5 Easy Recipes That Taste Even Better as Leftovers

By Christine Byrne |

Cook once, enjoy two or more delicious meals with these simple, reheat-and-eat recipes.

chicken tortilla soup

In theory, cooking for one or two people should be easier than cooking for a crowd. In practice, it’s often more challenging. 

Most recipes make at least four servings, and a good portion of them aren’t super appetizing as leftovers. You’re stuck with two unappealing options:   

  1. Potentially waste a fair amount of food. 
  2. Put a lot of time and effort into scaling down your favorite recipes to make only one or two servings every night. 

Here’s a third (much better!) option: Add the simple recipes below to your regular cooking rotation. All make for satisfying, healthy dinners on day one, and they reheat beautifully as leftovers later in the week—or month, if you prefer freezing what you don’t eat.  

You’ll put in the work once and reap the benefits for at least two flavor-packed meals. Enjoy! 

Recipe #1: Bok Choy Soup  

When it comes to meals that reheat well, soup is an obvious choice. This one gets bonus points for cooking in just 15 minutes, so you don’t need to remember to start it early in the day.  

The recipe comes courtesy of Kelsey Pezzuti, R.D., a New Jersey–based dietitian who says she didn’t know about bok choy until she started working in a supermarket. Now she regularly cooks with it, and she developed this soup recipe to highlight its sweet, crunchy flavor.  

If you want to add some protein to this meal, toss raw shrimp into the pot when there are about 5 minutes left in the cooking time, or add cooked chicken just before serving. This soup also freezes well, so feel free to make a double batch and keep enjoying it for weeks to come. 

Serves: 4 

You’ll need: 

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil 
  • 6 bok choy ribs with leaves, chopped 
  • ¼ cup asparagus, chopped 
  • ½ cup mushrooms, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 2 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef) 

What to do: Warm the sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add vegetables and garlic; sauté until tender and bok choy is slightly wilted, 4 to 6 minutes. 

Mix in red pepper flakes. Add broth, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Top with additional pepper flakes, if desired, and enjoy!  

Recipe #2: Grilled Shrimp and Broccoli Foil Packs 

These grilled shrimp foil packs are another one of Pezzuti’s favorite reheat-and-eat recipes. You’ll cook broccoli and shrimp in foil packets on the grill or in the oven, then serve it all over rice or another cooked grain of your choice. 

Sitting in the fridge overnight gives the shrimp and broccoli more time to absorb the sweet soy flavor, but this is one meal that you should definitely consume the next day. Reheat the rice by heating a bit of olive oil in a skillet and stirring in the rice until it’s warm (this adds some moisture back). To reheat the shrimp and broccoli mixture, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and nuke it for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on your microwave’s power.  

Serves: 4 

You’ll need:  

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces 
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce 
  • Juice of 1 lime 
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (or another whole grain of your choice) 
  • Sesame seeds 

What to do: Cook brown rice or your favorite whole grain according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

If you’re using a grill, turn it on to high heat. If using an oven, preheat to 400°F. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.  

Cut and lay out four large squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny-side up, and divide the broccoli and shrimp evenly between them, piling the mixture in the center. Pour the sauce over the top. 

Pull the sides and ends of the foil up; fold and crimp to seal it into a pouch, leaving room on top for steam. Place the packets on the grill (or on a sheet pan in the oven) to cook until the shrimp is pink and the broccoli is tender, 12 to 15 minutes.   

Carefully remove foil packets from the grill or oven. Serve the contents over brown rice and top with sesame seeds. 

Recipe #3: Chickpea and Vegetable Stew with Turmeric and Cumin 

This 30-minute vegetable stew comes from nutritionist Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., chef and author of Clean Eating Kitchen: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook. You can store it in the fridge and microwave it for lunch or dinner the next day, or freeze leftover servings to enjoy another day that calls for a hearty but light stew.  

Serves: 4 

You’ll need:  

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
  • 1 medium carrot, diced (about ½ cup) 
  • ½ medium onion, diced (about 1 cup) 
  • 1 stalk celery, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger 
  • ¼ cup dry white wine 
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice 
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • Fresh herbs, coarsely chopped (like mint and Italian flat-leaf parsley) 

What to do: Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic. Gently sauté́ until tender, about 6 minutes.  

Stir in the cumin, turmeric, and ginger, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.  

Pour in the white wine and simmer to evaporate most of the wine, a few minutes.  

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the flavors combine, about 10 minutes.  

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with more olive oil, and sprinkle with herbs. 

Recipe #4: Lentil Mushroom Bolognese 

The combination of lentils and chopped mushrooms mimics the texture of ground beef in this plant-based Bolognese dish. It comes from dietitian Chelsey Amer, R.D., author of the Thrive in 5 e-book, which features balanced recipes with five ingredients or less.  

The Bolognese sauce keeps well in the fridge or freezer, but don’t freeze the cooked pasta. The best way to keep these leftovers fresh is to cook just enough pasta for that evening’s dinner, then save the leftover sauce and cook more pasta when you reheat it later. 

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Serves: 4  

You’ll need: 

  • 8 ounces dry pasta  
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil 
  • 2 cups finely chopped white button mushrooms   
  • 2 cups cooked lentils 
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce 

What to do: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until al dente. When it’s done cooking, drain and set aside. 

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add mushrooms, stirring frequently until soft, about 3 minutes.  

Add cooked lentils and marinara sauce, stirring together. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to warm. Serve over pasta and enjoy! 

Recipe #5: Chicken Tortilla Soup 

This soup from Angie Tillman, R.D., is easy to make, easy to store, and easy to reheat later. You’ll use a jar of your favorite salsa to add flavor, plus veggies and black beans for fiber and chicken for protein. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer for a quick and easy meal whenever you want it again.  

Serves: 4 to 6  

You’ll need:  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 12 ounces total), cut into bite-size pieces 
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic (or ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder)  
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder 
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels 
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) salsa 
  • Optional toppings: tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, or lime wedges 

What to do: Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken and sauté until opaque on the outside, about 5 minutes.  

Add onion and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Add garlic, cumin, and chili powder, and stir for 30 seconds, until the spices are fragrant. Add chicken broth, corn, black beans, and salsa. 

Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Portion into bowls and serve with any optional toppings. 

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