Bread is a staple food in our home: we eat a lot of it, especially when it’s freshly baked. Nothing compares to the aroma of homemade bread just out of the oven. But when fresh bread is on the table, what to do with the stale loaves left behind? Don’t throw your stale bread away when it still has potential!
Is stale bread safe to eat?
Yes, dried-out stale bread is safe to eat, especially if it’s only a day old. However, if your stale loaf gets mouldy it’s not edible anymore. This happens if the bread is stored in a plastic bag for a longer period or in very humid conditions. If you have a compost bin, toss your mouldy bread in there rather than in the bin. Remember to break it up into small chunks first!
What to do with stale bread
1. French toast
French toast was my mum’s favorite way to use up stale bread. My sister and I loved it, and our kids now love it too. We didn’t call it French toast, just fried bread, and it always was the savory version.
White bread is the best choice for it: simply beat 2 eggs, add 1 cup milk, and a pinch of salt. Dip the old bread slices into the mixture and fry them in a pan with 1/2 cm of oil in it.
For the popular sweet version of French toast, use dried-out sultana loaf, brioche, or any other sweet yeasted bread. The method is the same as above, however, you can substitute butter for oil. I don’t add any sugar to the egg and milk mixture as it burns more readily.
2. Homemade bread crumbs
It’s so easy to make bread crumbs at home: cut the stale bread into thin slices, spread them on an oven rack in a single layer, and turn the oven on low and dry until the slices snap. Cool and put into a food processor, then process until desired coarseness.
All types of bread are suitable for bread crumbs (except maybe sultana bread). Crusts do not need to be removed.
3. Bread and butter pudding
This popular dish is great to use up a loaf of sweet bread. The bread is cut into thick slices, buttered (although I often skip this step and it still tastes great), and arranged into a baking dish. Eggs are mixed with milk, or cream if one prefers, and poured onto bread. It’s best to let the slices soak up the mixture before baking.
I like to add some chocolate, grated orange rind, or cinnamon too. Savoury bread pudding can also be made.
4. Summer berry pudding
This is one of my favorite desserts! It’s so easy to prepare, bursting with flavour, and very refreshing: just the right kind of pudding for a hot Australian Christmas. Here is the bread pudding recipe.
5. Panzanella – Tuscan bread salad
This simple Tuscan salad is a meal in and of itself, and a summer favourite in our household! The main ingredients are old bread torn into pieces (or cut into cubes), ripe tomatoes, basil, cucumber, anchovies, seasoning, olive oil, and vinegar mixed together. Here is the panzanella salad recipe with sourdough bread.
Homemade croutons are easy to make and a great addition to soups and salads. Cube stale bread slices and put them on a tray in the oven or in a pan on the stove. Bake until golden, mixing occasionally. Optionally, season the cubes with herbs, spices, and little olive oil before baking.
7. As a pastry substitute for mini quiches
Softer types of bread work best for making mini quiches. Remove the crust from the thinly cut slices, flatten slightly with a rolling pin, then put in the oiled muffin tin or quiche form. Add filling and bake.
8. Pan bagnat
Healthy, simple, and convenient, this French meal is a winner even with the fussiest eaters. A loaf of bread is hollowed, layered with fillings, and pressed with a few jars overnight in the fridge. Traditional fillings include tuna, tomatoes, olives, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy, red onion, and olive oil, but you can make any variation that suits you. For more details, check the Pan Bagnat recipe.
Soak some stale bread in the milk and add to the meatballs mixture. It makes them softer and you get more of them.
10. Porridge from stale bread (popara)
Popara is a meal made from cooking old white bread in just enough milk for five minutes in order to make a porridge consistency. I like to add garlic and sour cream on top. It’s usually savory, but can be made as a sweet meal too by adding ..
11. Toast it or freeze it
If you don’t feel like putting in the effort but still don’t want to waste your old bread, these simple uses are always an option.
If the bread is only a day or two old, pop it in the toaster – it tastes great again. I especially like toasted sourdough.
Freeze any leftover bread you won’t eat immediately. It’s great for emergency sandwiches or toast when you don’t feel like baking or going shopping just for bread.
Whether your bread is stale or just leftover, there are endless creative ways to transform it into a delicious meal or a useful addition to your pantry.
In reusing stale bread instead of throwing it out, not only are you saving money and trying something new, but you’re also reducing food waste and limiting your impact on the environment.
Next time you’re faced with a dry loaf or a stale slice, simply throwing it should be the last thing on your mind!
If you have your favorite recipe for stale bread, please share it in the comments below.