10 Smart Ways to Use Leftover Potatoes (Smart Staple Strategies #4)

This is part of a short summer series covering smart strategies for using leftover staple foods – things like rice, beans, pasta, and so on. Here’s what you do when you cook a bit too much and don’t know what to do with the rest!

One of the nice things about potatoes is that you can prepare them in so many different ways. You can slice and grill them. You can bake them whole. You can mash them. You can slice them and fry them or roast them. You can cube them and use them in a ton of dishes. You can shred them and make latkes (my family called them hash browns). There are just so many possibilities!

Of course, with that many possibilities for preparation, you can definitely wind up with a lot of different potato items as leftovers when you make too much of them. Here are 10 things I love to do with leftover potatoes in their various forms.

Turn a leftover baked potato into a twice-baked potato
Whenever I see a baked potato or two in the fridge that’s left over from another meal, I immediately think of twice baked potatoes. They transform ordinary old baked potatoes into a delicious side dish that matches up well with almost every kind of meal.

Just take the baked potato, slice it in half, scoop out the insides, and mash the insides with whatever ingredients you’d like. I like using a little bit of sour cream, a bit of garlic salt, a bit of cream cheese, and a bit of shredded cheddar. Mix all of that thoroughly together, then spoon the mixture right back into the baked potato halves. Bake them in the oven at about 350 F for 15 minutes, right on top of a baking pan with the skin on the bottom and the remixed potato insides facing upward. Delicious!

These not only work well as sides for a lot of dishes, they also vary a great deal depending on what you mix in with the potatoes. Just experiment with flavors and add traditional herbs and spices and savory ingredients that match the type of cuisine of the rest of the meal and you’ll rarely go wrong.

Turn leftover mashed potatoes into potato pancakes
Take leftover mashed potatoes, form them into small discs, flattening them until they’re as thin as they can be while still holding together well, then preheat a skillet with a bit of oil or butter in it over medium heat until the butter is melted. Slide in those discs and gently fry them on one side, then flip it to the other side. You’re looking for a golden brown gentle crispiness. Serve them straight to the plate!

I love mixing more ingredients into the mashed potatoes when doing this. If you add too many liquid ingredients, you’ll soften the mashed potatoes too much and make it hard to form discs that will stay together. If you do add liquid ingredients, you can thicken it again by adding flour to the mix. Try adding things like garlic powder, shredded cheese, mustard powder, pepper, eggs, basil, chives, sauteed onions, sauteed peppers, and so on.

Turn leftover French fries into poutine
Poutine is a Canadian dish that consists of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. Simple. Savory. Delicious. (Not the most healthy thing, sure, but delicious.)

Take your leftover French fries, spread them out on a baking pan, and bake them in the oven for just a few minutes at 350 F to heat them up without getting them soggy. While they’re heating, just make a bit of brown gravy by mixing together beef or vegetable stock with some flour and butter over gentle heat until it thickens up. Put the fries in a bowl, add some cheese curds atop the fries, and then pour the gravy on top, and serve with a fork.

Unhealthy? Sure! Delicious? Absolutely! It’s a great way to use leftover fries and transform them into a savory, delicious lunch.

Turn leftover latkes into a breakfast skillet meal
If you have some leftover latkes from a previous meal, you can quickly turn them into the foundation of a great breakfast skillet meal. All you need to do is cook up a few vegetables in a skillet with a bit of oil – onions, green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and so on – then add the latkes late just before cracking a couple of eggs on top. Let the eggs cook on the bed of vegetables, add salt and pepper, and serve.

I actually enjoy using whatever extra vegetables we happen to have on hand with this dish. It ends up becoming kind of a ratatouille with latkes in there and a couple of eggs on top. If it’s well cooked, you can slice it almost like a quiche or a pizza and serve it in wedges.

Turn leftover baked potatoes into potato salad
This one’s so easy. Just take a leftover baked potato, cut it into cubes, and mix it with other ingredients to make a potato salad. Baked potatoes are already cooked to nearly the perfect texture for this, so it takes no extra effort.

I’m somewhat partial to the way my mother used to make it, with hard-boiled eggs diced up in there along with bits of celery and a sauce made of a mix of mustard and mayonnaise and a healthy dose of black pepper. You can season it however you’d like – vinegar or garlic or bacon or whatever kinds of vegetables you have on hand. All of it works as long as the flavors meld.

Turn leftover mashed potatoes into shepherd’s pie
This one’s easy, too. Just cook some additional vegetables – whatever you have on hand – and deglaze the skillet you cook them in with some water and a bit of flour to make a simple roux. You’ll want enough cooked vegetables to cover the bottom of a casserole dish with an inch or two of vegetables. On top of that, pour the roux you’ve made right on top, and then make a top layer of mashed potatoes over all of that. I usually put a bit of shredded cheddar on the very top. Then, bake it at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes. If you want the top of the potatoes to be a bit crispy, do it without a lid; otherwise, put the lid on. Delicious!

Again, this is an appealing recipe because you can use almost anything you have on hand. You can mix any meats and vegetables for the foundation layer of this casserole; as long as you cook everything together and then deglaze the pan with a bit of water and then thicken that delicious liquid with a bit of flour stirred in, almost anything works here. Season it with plenty of black pepper and salt and any other seasonings you like.

Turn leftover roasted or grilled potatoes into fiesta potato tacos or burritos
This one’s so simple. Just take any leftover roasted or grilled or fried potatoes you happen to have left over, heat them up with some seasonings on them, and put them out with a taco/burrito bar. They work fantastically as a taco or burrito topping. I’ll always use them. We often do this at breakfast as well and I think they’re an even better match with that situation.

What this does is enables you to make a much more hearty burrito/taco bar than you might be able to pull off otherwise. You’ll be able to make more burritos with that extra ingredient on the bar, which ends up meaning more leftover burritos for future meals. It’s a slick way to use up those leftover cooked potatoes that are so easy to toss onto a tortilla.

Turn leftover French fries into hearty scrambled eggs
This is a nice trick I learned from a previous college roommate. Whenever he had leftover French fries, he would simply chop them up into little cube-sized bits and add them to his scrambled eggs in the morning. He’d just cut back on the number of eggs that he cooked – usually from 4 to 3 – to make up for the added French fry bulk.

Suddenly, his penchant for always taking every single leftover fry home with him made sense! He used them to add bulk to his scrambled eggs and add a bit of nice texture and flavor, too!

All he did was scramble eggs as normal with a bit of salt and pepper, then about halfway through, he’d add the chopped French fries. Very close to the end, he’d put some shredded cheese on top, then serve it all onto a plate. So simple, so delicious. I replicate it myself sometimes for a quick breakfast.

Turn leftover baked potatoes into potato soup
If you have leftover baked potatoes, you can cube them up and use them as a key ingredient in a potato soup by adding them late to the cooking process so they don’t completely fall apart.

There are as many variations on potato soup as there are hairs on my head. Here’s a highly recommended one. I personally like to make a very cheesy baked potato soup, so I’ll basically just make a simple cheese soup by using a base of cooked vegetables, broth in the pan with the vegetables to deglaze it, and then quite a bit of cheese in the overall soup, and then add the cubed potatoes late. It works with most vegetables and always winds up tasty.

Turn leftover roasted or grilled potatoes into hash
This one’s so easy. Just take your preferred cured meat, cut it into tiny bits, and cook it over high heat until it’s almost crisp on the outside. Add in your roasted potatoes and cook them right along with it until they’re almost crisp on the outside and the meat is definitely a bit crisp. That’s the basic hash, and from there, you can remix it however you like.

You might want to cook some savory vegetables right in with the meat. You may want to crack a few eggs right on top during the final few minutes of cooking. You may want to serve it with toast. Do with it what you will. It works well for any meal.

Next time, we’ll look at some awesome strategies for using extra sweet potatoes!

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.