You grabbed a loaf of bread the last time you were at the grocery store, but now it’s rock hard. So, what to do with stale bread?
Plenty, from making fresh breadcrumbs to binding meatballs to adding to a salad there are ways to breath new life into an old loaf.
This common scenario is annoying when you’re hungry and craving a sandwich, but it’s also a huge waste of food and money if you throw it away. The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the country’s food supply is wasted, with food waste occurring at every step along the food chain.
Much of the waste, though, happens in the home. We can all do better but don’t be that person who tosses out stale bread, turn it into a family dinner instead.
15 Ideas to Use Up Leftover Bread
If you find yourself with stale bread, you don’t have to toss it to the birds. These 15 recipes and ideas will transform that leftover bread into a delicious, cheap meal.
1. Egg in the Hole
There are a lot of names for recipes for this clever egg dish: Toad in the Hole, Egg in the Nest and Hole in One. Eater claims there are 66!
Whatever you call it, Egg in the Hole is basically fried bread with an egg in the middle. Poke a hole in the middle of your slightly stale bread, place it in a frying pan with melted butter and then crack the egg into the middle. Flip and remove when you like the way the yolk has cooked — runny, hard or somewhere in between.
Don’t forget to toast the piece that you tore out along with the main event.
2. Homemade Bagel Chips
Once you learn how to make your own bagel chips, you’ll never look back.
Cut a bagel in half down the middle, then slice the segments into 1/8-inch thick half moons and toast. Serve with your favorite dip, like hummus or guacamole.
Why buy breadcrumbs when you can easily make fresh breadcrumbs using something you were going to throw away?
Any kind of leftover bread works for DIY breadcrumbs. Grind the stale bread to a crumb in the food processor, then toast in the oven until lightly crispy. Store in an airtight container or even freeze.
4. Homemade Croutons
Homemade croutons work on the same logic as breadcrumbs: Cube the stale bread, spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until the croutons get crispy.
Homemade croutons are much cheaper than store-bought ones, and you can store your homemade croutons indefinitely in an airtight container. Toss croutons on salad or put them in soup.
5. Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese is an ideal use for slightly stale bread, since you want the exterior to be crispy anyway.
This collection of 50 grilled cheese recipes can help you clean out the fridge, save money and reduce food waste.
6. French Toast
Stale bread that is rich and eggy, such as challah, pain de mie or brioche, makes yummy French toast.
Cut the bread in thick slices, then allow it to soak in a custard made from egg and milk before sautéing to light golden in a pan. Basic French toast is one of those recipes you can experiment with by adding fruits, nuts, and spices, so you never get bored!
7. French Toast Casserole
This casserole version of French toast is perfect for a brunch when you’ve got to feed a crowd. Better yet, you can make everything the night before then bake it off in the morning.
8. Bread Pudding
A baked bread pudding is about the most comforting way imaginable to use stale bread. There are many recipes out there but we like this one for the good instructions.
For the richest bread pudding, use an eggy bread like challah or brioche or something naturally sweet, like cinnamon raisin bread.
Mix up your bread and butter pudding recipe with ads-in, from dried fruit and nuts to chocolate chips, or be extra and serve with ice cream or homemade caramel sauce.
9. Savory Bread Pudding
Strata, or savory bread pudding, is an ideal clean-your-fridge-out dish. And another good candidate for company brunch.
Riff of this recipe by mixing and matching veggies, sausage, cheese, herbs, and more with cubed bread, pour an egg and dairy custard on top, let it soak for at least an hour, then bake for a savory bread pudding. If you’re partial to breakfast for dinner, this is a good candidate.
10. Panzanella (Bread Salad)
This is a resourceful Italian dish that can be made when your bread is really past its prime. The olive oil drizzle is masterful at bringing it back to life.
Made with cubed stale bread (or even those homemade croutons) plus tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil and olive oil, Italian panzanella salad is like a deconstructed bruschetta.
To prep the bread part, toss cubes of stale bread with olive oil and cook at 350 degrees until crispy, but not browned. This will help it from going mushy as it soaks up the sauce.
11. Pan con Tomate
For a Spanish twist on bread and tomatoes, make the classic tapas dish pan con tomate.
In this dish, bread slices are toasted and spread with a thin sauce made from grated tomatoes mixed with garlic and oil.
Watch your knuckles when you work tomato or any other ingredients through the box grater.
Some home cook sand chefs claim that stale bread makes the best stuffing or dressing. Dried-out, old bread works well for this classic Thanksgiving side because it’s able to absorb the liquid in the dish without getting soggy.
Stuffing is a super flexible recipe that can be made from any old bread you have on hand: baguettes, bagels, sandwich bread, or even cornbread. With a waffle maker, you can then turn your leftover stuffing into stuffing waffles for breakfast!
Meatballs are a protein-rich way to save old bread when made with your homemade breadcrumbs. The bread serves as a binder, and you can even consider it for crab cakes but just use a little to hold these delicate cakes together.
Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) is the ideal summer dinner for when it’s so hot you can’t bear to cook but the tomatoes are at their peak.
This basil, garlic and diced tomato mixture is served atop crostini, or small rounds of toasted baguette that you’ve slathered with olive oil and baked. Use your old bread for the crostini part of the dish and stop by the farmer’s market for the freshest summer tomatoes.
Ribollita is a hearty Italian soup recipe made with white beans, kale, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and leftover bread. The bread serves to thicken the soup as it does in gazpacho.
Stick with the classic recipe or make yours a fridge clean out version and use up those old greens, carrots, and other items.
Get more cheesy depth from soup by tossing in a Parmesan cheese rind as the soup simmers.
Tips on Storing Bread
It’s an understatement to say that fresh bread does not last long. That loaf of artisan loaf from the local baker or farmers market will lose its allure in a day, for sure in two.
And if you slice a baguette to accompany your cheese plate, the part you don’t use will be stale by morning. Supermarket bread stays soft and pliable for weeks because it’s loaded with preservatives.
In the summertime, bread sitting on the counter can go moldy before you get the chance to use it. While moldy bread is just fine for the compost pile, do yourself a favor and freeze bread slices before they go bad.
If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to freeze any old bread before it gets rock hard. Bread stored in the freezer tastes freshest within three months, but you can store it for far longer and still enjoy the end product. Bagels, English muffins and other bread products freeze the same way.
For best results, slice bread (or bagels) before freezing, then wrap slices individually in plastic wrap. Store wrapped slices in a freezer bag, then pull them out as you need them. Alternatively, if you’re planning ahead for a panzanella or strata, cube the bread so it’s recipe ready.
Codetic contributor Lindsey Danis is a Hudson Valley, New York, writer who specializes in food, freelancing advice, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, NextAdvisor, Greatist, and more.