The sad truth about bread is that it doesn’t stay fresh for very long. That beautiful loaf of sourdough gets hard after a day or two and that tasty, soft sliced bread gets crunchy all too quickly. It is such a shame!
However, you should never, ever throw away leftover bread! There is so much you can do with old bread that you may start waiting for your bread to become stale.
Take a look at these great ways to use leftover bread and transform trash into a mouthwatering treat.
1 – French Toast
Leftover bread is ideal for French toast. The reason is because when you make French toast, you need to let the bread soak in an egg and milk mixture.
Soaking the bread softens it up once again so you don’t have a crunchy, unappetizing food. The egg and milk mix really brings the bread back to life!
Old bread is actually ideal for French toast since it is so dry. In this case, the dry bread is a good thing! The dehydrated bread will absorb more of the French toast mix, making it taste even better once cooked (the more egg mix you can get into that bread, the better!).
French toast also makes the perfect make-ahead breakfast and leftover bread is the ideal ingredient for the job. Place the chopped up leftover bread in a casserole dish and pour the French toast mix over the bread.
Place it in the fridge overnight, wrapped, then bake the next morning! Letting the bread sit all night ensures that all of the egg mix will soak in and the bread will be like new again. So delicious….
2 – Breadcrumbs
If your bread has gotten really hard and you think that there is no way to save it, this is the time when you should make breadcrumbs. After all, what are breadcrumbs but really dry bread?
In fact, to make breadcrumbs, you will need to dry out your leftover bread even more. You literally want no moisture!
Place the bread in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes then either crumble it by hand or throw it into a food processor to break it up. Once you have nice small crumbs, store them in an airtight container.
You can use the breadcrumbs for anything! Make breaded chicken cutlets or mix them into meatloaf. Your fancy, stale bread now has a new life.
3 – Croutons
Croutons are a perfect way to use leftover bread. It only takes a few minutes to turn your aging bread into delicious, crunchy croutons which you can then store for weeks.
Cut the bread slices into cubes and spread on a sheet tray. You can drizzle the chopped bread with olive oil and spices if you’d like or just leave it plain.
Pop the tray in a 250 degree F oven for 30 minutes and then take out the croutons to cool. Leftover bread turned croutons will transform your salads into a gourmet meal!
4 – Toast
When your bread is just starting to be a little stale but it still has a little life left in it, just heat it up. A little warmth will soften the bread and give it a fresh texture. If the bread browns slightly, the crunchiness won’t be associated with being stale, it will just be toast!
Spread some butter on the top or smash an avocado across the bread and your mouth will be watering over your “leftover” bread.
5 – Bruschetta
Bruschetta is a true appetizer classic that is a combination of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil served on top of bread. If you have ever had a good bruschetta, you know that having a solid piece of bread as the base of the food is necessary.
When the mix is placed on the bread, all that delicious juice from the tomatoes and oil soaks into the bread which can make it soggy and too soft to hold the toppings. However, if you use leftover bread that is a little firmer, you won’t have this problem!
Slice up your leftover bread and pile the bruschetta mix on top, pouring extra juice over the bread. Your leftover bread will actually help the bruschetta hold its form and be easier to eat!
6 – Bread Pudding
Both savory and sweet bread pudding depend on leftover bread. It is the backbone of bread pudding- completely essential.
Since bread pudding needs the bread to soak up as much of the liquid mix as possible, a crusty, hard, old bread is best. When the bread is dry, it will soak up so much of that tasty juicy blend, ensuring your creation comes out full of flavor.
Using harder, leftover bread also will help the bread pudding keep some of the “integrity” of the bread. If you use a bread that is too soft, the bread pudding will just turn into mush. It may still taste okay but it will just be a sloppy puree of bread and eggy milk.
When you have a firmer bread, the finished product will resemble bread, as it should. The shape of the bread will be noticeable and it will just have more eye-appeal.
You can make savory bread pudding using leftover bread, like a cheese and herb mix, or you can opt for a sweet dessert option, cinnamon is a classic flavor. Bread pudding is definitely one of the number one ways you can use leftover bread- it is just so versatile!
7 – Panzanella
If you have never heard of this wondrous food, get ready to be delighted. Panzanella is an Italian bread salad which completely revolves around old bread.
That’s right, this recipe is only ever made with leftover bread. So, if you have a stale loaf lying around, this is what you were destined to make.
A loaf of leftover bread tossed with tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, basil, onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper is what you will need.
Toss everything together and then let the mix sit and allow all the flavors to mingle together. Serve the panzanella cold and you will never look at old bread the same again- it’s not old, it’s just ready to become panzanella!
8 – French Onion Soup
One of the best parts about French onion soup is the piece of bread that sits on top of the soup, coated in melted cheese. The bread is soft from the soup but not too mushy and completely necessary to really make a bowl of French onion complete.
Do you know what is perfect for that top slice of bread? Leftover bread. The firm texture will ensure that the bread doesn’t get too soggy. So if you have a few slices of leftover bread, French Onion soup is calling your name!
9 – Meatballs
Adding pieces of bread into a meatball mix is an old Italian secret to help create soft, juicy meatballs. Break up the bread into small pieces and knead it into the meatball mix.
When you use old bread, you can also skip any bread crumbs that the recipe calls for as this will work in place of the crumbs (and work better!).
When you cook the meatballs, the bread pieces will absorb all that tasty juice that the cooking meat releases and trap it inside the meatball. The end result, tender, flavorful meatballs unlike any you had before! Old bread for the win!
10 – For the Birds
If you aren’t a fan of all the above-mentioned ways to use leftover bread, don’t just throw it away, give it to the birds! Toss a few broken up pieces of bread out your backdoor and let the wild birds in your neighborhood enjoy!
While you will certainly become a friend to all your bird visitors, keep in mind that not all bread is good for birds. Whole grain or breads with seeds that you may have leftover is perfect.
Remember that once you put out a few pieces, you are likely to have many birds flocking to you as their favorite food source. No bird has ever flown away from a nice slice of leftover bread!
Clearly, there is plenty you can do with leftover bread. In fact, it shouldn’t even be called “leftover,” it should just be called repurposed bread. You should never look at that loaf from yesterday and consider tossing it in the trash. That bread has a lot of life in it yet!
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.