Unless you are still buying the store bread that has been chemically induced into immortality, you have old stale bread from time to time. Realizing your once-delicious bread is now hard and crusty can be disappointing, but that’s no reason to throw it away.
Believe it or not, stale bread is a valuable ingredient in many recipes. You can recycle your old bread to make croutons, bread crumbs, bread pudding, stuffing, and so much more.
The key to reusing stale bread is knowing not all types of bread are good for all recipes. An old apricot Danish, for example, won’t make good croutons or breadcrumbs, but it will make delicious bread pudding. You could even turn it into a stuffing for a pork roast, chicken, or turkey.
Instead of giving a sigh of resignation every time I open the bread box to find stale loaves, I start thinking of all the ways I can use my stale bread by transforming it into recipes my family will love.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to turn stale bread into a delicious, recycled dish.
Italian or French Loaves
These crusty loaves make the perfect bread crumbs. All you have to do is tear the leftover baguettes into small pieces and let them get really dry. When there is no longer any moisture, run the bread pieces through the food processor until they are a fine powder.
You can leave them plain or add a little garlic powder, oregano, and dried basil for tasty Italian bread crumbs that pair perfect in a Ceasar salad. These homemade bread crumbs will also come in handy when making homemade meatballs or meatloaf.
For the best results, soak the breadcrumbs in milk before adding them to the rest of your recipe. Trust me, this little step will make all the difference.
The list of ways you can use bread crumbs is endless, but I especially love using my stale bread crumbs as topping for my mac and cheese, cheese casserole, or any other pasta casserole as it adds a nice crunchy finish. To help the topping brown, add a dash of paprika to the crumbs. When I make a baked mostaccioli, I add some grated Romano cheese to the crumbs for an extra tasty topping.
Bruschetta and Crostini
Italian and French loaves are also great for making bruschetta or crostini. Thinly slice the loaves before they get too hard and dry them in a low oven set to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be plain to compliment a spicy bruschetta, or you can season them if you wish. For the crostini, I usually toss the dry slices with a little olive oil, oregano, and garlic powder before putting them on a baking sheet. I bake them for 10 minutes in a low oven (same degree setting as mentioned above). Then they are the perfect scoop for Tuscan white bean dip.
Sliced Whole Wheat
Finding a few slices of stale whole wheat bread in your kitchen is the perfect excuse to get creative with your salads. I love whole wheat croutons, and there’s no reason to buy them in bags from the store. You can make your own, and it’ll only take a few minutes. And the best part is they simply taste better, too!
Ideally, you want to start with bread that is stale but still able to be sliced. Slice the bread into cubes, and if you need to, let them dry even more. Once they’re completely dry, toss them with fresh or dried herbs and a drizzle of olive oil. These herbed croutons are perfect for salads and even soups.
Egg Bread or Challah
There are countless recipes out there for egg bread or challah. If you’re not familiar, this bread is made with eggs and usually braided onto a loaf or coiled into a round. Sometimes it’s topped with sesame or poppy seeds, and some people love their challah with raisins. It’s typically a spongy bread, but it can also be crusty on the outside.
French Toast, Grilled Cheese, and More
Egg bread is so delicious it rarely lasts long enough to go stale, but in case you ever find yourself with a half-eaten loaf a few days old, don’t worry. There’s no need to waste that bread by throwing it away. Stale egg bread or challah is perfect for several recipes.
For breakfast, you can turn it into french toast or stuffed french toast. Come lunch time, that stale bread will be the prime ingredient in your Monte Cristo sandwiches, grilled cheeses, or paninis.
Danish or Croissants
You might consider a danish or a croissant to be more pastry than bread, but they all belong in the same family. And as part of the bread family, they have potential to grow stale. If you’re storing your danishes or croissants at room temperature, you only have about two days to enjoy them in their full glory. After that, you’ll get to turn that stale bread into a brand new dish.
Bread Pudding and Stuffing
One of my favorite ways to use old croissants is to make bread pudding. My family also loves it when I whip up a French toast casserole for brunch. And the best part? They can never tell that delicious casserole is made from recycled ingredients. If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth (lucky you!), try making a stuffing for a thick cut pork chop or a pork roast instead.
Rye bread is one of the healthiest bread options out there. It’s great if you’re looking to lose weight but still want to eat bread, and research says it can even fight diabetes and asthma. If you don’t eat all your rye bread before it goes stale, you can still reap those health benefits. All you need to do is get a little creative.
Crusty rye bread is an excellent choice for stuffing (we’ve got a delicious twist on the traditional one for you to try right here). One of my go-to rye bread recipes is apple sage stuffing that I use with pork roast. I also have a great recipe for pineapple stuffing to give the perfect amount of sweet to pair nicely with your baked ham.
If you’re looking for something new to make, why not round out your buffet supper with a savory rye strata? One of my favorite types of strata is spinach, mushroom, and smoked Gouda cheese. There are endless combinations of vegetables and meats for a strata. Consider using your old rye cubes with chunks of ham, pineapple, collards, and Swiss cheese.
Other rye strata combos that I have tried are:
- Bacon, onion, tomato with cheddar
- Corned beef, Swiss and cabbage or sauerkraut
- Mushrooms and tomatoes with rosemary and thyme
Stratas are great because they allow you to be truly creative in the kitchen. You can follow a recipe, but feel free to customize based on what you (and your picky little eaters!) like best.
Repurposing stale bread into your recipes is not only a great choice for your cooking, but it’s also economical and eco-friendly. It’ll save you money you would otherwise spend on store-bought croutons, bread crumbs, etc, and you won’t be wasting the packaging and energy that goes into making those store-bought products. It’s a win-win situation no matter what you make from it.