Loving Leftovers: New Uses for Leftover Barbecue

Updated on February 16, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.


That's My Story, and I'm Sticking With It

I grew up in the 1950s. My parents were young adults during the Great Depression, so they valued all of the blessings that we had—time, money, shelter, and food on the table.

We had one car (very used), a 60-year-old house (that was always in need of repair), a vegetable garden (to supplement food on the table), and a menu rotation that was so predictable you pretty much knew what day of the week it was by stepping into the kitchen rather than looking at the calendar.

Heavy on carbs, light on meat, but liberally dosed with love. Mealtime was not the time for instant-messaging, surfing the net, or playing Candy Crush. Of course, those things didn't exist, but even if they had, I know that they would not have been present at our dinner table. We talked. We shared the day's stories and memories of long ago. We laughed, and we loved one another.

What's the Point of This Story?

Simply stated, we cherished our mealtimes not only for the food but for the togetherness. Times were tough, but we were tougher. No food was wasted (I think it was a sin against the 11th Commandment), but we didn't have "leftovers." We had "planned-overs." That's the way I was raised and the method I use in my own kitchen, even 60+ years later.

This is my fifth article in what I plan as a regular first-day-of-the-month series on using leftovers in a thoughtful, frugal, and tasty way. The first installment focused on leftover mashed potatoes, the next month on meatloaf, then stale bread. Last month the topic was too much zucchini.

As I write this, we are nearing the end of the summer barbecue season. Let's explore some imaginative ways of using up those bits of leftover beef, pork, or chicken.

Recipe Ideas

  • The Perfect Starters
    • Carb Diva’s Low-Sodium BBQ Sauce
    • Perfect Pork Ribs
    • Perfect Pulled Pork
    • Perfect Beef Brisket
    • Perfect Chicken
  • Cobb Salad
  • Cuban Grilled Cheese
  • Nachos
  • Pizza
  • Pulled Pork Loaded Fries
  • Spaghetti Casserole
  • Street Tacos

Low-Sodium BBQ Sauce
Low-Sodium BBQ Sauce | Source

Low-Sodium BBQ Sauce

Before we can find the perfect use for barbecue leftovers, we need to create the perfect barbecue meats. Here's my "world famous" recipe for a low-sodium sauce. It's full of flavor but doesn't contain all the salt and preservatives lurking in bottled sauces.


  • 2 cups low sodium tomato sauce
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a deep (high-sided) saucepan.
  2. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30 minutes. Be sure to keep the heat as low as possible and stir often so that it does not scorch.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
best ribspulled porkbeef brisketbarbecued (grilled) chicken
best ribs
best ribs | Source
pulled pork
pulled pork | Source
beef brisket
beef brisket | Source
barbecued (grilled) chicken
barbecued (grilled) chicken | Source

Perfect Grilled Ribs, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket and BBQ Chicken

Pork Ribs

Want the best ribs? Guess what, it's not about the sauce? Preparation, a nice dry rub, and (are you ready for this) bake before you grill. Trust me. WrittenReality provides the how-tos for best ribs.

Pulled Pork

Or perhaps pulled pork is your thing. The perfect pulled pork won't get near a grill. Low and slow is the way to go baby, and "KevinAndAmanda" will show you how. I have just one suggestion to add to their almost perfect instructions. Disposable foil roasting pans are flimsy and (in my view) verging on dangerous. Please, if you use this recipe, opt for a real roasting pan. Otherwise, this is spot-on!

Beef Brisket

Where's the beef? If brisket is your protein of choice, LetsDishRecipes has a perfect low-and-slow recipe, and you don't need a smoker. A dry rub, a touch of liquid smoke, and your favorite sauce go into the crockpot, and 8 hours later, you have a no-knife-needed brisket.


What if you eschew red meat? Most recipes for barbecued chicken rely on the oven for the perfect poultry. ThePauperedChef shows us how to do it correctly, perfectly on the grill.

Cobb Salad
Cobb Salad | Source

Cobb Salad

Cobb salad traditionally features chopped cooked chicken breast, tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese. Spice up your ordinary "cobb" by adding barbecued chicken, grilled corn, and crisp vegetables for a salad that will be your new summertime favorite.

Cuban Grilled Cheese
Cuban Grilled Cheese | Source

Cuban Grilled Cheese

Take your Cuban sandwich to the next level with leftover barbecued pork and melty cheese. Your tummy will thank you for it.

Nachos | Source


SimplyGloria creates a party-sized platter of nachos with homemade chips and leftover shredded pork. Don't have pork? You could easily substitute beef or chicken. The only limit is your imagination.

Pizza | Source


Pulled pork pizza is so simple, you really don't need a recipe at all (but I'll share one with you here). Leftover barbecued meat, mozzarella, pre-made pizza crust, bacon, onion, and a few minutes of baking in the oven. Ta-da!

Pulled Pork Loaded Fries
Pulled Pork Loaded Fries | Source

Pulled Pork Loaded Fries

If you are a Canadian or from Wisconsin, once lived there, know someone who lived there, or traveled to either of those places you have been lucky enough to discover poutine. Poutine—the cholesterol nightmare, a guilty pleasure that I have requested as my last meal.

This dish of fries, pulled pork, and cheese isn't poutine but might be considered her cousin from the South. This is so amazingly good, but you might want to check with your physician before consuming. You've been warned.

Spaghetti Casserole
Spaghetti Casserole | Source

Spaghetti Casserole

If you love pulled pork (and who doesn't) you probably think it's perfect just as it is. But what if you added cheese? Now, what if you add cheese and pasta. Now, THAT'S perfection!

Street Tacos
Street Tacos | Source

Street Tacos

This isn't just any ordinary taco. The author of HowSweetEats provides a recipe for cooking short ribs. Assuming that you have leftover grilled meat you can, of course, skip that step. The magic comes with the contrast of tastes and textures—crisp green cabbage, bright lime zest, and creamy tangy queso fresco. Street tacos fit for company.

© 2018 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      22 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, my husband is often the first to grab "tomorrow's lunch" before we begin. Microwaving the chicken a little before putting it on the barbecue is probably a good idea.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      22 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      In our home, there's no such thing as 'leftovers' either, it's called 'Dad's lunch' as that's often what I take the next day, and its taken out BEFORE the meal!

      We often microwave Chicken before Barbequing it. Just to make sure it's 'cooked' (so my wife tells me).

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. You're so kind and yes, I must admit that once I finish writing one of these, I'm hungry too!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      23 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I ,grew up much the way you did as we had a routine for meals and when my mother shopped for groceries. The picture in this article are wonderul, and who wouldn't be hungry after seeing them.

      I loved all your syggestions and I will take them to use. Thank you.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, pulled pork is one of those dishes that takes very little effort (the most difficult part is the patience required to wait for it to cook). It's also a very forgiving way of cooking meat. I hope you have an opportunity to give it a try.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      23 months ago from Brazil

      Well I didn't think it was possible. I just finished lunch and after looking at these mouth-watering recipes, I'm hungry again.

      I have never had pulled pork but I have heard a lot about it. All of these look delicious.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, I wouldn't trade a moment of it I think it's sad that mealtime in so many households is no longer a sacred thing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      23 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Your description of mealtime back in the 50s and 60s was accurate for our home as well. You literally could tell what day of the week it was by the dinner meal. I'm not sure how good a cook my mother was, but the meal was always filling, and the love around that table was always present.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, I was hoping that my timing on this would be right. You've confirmed my thoughts. This is the 'last blast' before autumn and then winter settle in. Thanks for your support.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      The party has started for Labour Day and there will be leftovers so the week after, these ideas will be tried. We have guests almost everyday and even if we tell them it’s leftovers, they still come. Pulled pork is a recent favourite in our table.

    • manatita44 profile image


      23 months ago from london

      I think so. I have bought it, though, not made it.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Well, Manatita, what can I say? When you say "barbecue" it's meat all the way. However, I think you could make a pretty mean street taco with diced and sauteed tempeh. Are you familiar with it?

    • manatita44 profile image


      23 months ago from london

      You have done a masterful job here, Linda. Lots of meat though.

      Yes, I read something like this before. A pretty frugal family. Isn't Bill like that? I like the photo at the end. More vegetable-looking.

      In the 50's we had hurricane Janet to think about and its after-effects. I think we have always had food though. Pretty tropical place, Grenada.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      23 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, that sounds great, but now you've inspired me. What about going one step further with 'stuffed (AKA twice-baked) potatoes topped with BBQ?

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      23 months ago from USA

      Many people will be having BBQ this Labor Day Weekend and these ideas will be very helpful. I’ve heard of people using it on baked potatoes as a topping.


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