Smarter Groceries: 6 Zero-Waste Vegetable Recipes

Follow these recipes to make the most of your next produce purchase


This video was created in collaboration with Vox Creative.

Did you know that Americans throw out $165 billion worth of food every year? Don’t let good food go to waste—plan ahead with recipes designed to use every part of the vegetable, from stems to leaves.

Here are six easy, zero-waste recipes that’ll help you make the most of your next produce purchase:

General Tso’s Cauliflower

1. General Tso’s Cauliflower

A vegetarian-friendly version of a takeout favorite, this cauliflower recipe combines sweet and savory flavors. Serve with rice and a salad for a quick weeknight meal. 

Shopping list: 

  • 1 head of cauliflower 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 red chile, sliced 
  • 1 cup General Tso’s sauce 
  • 1 scallion 
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Trim the leaves off the cauliflower. Set the leaves aside. 
  2. Chop cauliflower into small 1- to 2-inch pieces. 
  3. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the cauliflower florets. 
  4. Add sliced chile and General Tso’s sauce. 
  5. Saute for 3-5 minutes on medium until sauce reduces and cauliflower is cooked through. 
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallion.
Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

2. Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

You saved the leaves from that last recipe, right? Put them to use with this simple Parmesan-roasted cauliflower leaf salad. Cauliflower leaves are sturdy and nutritious, and they’re a great substitute anywhere you’d normally use leafy greens such as kale or chard. 

Shopping list: 

  • Leaves from 1 head of cauliflower 
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes 
  • Parmesan cheese 
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread cauliflower leaves in an even layer. 
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. 
  4. Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan. 
  5. Serve warm. 
Roasted Carrots With Pomegranate and Feta

3. Roasted Carrots With Pomegranate and Feta

Raw carrots are great as a snack, but roasting them brings out a sweeter, more concentrated flavor. Feta and herbs add a Mediterranean vibe, and pomegranate seeds create more sweetness and crunch. This unique, flavorful dish works well as a side salad alternative—or as a healthy substitute for french fries.

Shopping list: 

  • 1 large bunch of slim carrots, with tops 
  • 1⁄2 cup feta cheese 
  • 1⁄4 cup pomegranate seeds 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • Zest from 1 lemon 
  • Fresh parsley 
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. 
  2. Prepare the gremolata by finely mincing a handful of fresh parsley and the garlic clove. Mix with the lemon zest. 
  3. Thoroughly wash the carrots and trim the tops off, leaving about an inch of the stems. Set aside. 
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  5. Spread carrots out in a single layer. 
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  7. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until carrots reach desired tenderness. 
  8. Sprinkle crumbled feta, pomegranate seeds and gremolata on top of carrots. 
  9. Serve immediately. 
Carrot-Top Pesto

4. Carrot-Top Pesto

Traditional pesto sauce calls for basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil. This take on pesto makes a few creative ingredient swaps, including trading basil for carrot tops. It’s a budget-friendly alternative that makes use of leftovers from the roasted carrot recipe above. Serve with pasta, on toast or even as a base for pizza. 

Shopping list:

  • Tops from 1 bunch of carrots 
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 cup walnuts 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper 

Directions:

  1. Place carrot tops into a food processor along with minced garlic, walnuts, salt, pepper and 1⁄4 cup of olive oil. 
  2. Pulse and add remaining olive oil until smooth. 
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and process again until smooth, seasoning to taste. 
  4. Toss with warm pasta and serve. 
Spiralized Veggie Pasta

5. Spiralized Veggie Pasta

Has a spiralizer earned a spot in your kitchen? It’s a helpful tool that turns squash (and other vegetables) into spiral, pasta-like strands. If you don’t have one, don’t fret—you can chop your veggies by hand with a regular kitchen knife, or use a vegetable peeler to create pasta ribbons. 

Shopping list: 

  • 2 medium green squash 
  • 2 medium yellow squash 
  • 2 small eggplants or 1 large 
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce 
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions: 

  1. Heat your preferred pasta sauce over medium heat in a skillet. 
  2. Spiralize the vegetables, setting aside the ends. 
  3. Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl. 
  4. Add to sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. 
  5. Serve and garnish with Parmesan cheese. 
Roasted Vegetable Baba Ganoush

6. Roasted Vegetable Baba Ganoush

Baba ganoush is a simple—and delicious—Middle Eastern dish that’s traditionally made from roasted eggplant and garlic. It’s often served with pita bread, but works well as a dip for vegetables, or even as a sandwich spread. Like things spicy? Add extra Aleppo pepper or top with a dash of your favorite hot sauce. 

Shopping list: 

  • 4 ends from squash and eggplant 
  • 1⁄2 cup tahini 
  • Olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper 
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Spread out the ends and tops from the squash and eggplant onto baking sheet. Remove the stems of the eggplant if they seem particularly dry. 
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Roast for 20 minutes or until deeply brown. 
  5. Place the vegetables in a food processor along with garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. Puree until smooth. 
  6. Add tahini to food processor. 
  7. Process until desired consistency is reached, adding more tahini and olive oil to taste. 
  8. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and Aleppo pepper. Serve.

Master More Kitchen Staples

Now you know how to make the most of your vegetables. Ready to master other kitchen staples? Check out these expert tips from industry pros:

  • Bread: How to find, store and serve the best loaf.
  • Olive oil: What to look for when shopping for olive oil, from taste to region of origin.
  • Coffee: Dark or light roast? Ground or whole beans? Your coffee questions, answered.

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