8 Recipes That Make Delicious Use of Produce Scraps, From Kale Ribs to Carrot Tops

By Megan Edwards,

Eating more plant-based is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to take your eco-friendly cooking skills to the next level, this round-up of low-waste vegan recipes will help you find clever (and tasty) ways to use commonly discarded ingredients and keep food scraps out of the trash. By turning carrot tops into pesto, incorporating kale ribs into pasta salad, and finding other creative uses for produce scraps, these nourishing dishes will satisfy your stomach and support the planet by keeping food waste out of landfills.

Beet Greens and Spinach Saag with Tofu in a skillet on a wood tabletop

Beet Greens and Spinach Saag with Tofu

Transform beet greens—the leaves and stems at the top of the beet bulb that are often overlooked—into a vibrant green saag sauce that’s seasoned with cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne. Cubes of tender tofu and kernels of sweet corn are simmered in the fragrant sauce to put a vegan spin on a classic Indian paneer dish. This creamy, earthy recipe is delicious on its own, served over brown rice, or with a side of whole wheat naan. Sprinkle with cilantro, and dig in!
Orzo Salad with Kale Ribs in a gray ceramic bowl sitting on a yellow cloth napkin

Orzo Salad with Kale Ribs

When cooking with kale, most recipes suggest tossing out the fibrous stems once you’ve plucked off the tender leaves. Here, we chop up the kale stems, cook them alongside orzo until tender, and toss them into a vibrant mix of artichoke hearts, bell pepper, and shallot to create a veggie-packed pasta salad. The stems add a gentle crunch, like the texture of crisp asparagus spears, to perfectly complement the chewy pasta. Cheesy nutritional yeast and tangy white wine vinegar round out the fresh flavors of this low-waste meal.
Roasted Eggplant Gyros with Watermelon Rind Pickles on a yellow plate with a bowl of tzatziki sauce

Roasted Eggplant Gyros with Watermelon Rind Pickles

Hearty eggplant and sweet potatoes are coated in savory Greek seasoning and roasted until deliciously tender to make up the “meat” of these plant-based gyros. A cashew-based tzatziki sauce delivers a creamy, tangy punch of flavor to each pita pocket, while spicy watermelon rind pickles take this recipe to a whole new level of yum. Since we normally only enjoy the juicy red flesh of a watermelon, this is a great way to use up the dense leftover rinds and give them a second life by infusing them with delectable Mediterranean spices.
Vegetable Broth full of carrot chunks, celery, an onion wedge, and fresh herbs in a medium silver pot on a gray table with a gray cloth wrapped around the pot handle

How to Make Vegetable Broth

Keep veggie scraps out of the landfill and turn them into a savory stock that can be used in tons of different plant-based recipes. Our helpful guide teaches you how to extract the most flavor from your scraps and includes several different seasoning variations. Once you learn how to make your own broth, you’ll never go back to the store-bought version again!
Vegan pasta dish with radish shown on a black plate on a wooden table

Root-to-Leaf Radish Pasta

Ready in just 30 minutes, this clever low-waste recipe uses the entire radish to create a pasta dish packed with earthy flavor. Both the radish bulbs and the leaves have a mild peppery taste, which pair perfectly with fragrant garlic and cheesy nutritional yeast. Starchy pasta water creates a delicate creamy sauce to keep the central focus on the radishes. You can also add any extra leafy greens you have on hand to use up leftovers before they go bad.
The Best Broccoli Slaw in a black bowl with metal serving spoons

The Best Broccoli Slaw

Serve up this scrumptious slaw at your next vegan BBQ and impress your guests with how tasty commonly discarded broccoli stems can be! Carrots and scallions are tossed with the broccoli stalks in a tangy Dijon mustard dressing and seasoned with fresh parsley for extra oomph. You’ll love the flavor of this classic cookout dish and how much fresh produce it saves from being tossed in the trash.
Green Velvet Soup topped with scallions in a white ceramic bowl

Green Velvet Soup

Have some straggler leafy greens in the fridge? This versatile recipe is a great way to use up leftovers so they don’t go to waste. The greens are blended up with potatoes, frozen veggies, and creamy cannellini beans to create a velvety soup perfect for slurping. Scallions and fresh tarragon add tasty herbal undertones while a dash of hot sauce picks up the heat. Serve with a side of whole wheat bread, or toast cubes of stale bread into crunchy croutons to level up your zero-waste cooking!
carrot top pesto in a glass jar next to a sliced lemon

Carrot Top Pesto

If you’ve picked up a bushel of carrots from the farmers market, this pesto recipe is a great way to make use of the leafy tops. Simply blend them with fresh basil, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon juice until a thick paste forms. Season with salt and pepper to your taste, and then use as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread, or as a flavor-booster for soup by adding a dollop of pesto on top.

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About the Author

Headshot of Megan Edwards

About the Author

Megan Edwards

Megan Edwards is a staff writer and content producer for Forks Over Knives. She is also a certified RYT-500 yoga teacher who is passionate about cultivating holistic wellness through plant-based eating, mindful movement, and meditation. With a background in journalism and marketing, she supports both the online presence and quarterly print magazine for Forks Over Knives.
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