Despite months of practice, not every batch of homemade bread turns out like you intend it to (you can still post it on Instagram…as a #breadfail), but even bad bread can usually be saved. And even the best loaf sometimes gets old and tough. So here are our favorite things to do with stale bread, leftover bread, and plain old sad bread that don’t involve tossing them in the trash.
Caveat: If your sourdough boule or spelt baguette truly tastes awful, then you may want to give it to the birds (or dump it in the compost), but if the issue is more with texture or rise—or if it’s simply gone stale—there’s a lot you can do with it.
Also perhaps goes without saying, but if your bread is badly burned in places, scrape off the black spots—a Microplane grater comes in handy here—and salvage what you can.
Using scraps is a great way to fight food waste, after all, which helps you save money too. And if it’s your home-baked bread that didn’t quite turn out, it’s even better to know it wasn’t all a waste of time.
Here’s what to do with old bread, stale bread, or bad bread:
1. Blitz It into Breadcrumbs
Just pulverize your bread to tiny bits in a high-powdered blender or food processor, and store the crumbs in an air-tight container (in the freezer if there’s room).
You can use them for breading and frying food like chicken fingers or pork chops, or for a crisp topping on baked mac and cheese, casseroles, baked eggs, and even sauteed kale. Or mix them into the filling for stuffed clams.
Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus 3-Cup Food Processor, $39.95 at Sur La Table
Perfect for small jobs.
2. Mix It into Meatballs
Milk-soaked bread is a common binder in meatballs, so tear yours into chunks and let it bathe a little longer if it’s rock-hard; you can also just blitz it into crumbs as above and use those as a binder, depending on your recipe. See our Italian Meatball recipe for the bread soaking method.
3. Toast It for Croutons
Cut or tear your bread into bite-size chunks and toast it in the oven until crunchy (bonus if you do it in a little garlic butter). Use the croutons on a creamy soup or to top a salad. You can also toss croutons with roasted veggies; it’s sort of like two side dishes in one, or even a meal unto itself.
4. Make It into Sweet Bread Pudding
Even sourdough can be turned into a sweet bread pudding—but we do tend to favor loaves like French bread, challah, and brioche for these dessert-ready dishes. Try our Strawberry Bread Pudding recipe (above), or our Salted Caramel Banana Bread Pudding recipe (from the top of this page) for the best twist on banana bread you’ve ever tasted.
5. Make It into a Savory Strata
Quite similar to bread pudding, strata often skews savory, but the real distinction is that it tends to use more eggs in the soaking liquid for the bread. When you make something like our Chiles Rellenos Strata recipe (above), or this Mushroom and Gruyere Bread Pudding, you can often get away with using heartier whole-grain breads too.
See all our bread pudding and strata recipes for more ideas.
6. Make Panzanella
Panzanella is bread salad, and it’s amazing, no matter what else you put in it. This simple panzanella includes cucumbers, tomatoes, and a lemon-garlic vinaigrette. But it can go autumnal as well (see our white bean, cranberry, and kale panzanella, or our roasted butternut squash panzanella)—or even sweet, as in our raspberry panzanella. It’s an eminently riffable formula. And as you can see, leftover cornbread is a great choice for this dish as too.
7. Blend It into Romesco Sauce
In our Romesco Sauce recipe, roasted tomatoes and peppers are blended with bread, almonds, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and smoked paprika for a delicious concoction that can be used as a spread, sauce, dip, or condiment. Try it with shrimp, potatoes, chicken, pasta, or practically anything else. (Our Kale and Potato Mash with Romesco Sauce is a great vegan dish.)
8. Use It as a Bed for Roasted Chicken
This technique makes roasted chicken a one-pot dinner and is a great alternative to the usual potatoes. Simply place a layer of cubed stale bread in a baking dish and place a spatchcocked chicken (or even a few chicken breasts or thighs) on top; as they roast, the juices flavor and slightly soften the bread. Our Sumac Chicken with Bread Salad recipe (above) is delicious, but play around with it depending on what veggies and spices you have on hand. You really can’t go wrong with this basic method.
Related Reading: 11 DIY Spice Blends to Perk Up Pantry Staples
9. Make French Toast
Extra-eggy challah and brioche make great french toast, but you can use sourdough or white and wheat loaves as well. See our sweet french toast recipes for inspiration, or try savory french toast for brunch (or dinner).
10. Make a No-Bake Summer Pudding
If you have brioche that’s not so soft and fluffy anymore, not to worry. Slice off the crusts (use them for the aforementioned breadcrumbs or meatloaf and meatball binder), then layer the stale slices in a bowl and fill with macerated fruit; let it sit overnight for an impressive no-bake dessert. Get our Almost Summer Pudding recipe. (If you don’t have enough brioche to make the full size, just eyeball the filling amount for a smaller bowl or even individual ramekins.)
11. Use It for French Onion Soup
The crunchier your bread raft, the longer it will float in the rich onion broth with its gooey blanket of cheese (speaking of, try this blue cheese French onion soup for a nice change of pace).
Related Reading: How to Make Easy No-Knead Bread
Header image by Chowhound