5 creative ways to use leftover chicken, beef, quinoa and more

I’m all about meal prep and cooking double and triple batches in order to save time and enjoy leftovers throughout the week. But I’m not about boredom. For example, if I grill enough chicken breasts to last five days, I don’t want to eat those breasts with the same sides every single night. Instead, I find new ways to excite my taste buds and recreate fun dinners using leftovers. I encourage you to steal my ideas using five common ingredients below:

Chicken Breasts

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are one of the easiest and leanest foods you can cook for the week ahead. You can opt to saute, grill or bake them. Three ounces of cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast provides about 140 calories, 25 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat. It’s a fabulous way to add lean protein and a slew of energy-boosting B vitamins to your healthy eating plan. Here are some ways to reuse them:

— Cut them into pieces and toss the chunks into low-sodium chicken broth with veggies like onions, carrots, celery, leeks, parsnips and turnips for a warming soup.

— Cut them into bite-sized pieces to create a quesadilla with low-fat cheese. Serve the quesadilla with reduced-fat sour cream or nonfat plain Greek yogurt and salsa.

— Mince the chicken to make a chicken salad using a 1-to-1 ratio of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and reduced-fat mayonnaise.

— Top a bed of greens with thinly-sliced chicken breast. Add leftover vegetables to help reduce food waste.

— Cut the breasts into bite-sized pieces. Use them to top a whole-wheat pizza crust with tomato sauce and part-skim mozzarella cheese.

[See: 10 Healthy Meals You Can Make in 10 Minutes.]


One dish that always gives you leftovers is chili. Whether made from bean, chicken or lean beef, once the protein is combined with veggies, you’ll be getting a well-balanced, healthy meal. You can, however, repurpose chili into different dishes you can whip up in minutes. Here are a few to give a whirl:

— Make a chili quesadilla with a scoop of chili and your favorite cheese.

— Wrap the chili (sans the liquids) in a whole-wheat tortilla with lettuce and tomato.

— Make a bowl of killer nachos on those weeknights you need something extra special. Top tortilla chips with warmed chili and sprinkle it all with cheese. For extra spice, top the nachos with sliced jalapenos.

— If hot dogs are on your menu (you can find nitrite-free dogs), stuff them into a whole-wheat bun and top them with a spoonful of chili.

[See: 11 Healthy Veggie Recipes That Prove Slow Cookers Are for More Than Meat.]


If you cook a big batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week, you’ll probably have a ton left over. That’s a good thing since a cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. It also provides hefty doses of thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, potassium, magnesium and selenium, plus 15 percent of your daily iron needs. This whole grain (which is technically a seed) can be repurposed in several ways:

— Add cooked quinoa to a broth-based soup (like the chicken soup described above).

— Make a sweet warming breakfast with leftover quinoa mixed with milk, cinnamon and berries.

— Add it to chili for a boost of fiber and protein.

— Create a stuffing for peppers using leftover quinoa, vegetables and cheese.

— Add it to a smoothie. My favorite uses a frozen banana, strawberries, Greek yogurt and 100-percent pomegranate or cranberry juice.


Slices of leftover beef can be used to add protein to any meal of the day. Here are my favorite ways to reuse it:

— Make a killer steak and egg breakfast omelet.

— Create a delicious stir-fry with leftover beef and whatever veggies you have in your fridge like bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and broccoli.

— Make a chili with leftover beef in 30 minutes or less. Use low-sodium canned beans, leftover beef and vegetables like carrots and potatoes.

— Combine beef slices with beef broth and barley for a beef and barley soup.

— Thinly slice beef, saute peppers and onions, and enjoy it all in fajitas. Serve them with salsa or guacamole.

[See: 9 Cooking Tricks That Will Make Everyone Think You’re a Great Chef.]

Whole-Wheat Bread

That loaf of bread just keeps on giving. Instead of letting it spoil, you can use it in some very creative ways:

— Pulse it into breadcrumbs and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

— Cut the bread into half-inch cubes and toss them with your favorite spices (like oregano, basil or thyme) and olive oil. Bake them for about 10 minutes to make delicious croutons.

— Using a glass, cut a hole out of the center of the bread. Coat it with cooking spray and cook it on the stovetop, cracking an egg inside the hole. Cook it for several minutes on each side until the egg solidifies. Hello, egg-in-a-hole!

— Make whole-grain French toast by dipping the bread into an egg and milk mixture. Top it with Greek yogurt and berries for a well-balanced, healthy breakfast.

More from U.S. News

Quinoa 101: What It Is and How to Cook It

Should I Wash the Turkey Before Cooking It?

7 Healthy Ways to Gobble Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey

5 Creative Ways to Use Leftover Chicken, Beef, Quinoa and More originally appeared on usnews.com

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