10 Leftover Foods that Are Better the Second Day

Can you salvage what's left on your plate? It might make a tasty lunch. Check out these leftovers pictures!
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The best part about a truly scrumptious meal or snack is the knowledge that enough is left to enjoy again the next day. More often than not, taking home a doggie bag is a given following a meal out on the town, particularly because portion sizes in restaurants are usually more than double the serving size recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture. Many meals and snacks are just as delicious the next day as long as they're stored and re-served with care. Read on for a list of 10 delicious foods that pack major potential for next-day flavor. Your taste buds will thank you.


10: Tuna, Chicken or Egg Salad

chicken salad
Let your chicken salad sit in your refrigerator for several hours (at least) before you serve it to let the flavors fully develop.

Mayonnaise-based salads like tuna, chicken, egg or even macaroni taste better after a day in the refrigerator. But, since they're mayonnaise-based, make sure you store them properly. You don't want bacteria growing in your salad as the flavors marinate and develop. These types of salads are typically served at picnics and potlucks where they may sit out for hours. To prevent bacteria from growing, you should make sure the salad's back in the fridge or on ice after no more than two hours. If it's out for longer, you don't want to press your luck, so it's probably best to toss it. With the proper care and storage, however, these salads can last for up to four days.


9: Meatloaf

The flavors and ingredients of meatloaf meld together as it cools, which is why it always tastes better the day after it's been cooked.

Most families can't finish an entire meatloaf in one night, and that's a good thing. The dish contains so many ingredients that meld together as it cools in the refrigerator. The liquids that release from the meat during cooking start to solidify again as it cools, creating a sort of gel that catches the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish. Since meatloaf uses ground beef, there's even more surface area for the gel to form and collect flavors. When it's time for dinner the next night, the reheating process releases even more flavors, especially from aromatic ingredients like onions and garlic.


8: Pasta

leftover pasta in container with bread
Why stuff yourself with pasta at dinner when you can eat half of the serving for another meal?
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Pasta dishes served in restaurants often come in such huge portions that it's challenging to finish an entire serving in one sitting. Once you add in bread, salad and appetizers, it's a nearly impossible feat. Fortunately, pasta dishes store and reheat famously, turning lunch the next day into a special treat. Lasagna and other pastas featuring tomato-based sauces reheat especially well because the sauce has time to settle when stored overnight, which makes it less runny.

Although pasta reheats nicely in the microwave, a little extra effort can put leftovers on par with restaurant-quality entrees. When reheating on the stovetop, just cover a pan and warm pasta on the medium-low heat setting. Be sure to give it a stir every couple of minutes to avoid sticking or burning. The oven is another easy option. Simply set the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place the pasta in a dish covered with aluminum foil and heat roughly 20 minutes, or until it has reached your desired temperature.


7: Pies and Cobblers

Pie and cobbler filling sets up and thickens after it's been allowed to chill on the counter or in the fridge.

When fruits are cooked, they release delicious juices. The downside of this process is it can leave your pies and cobblers running all over your plate. But as your leftover pies and cobblers cool on the counter or in the refrigerator, these juices start to condense, creating a thicker, tastier treat. To properly preserve fruit pies and cobblers, cover them with plastic wrap or foil and store them on the counter for up to two days. They'll last twice as long if you store them in the fridge. Of course, if your pie is a cream, custard or other variety containing eggs, it must be stored in the fridge and is best enjoyed within two days. If you want to make your sweet treats last longer, store in the freezer for up to four months, but make sure they're wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn.


6: Other Desserts

Who doesn't like a reheated brownie a day or two after it's been baked?

The best part of making a dessert is snacking on it throughout the rest of the week. By sliver or spoonful, for breakfast or a midnight snack, desserts always bring an indulgent smile. To make them last as long as possible, they have to be stored properly. Store cakes and brownies on the counter in airtight containers or wrap individual servings and store in a heavy-duty bag in the freezer to savor over four month's time. If your desert contains eggs, it should be stored in the refrigerator. Custards, puddings and creamy desserts benefit from time in the fridge. As they sit, layered desserts like banana pudding, strawberry trifle or tiramisu continue to marry their flavors to create a more rounded and intense flavor.


5: Pizza

leftover greasy pizza
It might not look like much now, but this leftover pizza will make a delicious cold breakfast or piping-hot lunch.
©2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Pizza topping preferences may vary widely, but the majority of pizza aficionados enjoy their pie as much the second day as they do the first. When refrigerated overnight, there's more time for pizza's gooey cheese and sauce to set, giving the product a more substantial flavor and texture. For those who prefer their leftover pizza cold, no effort greater than opening the refrigerator door is required. Pizza lovers who like a hot lunch, however, can either pop a slice or two in the oven or microwave, or they can try heating it up in a skillet for a fresh meal.

Before you even consider eating leftover pizza, it's vital to ensure that it's been stored properly, otherwise, food poisoning may make an unwelcome appearance. If the pizza was left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, it's best to err on the side of caution and toss it in the trash. Trust us on this one -- food poisoning is best avoided at all costs.


4: Soups and Stews

Flavors of soups and stews only intensify after they've had a few extra days to mix and mingle together.

Science isn't just for the laboratory -- it rears its head in the kitchen, as well. Soups and stews owe their day-after deliciousness to slow-moving flavor molecules. These little gems take their time moving around and mixing together, resulting in extra flavor after having been refrigerated and stored overnight. Tomato-based soups, stews and chilis especially tend to taste better when reheated. Some experts also claim that these aromatic dishes taste better the next day because the air is no longer permeated with cooking smells. Long-term exposure to these smells desensitizes your nose, keeping your taste buds from fully enjoying themselves at dinnertime. After the aroma has evacuated, however, a bowl of day-old soup can warm those senses right back up and be appreciated to the fullest.


3: Curries

The intense flavors of curries mellow while they chill for a day or two.

A combination of many spices, which typically includes turmeric and cumin, curry is often described as intense or harsh. The reason for this is the way your tastes buds individually process each ingredient of this complex dish. But, leftover curry offers a much mellower flavor that's sometimes described as sweet. This is because, as it sits in your refrigerator -- in an airtight container for no more than four days -- the many different flavors and spices unite to offer a smoother, yet complex, marriage of flavors. As your curry is reheated, the aromatic ingredients like peppers and onions continue to break down and release flavors and aromas not present when the dish was first served.


2: Casseroles

Casseroles, like this tagliatelle gratin, always taste better after a day in the fridge.

Casseroles are a key component to family cooking. Easy assembly, baking and serving make casseroles a favorite of busy moms and party throwers. The ease continues the next day because leftovers can be effortlessly reheated revealing even better flavors. That's because both meat and potatoes form a gelatin layer as they cool. These layers act as a sponge for the other components of the dish, soaking up a delectable collage of flavors. And casseroles keep well in the refrigerator or the freezer. And reheating is a breeze -- cover and reheat in the microwave, stirring or rotating the dish several times during the process to help ensure even heating.


1: Turkey and the Trimmings

turkey and trimmings
Leftovers don't keep indefinitely; be wise and indulge in leftover turkey, soups, stews or pizza within three to four days.

As much as everyone enjoys the main Thanksgiving event, the leftovers are anticipated as much -- or even more -- than dinner. Otherwise, families of four wouldn't routinely choose 20-pound turkeys to serve. The beauty of Thanksgiving leftovers like turkey, stuffing and sweet potato soufflé is that they can be reheated for hungry houseguests who are lingering after the holidays.

Turkey reheats best if stored in an airtight container or wrapped well to prevent drying out. Also, it helps if the initial product isn't dry or overcooked. Even if the turkey seems to be leaning toward the dry side, the only remedy necessary is a sprinkle of turkey stock or similar broth to moisten it right back up. The post-Thanksgiving fun doesn't have to stop once turkey au natural becomes tiresome. Rather than toss the leftovers, opt instead to turn them into entirely new dishes, such as turkey salad or turkey soup. The trimmings are no exception. Everything from the cranberry sauce to the stuffing can find a new life with a little creativity or the right recipe.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Arumugam, Nadia. "The Science Of Leftovers: Why They Taste SO Good." Forbes.com. Nov. 23, 2011. (Jan. 22, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/sites/nadiaarumugam/2011/11/23/the-science-of-leftovers-why-they-taste-so-good/
  • Brett, Victoria. "Leftover Cookies? Here's How to Use Them or Store Them." Associated Press. Nov 30, 2009. (Jan. 6, 2010). http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/lifestyle/stories.nsf/cooking/story/7FCD48955ECF20C58625767E0078B999?OpenDocument
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