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How to make the most of your Christmas leftovers

Use your appliances to transform lacklustre leftovers into delicious dishes to enjoy on Boxing Day and beyond.

using up plate of christmas leftovers
Last updated: 07 December 2023

Leftovers are part and parcel of the Christmas feasting season. Cooking up a storm in the lead up to the big day so you can snack on leftovers into the new year isn't a bad idea. 

But if you find your enthusiasm for eating cold cuts and vegies starts to wane after Boxing Day, you might want to try transforming them into something new.

It doesn't take much effort and it breathes new life into the food you've already prepared. With a bit of planning, know-how and a spark of inspiration, you can put some of your existing kitchen appliances to work and repurpose your leftovers into entirely new meals and snacks.

leftover christmas chicken using up leftovers

Leftover Christmas meat

Christmas meats can be expensive, so getting the most out of them makes financial sense. 

"The best option would be to use leftover meat to create another dish, which you could then freeze and reheat at a later time," says Chantelle Dart, household test coordinator at CHOICE. 

Why not try making:

  • Risotto or fried rice on your cooktop, adding some diced leftover ham, chicken or turkey.
  • A classic ham and cheese quiche or a meat, cheese and vegie tray bake in your oven.
  • Homemade mini pizzas in a pie maker with leftover ham, cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil. 
  • Ham and corn chowder in your slow cooker. Dice up some onion, potato and capsicum. Then add frozen peas and corn from your freezer, two cups of chicken broth, some thyme and, of course, ham!
  • An easy ham and cheese toastie in your sandwich press. Instead of the usual cheddar, add some of that brie or blue cheese you never got around to putting out for the guests.

Food safety tips

Handle cooked meats with care – don't put hot meat directly into the fridge, as it may cause the fridge temperature to rise and risk the safety of other foods. 

"Cooked meat must be cooled to 21°C within two hours of it being cooked to prevent bacteria growth," Chantelle says. 

It's also a good idea to divide leftover meat into portions and put them in separate containers so they can cool as quickly as possible. 

"Once cooled, the meat must be placed in the refrigerator before freezing to reach below -5°C within four hours," says Chantelle.

Store your meat leftovers in airtight containers or freezer bags labelled with the meat type and the date. 

leftover brussel sprouts from christmas leftovers

Leftover vegies

Whether they were roasted, boiled, fried, raw or tossed, you can easily transform your leftover vegies into something new and delicious. 

  • If you have some spare raw root vegetables, use your air fryer to cook some oil-free (and guilt-free) hot and crispy vegetable chips. Potato, sweet potato and pumpkin are always winners. 
  • If your crisper is overflowing with fresh veg and you have no idea how you're going to get through it without making a soup (and let's be honest, no one feels like soup in the middle of summer), make a big batch of vegie fritters and fry them up on the barbecue! These are terrific hot or cold, so make some now and eat them later.
  • For a healthy protein hit, cook up an easy omelette in the microwave. You can add almost any vegetable that comes to hand, too, or serve it with the omelette. 
  • A bubble and squeak number is the perfect way to use up potato mash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and just about anything else. It's also great with some ham! Fry it up in a large, deep frypan.

"Cooked vegetables will also keep in the fridge for two to three days and are perfect for salads," adds Chantelle. 

leftover seafood from christmas lunch

Leftover seafood

Aussies love eating seafood at Christmas. And why not? It's plentiful in the summer, fresh, and relatively quick and easy to prepare. But what do you do with all your seafood leftovers?

"Cooked seafood can last in the fridge for one to two days, provided it's stored correctly," says Chantelle, adding: "I wouldn't recommend freezing and reheating seafood."  

  • Got a few cooked crab leftovers? Remove the meat from the shells and add it to a bowl along with some mayo, cream cheese, dijon mustard, salt, garlic powder and onion. Blitz it all together with a stick blender or pulse it with a food processor and cut up some carrot sticks for dipping!
  • Nothing beats a fish curry. Nothing. If you cured a whole ocean trout for your Christmas table this year and don't know what to do with what's left, get a tin of coconut milk and some vegies, cut up a chilli and plonk it all together in the slow cooker for a couple of hours. Add your fish towards the end and let the flavours fuse for the last half hour. 
  • Make a creamy salmon penne pasta in an all-in-one kitchen machine with some thickened cream, a good squeeze of lemon, spring onion, capers and a good sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Yum.
  • Fish pâté! In your food processor add fish, natural yoghurt, creme fraiche, cottage cheese, butter and freshly chopped herbs. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste. Spread it on toast and be transported to paradise.

Leftover dessert

Some of your guests may say no to dessert on the grounds of feeling as stuffed as Christmas turkeys from eating your delicious entrees and mains.

If you end up with a glut of sweet leftovers, you can either store them in airtight containers ("to prevent contamination," says Chantelle) or repurpose them into something different.

  • Make Christmas-themed ice cream by stirring leftover pudding into softened vanilla ice cream, then pop it in the freezer to chill.
  • Use leftover pavlova and berries to make Eton mess. Use a stick blender to puree the berries, then dollop alternating layers of the sauce and pavlova into a bowl and serve. 
  • Summer is the ideal time to indulge in some fresh fruit juice. If you have too much fruit left uneaten over Christmas, cut it up and separate it into airtight bags and, when you fancy a cold juice or a smoothie, pluck your desired fruits from the freezer and blitz them all together in a blender.
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.