What to Do With That Stale Bread Loaf

February 15, 2018

You had the best intentions for your beautiful, crusty sourdough loaf—mile-high sandwiches and breakfasts slathered with jam. But time and humidity stole that pillowy texture, leaving you with rock-hard, won’t-break bread. But don’t toss it! Stale bread can be as much of a pantry superstar as its former fresh self. Depending on how hard your loaf has become, here are six ways to use those scraps.

French Toast

One of the fastest ways to use up a past-its-prime loaf is to soak it in eggs and milk, then fry it up to crispy perfection. Cover it in sweet syrup or powdered sugar, or dress it up in an extra layer of cereal for crunch. Want to try savory? Stuff thick slices with seasoned mashed avocado give it the grilled cheese treatment with Mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes.


Pancotto, which literally means “cooked bread” is a traditional dish that appears in some form or another throughout all of Italy. Making this recipe is simple, yet flavorful: Roughly chop the bread into chunks, saute onion, carrot, celery, and garlic with a pinch of salt, then add water and bring to a boil. Once it’s simmering, add the bread and cook until the soup has become thick and creamy, like oatmeal. Add some cheese and it’s ready to eat.


Sticky sweet bread pudding is a tried-and-true dish for using up leftover loaves. Just like French toast, it starts with soaking in an eggy-milky mixture, but this time with bread cubes—make sure to slice uniformly for even absorption and cooking. Mix everything (including spices and nuts and fruit and chocolate) together in a bowl, let it all hang out for 30 minutes, then bake at 350° F until the liquid has evaporated (about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size).


Strata’s a savory cousin of aforementioned bread pudding, a warm dish of bread-y, custardy eggs dotted with whatever fillings your heart desires, and topped with a puffed, golden crust. Follow the same formula as above, but with savory add-ins instead of sweet.


Crunch and oil and salt and breadiness make everything better, and there’s no better way to add some magic to your meal than breadcrumbs. The easiest (and fastest) way to make your own is to give rough chunks of bread a whiz in the food processor. But if you don’t mind a little bit of elbow grease, you can grate your bread with a box grater. Toast the crumbs in a 350° F oven with a glug of oil and sprinkle of seasoning and you’re golden.


Or, if you want bigger chunks, tear up your stale bread, massage with smashed garlic and olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and broil them until crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Shop the Story

How do you use up your stale bread? Do you add breadcrumbs to meatloaf? Throw chunks into a wintery panzanella? Share your favorite recipes and tips below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Susan Apostolaki
    Susan Apostolaki
  • AntoniaJames
  • Julie
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Susan A. February 16, 2018
Stale bread has a distinct place in Greek cuisine. You can soak it in water, squeeze it out and use to make taramosalata (blending it together with egg roe, onion, lemon juice and olive oi), skordalia (blending it with garlic cloves, salt, vinegar and olive oil), or mixing it with minced meat an egg, lots of pepper, oregano, mint and parsley to make meat patties to grill or fry.
One of my favourite desserts growing up was Scandinavian Apple Charlotte, which involved frying stale breadcrumbs in butter, adding sugar and layering in a trifle dish (or glass bowl) with apple sauce. This is delicious on its own or topped with whipped cream and lots of chocolate curls.
AntoniaJames February 15, 2018
Put in freezer. Next time you roast a chicken (spatchcocked), cut bread into 1" cubes, toss with a couple fistfuls of fresh herb + salt and pepper; spread 2 onions, thickly sliced on the bottom of the skillet; put cubes, etc. on top and then put the bird on it. Roast at high heat. Every 20 minutes, lift the bird up and stir the bread and onions so that the ones underneath the chicken are pulled out to the edge. Drizzle a touch of water around the edge of the skillet. Pour a good glass of white wine over the chicken 15 minutes before you think it will be fully roasted.

Use whatever of this bread, onion and herb mixture (it's a lot like stuffing!) is leftover to make waffles. Mash, add 1 beaten egg per cup of this stuff; 8 - 10 minutes on medium setting.

Just one of many ways I use leftover bread (I've been baking all the bread we've eaten in this house for the past 25 years . . . .) ;o)
Julie February 16, 2018
Wait, so are you essentially putting a stuffing like mixture in your waffle iron? That sounds brilliant! I feel like I need to get some stale bread and roast a chicken just to get to this amazing sounding waffle part... :)