13 Ways To Create New Dishes With Leftover Mac And Cheese

A lot of us have been lucky enough to be saddled with mac and cheese leftovers, but by the third day of reheated mac, your taste buds may be ready for a change. Thankfully, the vital comfort food is incredibly adaptable and pairs well with several foods. We're not just talking about rotating sides, though, as it's not necessary to keep eating your leftover macaroni and cheese the way it was made.

There are countless ways to amp up your mac and cheese game, from simply adding a sauce or topping to completely creating a new gourmet dish from those tired leftovers. Once you have mastered the art of crafting the very best macaroni and cheese and some is left over, the time for modifications and elevations is upon you. Whether you are creating the ultimate comfort food hybrid or firing up the air fryer, put those leftovers to good use with these ways to give new life to your fridge's days-old mac and cheese.

Dress it up in a bowl

We love eating mac and cheese straight out of a leftover container just as much as the next guy, but we're not simply talking about transferring it to a fancy bowl here. Ever heard of a mac and cheese bar? It's basically a Chipotle-style choose-your-own-topping spread, but with mac and cheese as your base to build upon. Add any number of toppings to create a bowl that would satisfy even Shaggy and Scooby's infamous hunger, not to mention a variety of different appetites and dietary needs.

All bowl-type dishes have a similar formula. You typically need a base, protein, sauce, and some extra, relatively small toppings to create the perfect personalized meal. For instance, you can easily substitute meat-based protein with avocado or tofu to satisfy a vegetarian diet. Feel free to get creative with sauces, too. Buffalo or sriracha go well with mac and cheese but don't discount pesto or a tomato-based sauce that can give the dish a more interesting flavor.

Creating a do-it-yourself bar with a wide selection of toppings is a creative and easy way to feed a large number of people as well. This hack is extra useful if you have some picky eaters on your hands. You will also earn some thrifty bonus points if you can pull off this versatile meal with things already in your fridge and pantry.

Serve up savory mac and cheese waffles

While we wouldn't say no to a fluffy, buttery waffle made the traditional way, there's something that hits differently about the breakfast staple when it's made from savory mac and cheese. Besides the basic shape, mac and cheese waffles don't have much in common with the other breakfast item. There's no mixing of milk and flour involved in its creation, for one, as you can simply plop a scoop of your leftover mac into a greased waffle iron and call it a morning. Add some breadcrumbs, bacon, or anything else that speaks to your soul for a more involved waffle.

While mac and cheese certainly works well as a waffle-type dish, we don't exactly recommend topping them with maple syrup unless you're really into the idea. If you're new to this dish, try eating it by its lonesome or placing an over-easy egg on top. Using two of these cheesy waffles to sandwich crispy honey chicken makes for an ultimate Southern stack. Alternatively, crispy mini mac and cheese waffles make for a great dinner side dish.

Add new ingredients

For a lot of people, an OG mac and cheese recipe is already top-tier. However, if you've had your fill of plain mac and cheese leftovers, revamping your taste buds can be as simple as adding a new ingredient or two. All you have to do sometimes is bring in a protein, veggie, or even sauce to turn your beloved pasta dish into a whole different beast. Since your base dish is simple enough with just pasta and cheese, almost anything you consider throwing into the mix will pair nicely with it. This is a great way to get rid of those roasted Brussels sprouts that have been hanging around in your fridge or the ham you forgot about in your freezer.

Pulled pork, bacon, or lobster are tried and true favorites that play well with the rich cheese and go over almost as well as the original dish itself. If your body is rebelling from the massive amount of starchy mac you've fed it, consider tossing in some veggies to appease your metabolism. Broccoli, butternut squash, or spinach are simple, yet powerful add-ons that will not only help your body but will change the entire flavor of the dish.

Put it in a soup

Macaroni and cheese can come in a lot of different consistencies. If you're used to chowing down on a brick of dense noodles, the idea of mac and cheese soup may seem a bit sacrilegious. When you think about it, though, pasta and cheese are popular ingredients in several soups, so the connection isn't that far-fetched. Whipping up a pot of modified minestrone or pasta e fagioli is a great way to use up those extra cheesy noodles while creating a wildly different dish.

Even soups that are not traditionally made with pasta can be reinvented with the addition of your fridge's seemingly bottomless bowl of mac and cheese. Incorporating cheesy pasta can make for an interesting spin on French onion soup. Meanwhile, a broccoli and cheddar soup becomes extra thick and filling with the unexpected, yet logical addition of the dish.

While you can simply use mac and cheese as an ingredient in a new soup dish, you can also craft a soup based on the dish itself. Mac and cheese soup can be easily created by mixing a creamy broth for the leftovers to live. Soup is similar to mac and cheese in that the possibilities are quite endless, so this hack can get as simple or as creative as you want.

Press it in a panini

If macaroni and cheese holds the crown for the queen of cheese and starch-based dishes, then grilled cheese is surely the heir to the throne. Combine the two into one dish by pressing your leftovers between two pieces of buttered bread on a grill or sandwich press — it makes for one heck of a royal mashup. This ultimate grilled cheese naturally pairs perfectly with your favorite tomato soup.

To add a few more jewels to the metaphorical crown, dress up the already elevated sandwich with more toppings. Tomato slices, pulled pork, and grilled onions are popular grilled cheese additions that translate to this sandwich just as well. Adding a schmear of avocado, pesto, or Buffalo sauce is an easy way to add flavor and depth to an otherwise simple sandwich. Don't be afraid to go a little wild with your add-ons here, either. Fruit, such as apple slices or pomegranate seeds, can be surprisingly delicious in a cheesy, carby panini. And if you've ever had truffle or bacon mac and cheese, you can probably imagine how great it will be on a sandwich too.

Use it as a pizza topping

Does pasta go on pizza? No matter how you feel about pineapple pizza, for many, the starch-on-starch combo is a delicious and resounding yes. Merging these two popular comfort foods was made popular by pizza joints like CiCi's Pizza, which often serves slices coated with cheese rather than red pizza sauce. As most pizza connoisseurs know, however, the sky's the limit when it comes to throwing together a pizza.

While a true mac and cheese pizza may be more akin to the pasta dish that's served on pizza crust, there are certainly easier alternatives. You could quite literally scoop your leftover baked mac and cheese right on top of a pizza, using the pasta as a topping on an otherwise standard pie. While we are not going to get into calzone territory here, you could also create a more untraditional pizza dish by using a pesto or Buffalo sauce base. No matter how you mesh mac and cheese with pizza, though, you'll still be experimenting with the pinnacle of comfort food cuisine.

Make mac and cheese quesadillas

Instead of sprinkling a layer of cheese in that grilled or pan-cooked tortilla, try placing a scoop of mac and cheese inside instead. This not only changes the texture of your otherwise run-of-the-mill quesadilla, but this takes cheese from being just a topping to the headlining ingredient. The result will be a thicker, denser, and more filling quesadilla.

Even though you may have some trouble fitting them in once mac and cheese joins the party, don't forget to add some other toppings to your admittedly already heavy quesadilla. A simple cheese quesadilla is a picky eater's stand-by, but more refined palettes will want their quesadilla to reach its full potential. The vast majority of traditional toppings will still make for delicious additions to your in-progress mac and cheese quesadilla, like grilled onions, tomatoes, or proteins. Don't forget to consider common mac additions as well and see where the two overlap in terms of creating a comfortable dish. For example, you may want to swap out salsa for Buffalo or another hot sauce but keep crema, guacamole, and jalapeños a part of the dish.

Fry it up

One of the most popular ways to upcycle excess mac and cheese is to fry it. Mac and cheese balls are a simple, yet delicious option for fried food lovers. Throw in a pickle for a fried pickle and mac and cheese hybrid. Get creative with the crumble by adding your favorite crushed chips to the mix, like Flamin' Hot Cheetos or Doritos. This could be considered a play on the mozzarella stick, so when they're ready to eat, feel free to dip the bites in marinara sauce or ranch.

As tempting as deep-fried cheese is at face value, incorporating other more complex ingredients into the mix isn't a bad idea, either. Mac and cheese egg rolls prove to be another delicious option for leftover mac and cheese. Add cabbage and other veggies along with crumbled sausage or chicken to have what feels like an entire meal with sides in a single bite. 

Combine it with chili

Pasta and cheese both are viable options when it comes to chili ingredients, so it only makes sense that a portion of leftover mac and cheese would be the perfect addition to your favorite chili recipe. Since both dishes are typically made in large batches and for gatherings, you may have leftovers of both already chilling in your fridge. If this is the case, this hack kills a few different birds with one stone by not only using up two leftovers but by creating a new dish that can be used for many different things.

You can eat the cheesy combination of chili mac as a soup or as a dip, but it also goes over well as an ingredient in other dishes. Pour the gloopy mixture over nachos or hot dogs to create some of the best concession food in the game. Of course, this cheesy chili could also make for a killer sloppy joe or even taco filling.

Top a burger with mac and cheese

Leftover mac and cheese is a great burger topping that effectively replaces the more traditional slice of cheese with a light scoop of cheesy pasta. This elevated burger is especially nice when you pair it with barbecue, a flavor that has teamed up with burgers for many decades now. Of course, it doesn't hurt that macaroni and cheese is one of the best side dishes that goes with barbecue. Not a fan of a saucy burger? Barbecue chips add extra crunch without the drippy mess.

The cheese replacement gives a burger some added height, but it's nothing a good smush can't fix. And you'll need to if you're loading on any other major toppings, like crispy onion straws or pulled pork, both of which would pair well with a barbecue mac and cheeseburger. Foodies who follow a vegetarian diet can also easily get in on the mac and cheese burger action by adding their pasta leftovers to a plant-based burger patty.

Feeling extra creative? Instead of placing mac and cheese on your burger, put the cheesy pasta inside it. When making your burger patties, just put a layer of mac and cheese between the ground beef for a mac and cheese stuffed burger. Add extra cheese to the filling to give the burger some Instagram-worthy cheese pull when you bite or cut into it.

Transform it into a gourmet pasta dish

Mac and cheese may be a simple dish, but it can be turned into something quite gourmet and complex with a little vision. No one will guess the end product started as leftovers, as what you end up with will be far from a simple mac and cheese dish. Even if what you start with is cheap pasta and lower quality cheese, you can revamp and add until the dish is polished enough to place in a best pasta competition.

To make any meal the best it can be, you will need to secure fresh, high-quality ingredients to offset the fact that you're working with leftovers. Letting the mac and cheese simmer in the homemade sauce of your choice allows the pasta to take on a new flavor and become more compliant with what you now need it to be. Sautee your vegetables and add-ons separately and then add to the pasta. Pro tip: incorporate some strong, high-quality cheeses in addition to your leftovers to help the result achieve gourmet status.

Add eggs

Simply adding eggs to your leftover mac and cheese can drastically change the dish. Though it will appear somewhat unchanged, at least upon first glance, both the taste and texture will be affected by scrambling in some eggs for an interesting breakfast combo. TikTok user @dadwhatsfor4dinner recalls this absurdly simple leftover-based meal as something his mother made for him when he was sick, quite literally giving it comfort food status. Scramble up some eggs with your mac and cheese to not only create a new dish but also lasting memories.

Alternatively, you could use eggs to create a new dish that does appear quite different than the hunk of cheese and pasta you started with. Place the egg and pasta mixture in a muffin tray to create single-serving cups for easy portioning and handling. Use mini muffin tins for even smaller cups. Either will result in what is a toddler-approved and finger food-friendly option. You could also throw your leftovers, a few eggs, and any other toppings you have on hand into a cast iron skillet and bake to create an interesting and surely tasty frittata.

Bake it in a casserole

The great thing about mac and cheese is that it is incredibly versatile, something the dish has in common with casseroles. Both types of dishes are faithful stand-bys and can contain practically anything edible. With things that are already hanging out in your fridge, you could create a completely different dish while making use of any odds and ends you may have taking up space.

The starch of a casserole is often what holds all the ingredients together. This means that the mac and cheese is one of the most important parts of the dish. Throw in a protein like bacon or chicken, a veggie such as peas or spinach, and a creamy base for it all to soak in.

The only rule that a casserole arguably has to abide by is that it should be baked in a casserole dish. This otherwise means you have full creative freedom when it comes to creating the meal at hand. Whether you want to layer the mac and cheese in between your other ingredients lasagna-style or mix them all together and hope for the very best, you're likely to end up with some uneaten casserole, beginning the delicious leftover cycle once again.