Looking to save money, reduce food waste, and enjoy some surprisingly delicious recipes!? You’ve come to the right place — all you need to do is save your food scraps! And considering food waste is a major issue in the United States, any sustainability efforts can help. According to the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 30-40% — an estimated 80 billion pounds — of the food supply in the United States goes to waste. This adds up to about 219 pounds of waste per person (or, the size equivalent of 650 apples). Based on research from FAO, this is about 750 billion USD dollars in discarded food. And not only are we tossing billions of meals down the drain, but we’re also wasting resources and harming the planet (thanks to increased greenhouse emissions and a growing carbon footprint).
So, why do we waste so much food? Well, there are many contributing factors to food waste. Things such as uneaten and discarded food (in homes, stores, and restaurants), problems in the supply chain, and “imperfect produce” (physically imperfect food that may be flawed in color or shape, though otherwise nutritious and safe to eat). That said, food waste is a major contributor to global hunger, climate change, and wasted resources. Not to mention, it’s costly for consumers, businesses, and the environment.
The good news? You can save money, support the environment, and make sustainable food choices by simply saving your leftover scraps! Rather than throwing away food scraps (such as veggie peels, or leftover cooked grains), you can use them to create delicious and nutritious meals. From date seed coffee and banana peel bacon to aquafaba pudding and watermelon rind jam, these tasty food scrap recipes will blow your mind (and your tastebuds). Ready to do some green cooking? Read on for all you need to know!
18 Ways to Turn Leftover Food Scraps into Healthy Recipes
#1 Grind Date Seeds into A Coffee-Like Beverage
If coffee gives you the jitters, we’ve got the perfect sustainable alternative: date seed coffee! Just as it sounds, this caffeine-free coffee alternative is made from none other than ground date seeds. Aside from being delicious and nutritious (a rich source of antioxidants and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium), turning your leftover date seeds into coffee is a delicious way to reduce food waste. So, if you’re snacking on juicy Medjool dates or using them in your favorite recipe, remember to save the seeds!
Here’s how to turn your leftover dates into a coffee-like beverage:
Step #1: Gather your leftover date seeds, using at least 12-15 seeds. (If they are sticky, you may need to soak and dry them for 24 hours before roasting). Next, oven-roast your date seeds for 30-45 minutes at 350ºF on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Step #2: Once cooled, grind them into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.
Step #3: Prepare your coffee beverage! Use your date seed powder as you would ground coffee, preparing it with a french press or pour-over. Add your favorite non-dairy milk or creamer, a hint of sweetness (date syrup, perhaps!?), and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve and enjoy!
#2 Turn Leftover Chickpea Water into Chocolate Mousse
This four-ingredient chocolate vegan mousse is made using the scraps from one surprising ingredient: leftover chickpea water. Also known as aquafaba, the leftover water from chickpeas can be whipped into a creamy foam and used in place of eggs for recipes like whipped cream, pudding, meringues, and even mayonnaise. It yields a light and creamy consistency, and no, it doesn’t taste like beans! If you’re making hummus or roasted chickpeas, save that water!
To make this recipe you’ll need:
- 1 cup aquafaba (the amount of chickpea water from 1 14 oz can of chickpeas)
- ¾ – 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life or Eating Evolved)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
Step #1: Add the aquafaba, lemon juice, and maple syrup to a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the mixture for 5-10 minutes until a stiff peak forms. You want this to be firm — no need to worry about overwhipping.
Step #2: Melt the chocolate chips and slowly add while the aquafaba mixture is forming
Step #3: Once mixed, portion your mousse into 3-4 individual cups and set in the fridge for 4-5 hours or overnight. Once firm, serve and enjoy!
RELATED: Chocolate Avocado Pudding (The Ultimate Low-Sugar, Guilt-Free Dessert)
#3 Use Leftover Strawberry Greens for a DIY Strawberry Vinaigrette
A cup of fresh strawberries will load you up with antioxidants, fiber, and a daily dose of Vitamin C (actually, more than your daily Vitamin C needs). They make a great standalone snack, smoothie addition, or breakfast bowl topping! But don’t be so quick to throw away those strawberry tops (or the tops of any berry, for that matter)! According to research, strawberry tops are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and antimicrobial properties.
And you want all those good-for-you nutrients, don’t you? Try blending them into a Strawberry Vinaigrette. Simple to make and an easy way to reduce food waste. Add 1 cup of strawberry tops (with some strawberry flesh intact) into 3 cups of white wine vinegar. Allow it to sit for two days, then discard the strawberry tops and use as you would vinegar! Make it into a salad dressing, add it to a sauce, or use it as a marinade.
RELATED: The Healthiest Low-Sugar Fruits to Add to Your Diet
#4 Save Leftover Nut or Seed Milk Pulp & Turn it Into Granola
Aside from being ultra-creamy and delicious, homemade nut milk is an easy way to avoid sneaky ingredients like added sugars and oils. But milk isn’t the only recipe you can benefit from — the nut milk pulp is usable too! And it makes a delicious base for homemade granola.
To make homemade granola using leftover nut-milk pulp, you’ll need:
- 1 cup (or so) of leftover nut milk pulp
- ½ – 1 cup nuts of choice, chopped (pecans, almonds, or walnuts work best)
- ½ cup mixed seeds of choice (such as pumpkin, sunflower, or flax)
- ½ – 1 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
- ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Sea salt (optional)
Step #1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Step #2: Add all of the above ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
Step #3: Evenly spread mixture on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Once golden brown, remove from oven to cool. Serve and enjoy!
#5 Turn Leftover Banana Peels into “Bacon”
If you assumed banana peels were inedible, think again! When marinated (in soy sauce or coconut aminos, maple syrup, olive oil, and spices like paprika and garlic), banana peels fry up to bacon-like perfection! But, you’ll want to make sure you’re using organic bananas and the right peels — the trick is choosing peels that are ripe and spotty (a perfect way to reduce food waste if you’re making banana bread).
To make banana peel bacon, all you have to do is scrape out the inside of your banana peels to remove any banana fruit flesh. Next, you’ll want to marinate them in your sauce of choice (see our recipe below) for 10-15 minutes. To finish, fry them up in a greased pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, and you’ve got yourself crispy vegan bacon made from banana peel scraps! Trust us — you’ll be amazed by the flavor, taste, and texture. Yum.
For a simple marinade, try stirring together 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos, 1 teaspoon of avocado oil and maple syrup, and ¼ tsp of garlic and paprika. Taste test and adjust as needed!
RELATED: 5 Healthy Hacks For The Best Banana Bread Ever
#6 Bake Leftover Nut Milk Pulp into Grain-Free Crackers
If you love making homemade nut milk, we’re giving you another reason not to toss your leftover pulp with these easy-prep grain-free crackers. Aside from your leftover nut milk pulp, you’ll just need olive oil and a handful of spices — it’s that simple!
Here’s how to make easy-prep crackers:
Step #1: To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Next, combine your leftover nut milk pulp (about ¾ cup) in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh or dried spices of choice (such as chopped parsley, black pepper, sea salt, or garlic). Mix until well combined until the mixture forms into a dough.
Step #2: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your dough on top. Top with another piece of parchment paper to spread, then evenly spread your dough mixture on the pan into ⅛ – inch thickness (you can knead with your hands or a rolling pin). Once even, remove the top layer.
Step #3: Using a butter knife, score the dough into cracker-sized squares. Then, with a fork, poke holes in each square.
Step #4: Bake the dough for 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, and carefully flip over each cracker to ensure an even bake. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Step #5: Once crackers are golden all the way through, remove from the oven and let cool. Enjoy immediately or store in an air-tight container!
#7 Turn Broccoli or Cauliflower stems into Veggie “Fries”
Don’t know what to do with your leftover broccoli or cauliflower stalks? Turn them into veggie fries! They’re low in calories and carbs and loaded with fiber. Plus, when baked, they have a similar texture and taste to traditional fries!
To transform your leftover veggie stems into fries, start by peeling the hard outer layer with a veggie peel. Then, slice each stem lengthwise into fry-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and spices of choice to coat, then bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees F.
#8 Blend Leftover Watermelon Rinds Into Jam
Did you know the rind to your delicious, juicy watermelon is totally edible? That’s right — reduce food waste and put this yummy summer fruit to good use! It’s high in nutrients like fiber and Vitamins B and C. And, it makes a surprisingly delicious jam!
- 4 cups of watermelon rind (with some watermelon fruit attached), thoroughly washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
- ¾ cup raw honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup fresh berries (strawberries work well here)
- 1 lemon, freshly juiced
Step #1: Add sliced watermelon rinds, berries, lemon juice, and sweetener to a large pot. Cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, continuously stirring. Simmer until rinds have softened completely, about one hour.
Step #2: Once cooked through, add the mixture to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste test and adjust ingredients as needed.
Step #3: Pour into an air-tight jar and store in the fridge. Use in place of traditional jam, adding to toast or yogurt bowls! Enjoy.
#9 Bake the Peels of Fruits or Veggies Into Chips
Don’t toss those leftover fruit and veggie peels down the drain! With a little know-how, you can repurpose them into a nutritious, crunchy chip. The outer layer of fruit and veggies — such as apple peels and potato skins — actually contain a bulk of nutrients (such as fiber, iron, Vitamin C, and B vitamins).
All you have to do is drizzle the peels and skins with some avocado oil and spices of choice (such as cinnamon, nutritional yeast, or garlic powder — depending on if you want sweet or savory), and bake them in the air fryer or oven at 400 degrees F until crispy! So simple, so delicious.
#10 Bake Leftover Fruit & Veggie Seeds
If you have leftover pumpkin, squash, or watermelon seeds to spare, bake them into protein-packed crunchy seeds! Aside from a hefty dose of plant-based protein, you’ll benefit from nutrients like magnesium and Omega-3s.
Step #1: To repurpose your leftover fruit and veggie seeds, start by rinsing your seeds and patting them dry. Once dried completely, lightly coat 1-2 cups of seeds of choice with spices of choice. For a sweet mixture, use cinnamon and a dash of salt. For a savory bake, add spices such as garlic, salt, and nutritional yeast.
Step #2: Next, evenly spread your seeds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees F for 20-30 minutes. To prevent your seeds from burning, you’ll want to give them a quick stir every 5-10 minutes. Once golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. Enjoy!
#11 Freeze Wilting Herbs into Oil, Broth, or Ice cubes
Those forgot-about, wilted herbs make the best meal-prep hack: frozen herb cubes. Aside from reducing food waste, freezing your about-to-expire herbs is a quick and easy way to add extra flavor to any meal while reducing your time in the kitchen.
The best part? You can get creative with how you freeze your food scraps! Chop your herbs up then fill an ice cube tray ¾ of the way full. Top it off with oil, broth, or water and freeze. Once frozen, store in a freezer-friendly storage container and store until needed!
#12 Turn Carrot Tops into Pesto
Those long green carrot tops are loaded with Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium! To repurpose them, toss them in your favorite pesto recipe! You’ll get a boost of vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants, and you won’t even taste them! Use your pesto as a dip for raw or roasted veggies, spread it on top of your pizza, or use it as a sauce for healthy pasta dishes.
#13 Save Leftover Veggie Scraps for Homemade Broth or Stock
If you have leftover veggies (stems and leaves included), save them and use them for a homemade healthy broth or stock! Broccoli stems, brussel sprout bottoms, cauliflower leaves, carrot tops… you name it! Simply stash your leftovers in a freezer-safe storage bag until you accumulate enough to make homemade stock. You can even save leftover beef or chicken bones to make a homemade bone broth.
#14 Transform Stale Bread into Croutons
Instead of throwing away stale bread, turn it into crunchy and flavorful croutons! This works with any bread of choice (no matter if it’s keto, paleo, or vegan!). Simply cut the bread into cubes, toss with some olive oil and herbs, and bake in the oven until crispy.
Or, try making bread crumbs! Once you make your croutons, simply pulse them in a food processor. Use as a breading for chicken, tofu, or fish, or sprinkle them on top of baked pasta dishes, roasted veggies, and salads!
RELATED: The Top 10 Gluten-Free Breads That Actually Taste Delicious
#15 Save Your Leftover Citrus Peels for a Flavorful Seasoning
Want to brighten up your dish with a burst of natural flavor? Save your leftover citrus peels and make a citrus zest seasoning! Rather than discarding your leftover orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit peels, simply dry them out in the oven or in a dehydrator. Use it as a seasoning for lean protein like fish or chicken, sprinkle it on roasted veggies, or add it to soups and salads!
If you don’t own a dehydrator, here’s how to make it in the oven without destroying the nutrients during the cooking process!
Step #1: Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature setting (usually around 150-200°F). Then, wash your citrus fruits and dry well.
Step #2: Use a zester or grater to remove the colored zest from the peels. (Note: be sure to avoid the white pith, which can be bitter.
Step #3: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then, spread the zest in a thin layer and place in the preheated oven.
Step #4: Bake in the oven for several hours, or until it is completely dry and brittle. (About 2-4 hours, depending on the thickness of the zest and your oven temperature settings).
Step #5: Once dry, remove the zest from the oven and let it cool completely.
Step #6: Once cool, blend or grind the zest into a fine powder using a spice grinder or food processor. Option to combine with sea salt to taste.
Step #7: Store the citrus zest in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
#16 Make Salsa Using Leftover Tomatoes and Veggies
Have leftover tomatoes, onions, and peppers hiding in your fridge or kitchen? Rather than tossing them aside, why not make a fresh and spicy salsa? Add other leftover veggies, such as diced cucumber, grated carrot, or diced zucchini — or whatever’s in your fridge — to the salsa for added flavor and nutrition. Serve with fresh veggies, chips, or use as a topping for salads, tacos, or grilled meats!
#17 Turn Brown Bananas Into Sweet Banana Peel Pancakes
If you’ve ever made banana bread, you know that the best bananas are the ones that look like they’re totally spoiled! When overly ripe, bananas are sweeter in taste and make a great addition to baked goods and smoothie recipes.
- 2 ripe (brown) bananas
- 1 cup oats
- ½ cup non-dairy milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt, to taste
- 1-2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
Step #1: Place the peeled bananas in a high-speed blender or food processor.
Step #2: Add the oats, non-dairy milk, egg, baking powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt to the blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture is smooth and well combined. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out.
Step #3: Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add a small amount of oil or cooking spray.
Step #4: Using a ¼ cup measure, scoop the batter and pour it onto the pan. Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Step #5: Serve warm, and enjoy with optional toppings of choice, such as fresh berries or a drizzle of maple syrup!
#18 Sip on Citrus Peel Tea
Did you know you can use the leftover peels from oranges, lemons, and grapefruits to make a flavorful and aromatic tea? Aside from reducing food waste, this simple and easy recipe is also delicious and nutritious! In fact, Mandarin and Tangerine peel tea are well-known digestive aids used frequently in Ancient Chinese Medicine to reduce inflammation, soothe belly bloat, and stimulate digestion.
To get the full digestive benefits, It’s important to dry the peels on a low temperature to preserve their aromatic properties! Here’s how to make homemade citrus peel tea:
Step #1: Thoroughly wash your citrus peels. Then, using a peeler or sharp knife, remove the outer peel (avoid the white pith, which can be bitter).
Step #2: Spread the citrus peels out on a baking sheet and allow them to dry in a warm, well-ventilated area for 2-3 days, or until completely dry. Alterivalty you could bake them on the lowest oven temperature setting for 2-4 hours, or dry them in a dehydrator.
Step #3: Once dry, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Then, add the dried citrus peels to the water and reduce the heat to low.
Step #4: Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the water has taken on a citrusy flavor and aroma. Remove the tea from heat and strain out the citrus peels. Enjoy warm, adding optional add-ins like raw honey or additional spices such as ginger or cinnamon.
Additional Ways to Repurpose Waste: No Recipe Needed!
#19 Freeze Leftover Yogurt for Smoothies
Have leftover yogurt (Greek, coconut, cashew… you name it) that’s about to expire? Freeze it into ice cube molds for later use! Toss the yogurt cubes in your smoothie as an added thickener or low-sugar alternative to frozen fruit!
#20 Blend & Freeze About-To-Expire Produce
Hold up — don’t toss those about to expire spinach bags just yet! Instead, save your about-to-expire produce by freezing it. Blend up extra berries, spinach, ripe bananas or apples, and even kale stems or strawberry tops with water, non-dairy milk, or coconut water. Then, pour the mixture into smoothie cubes and freeze for later use! Think of these smoothie cubes as pre-blended smoothie boosters. Toss one or two in your smoothie for a nutrient addition!
RELATED: 12 Make-Ahead Smoothie Pack Ideas (Perfect For Busy Mornings)
#21 Turn an Almost Empty Jar of Mustard Into Salad Dressing
If you have an almost empty jar of mustard, turn it into a yummy salad dressing! We all know scooping out those last bits of mustard is near impossible, anyways. So why not save yourself the hassle and benefit the environment by reducing plastic and food waste? All you have to do is add some oil, vinegar, seasoning, and a dash of honey or maple syrup. Shake it up and toss it back in the fridge!
#22 Use an Almost-Empty Jar of Nut Butter for Your Overnight Oats or Chia Seed Pudding
If you’ve never made your overnight oats or chia seed pudding using an almost-empty jar of nut butter, you’re missing out. For starters, this is one of the tastiest ways to use up every drop of that delicious jar of nut butter. Second, you’ll save money and time! Win-win-win. Simply make your recipe as normal — just add your ingredients straight into the jar! Shake it up, refrigerate overnight, and enjoy it straight out of the jar.
Become a Zero-Waste Chef
Going green has never been easier or more delicious! As you can see, it’s easy to transform almost any food into a waste-free recipe. Whether you want a comforting caffeine-free beverage made from date seeds, a nutrient-packed green pesto for your pizza, or a simple on-the-go meal-prep breakfast straight out of the PB jar, we’ve got you covered! Share these yummy recipes with your friends and family and spread some delicious, eco-friendly love.