The Best Ways to Use Bread Loaf Heels

June 14, 2014

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: The bookends of bread can be put to good use.

Way to Use the Heels of Bread Loaves, from Food52

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It's a vicious cycle: We take a fresh loaf of sliced bread home, untwist the bag, and without hesitation, pick the second slice from the top for our sandwiches, toasts, and snacks. Our unbreakable habit continues until we're elbow deep in our bag of bread and left with two lonely pieces of crust a few days later. We feel too guilty to throw the heels away, so we leave them to stale and mold in the pantry while we head to the market to pick up a fresh loaf.

This week, community member VE turned to the Hotline for suggestions on how to embrace these crusty slices. Thankfully, our community fired back with a host of clever uses.

Way to Use the Heels of Bread Loaves, from Food52


  • Nothing beats the texture and flavor of homemade breadcrumbs -- add them to pastas, sprinkle them on salads, or use them to coat meat or fish. Karen and ChefJune make their own, collecting their loaf heels until they have enough to make a big batch. For recipes calling for spiced breadcrumbs and flavored breadings, ChefJune adds fresh herbs and spices to the grated heels before toasting.
  • IlovePhilly echoes the breadcrumb praise, also throwing in a suggestion for freshly toasted, buttery croutons in case of a "spur-of-the-moment Caesar salad."

More: Grate your loaf ends into breadcrumbs of all shapes and sizes.

Way to Use the Heels of Bread Loaves, from Food52

Cheese Toast

  • HalfPint relies on the tried-and-true combination of bread and cheese, buttering the crusts and coating them with cheese before pan-frying them to crispy, cheesy perfection.
  • If you're feeling fancy, add some mustard and Worcestershire sauce and call it Welsh rarebit, as Jan Weber suggests.

More: Make your coworkers jealous with an unapologetically cheesy desk lunch. 

Way to Use the Heels of Bread Loaves, from Food52

Soups, Spreads, and Sauces

  • Mstv goes an unconventional route, using the stale slices to thicken her soups. Tear the stale heels into smaller pieces, then allow them to soak in the soup for a few minutes before puréeing the mixture and reheating. 
  • Need a break from hummus? Jan Weber recommends blending the heels with peppers, nuts, and spices for a hearty, textured muhammara
  • Savorthis blends rogue loaf ends into her romesco sauce for a heartier texture.

Way to Use the Heels of Bread Loaves, from Food52

Bread Pudding

  • Bread pudding is the standard go-to dessert for stale or unwanted scraps of bread, and you can adjust ratios and flavors depending on the type of heels you have on hand. Karen sticks to classic bread pudding while Declan takes a cue from the Brits with traditional bread and butter pudding

More: Look past bread pudding with these seven recipes that transform bread into dessert.

Tell us: How do you use your loaf ends?

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Bet
  • Susan
  • Moe Rubenzahl
    Moe Rubenzahl
  • Catherine
  • Maria DeBlassie
    Maria DeBlassie
Student, aimless wanderer of grocery store aisles, almond butter's number one fan.


Bet August 31, 2014
I remember my grandma snitching the heels from a fresh loaf and giggling with me while we shared them. And I'm lucky - my husband pretends not to like them because he knows how much I LOVE them!
Susan June 16, 2014
Heavens, that first (and last) slice is the best. My dog and I have usually share them.
Moe R. June 15, 2014
I bake my bread and the heels are the best part. All crackly, chewy crust, with a bit too much butter.
CarlaCooks June 16, 2014
A bit too much butter... I like the way you think!
Catherine June 15, 2014
Honestly, I Just eat them, for the heels are the best bits.
Maria D. June 15, 2014
These are great ideas! I especially can't wait to try the heels-as-soup-thickener.
rebecca June 14, 2014
I had this issue yesterday! But I smothered it in olive oil and ate it on the spot.
boulangere June 14, 2014
My mother, gone now over twenty years, loved the heel of a loaf of bread, as well as the end cut of a prime rib (read: well done and downright chewy, like the heel of a loaf of bread). Personally, I dry slices overnight on a baking sheet , then pulse them in a food processor (while my mother roils in her grave) and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes prior to freezing them in ziplock bags. Cheers to mothers and their wisdom.
Betti F. June 14, 2014
If it homemade bread, my husband dearly loves the "heel", if store bought, it is either breadcrumbs, or it goes in with the brown sugar, where it happily keeps it from hardening.
Michele June 14, 2014
I'm with the others - we fight over the ends in my house!!
CookingIsLikeLove June 14, 2014
Same with fiveandspice - I always grab them first, all happy that I got them... forgetting every time that the Hubby hates them anyways. I love mine just simply toasted until just a weeeee bit burnt with gobs of butter and peanut butter ;D
fiveandspice June 14, 2014
The heel is my favorite part of the loaf and the first thing I eat! Maybe I inherited that love from my mother. We'd all fight over bread heels, growing up. :)
Sara S. June 14, 2014
That is exactly what I do!