Ask Casey: What Am I Gonna Do With This Leftover Ham?

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

Do you have any good ideas for using up the rest of my Easter ham?

Seriously. As someone who held a ham in her freezer for an entire year, terrified by the prospect of finding a way to eat it all/pawn it off on friends, I’ve been in your shoes. And my eventual solution for that particular ham—offer it up as an entrée at a friend’s annual holiday party—isn’t something that works for everyone, especially since said ham was likely the main event at your Easter holiday feast one day ago.

And though there is in fact a whole cookbook (Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter) devoted to the succulent rear flanks of the pig, I’ll give you a few suggestions to tide you over before you run to the bookstore.

roasted ham
If yours is a bone-in ham, the smart thing to do with that Flintstones-esque knob is to make soup. Amber at Bluebonnets & Brownies gilds the lily by adding bacon to her ham and bean soup, and Shaina at Food for My Family does a ham, potato, and beer cheese soup that can easily be adapted to get rid of any extra mashed potatoes you’ve got hanging around.

But say you live with a man who hates soup (ahem) or you can’t be bothered to simmer one more thing after expending all your energy on the Easter feast. Below are two quick ways to whittle down the ham that’s hunkering down in your fridge without touching a burner or turning on an oven. One, a minty fig-and-date tapenade inspired by a Jacques Pépin recipe in Food & Wine, dials down on the typical briny notes of the Provençal olive spread and amps up the sweetness to contrast with ham’s natural saltiness.

fig, olive, date, mint tapenade
And then there’s ham salad, one of those cold, mayo-bound sandwich fillers that contain little to no vegetable matter (let alone a piece of lettuce). Hey, what else are you going to do with the ends of your chipped chopped ham but throw together a nice ham salad for the deli case? Some versions add hard-boiled eggs to the mixture, which is a clever way to double up on dealing with leftovers, but I’m a purist when it comes to my ham salad and gotta do things the western PA way—more specifically, the DeLallo’s way with only ham, mayo, sweet pickles, and pimientos, ground finely to a spread instead of the chunkiness you’d expect from chicken or egg salad. (Thanks to Aaron Leffler for sleuthing out the current ham salad situation at DeLallo’s, since it’s been years since I sampled the real thing.)

ham salad
Both of these recipes, incidentally, would make excellent picnic fare should you find yourself hiking in Arches National Park near Ham Rock (my favorite rock formation in the park, for obvious reasons). Maybe next Easter you can forego the family feast entirely for a more al fresco experience?

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  1. says

    Why yes I do have a load of leftover ham that I don’t know how to use! This is perfect. I’ve never thought of ham salad before but I think I need to try it.

  2. says

    So good, so good. I actually am not a ham fan, but my family is, so I give in once or twice a year. My mom sent us home with half a ham (with the bone) yesterday. Two massive hams was a bit excessive for our family gathering I guess. I will definitely be trying this.

  3. says

    How funny, I just wrote a blog on how to use up all those Easter eggs. I guess we were on the same food wavelength?

    Although I’ve never been in a left-over ham quandary, I’m tempted to buy a little ham to make this and spread it on white bread.

  4. says

    That fig tapenade sounds heavenly. My family’s favorite use for leftover ham is ham loaf (kinda like cooked ham salad). Even though it is still cooked ham, it is different enough that everybody goes for it. And I like it because you can use up a LOT instead of just the bits you put into a macroni salad, or mix with rice, or all those other little sneaky ways to slip it into a meal.

  5. says

    Sounds delicious! Although since neither of us are really ham fans, I made sure to pawn all of our leftovers off to our guests, haha!