16 Creative Uses For All That Leftover Chinese Takeout

Chinese takeout dishes
Chinese takeout dishes - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Chinese takeout comes in many shapes and forms, but one thing is for sure: It is plentiful. Between the large portions, and in most cases, the extras you didn't even remember asking for, like fried wonton strips, there is usually enough to go around and then some. But there's no need to throw out that extra rice, broccoli, or sweet and sour chicken. You don't even have to limit yourself to heating it up the next day and eating it the same way as the night before.

Extra Chinese takeout, in fact, is the perfect opportunity to get creative with ingredients you wouldn't normally have on hand. How often do you buy bean sprouts at the store to use on your soups or salads? And when was the last time you had a perfectly textured, day-old fried rice on hand to stuff your burrito with? You can do all this and more with leftover Chinese food, which is why we've put together a list of some of the most creative ways to take your day-after takeout to the next level.

Read more: 25 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice

Add Eggs To Make A Frittata

Egg frittata with knife
Egg frittata with knife - Olha_afanasieva/Getty Images

Chinese food is great and all, but if you had it last night for dinner, you might not want to have it again first thing the next morning. That is, of course, unless you decide to get creative and alter its flavor, appearance, and texture just enough to turn it into a whole new meal. This can easily happen when you add eggs to your leftover Chinese food and turn it into a frittata.

The process is simple. Just whisk some eggs and roughly chop your leftovers -- which could include anything from fried rice and lo mein to General Tso's chicken -- to ensure they spread evenly across the eggs. Mix the ingredients together and cook your frittata. Feel free to get creative with your fillings, but be sure to stick to using two eggs for each cup of leftovers. It couldn't get much simpler than that; you won't even need to worry about spices and flavorings, as the takeout will already contain those.

Wrap Leftover Fried Rice Into A Burrito

Burritos on a cutting board
Burritos on a cutting board - Elena_danileiko/Getty Images

One of the best things about a standard burrito is its versatility. You can wrap pretty much any combination of rice and protein in a tortilla and you won't be disappointed. This is also true when straying from the Mexican roots of the burrito and using, say, leftover rice from Chinese takeout as a filling.

For this handy trick, you can either use the remainder of your pork fried rice or the container of steamed white rice that comes with many entrées. In the latter case, you'll definitely want to add a few more items to the tortilla before you close it up and call it a day. For instance, you could heat up the rice with some chopped cilantro to give it flavor, or you could save a spot for some of that leftover chicken or garlic veggies. Whatever you choose to put in there, be sure to heat it up separately first, rather than only heating the finished burrito. That way, your food will warm up faster and more thoroughly.

Stir Chinese Takeout Into A Casserole

Casserole in a dish
Casserole in a dish - Nelea Reazanteva/Getty Images

Making a weeknight casserole is quick and easy when you use leftover Chinese takeout as an ingredient. Casseroles are a versatile dish that offer a range of flavor and ingredient possibilities. No matter what your takeout preferences are, you can usually find something to add to your casserole the next day.

The obvious ingredient to add is plain white rice. This will help bulk up your casserole and give this famous comfort food a satisfying, filling bite. But, there is no rule against putting vegetables or meat in a casserole. For example, if you have extra garlicky green beans from your favorite Chinese restaurant, use them to make a scrumptious green bean casserole. Alternatively, identify which of your takeout items go well with cream and cheese and merrily mix them in to your casserole base before baking the dish in the oven. The only items you might want to skip are ones that are supposed to be crispy, since baking the casserole will definitely put a damper on that texture.

Sprinkle Leftover Bean Sprouts On Soup Or Salad

Bowl of bean sprouts
Bowl of bean sprouts - Amarita/Shutterstock

Bean sprouts are a salad bar mainstay, but they're not something the average shopper brings home regularly. However, they do frequently appear in Chinese takeout, including in stir-fries or soups. But since these little bites are often thrown in at the last minute at restaurants, they need to be prepared with care to avoid overcooking them and ruining their signature crunch. It's the same reason why takeout spots might sometimes package them on the side.

As a result, you might end up with more bean sprouts than you can handle. The solution is to use them as they were intended to be used -- but maybe not in the very same dishes you ate last night. Instead, you can whip up your favorite soup or salad and sprinkle some on top. If you don't plan on using them for a while, it's best to stir-fry those sprouts and freeze them until you're ready to use them. This helps keep their taste and signature texture intact.

Wrap Leftover Sesame Chicken In Lettuce

Plate of sesame chicken
Plate of sesame chicken - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Let's face it: Lettuce is no replacement for bread. Biting into salad greens it is not usually as satisfying or tasty, and it certainly won't fill you up as much. But that calculus can change if you use lettuce in the right way. For instance, if you use it to wrap up the delicious sesame chicken from your Chinese takeout order, you might end up seeing a whole new side of lettuce.

In fact, lettuce might even upstage bread, or a tortilla, in this department. Sesame chicken's unique, gelatinous texture can easily get lost between sandwich bread or in a tortilla wrap, but the plainness of the lettuce will let it shine. If you select large enough leaves, the process of constructing your wrap is just as easy with lettuce as it is with tortillas -- and you won't have to worry about getting your fingers dirty. In fact, feel free to play around with different types of lettuce; large, sturdy leaves, like those of Boston (Bibb) lettuce will work wonders, as will romaine.

Pan Fry Leftover Rice Into Fritters

Bowl of white rice
Bowl of white rice - Golfcuk/Getty Images

Any recipe that calls for cooked rice can be a great resource to turn to when you have tubs of leftover rice from your latest Chinese takeout venture. Italian arancini are a great place to start. While arancini are typically made with arborio or carnaroli rice varieties, which are not commonly found in Chinese takeout, you can always use your plain, leftover takeout rice to make an alternative version of this popular finger food.

If straying from this traditional Italian recipe isn't for you, you could also try making rice pakora, an Indian fritter than can easily be made with leftover rice -- whether you have short or long grain on hand. Just mix your rice into the batter along with some vegetables, plop the mixture into a pan, and fry up your fritter. Serve it with chutney or any leftover takeout sauces you might have lying around.

Spruce Up Day-Old Egg Drop Soup With Tomato

Bowl of tomato egg drop soup
Bowl of tomato egg drop soup - Ingrid Balabanova/Shutterstock

Egg drop soup is one of those simple, but delicious, comfort foods that warm us from the inside out and seem to cure all ailments, from winter colds to sadness and stress. Despite how good this soup is, there are always ways to doctor it up. In fact, if you have leftover egg drop soup, instead of just having it again the day after, try adding tomato to it and turning it into a whole new soup.

This hack is especially helpful during the warmer months where tomatoes are plentiful. Indeed, as with any recipe, the fresher the tomatoes, the better the result. So be sure to select some ripe, sweet yet slightly tart tomatoes, as they will complement the warm, soft egg and chicken broth, and add a brighter, fresher flavor. Just be sure to saute the fruits a bit to soften them before adding them to the warmed soup.

Make Chicken Noodle Soup With Ginger Chicken

Chicken noodle soup
Chicken noodle soup - Mark Hochleitner/Getty Images

Chicken soup is one of America's most beloved dishes, but even this good ol' staple can get old sometimes. But, there's no need to reinvent the wheel to spruce up your chicken soup. In fact, Chinese food is one of the leftovers that you should be using in your soup. Instead of adding plain chicken breast to the pot, put in last night's ginger chicken.

Ginger chicken will instantly give your soup a flavor boost without the need for a bevy of complicated or obscure ingredients. This ingredient already contains ginger, which will be powerful enough to infuse into the soup, but not overwhelm its other delicate flavors. Just don't forget to include some garlic in your upgraded soup recipe, if you haven't done so already. As good as ginger is on its own, it reaches new heights when paired with spicy garlic.

Fry Leftover Chinese Food For An Easy Appetizer

Plate of arancini
Plate of arancini - Marcus Z-pics/Getty Images

Deep frying is a good way to make almost any food taste better. Deep fried Oreos is the stuff dreams are made of, while rutabaga can be easily made into crispy, golden fries.

Your Chinese takeout probably doesn't need this deep fry treatment; in all likelihood, it's probably already pretty good, especially if you got it from your favorite takeout place. But we're all about turning something old into something new -- either just for fun or to shake things up. So, we wanted to point you in the direction of Rachael Ray's hack upgrading leftover Chinese food. She recommends first rolling the leftovers, like fried rice, into a ball with eggs. Then, she follows the same dredging steps as other fried food favorites; she dips each ball carefully in flour, more egg, and breadcrumbs, and then deep fries them until they come out golden brown and crispy.

Turn Fried Rice Into Rice Cakes

Plate of fried rice
Plate of fried rice - Bhofack2/Getty Images

It always seems like rice is the food that gets left behind after everyone has finished their Chinese takeout orders. The sesame chicken gets eaten the night you order it, and somehow even the garlic broccoli is scarfed down with ease. But the rice remains, either because it's not as enticing as other options on the menu, or because you somehow seem to always order too much of it.

But with this rice cake hack, there is no such thing as too much rice. Start by grabbing your leftover fried rice, mixing it with an egg and some coconut flour, and frying the patties in a very hot pan until it gets crispy on the outside and warmed through on the inside. This recipe works best with fried rice because it has all the extra seasoning and added ingredients it already needs. Just be sure to grab a scoop of it with all the trappings, including protein and vegetables.

Add Some Frozen Veggies To Stretch Your Chinese Takeout

Bowl of frozen peas
Bowl of frozen peas - Magone/Getty Images

Sometimes, the problem with Chinese takeout is that the serving size isn't large enough to warrant multiple meals. In this case, you might want to make your order last longer by adding some ingredients you already have at home. This can turn a takeout meal that is already fairly cheap into a series of frugal, but tasty, dishes that may even last you several nights.

The trick is to add frozen vegetables to your takeout dishes -- provided that you thaw and cook them first, of course. Frozen veggies can be very economical and are much fresher than the canned stuff, as they're usually frozen immediately after harvesting. This means they also retain most of their nutrients and flavor. Just pull out a bag of frozen peas, carrots, or your favorite mix of vegetables, fry them up with oil, seasoning, and aromatics, and toss in some of your Chinese takeout. Heat everything together until the flavors have blended and fused with the veggies.

Use It As A Sandwich Filling

Selection of sandwiches
Selection of sandwiches - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Sandwiches come in so many different shapes and forms, and with so many different types of filling. But, don't for a second think that sandwiches are easy to make. The truth is that good sandwiches don't just grow on trees; they are born out of careful study, trial and error, and a dedication to maximizing flavor and texture.

The trick to sandwich success is to pay attention to filling, bread, and filling-to-bread ratio. One way to do that is to use your leftover Chinese takeout as a sandwich filling. This idea works especially well with leftover egg foo young, which has the flavor, crispiness, and density for a proper sandwich. In fact, a sandwich made with this leftover takeout dish, paired with mayo, lettuce, pickles, onions, and tomato, is known as a St. Paul Sandwich. While it was not clear how or why it was invented, it's probably not too much of a stretch to say that some brilliant chef simply needed a way to use leftover Chinese food -- and knew that a sandwich would provide the right balance of flavors and textures.

Fill A Quesadilla With General Tso's Chicken

Quesadillas on a plate
Quesadillas on a plate - Wirestock/Getty Images

Chicken quesadillas are a wonderful comfort food, but adding the chicken can be a bit of a drag sometimes -- especially if you have to precariously slice it or tear it into thin shreds. Using leftover Chinese takeout in those quesadillas instantly removes this problem, while also solving the pervasive issue of food waste. General Tso's chicken is particularly well-suited to this endeavor for a number of reasons.

First, it's boneless, so you can easily squish it into a quesadilla without having to worry about cutting your teeth on something. Second, it already comes in small pieces, so you may not have to do any of that dreaded slicing or tearing. Lastly, it's packed with sweet and sour flavor, so you hardly need to add anything to your quesadillas to make them shine. That said, you won't be disappointed if you add some cheese --  which is something all good quesadillas should have. It's unlikely that a mild cheese will clash with the ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. Instead, the General Tso's sauce will actually bring your whole meal together by providing the literal and figurative glue that will hold the tortilla together.

Make Mac And Cheese With Garlic Shrimp

Garlic shrimp on a plate
Garlic shrimp on a plate - Azurita/Getty Images

Garlic shrimp is a popular Chinese takeout item that tends to go down easy and disappear quickly from plates. Chances are, you might not have a whole lot of garlic shrimp left over on day two. But let's say you place an extra order and your date turned out to be allergic to shellfish. In that case, you can turn unwanted garlic shrimp into garlic shrimp mac and cheese.

Not only is this recipe delicious, but you can also skip the first few steps if you're using leftover Chinese garlic shrimp instead of whipping up the protein from scratch. All you have to do, in fact, is prepare the mac and cheese and stir the shrimp in right before the whole dish goes in the oven. This shrimp will provide even more flavor to the dish than if you were preparing it from scratch, as it will have been steeping in garlic and other seasonings for at least a day before you use it.

Toss It Into An Egg Foo Young

Plate of egg foo young
Plate of egg foo young - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Now, if you didn't order an egg foo young as part of your Chinese takeout order, you could still have it the next day -- as long as you have eggs in the fridge and enough takeout leftovers to mix into them. This meal first landed in the U.S. in California, when Chinese immigrants arrived during the Gold Rush and took advantage of the bountiful local ingredients they found. Indeed, the whole spirit of the dish is to use what you have on hand and mix it with the eggs to craft a wholesome, filling meal.

You can mix nearly any leftovers with the egg. If that happens to be Chinese takeout, then even better. Whether it's leftover pork, sesame chicken, garlic shrimp, or even fried rice, feel free to go for it and find new ways to enhance and bulk up this eggy dish.

Mix Beef And Broccoli Into A Salad

Beef and broccoli bowl
Beef and broccoli bowl - Veselovaelena/Getty Images

Beef and broccoli are both great ingredients to add to salads, so it should come as no surprise that we'd recommend mixing your leftover beef and broccoli into your lunch salad. The process couldn't be simpler, and it doesn't even require heating anything up if you don't want to.

Just be sure to select salad ingredients that can balance out the steak. Steak already stands out in a salad as is, but the steak pieces in your takeout order will have been marinated in soy sauce and other strong flavors. So, the flavor may be even more powerful than other steak salads you've tried in the past. Pair it with a neutral but sturdy lettuce, like romaine, or do away with the lettuce altogether and mix it with rice or quinoa. Other fresh and light vegetables, like carrots and cucumber, will also help the beef stand out while bringing out the inherent sweetness in the beef and broccoli's sauce.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.