Use Your Spent Coffee Grounds In These Seven Recipes For Zero-Waste Cooking

May 2, 2022

coffee grounds

Around the world, approximately two billion cups of coffee are consumed every single day.

Over the course of a year, that comes to about 730 billion cups of coffee and, if all those cups are made using coffee grounds, about ten million metric tons of spent coffee, wasted and discarded.

While some of that coffee may get thrown into composts or repurposed, researcher and Ambassador for BeKoffee estimates that, worldwide, approximately 75% of coffee waste ends up in landfills. This creates a problem not only for the soil surrounding the landfill (given that coffee grounds contain oils and compounds that make the soil more acidic), but also for overall warming as decomposing coffee grounds leads to the creation of greenhouse gasses. 

To combat this coffee ground crisis, some consumers are switching to instant coffee while others are innovating entirely new businesses and ideas. Bio-bean, for example, is a UK company created with the goal of transforming spent coffee grounds into energy and fuel. 

For coffee connoisseurs looking to decrease their individual impact on the coffee ground conundrum without sacrificing their daily brew, consider creating a compost and saving some spent grounds to enjoy these zero-waste coffee ground recipes below. From breakfast to dessert, infuse your cooking with a jolt of caffeine and transform your trash into treasure. 

1. Rise & Grind with Coffee Ground Granola

Combine your daily cereal and caffeine-boost for a perfect two-in-one breakfast on-the-go. Using spent coffee grounds, this toasty, roasty treat not only saves coffee from landfills, but also transforms your everyday granola into a mouthful of mocha latte in every single bite. 

Recipe here: Maple Mocha Granola via Coletti Coffee

2. Prepare these Pleasant Coffee Ground Pancakes

If granola isn’t your jam, try these coffee ground pancakes for a sustainable use of coffee grounds instead. Packed with oats and chia, these pancakes are both low-waste and protein-packed for a delicious and nutritious morning treat.  

Recipe here: Coffee Ground Oat Pancakes via Incredible Bulk

3. Elevate Your Dishes with a Delicious Dry Rub

Being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean eating bland tofu and vegetables every meal of the week. Any person on a plant-based diet will tell you—marinades and dry rubs, especially for tofu and other meat substitutes, are absolutely essential.

Use this coffee grounds rub on tofu, jackfruit, or any meat substitute, and enhance the flavor with this acidic and caffeinated kick. 

Recipe here: Coffee Grounds Rub

4. Serve Up Some Savory Carrots as a Side

Quite possibly the most creative of coffee ground recipes, Wicked Healthy incorporates spent coffee grounds into a smoky sweet side dish consisting of salted coffee grounds, cayenne, and carrots. Not only are they incredibly delicious, they’re also visually appealing for a fun and creative play on food. 

Recipe here: Salted Coffee Dirt-Roasted Carrots via Wicked Healthy Food

5. Concoct Some Coffee Compost Cookies 

Instant coffee is often used in cookie recipes as a flavor enhancer to elevate the acidity of  chocolate and add a depth of overall taste and flavor. This time, you can have your brew and eat it too with these coffee compost cookies, made from roasted almonds, spent coffee, and chocolate chunks. Vegan-ify this recipe by subbing butter for vegan butter, eggs for egg replacer, and milk powder for powdered oat milk.

Recipe here: Coffee Compost Cookies via Appeasing a Food Geek

6. Bake these Unbeatable Espresso Ground Brownies

Brownies are best when rich and moist, and adding coffee is a surefire to elevate any brownie recipe. Try these leftover espresso brownie bars to use leftover espresso grounds while enhancing the taste and overall flavor for an ooey gooey brownie bite delight.

Recipe here: Leftover Espresso Grounds Brownies

7. Celebrate with Ground Coffee Cake

No day is complete without a small sweet treat for dessert. Concocted by Fairmont Waterfront’s Pastry Sous Chef, Karly Pomes, in honor of World Food Day, this compost coffee cake contains a ½ cup of spent coffee grounds and leftover coffee for a flavorful and incredibly moist coffee cake. Serve for breakfast, afternoon tea, or dessert—just be prepared for some coffee jitters to follow. 

Recipe here: Compost Coffee Cake via Fairmont


With less waste and better taste, zero-waste cooking is the future of food. Every bit of food saved and reused can help cut overall food waste and lead to a more sustainable and innovative future. 

Next time you make your daily brew, consider upcycling those coffee grounds with one of these seven satisfying recipes and practicing the art and creativity of crafty cooking. 

Interested in learning more about your coffee consumption and its impact on the planet? Read on to discover the carbon footprint of your coffee consumption here.


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Photo: Dana Drosdick

Dana Drosdick
Dana is a marketer living in Saratoga Springs, NY with a passion for all things related to stewardship, faith, wellness, and personal enrichment. Her work has been featured in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, The Odyssey Online, and The Banner Magazine. Follow her at @danadrosdick on Instagram for foodie trends, her latest book recommendations, and far too many photos of clementines.


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