Don’t Throw That Out! 10 Delicious Recipes to Prevent Kitchen Waste

In honor of Earth Day, cook with what you’d normally throw away.


By Katherine Whittaker

Updated on April 20, 2024

We throw away far too much food: up to 40 percent of what we produce for human consumption in United States ends up in landfills. Nearly one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. That's enough to feed 2 billion people—double the number of undernourished people around the world! And while the battle against food waste isn't limited to a holiday, we're taking this Earth Day to provide some actionable—and tasty—ways to confront the problem.

Here's the thing: Food waste takes many forms. It's left to rot in the fields, bruised and ugly produce is discarded for purely cosmetic reasons, grocery stores carry too much inventory...sadly, the list goes on. But we're guilty at home, too—and we're not just talking about that bag of spinach left to get soggy in the fridge. We eat beet, carrot, and radish roots, but not the greens. We have an orange for breakfast and mindlessly toss the skin in the trash. But those discarded bits could be the secret weapon in your next favorite recipe. Chopping a bunch of carrots for a roast? Make carrot-top pesto. Stuck with a bunch of bruised bananas? We have a silky banana-chocolate pudding for that. That pile of citrus peels? Candy the lot of them and add to cookies, cakes, or cocktails. Even duck skin and leftover bacon fat deserve a place on the sustainable table. Here are some of our best recipes to reduce food waste at home, so you can celebrate Earth Day with delectable (and environmentally friendly) results.

1. Don't discard your sourdough discard.

Matt Taylor-Gross

Kick off Earth Day with a zero-waste breakfast: Leftover sourdough starter lends ordinary waffles a boost of flavor and a a crisp-yet-airy texture. Get the recipe >

2. Save that liquid gold (aka leftover bacon fat) for baking and frying.

Matt Taylor-Gross

Use rich and smoky bacon fat to add flavor to vegetable or egg dishes, like this classic French meal of baked, cream-soaked toast and eggs. Get the recipe >

3. Give bruised or lightly shriveled vegetables a second act by roasting.

Farideh Sadeghin

Roasting tomatoes, whether they're sweet beefsteaks or burst-in-your-mouth cherry tomatoes, results in an irresistible bouquet of flavors and textures, even if you start with produce that's past its prime. Get the recipe >

4. Smash leftover cheese into a punchy French spread.

Matt Taylor-Gross

Meaning "strong cheese" in French, fromage fort is a classic way to use up all the leftover ends and mismatched scraps of cheese in your fridge. In cookbook author Julia Turshen's version, a little butter and a few splashes of wine round out the salty cheeses and help them become spreadable enough for topping toast or crackers. Get the recipe >

5. Crisp duck (or chicken!) skin in its own fat for added crunch.

Anna Williams

There's a place for meat on the sustainable table too. This Earth Day, be mindful of using the whole animal. Cornmeal is the centerpiece of this polenta-like savory porridge, drizzled with rendered duck fat and topped with crispy fried bits of duck skin. Get the recipe >

6. Don't ditch the greens.

William Hereford

While many recipes call for only the white and light green portion of the leek, the deep green tops are perfectly delicious. When buying leeks for this dish, cookbook author Amy Thielen says to look for specimens that have all or most of their dark green tops still attached. Get the recipe >

7. Blitz feathery carrot tops into a fragrant pesto.

Ingalls Photography

"I've become known for doing nose-to-tail pig cooking, so this is kind of top-to-tail vegetable cooking," says New York City chef April Bloomfield of her pan-roasted carrots with carrot-top pesto, shaved carrot salad, and creamy burrata. Get the recipe >

8. Simmer citrus peels in sugar syrup.

Ingalls Photography

Add candied citrus peels to retro desserts like fruitcake, or use as a sparkling garnish for cookies, cakes, and cocktails. Get the recipe >

9. Pickle your trimmings.

Ingalls Photography

When cooking vegetables, every last scrap and stem can be useful, so don't toss trimmings like radish greens and kale stalks. Chef Joshua McFadden of Ava Gene's in Portland, Oregon pickles radish tops with vinegar, garlic, and chiles for a simple and flavorful condiment. Get the recipe >

10. Purée bruised fruit for an icy sweet treat.

Laura Sant

Bruised peaches are just as sweet and juicy as the pristine ones—make the most of them in an easy summer ice cream. Get the recipe >

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