Rightovers: Leftovers Made Right

Air Fryer Potato Tacos

Who gets excited about leftovers? They tend to be soggy, and no one brings out the special dishes to serve them. 

But what if your leftovers were good enough to merit fancy bowls and compliments to the chef while still checking the most important leftover checkboxes: Quick and easy. Now, that’s what we call rightovers! 

On this page, we’ve collected tips for turning leftovers into rightovers using our top three favorite strategies:

We also have content from influencers who share their favorite tips and tricks for creating rightovers in their homes.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

We all have a family member who’s legendary for the ability to make a big chicken dinner or tons of casseroles—enough to feed an army—and then freeze the extras for another meal or two. Steal this strategy! If you have a day or evening free, get that big meal made to stock up some easy meals for later. You can be the legend if you know which recipes work best for freezing.
Easy Weeknight Chili
Easy Weeknight Chili

Best Recipes for Freezing

When choosing a recipe to freeze, keep these top two tips in mind:

  1. Freezing and thawing foods can change their texture and flavor, but foods that have a high starch content like peas, corn, and beans hold up better to these changes.
  2. Extra sauce or a flavorful liquid with food helps boost the flavor. That’s why recipes like casseroles, chilies, pasta bakes, sauces, soups, and stews make the best freezer meals—they hold up and taste great after thawing.

Tips for Freezing Leftovers

First, always let food cool completely before putting it in the fridge. And let your food chill out there before freezing. If the food is still warm or even room temperature, steam in the container adds water and ice crystals to your frozen food. This can lead to soggy foods after reheating. For soups, stews, and dishes with more liquid, leave some extra space for the frozen liquid to expand.

And rather than freezing a big container of soup or large pans of baked pasta, freeze smaller portions so you can save time defrosting just the amount you need. This trick works especially well for chicken. Cooked poultry can stay in a freezer at 0°F (-18°C) for up to four months. 

Most vegetable- or broth-based soups can stay in a freezer for two to three months. For soups with dairy, they can only stay in the freezer for a month at max. Label bags and containers with the date you made the food and add a use-by date.

How to Reheat Frozen Meals So They Taste Great

When it’s time to serve frozen rightovers, warm them up using the same method you originally used to prepare the food. For example, reheat soup in a pot on the stove or warm up a casserole in the oven. Using the same cooking method means that your food will taste the same way it did on the day you made it.

Another way to make a frozen meal into a rightover is to add a few fresh seasonings or ingredients after it’s reheated. Sprinkle in some fresh pepper and herbs to soups and stews, add Parmesan and parsley onto a baked mostaccioli, or add a dollop of sour cream and salsa to homemade frozen burritos.

Easy Lasagna
Vegetarian Lasagna

Weeknight Rightovers

Here’s how some of you make rightovers part of your weeknight routines.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Ramen

As part of our series on rightovers, @food.kids.love shows us how to turn last night’s dinner into tomorrow’s brunch.

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

As part of our series on rightovers, @gariannestable makes a delicious and easy sauce out of leftover veggies.

Korean Bulgogi Tacos

As part of our series on rightovers, @ourlovelypak shares a recipe for beef bulgogi that makes tacos the next day.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

As part of our series on rightovers, @midwestlifeandstyle, shares an idea for pizza that transforms grilled chicken leftovers into a fresh, picture-worthy pizza.

Planned Overs

Planned overs are a combination of meal planning and meal prep where a few simple ingredients are the basis for multiple meals during the week. If you don’t have time to batch-cook big meals or don’t want to do a lot of meal prep every night, this is the rightover strategy for you.

When you chop veggies for one meal, go ahead and chop a few more to store in the fridge for a salad, pizza toppings, or taco night. Another planned-over tip is to think of proteins as a “blank canvas.” For example, rather than cook chicken in salsa for tacos, roast the chicken with just salt and pepper and make extra. Then, add salsa to some of the chicken for tacos and save the rest for a head start on the chicken barbecue, stir-fry, salad, or a casserole.

Planned Overs In Action

For more planned-over inspiration and recipes, check out this video series to help you get started.

Products That Help With Planned Overs

Having the right tools on hand makes everything in the kitchen work more smoothly. Here are two of our favorite planned-over helpers.

Sous Vide Information for the Deluxe Multi Cooker
Deluxe Multi Cooker

With 16 pre-programmed settings, this takes the guesswork out of most meals, especially foods you want to make ahead of time like rice, chicken breasts, or beans.

Leakproof Glass Container Set
Photo | @jennifersotopc

These containers make it easy to reheat leftovers or cook a small amount of food. They go in the fridge, freezer, and microwave. The glass container can even go in a 350°F (180°C) oven!

Transform Your Leftovers

You can also repurpose leftover ingredients from one meal and make them into a rightover meal another night, and no food goes to waste. This is a great option when you have unpredictable amounts of ingredients or odds and ends. With leftover rice, beans, or meat, you can make tasty burritos in no time and it doesn’t matter if you only have a little meat or a lot of rice, it’s a delicious combo no matter what the proportions are.

This same idea works with all kinds of miscellaneous leftovers.

  • Tortillas, cheese, and marinara? Turn them into individual pizzas.
  • Leftover chicken, roasted red peppers or artichoke hearts, and cheese? An epic panini just waiting to be grilled up.
  • Leftover grilled veggies? A perfect partner with hummus for an after-school snack the next day.

Rightover transformations are an easy magic trick with spells like frittatas, soups, and dips. Keep your pantry stocked with staples such as rice, pasta, broth, and canned beans, and have veggies in the freezer to bulk up your leftovers. You won’t get bored by eating the same thing twice in one week, and you’ll get leftovers onto your table instead of the garbage because you didn’t have a plan for them.

Products That Help With Leftover Transformations

These tools aren’t magic wands, but they come close. A creamy hollandaise will make you forget that that grilled asparagus got its start on the grill last night next to burgers and hotdogs, and an indoor grill can put the heat on and transform any leftovers.

Hummus From the Deluxe Cooking Blender
Photo | @thecraftofcooking

It blends and cooks, and is great for easy dips to dress up leftover veggies. Or when you have fruit past its peak, throw it in the blender for a smoothie or freeze the smoothie for later.

Sandwich on Deluxe Electric Grill & Griddle
Photo | @beyond.the.table.with.becky

Make easy paninis, quesadillas, fritters, and open-faced sandwiches with any leftover deli meats, cheese, and veggies you have in the fridge. Can we say it? Everyone will be im-pressed!

Recipes That Transform Leftovers

Use up those extra potatoes! So tasty that you’ll make a point of having leftover potatoes available!

Comfort food for when you’ve got leftover turkey, especially during the holidays.

No one will guess that this beautiful dish is leftover rotisserie chicken in a new dress.

This is the perfect next-day snack for leftover zucchini from a salad or pasta dish.

How to Reheat Leftover Breaded & Fried Foods

Sometimes there just isn’t any choice—you have leftovers to heat up.

We asked our social community what food made the best leftovers and the most popular response was PIZZA! For foods like pizza or breaded and fried foods, you can’t always reheat it the same way you cooked it, like a stew or casserole. Otherwise, you end up with soggy crusts or breading. An air fryer is one of the best options for great pizza the next day.

Deluxe Air Fryer

The reheat setting is the way to go for the best possible pizza, nuggets or tenders, and fish.

Rightovers are all about simple ways to meal plan, prep, and transform meals during the week. And when a busy night strikes or you don’t feel like cooking, a quick peek into the freezer, fridge, and pantry will make putting meals together fast and easy.