When preparing vegetables, many of us instinctively peel and discard the skins and outer layers without much thought. However, with a bit of creativity, these leftover peels can become nutritious ingredients for a variety of dishes, rather than simply ending up in the compost or garbage. Repurposing vegetable peels allows me to reduce food waste, add nutrients and flavor to meals, and save money.
In this comprehensive guide, I will share various methods and recipes for making the most of carrot, potato, beet, and other vegetable peels that would otherwise go unused.
Evaluating Vegetable Peels for Use
Before repurposing vegetable scraps, it’s important to determine if they are safe to eat. Here are some tips:
Wash peels thoroughly – Give peels a good rinse or scrub under running water to remove dirt and residue.
Check condition – Inspect peels and discard any that are moldy, slimy, or rotting. Only use fresh, firm peels.
Consider source – Peels from organic vegetables or those grown in your own garden are ideal. Avoid peels from conventional vegetables that may have pesticide residues.
Remove outer layer – For vegetables like onions and root vegetables, peel off any papery or tough outer skins. The tender inner peels are best for repurposing.
Only use vegetable peel varieties that are edible, such as carrots, beets, squash, potatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Citrus fruit peels can also be used. Avoid peels from vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, which are generally not eaten.
Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Vegetable Peels
From soups to crisps to pickles, there are endless possibilities for transforming vegetable peels into something delicious. Here are some of my favorite ways to repurpose this kitchen scrap:
Make Vegetable Broth or Stock
One of the easiest ways to use up veggie peels is to make a flavorful, nutritious broth. Place your peelings and scraps into a pot with water, herbs, and spices. Simmer until the liquid takes on color and flavor from the peels. Strain and use this vegetable broth as a base for soups, stews, grains, and more. Some good peels for stock include:
I like to freeze vegetable peelings and trimmings until I have enough to make a big batch of broth. This strategy allows me to reduce waste throughout the week rather than all at once.
Dehydrate Them into Chips
For an easy crunchy snack, try dehydrating vegetable peels into chips. Wash and dry peels thoroughly, then arrange in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 115°F to 145°F, checking often until completely dry and crispy. Season with salt or spices. Some peels that make tasty chips include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Zucchini/summer squash
This chip-making technique is a great way to use up all those odds and ends from spiralizing vegetables or prepping salad ingredients. The peels add extra fiber and nutrients compared to eating only the flesh or inside of produce.
Blend into Smoothies
After washing vegetable peels thoroughly, you can add them to your blender for extra nutrition and thickness in smoothies. The high fiber content in peelings from carrots, beets, cucumbers, and other produce helps to create a thicker, more satisfying drink. Plus you get all those added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the peels.
For the best flavor, use milder peels like cucumbers and carrots. Start with a small amount of peels and adjust to taste. Blend well to break down the peels so the texture is smooth.
Pickling is a preservation method that allows me to enjoy vegetables long after the growing season is over. Many types of vegetable peels can be pickled using vinegar, salt, and spices.
Crunchy pickled onion or shallot peels make a great condiment to garnish dishes or mix into salads, tacos, and sandwiches. Fermented pickle peels from carrots, cucumbers, beets, green beans, and cauliflower also make tasty additions to meals for a probiotic boost.
Use peels from firm, fresh vegetables and keep the brine ratio correct for proper pickling. Refrigerate pickles after opening to extend the shelf life. Pickled peels add tangy flavor and texture while reducing food waste.
Make Crunchy Toppers
Adding some crispy baked or fried peel toppings turns soups, salads, grains, and other dishes into something extra special. You can fry peel strips in oil until browned and crispy. Or brush lightly with oil, season, and bake at 400°F until crisp.
Some of my favorite crispy peel toppers include:
Carrot peels – Thinly slice or shred peels, then bake or fry.
Beet peels – Try baking with balsamic and herbs.
Potato peels – Fry in oil and add salt for homemade chips.
Citrus peels – Bake with cinnamon-sugar for a sweet topping.
Get creative with seasonings like chili powder, sesame oil, Parmesan, paprika, or cayenne based on the dish you’re topping.
Vinegar infused with vegetable peels makes a fun homemade gift or flavor booster for salad dressings and marinades. Gently simmer vinegar with your choice of peels and let steep 1-2 weeks. Strain and bottle the infused vinegar. Some flavorful combinations:
- Carrot peel vinegar
- Lemon or orange peel vinegar
- Beet peel vinegar with whole cloves
- Jalapeño or habanero peel vinegar
Start with a mild white wine or apple cider vinegar. Only use peels from organically grown produce since the peel is consumed. Shake before use and keep infused vinegar refrigerated.
Boost Fiber in Baked Goods
For an extra nutritional boost in baked goods like muffins, breads, and cakes, try incorporating some powdered vegetable peels. Dehydrate peels completely in the oven or food dehydrator, then grind into a fine powder in a blender or spice grinder. Start by substituting 10-25% of the flour in a recipe with this high-fiber peel powder. Carrot, sweet potato, beet, and celery root peels all work well.
Storing Leftover Vegetable Peels
Proper storage is key to getting the most out of my leftover vegetable peels. Here are some tips:
Refrigerate – For best quality, use peels within 3-5 days. Store in an airtight container.
Freeze – Blanch peels briefly in boiling water, dry thoroughly, then freeze in bags for later use in broths and stocks.
Dry – For long-term storage, dehydrate peels completely in the oven or dehydrator. Keep in airtight jars.
Pickle – Refrigerate freshly pickled peels for 1-2 months. Freeze for longer storage.
Compost – If peels become old, dried out, or moldy, add them to a compost pile rather than the trash.
With proper handling, vegetable peels can be repurposed in many nutritious and eco-friendly ways rather than being discarded. Get creative with these kitchen scraps!