There’s nothing like the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the time it takes to bake fresh bread on a regular basis. With kneading, rising time, and then baking, a simple loaf of bread can require a few hours of our time.
The good news, however, is that bread machines have improved substantially in recent years; many bread machines on the market today create loaves that are virtually indistinguishable from bread kneaded and formed by hand.
In addition to the improved technology, budget-conscious bakers will be happy to know that there are a few bread machines available today that perform extremely well while still being priced very reasonably.
I would like to introduce you to my favorites. Each of these works well and is priced at a fraction of the cost of a typical bread machine. I’ll start with my fourth choice and work up to my number one recommendation for the best overall budget bread machine.
#4 Homgeek Home Bakery Bread Machine
This is one of the newer machines on the bread maker scene, and it often falls under the radar, failing to get the notice it deserves. Although Homgeek isn’t as well-known as many of the other companies on my list, they have created an excellent bread machine at a very affordable price, and it is even backed by a 2-year warranty.
One of the great things about this bread machine is its programmable timer. You can program it up to 15 hours in advance. This means you can go to bed at night and wake up with a warm loaf just in time for breakfast, or even program this before leaving for work in the morning and come home to freshly baked bread!
While this programmability is commonplace in expensive bread machines, it doesn’t often appear at this price point, and when it does, it usually offers less than this generous 15 hours.
Another benefit of this bread maker is its multi-functionality. It has easy-to-set programs for different kinds of breads as well as for cakes, jams, yogurt, and other desserts.
#3 Hamilton Beach Programmable Bread Machine, 2-Pound Bread Maker with Gluten-Free Setting
This is a great affordable bread machine that does a nice job on a variety of breads, but I specifically wanted to highlight this model because of its superior performance with gluten-free bread recipes. This is a fantastic, affordable bread maker for those with gluten intolerance.
As you may know, buying gluten-free bread at the grocery store can be quite pricey, and unfortunately, many bread machines just aren’t created with gluten-free baking in mind. All too often, you’ll find that gluten-free breads come out hard and unevenly baked when made in a bread machine.
This machine, however, truly shines in this realm. Gluten-free breads come out perfectly soft and moist, and cooking is even throughout the entire loaf.
This has a gluten-free setting that you can use, but with a little experimentation, you’ll find that different gluten-free recipes can actually be made with some of the other settings as well.
With the multitude of gluten-free recipes online, you can experiment a bit with this machine and figure out which settings work best with each individual recipe.
I would recommend starting out with a basic recipe using the gluten-free setting, just to see how well this works, then branching out a bit with new recipes and settings.
#2 Sunbeam 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker 5891
This is my runner-up for the best budget bread machine. It is a great machine, performs wonderfully with a wide variety of breads, and is very fairly priced.
Although a fraction of the price, this has many of the features of the most expensive bread machines. It can be programmed up to 13 hours in advance, has 12 different settings, and is equipped with an easy-to-read LCD display.
Those who are new to the world of bread machines will find this model very user friendly and easy to learn. The instruction manual is fairly simple and straightforward, and with a little experimentation, you should be able to find what works best for you.
While this is a great bread machine and will please many home bakers, its bread pan doesn’t always hold up as long as we would like it to.
Unfortunately, the nonstick coating in the pan seems to be prone to peeling over time and finding a replacement pan can be very difficult. It’s a great bread machine in so many respects, but I think it’s important to note this drawback, as it affects the longevity of the machine itself.
#1 Oster 2-Pound Expressbake Bread Machine with 13-Hour Delay Timer (Top Pick)
We’ve now come to my number one recommendation for the best overall budget bread machine. This product by Oster truly shines in a variety of aspects. It is easy to use, programmable, bakes substantial 2-pound loaves, and is quick and easy to clean.
Another important point is that this holds up to frequent usage with many of us finding that it continues to work well for years. Durability like this is a particularly important point to consider when looking for a budget bread machine.
A cheap machine that needs to be replaced after six months ends up being quite expensive in the long run. This particular model combines a great price with proven longevity.
One particularly wonderful feature of this machine is its celebrated Expressbake mode. With this cycle, you can place your ingredients in the pan, choose the Expressbake setting, and have a fresh warm loaf of bread ready in just under an hour.
Of course, not all recipes are amenable to being baked using this express setting, but there are quite a few breads that will turn out perfectly. This really comes in handy in a pinch, when you forget to start your bread in the morning or make a last-minute decision on what to have for dinner.
Some of the other great features of this particular model include its programmable timer which can be set up to 13 hours in advance, its 12 settings for different kinds of breads and preferences for crust texture, and its alert feature which beeps at the right time for adding in ingredients such as raisins, nuts, and seeds.
This machine produces an attractive loaf with a nice, even shape and golden crust.
As with all bread makers, you’ll need to follow the instructions with regard to the order in which ingredients are added to the pan. But, if you stick to the rules, you’ll likely find that those frustrating bread fails—when you end up with a huge hole in the middle of your bread, or the entire loaf comes out hard and inedible—are few and far between.
Likewise, this machine performs extremely well for a wide range of recipes, turning out light and fluffy loaves of white bread just as easily as it handles those heartier, whole grain breads that so many of us enjoy.
Bread machines are incredible time-savers and they can also save you money over time. If you buy your raw ingredients—flour, yeast, sugar, and such—in bulk, you can often make your own delicious bread for less than half the cost of a similar loaf at the grocery store.
Over time these savings really add up, but it is essential to make sure that you invest in a budget bread machine which will not only function well, but also hold up over time. Hopefully, I’ve made that a bit easier with these recommendations.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.