How-To
7
min read

How to Turn Stale Bread into Delicious Dishes (and Reduce Your Food Waste)

Stale bread isn’t a problem, it's an opportunity! In this post, we'll show you how to transform your old, dry, and hard bread into delicious and nutritious dishes that will make you forget about wasting bread ever again.
February 21, 2024

Do you have some bread that's past its prime? Don't throw it away! You can use it to make some amazing meals that will wow your family and friends. And you'll also be doing your part to reduce food waste, which is a huge problem in the U.S.

Did you know that Americans waste about 25% of the bread they buy, which amounts to more than 2 million tons of bread per year? That's a lot of bread, and a lot of money, going down the drain. Not to mention the environmental impact of producing, transporting, and disposing of all that bread.

But you don't have to be part of the problem. You can be part of the solution by using your stale bread in creative and delicious ways. Stale bread is not a waste, it's a resource. It can add texture, flavor, and nutrition to your dishes, and it can help you stretch your budget by using what you already have.

Recipe Ideas

Croutons

Croutons are a great way to add some crunch and flavor to your salads, soups, and casseroles. To make them, cut your stale bread into cubes, toss them with some oil, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice, and bake them in the oven until golden and crisp. You can store them in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze them for longer.

A bowl of croutons

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are another versatile ingredient that you can make from stale bread. You can use them to coat chicken, fish, or vegetables, or to thicken soups and sauces. You can also use them to make stuffing, meatballs, or meatloaf. To make breadcrumbs, grate your stale bread or process it in a food processor, and season it as you like. You can store them in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze them for longer.

Strata

A strata is a baked dish that consists of layers of stale bread, cheese, eggs, and other ingredients, such as ham, spinach, mushrooms, or tomatoes. It's like a cross between a quiche and a bread pudding, and it's perfect for brunch or dinner. To make it, soak your stale bread in a mixture of eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese, and then layer it with your favorite fillings in a baking dish. Bake it in the oven until set and golden, and enjoy!

Binder for Meatballs and Meatloaf

Stale bread can help you make moist and tender meatballs and meatloaf, by binding the meat and other ingredients together, and by absorbing some of the juices. You can use any kind of bread, such as white, wheat, or rye, and you can season it as you like. To use it, soak your stale bread in some milk or water until soft, and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Crumble the bread and mix it with your ground meat, eggs, salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Shape the mixture into balls or a loaf, and bake or fry them until cooked through.

Panzanella

Panzanella is a traditional Italian salad that features stale bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, basil, and a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar. It's a refreshing and satisfying dish that's ideal for summer. To make it, toss your stale bread with some water or vinegar to soften it, and then mix it with the chopped vegetables and herbs. Drizzle some olive oil and vinegar over it, and season it with salt and pepper. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld, and serve it cold or at room temperature.

Panzanella salad

Soup Thickener

This is a wonderful trick if you want a thick and hearty soup without adding any dairy. You’ll find this technique a lot in Mediterranean recipes, such as ribollita and sopa de ajo. Just remove the crusts from your stale bread, then tear it into large chunks. Add it into the soup and let it simmer slowly until it breaks down and makes the soup nice and thick.

Stuffing

Stuffing is a delicious side dish that's usually served with roast turkey, chicken, or pork, but you can also enjoy it on its own. You can make stuffing with any kind of stale bread, such as white, wheat, cornbread, or baguette, and you can add any ingredients you like, such as celery, onion, garlic, carrot, apple, cranberry, sausage, bacon, nuts, or herbs. To make it, sauté your vegetables and meat in some butter or oil, and season them with salt, pepper, and herbs. Cut your stale bread into cubes, and toss them with some chicken or vegetable broth, and some eggs. Combine the bread mixture with the vegetable and meat mixture, and transfer it to a baking dish. Bake it in the oven until golden and crisp, and serve it hot or warm.

French Toast

French toast is a classic breakfast treat that's easy and delicious to make with stale bread. The bread is soaked in an egg and milk mixture before being pan fried, and if your bread is stale this will soften it right back up! You can use any kind of bread, such as white, wheat, sourdough, or brioche, and you can customize it with your favorite toppings, such as maple syrup, honey, jam, fruit, nuts, or whipped cream.

French toast topped with mixed berries

Dessert

You can turn that stale bread into a sweet treat by making a bread pudding. Bread pudding is like strata’s sugary cousin. The concept is pretty similar; soak the stale bread in a custardy mixture of egg and milk, then layer in some sweet surprises like fresh or dried fruit and nuts, then bake until the inside is soft and fluffy and the top is golden and crunchy.

Keeping Your Bread Fresh

Now that you know how to use your stale bread, you might be wondering how to prevent it from going stale in the first place. Here are some tips to keep your bread fresh for longer:

Store It Properly

The best way to store your bread depends on the type of bread and how long you want to keep it. For soft breads, such as white, wheat, or sandwich bread, you can store them in a plastic bag or a bread box at room temperature for up to a week. For crusty breads, such as baguette, sourdough, or ciabatta, you can store them in a paper bag or a cloth at room temperature for up to two days.

Keep It Away From Heat and Moisture

Heat and moisture can speed up the staling process of your bread, by causing the starch molecules in the bread to crystallize and harden. To avoid this, keep your bread away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and humid environments. Don't store your bread in the refrigerator, as this can make it stale faster than at room temperature.

Revive It

If your bread is starting to get stale, but not too hard or dry, you can revive it by adding some moisture and heat. You can sprinkle some water on your bread, and then heat it in the oven or a toaster for a few minutes, until it's soft and warm. You can also wrap your bread in a damp paper towel, and microwave it for a few seconds, until it's moist and pliable.

Freeze It

If you’re in a small household or just don’t eat bread all that often, it may be a challenge to eat up a whole loaf before it goes stale, no matter how well you store it. For longer storage, you can freeze your bread in a freezer bag or a plastic wrap for up to three months. To thaw it, you can microwave it for a few seconds, or toast it in the oven or a toaster.

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