With summer here, bread goes stale faster than ever. But there’s no need to toss it in the compost bin. Stale bread can find its home in everything from casserole to croutons — here are all the ways you can give it new life.
But first: Start by delaying staling as much as possible. You can keep your bread fresher, longer, by following the advice in our previous post, The best way to store yeast bread. A bread keeper and bread bags are also especially handy.
And when those bread-saving tricks fail, here are your best options to extend the life of your loaf:
1) Make croutons
To make croutons, chop your bread into relatively uniform cubes (no need to get too precise here, but around 1/2” is nice) or simply tear into roughly even pieces. Drizzle with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with salt, then spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350°F oven until dry and crispy, about 7 to 10 minutes. Toss the croutons around the pan halfway through, for even baking. You can add spices or herbs to your croutons before baking to amp up flavor — dried rosemary or smoked paprika are nice, or a blend like our Pizza Seasoning.
2) Transform bread into breadcrumbs
To make, grind cubes of dry, stale bread in a food processor until as fine as you’d like. (You can keep the crumbs larger for more texture or pulse until very fine.) Spread evenly on a baking sheet, then bake in a 300°F oven for 5 to 15 minutes, until crispy and dry. (The timing here will depend on how dry your stale bread was in the first place.) Toss the crumbs around the pan halfway through, for even baking.
3) Then use those breadcrumbs to bake
The best part about breadcrumbs? You can turn your old baking into brand new baked goods. It’s a real full-circle moment.
Use your homemade breadcrumbs to thicken fillings, like in our recipes for Old-Fashioned Apple Slab and Dios Beigli (Hungarian Walnut Roll). Or use them to make a crunchy, toasted topping for rolls, like in these two classic Filipino breads from baker and cookbook author Hannah Dela Cruz: Sourdough Pandesal and Señorita Bread. The crumbs toast in the oven for a nutty flavor and extra burst of crunchy texture.
(If you want to turn old bread into new bread in other ways, you can also use if for a soaker, like in this Jewish Rye Bread recipe.)
4) Make bread pudding
Bread pudding is underappreciated: It’s almost impossible to mess up, requires no decorating skills, and can be served for dessert — or breakfast.
If you’re feeling impatient, you can make this five-minute Microwave Bread Pudding. Or dial up the decadence and try this Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding. We also have a recipe for Savory Bread Pudding if you want to skip the sweet. All of these recipes (and more!) transform old, dry bread into a rich, comforting dish. While any bread can be used for bread pudding, some perform better than others: Enriched breads like challah or brioche are particularly great.
5) Whip up a casserole
In addition to being a great way to use up stale bread, casseroles are perfect “clean out the fridge” recipes. Our Breakfast Casserole combines cubes of slightly stale bread with eggs, cheese, milk, vegetables, meat, and spices for a morning meal. You can stick to the recipe specifics (broccoli rabe + sausage/bacon + cheddar cheese + onion) or swap in whatever you’ve got in your fridge (especially if it’s a day shy of going bad). For instance, a sad shallot in place of the onion, sautéed zucchini instead of broccoli rabe, leftover tofu as a sub for the meat, etc. Multiple uses for multiple leftovers!
6) And of course, you can always make French toast
When in doubt, there’s French Toast. You probably have a go-to method, and if you do, feel free to stick with it. And if you’re looking for a new tactic, our version has been called “the best French toast I've ever tasted" by some enthusiastic reviewers. Next time you have some staling bread, give it a try and see for yourself.
Using leftover bread beyond baking
If you want to step out of the baking zone, there are plenty of other options for cooking with your leftover bread. Make gazpacho, the classic cold Spanish soup that uses stale bread for its thick texture, or panzanella, a fresh salad made with torn-up chunks of slightly stale bread that soak up extra dressing. There’s also Portuguese Açorda de Camarão (Bread Porridge with Prawns) and French panade, two classic dishes that repurpose old bread.
No one likes wasting bread that goes bad — or anything else for that matter, like flour or nuts. See all our storage options to keep your baking and ingredients in the best shape.
Cover photo (Golden Brioche Bread Mix) by Kristin Teig.