Everyday Cooking

Extreme Makeover: Stale Bread Edition

September 25, 2013

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, you can make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Gabriella shows you that stale bread's still got it.

I like bread more than I like most people.

Bread is versatile, adaptable, comforting, and low maintenance. You can take bread anywhere, and everyone will be happy. It plays well with others (tapenades! hummus! avocados!) and it's always inclusive (get in there, sandwich fillings). But most importantly, even at its worst -- when it goes stale -- it's still pretty amazing.

How many people can you say that about? 

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Still, there's a tendency to toss bread when it starts to harden, right when it's ready for a whole new round of uses. Instead of wasting food -- and money -- incorporate it into one of these recipes instead. 


Make a batch of croutons and use them in salads and soups -- or just keep them around to snack on. 

Romesco Sauce

I like to think of Romesco Sauce as pesto's sophisticated older cousin from Spain. (I am forever anthropomorphizing my food.) Spread it on bread or slather it on broccoli, pasta, or your main protein.

French Toast

French Toast is one of those dishes that has universal comfort food appeal -- and is just as great for dinner as it is for weekend breakfasts. Here's a foolproof way to make it, no recipe needed. 


Ribollita was initially an Italian peasant food, but it's since become a well-loved pantry dinner. This is the perfect soup to start making now and to keep cooking up all winter long -- the bread makes a real stick-to-your-ribs meal without much effort or cost. For another classic Italian take on stale bread, try out Pappa Al Pomodoro.  


Saying that I'm eating a "bread salad" never fails to please me. (Also, it tastes good.) Here's a fresh, classic, summery take, but since we can't stand waiting a whole year to eat it again, we've got a Winter Panzanella to keep you going. 

Bread Pudding

My first exposure to using stale bread in recipes was when, as a child, my mother would cook stale cubes of bread on the stove with white sugar and butter until the sugar caramelized and the bread was slightly butter-soaked. It was a recipe that her mother made when there was nothing in the house for dessert and a sweet tooth struck. It was, and still is, one of the best things I've ever tasted, and is probably why I have such an affiinity for bread pudding: It takes an already incredible thing -- sugar and butter and stale bread -- and builds on it. 

Tell us: what are your favorite things to make with stale bread?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Susan
  • Jenna @ DeliciousDaydreams.com
    Jenna @ DeliciousDaydreams.com
  • ChristianArca
  • Valentina Solfrini
    Valentina Solfrini
  • Exbruxelles
Yes, my name rhymes.


Susan March 20, 2014
Strata! It's infinitely flexible.
Bread crumbs - season or not, store in freezer.
Jenna @. September 29, 2013
I love good, veggie-laden, stuffing from homemade bread remnants. Oh, did I forget to mention the sage butter dollops that melt into the bread? Here's the recipe:
ChristianArca September 25, 2013
Traditional spanish migas are amazing with stale bread! I'm a sucker for the Aragonese style in particular.
Gabriella P. September 26, 2013
No way -- I've only ever tried Tex-Mex migas. I'll have to give that a go.
ChristianArca September 26, 2013
Definitely! Let me know how it turns out. All you need for Aragonese style is chorizo, bacon, grapes, garlic, and of course stale bread.
Jenna @. September 29, 2013
Whoa. Yum!
Valentina S. September 25, 2013
The things you can do by simply turning old bread into breadcrumbs are countless. Like:
- Toast in garlic and chilli oil in a pan for one of the simplest pasta sauces ever,
- Mix with finely minced garlic and parsley, olive oil and salt and toss with vegetables before they go in the oven. In italian this would be called 'sandy vegetables'. Or, put this mixture on top of mushroom caps or tomatoes that have been drained and cut in half and roast away.
- Polpette and burgers, of course!
- Also, 2-3 day old bread can be usually toasted back to life and used to make bruschetta. Or, for a sweet version, top with ricotta and honey and dip in your favorite kind of milk. Oh, childhood memories.
Gabriella P. September 26, 2013
Mmmm sandy vegetables sound pretty good right about now.
Exbruxelles September 25, 2013
I make savory bread pudding for dinner all the time: Kale, garlic, kalamata olives, parmesan. I use broth instead of milk but keep the ratio more or less the same. It's an endlessly versatile dish, simple and very good.

Also: Gremolata breadcrumbs, which are good on almost anything, including
Gabriella P. September 26, 2013
Kale bread pudding sounds AMAZING.
KitchenBeard September 25, 2013
If you up the egg ratio in a bread pudding and add onions, cheese and sausage, you'll have a great strata for brunch.
Gabriella P. September 26, 2013
Yes -- and it's so filling.
Jesse C. September 25, 2013
great ideas! i almost always just make french toast, thanks for the inspiration!

Gabriella P. September 26, 2013
You're welcome! French Toast is the best.