17 Things You Can Make With Stale Bread

Don't toss that old bread! It can star in a delicious dish just waiting to happen.

panzanella, traditional italian tomato, mozzarella and bread salad in black bowl
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Bread has been called "the staff of life" for good reason. Every culture has a bread that forms the basis of its traditional diet. Whether it's tortillas in Latin America, chapatis in India, or baguettes in France, these diverse combinations of flour and water play a major role in making ethnic cuisines so delicious and diverse.

Along with all these breads, however, comes a lot of leftovers. In the UK alone, where yeasted bread dominates, an estimated 24 million slices of sandwich bread go to waste daily, making it the single most wasted food item in the country. Fortunately, many of these same bread-loving cultures have come up with clever ways to use yesterday's stale pieces. We can learn from these techniques to divert stale loaves and pieces from the trash and transform them into tasty dishes.

Panzanella, Ribollita, Pappa al Pomodoro

Italy is arguably the master of bread reclamation. It has a number of famous techniques for using stale bread, such as panzanella (a tomato-bread salad), ribollita (a white bean-vegetable soup with chunks of bread stirred in at the end), and pappa al pomodoro (pureed tomato soup with mashed bread).


Fattoush is the Middle East's version of panzanella. It features a chopped salad with plenty of parsley, vinaigrette, and croutons made from stale pita. Here's a recipe via the Mediterranean Dish.


Skordalia is a creamy and delicious Greek dip that can be used on vegetables and cooked meats. It features stale bread soaked in liquid, then blended with oil, nuts, garlic, and spices. Olive oil and lemon juice finish it off.


Gazpacho - cold tomato soup with cucumber topping
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Did you know that the secret ingredient in Spain's gazpacho, a cold tomato-based soup, is ... bread? It's true! Serious Eats explains its history and follows up with a delicious recipe.

Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is a great way to use stale yeasted bread. Almost any kind of bread works, from whole wheat to challah to cinnamon buns or even muffins. The pieces are spread in a pan, covered with seasoned milk and eggs, and baked to a cake-like consistency.

Toast, Garlic Bread, Crostini, Bruschetta

Make toast, but go beyond the usual breakfast toast. Transform stale bread into crispy garlic bread or crostini under the broiler and top with marinated goat cheese, tapenade, white bean dip, or bruschetta. Make your own Melba toasts by slicing bread 1/8" thick and baking at low heat for a half hour; it will keep for days.

Crumbs, Croutons

Make bread crumbs or croutons to add texture and substance to anything. Blitz your old bread in a blender and store in an airtight container. Alternatively, spread the crumbs or cubed bread for croutons on a baking sheet and toast until lightly brown for a crunchier feel. Use bread crumbs in pasta dishes, to coat meat, fish, or vegetables for frying, to add crunch to salad and texture to salsa. (In Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat has a delicious recipe for salsa verde, made with shallots, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar—and bread crumbs.)


Drink it! If you're an ambitious home brewer, check out this recipe from the UK's famous Toast Ale.


Pumpkin stuffed with crispy croutons, mushrooms, leek and celery with thyme and pine nuts for Thanksgiving Day
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Use it for stuffing. Thanksgiving turkey may be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many things you can stuff with stale bread. This fun recipe shows how to make classic Italian verdure ripiene, which are zucchini, onions, and peppers stuffed with seasoned crumbs and herbs and baked with olive oil and white wine. Or, for a wonderfully rustic yet decadent experience, try Dorie Greenspan's magical Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good (which includes bacon, but shitake mushrooms make a marvelous vegetarian swap).

French Toast

French toast, of course, is a perennial winner. Soak thick slices of stale bread in an egg-milk mixture and sauté. For vegans, the Isa Does It cookbook has an amazing version made with almond milk and dipped in toasted shredded coconut.

Vegetarian Meatballs, Veggie Burgers

Most meatballs and many a veggie burger call for stale bread to act as a binder and pull the mixture together. So make sure to keep some on hand for such occasions.