Kitchen & Cooking

6 dishes you can make with stale bread

Can’t go through your bread quickly enough? These recipes can help.

Here's what to make with stale bread, including French toast, croutons, and more. Credit: Getty Images / cheche 22 / OksanaKiian

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While we’re spending more time at home, some have found new passion for home cooking projects—bread, pasta, and even homemade nut milk. However, there’s always a chance that our precious sourdough loaves become stale before we even get to them.

Before tossing out the loaves, there are some ways to turn stale bread into delicious meals, whether using it as the main ingredient or a special extra element. As food scientist Harold McGee explains in “On Food and Cooking,” unlike fresh bread that tends to fall apart when prepared with wet ingredients, dry bread can retain its sponge-like structure, which makes it ideal for bread puddings and pain perdu. Dry breadcrumbs can also find good use in frying, as the starch network can hold other ingredients strongly together.

Whether you’re sick of the same old toasted bread every day or have too much leftover bread that’s sitting idly by, these recipes can brighten your meals. If you want to reduce food waste, here’s what you can do to salvage days-old bread.

1. A bread pudding casserole that never gets old

Bread pudding
Credit: Getty Images / SashaFoxWalters

You can customize the recipe by adding raisins, dried fruits, and spices.

It goes without saying that the most popular leftover bread dish is the bread pudding our grandmas used to make. It’s a seemingly simple dessert packed with flavors of our childhood memories.

The process is quite straightforward: Cut the bread into cubes and let soak in a mixture of eggs, milk, and sugar for 15 minutes to half an hour. Then bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. If you can’t find your grandma’s recipe, here’s a bread pudding recipe that I find easy to follow.

2. A plate of croutons that can go with everything

Credit: Getty Images / Lauri Patterson / NightandDayImages

Croutons are easy to make and can last up to a week once prepared.

If bread pudding is for people with sweet tooth, croutons are for fans of savory foods.
Whether you’re tossing them into your caesar salad for the extra crunchiness or adding them into a soup, croutons can always find a place in your meals.

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook has some of the best recipes on how to make croutons, as well as the classic French onion soup, exactly the same way as the restaurant Les Halles prepared them.

3. Some bread dumpling (semmelknödel) that makes the perfect sides

Semmelknoedel bread dumpling
Credit: Getty Images / kabVisio

I've been craving semmelknödel since I first visited Austria.

If you’re roasting pork or lamb chops for dinner and need side dishes, you may want to give this delicious Austrian/Bavarian dumpling a try. Its preparation is straightforward. To make the bread knoedels (semmelknödel in German), you can either tear the bread into small pieces or let a food processor do the work.

Then mix with herbs, spice, eggs, and milk to form into ball-shaped dumplings. Traditionally, the dumplings are cooked in boiling water. There are different varieties of knödels in Germany and Austria including ones with meats and potatoes. They make great sides to cut the fatiness in heavy roasts but they also taste amazing on their own.

4. A jar of breadcrumbs for making meatballs

Breadcrumbs for meatball
Credit: Getty Images / Nadezhda_Nesterova

Breadcrumbs can prevent meatballs and burger patties from falling apart.

Breadcrumbs are one “secret” ingredient in restaurant-style meatballs. By adding the finely processed small pieces of bread, the meatball is able to hold its shape and not fall apart while cooking. Generally, you’d use about half a cup of breadcrumbs to make one pound of meatballs.

The same goes for making meatloaf, burgers patties, or crab cakes—it’s a great way to bind all ingredients together without sacrificing the flavors. For an extended shelf life, you can lightly toast the breadcrumbs in the oven and then store them in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks.

5. A piece of French toast to kick off the day

French toast
Credit: Getty Images / LauriPatterson

White bread such as brioche and challah works best for this recipe.

Getting up in the morning to make a proper breakfast can sometimes be daunting. With this make-ahead French toast recipe, you can make some good use of old bread by soaking slices in egg and milk overnight (about four eggs to each cup of milk) and pan frying them the morning after. Voilà! You have French toast.

You can prepare French toast in the morning as you make them, but your stale bread can truly benefit from a long, overnight soaking that allows it to soften and absorb the flavors of the milk and egg mixture.

6. Some homemade crackers for happy hour

Crackers for cheeseboard
Credit: Getty Images / jenifoto

A loaf of days-old baguette is best for making crackers.

Staying at home can help us hone our bartending skills—and adding some homemade crackers can level up your happy hour charcuterie board. Making these crackers is not only a good way to use your stale bread, but they’re also delicious and easy to store.

In addition to making bread-based dishes mentioned above, you can also slide some bread underneath a whole chicken or turkey when you roast it—it serves as a perfect drip tray to catch all the delicious fat and makes the bread extra tasty! If you’re looking for more interesting cooking projects to ease the quarantine blues, we’re here to help. Here are some non-pantry meals we’ve been cooking up lately.

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