Dear Blue Apron,
I don’t mind cooking, but I’d always rather make a big pot of something and then have leftovers the next day—especially for lunch. Do you have any ideas for dinners that make delicious leftovers?
—Hungry for Tomorrow
You don’t know it yet, but the urge to eat leftovers is a very epicurean impulse. Even though we’re all sort of obsessed with eating food so fresh it’s practically still cooking, many foods actually taste better the following day, since a little time allows the flavors to combine and develop.
A good place to start is by packing up some of your favorite dinners and seeing how they fare for lunch the next day. There are a couple obvious things to watch out for: You’ll want to avoid dishes that have crunchy textures, like crispy kale or pan-seared chicken, as well as meals that’ll get soggy, like salads or tacos. To preserve these as leftovers, pack up the individual parts and then dress or assemble right before eating lunch.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, here are five dishes that make incredible next-day lunches—dare we say better meals than they were the night before.
1. Dal Baht
Lentils, like most of their legume cousins, develop an incredible taste when they get a chance to sit a while. This Indian-inspired version is fragrant with garlic, cumin, and garam masala—flavors that have time to saturate each little lentil overnight. Best of all, this lunch can be eaten cold, warm, or at room temperature, meaning you can enjoy it anywhere from in the office to on an airplane.
2. Simple Tomato Stew
Using two of our favorite items in fall’s harvest, fennel and tomato, this stew turns humble chicken thighs into the center point of a slightly decadent stew. This is awesome right when you make it, but something amazing happens when you refrigerate overnight and then go to chow down the next day: The gravy thickens, the chicken gets more tender, and the rice takes on some of the flavor, too.
3. West African Vegetable & Peanut Stew
In this sort of strange conglomeration of ingredients, rich peanut butter mingles with hearty sweet potato, juicy tomatoes, and a blend of spices to resemble a traditional West African vegetarian stew that’s humble and satisfying all at once. And when this guy gets to rest until lunch the next day? That’s when the flavors really explode.
4. Steak with Salsa Rossa
Don’t think you’re limited to just soups and stews if you want to dine on leftovers! Meat is another component of any meal that does actually get better with age. Overnight, the texture mellows and the steak often becomes more tender than before (make sure to keep it sitting in its juices so it doesn’t dry out). Add to that a red pepper salsa that keeps the meat bright, and you’ve got a lunch anyone would be jealous of. You can also turn this into a delicious steak sandwich for lunch with the addition of a fresh roll (just assemble right before eating so the bread doesn’t get soggy).
5. Heirloom Potato & Red Pepper Hash
Interesting vegetables help hash transcend the brunch menu in this nutrient-filled dish that’s just bursting with flavor. The day after, the sautéed onion acts almost like a sweet sauce for the potatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and frisée. If possible, reserve extra remoulade sauce to drizzle on the hash right before you eat.