eating bruised peaches, turn the aging fruit into something more satisfying. A pint of ultra-ripe peaches — peels and all — are used in this refreshing ice cream recipe, along with milk, eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and lemon. Take note: You’ll need an ice cream maker for this one. 

Recipe: Saveur

Bowl with fresh green salad arugula rucola

Arugula Pesto

All that wilting arugula in your fridge can be thrown into a food processor to make this bright and earthy pesto. Along with the arugula leaves, the recipe features grated Parmesan, garlic, lemon, olive oil, pine nuts, and salt, and can be spooned over pasta, chicken, or bread. 

Recipe: Foodie Crush

chunks and rind of parmigiano cheese

Parmesan Oven Risotto

Don’t even think about throwing away your aging Parmesan rinds. Smitten Kitchen’s decadent risotto recipe calls for Parmesan rinds to add some umami to the broth — it’s optional, but you’ll definitely want to throw them in. The best part: This particular recipe doesn’t require tons of stirring on the stove like most risotto recipes do, and is instead finished in the oven.

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Homemade Spicy Margarita with Limes

Spicy Jalapeño-Infused Tequila

Take that jalapeño starting to shrivel up in the fridge and add it to a couple cups of blanco tequila or mezcal. The result? A fiery liquor that can be used to make spicy margaritas. Pair it with a couple tacos and you’re golden.

Recipe: Feast + West

Related: The Best Under-$30 Tequilas for Your Home Bar

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate Mousse With Aquafaba

Chickpeas are often emptied out of a can, rinsed, and drained, but did you know that chickpea water, also known as aquafaba, can be used as a vegan substitute for egg whites? This chocolate mousse recipe uses the aquafaba from a chickpea can to make a light and fluffy chocolate dessert — and no, you can’t even taste a hint of chickpea in the dish.

Recipe: Lazy Cat Kitchen

Bunch of fresh celery stalk with leaves

Homemade Celery Salt

You could buy celery salt at the grocery store, but making it at home allows you to use up leftover celery leaves. All you have to do is roast the leaves, add them to a spice grinder with salt, and process until you’re left with finely-ground celery salt. 

Recipe: Culinary Hill

Fruits and vegetable scraps for compost recycling

Vegetable Peel Chips

Save your excess peels to make vegetable peel chips, a healthy snack that uses ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Gather three cups of vegetable and fruit peels to toss with oil, salt, and nutritional yeast, then bake them in the oven for a healthier alternative to Lay’s. 

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

Bacon Frying

Bacon Fat Gingersnaps

We’ve all saved our bacon drippings in a tin can with the intent on using it later, only to end up tossing the congealed fat in the garbage. Now you have a great reason to save it: Bacon fat gingersnaps, which use almost a cup of bacon drippings. Cook up some bacon for breakfast, then take solace in knowing that every last bit of the drippings are going towards something delicious.

Recipe: Leite’s Culinaria

Cranberry and sage cocktail, drinking vinegar

Fruit Shrub

Another way to use up fruit that’s bruised or past its prime? Turn it into shrub, a non-alcoholic syrup that can be added to dressings, cocktails, mocktails, or glazes. Your too-ripe fruits are combined with vinegar during a canning process, then stored in a cool, dark place until the desired concentration is reached. The fruit is then strained out (and can be kept to use for other recipes), while the shrub syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to six months.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Many different cheeses grated and shredded on a white plate

Fromage Fort

This brilliant recipe uses a medley of leftover cheeses to create a spread that can be made in minutes. Just combine a half pound of cheese pieces with garlic, white wine, salt, and pepper in a food processor until the mixture is creamy, then spread it on bread or put it under the broiler to create a more fragrant dip.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Bowl of cauliflower rice in a bowl
Cavan Images/istockphoto

Cauliflower Rice

Once heads of cauliflower start to brown, it can be tempting to toss them in the trash. Instead, transform them into cauliflower rice, which uses every bit of the vegetable — yes, including the stems — to make a hearty side dish. 

Recipe: Love & Lemons

Traditional Healthy Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

If you live solo or have a small family, using up an entire loaf of bread before it goes stale can be a challenge. The solution: Panzanella salad, an Italian dish that often highlights toasted cubes of stale bread. Toss in a mixture of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and basil; pour some dressing over; and you have yourself a waste-free lunch.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats


Bone Broth

The bone broth craze may have subsided, but it’s still a great way to use up leftover animal bones (preferably beef or chicken). The bones can be a mix of marrow bones, knuckles, joints, or feet, and can include meat on them (think oxtail or short ribs). The collagen-rich broth can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, and is easily thawed to make a hearty, healthy bowl of soup.

Recipe: The Forked Spoon

yellow banana peels just Peel to store organic waste

Banana Peel Carnitas

Vegan tacos usually call for jackfruit, tempeh, seitan, or some other meat substitute. But this recipe uses banana peels to emulate carnitas, shredding the peels into strips that are then sauteed with onions, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and spices. Just be sure to use banana peels that are not fully ripened and still have a bit of green at the ends.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Soul

Bowl of Fresh Chimichurri Sauce
Candice Bell/istockphoto

Herb Scraps Chimichurri

Fun to say and even more delightful to eat, chimichurri is a bright, herbaceous sauce often spooned over meat. It’s also a great way to use up leftover herbs. In this recipe, you can pull from scraps of cilantro, parsley, mint, or basil and mix it with shallots, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and red chili pepper flakes to make a standout chimichurri. 

Recipe: Closed Loop Cooking

Related: 26 Delicious Recipes That Use Up Those Aging Condiments in the Fridge

Watermelon skin

Old-Fashioned Watermelon Rind Pickles

Summer picnics aren’t summer picnics without watermelon slices, but there’s usually a pile of rind left behind. Here’s an alternative: Take those rinds, cut them into cubes, and pickle them using this resourceful recipe, which also features optional maraschino cherries for a bit of sweetness.

Recipe: The Spruce Eats

fresh organic brussels sprouts raw in a plate on wooden background.

Cheese & Brussels Sprout Scones

Mmm, scones. This particular variety is incredibly versatile — while it calls for Brussels sprouts, it can be made with the scraps of any leftover leafy greens. Not only that, but cooks can throw in the rinds and crumbs of remaining cheeses to turn this baked good into a savory treat.

Recipe: Love Food

Shrimp shell and head waste after eating on a white plate. close up

Shrimp Stock

Instead of tossing out your shrimp shells, save them for a shrimp stock that can be used when making seafood soups, risottos, and more. This recipe makes use of the shells from one to two pounds of shrimp, which are then simmered alongside a medley of vegetables and herbs. Keep the stock in the fridge for a few weeks, or freeze it for up to three months.

Recipe: Simply Scratch

Related: 16 Foods to Freeze for Later (and How to Do It Right)

Leeks - cut

Coriander-Crusted Baked Cod with Leeks

The dark-green tops of leeks are usually given the boot, but you should save them for this coriander-crusted cod recipe, which uses both the light and dark green sections of the leek. Just be sure to thoroughly clean them, as dirt can hide within their tightly packed layers.

Recipe: EatingWell

Orange carrots with leaves on a cutting board. Wooden background. Top view
Vladimir Mironov/istockphoto

Roasted Carrot Soup with Carrot Top Pesto

This recipe calls for plenty of carrot tops, a section of the vegetable that is often discarded in the trash or compost. Carrot tops are used in both the soup and the pesto that is added on top, making for a dish that uses every part of this versatile vegetable. 

Recipe: Cravings in Amsterdam

Cheese nachos in the bowl

Tortilla Chicken Drumsticks

Tortilla chips have a habit of going stale pretty fast, especially if you’ve left the bag open in a cabinet somewhere. The solution? Pulse those leftover tortilla chips in a food processor — along with chili powder, cumin, and salt — into breadcrumbs, which can then be used to coat chicken drumsticks. The crunchy dish is a perfect way to save chips on their last legs. 

Recipe: Epicurious

Roasted Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seed Puppy Chow

Whether you’re carving pumpkins or just have an excess of pumpkin seeds, save them for this sweet puppy chow recipe. A cup of roasted pumpkin seeds is mixed with Chex cereal, white chocolate chips, peanut butter, and a few additional ingredients for a dessert snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Recipe: Brit + Co

Related: Discover more recipes here.