Food & Drink Magazine

What To Do With Stale Bread: 4 Ways To Use Up Old Bread.

By Thecookspyjamas @thecookspyjamas

Last Updated:

Do you throw out stale bread because you don't know what to do with it? Turn your old bread into fresh breadcrumbs, dried breadcrumbs, crackers, croutons, puddings, French toast, salads - you are only limited by your imagination.
So save your stale bread from the rubbish bin and never get stuck with leftover bread again.

Apparently the end piece of a loaf of bread is poisonous. At least it is in my house. Whilst the majority of a loaf will be demolished, there are always a few bits that are seemingly not edible.
Rather than sending those bread ends to landfill, I repurpose the stale bread so that every last crumb is used - just my small contribution to tackling the food waste problem.

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I am getting better at using up my leftovers and repurposing them into new meals. If you want to know how I do it then grab my quick guide for using up common household leftovers from my Resource Library simply by clicking the link below, or by requesting the library password at the end of the post.

Stale bread can be given new life by turning it into:

Each of these methods are detailed below and will work with any old, stale bread you happen to have: old baguettes, stale bread rolls, bread ends, stale sourdough loves, and even whole loaves of old bread.

Fresh breadcrumbs made from stale bread may seem like a huge misnomer, but in actual fact it is better to make breadcrumbs from slightly stale bread rather than fresh bread. Stale bread holds its structure and doesn't clump together when blitzed like fresh bread does.

Making your own fresh breadcrumbs could not be simpler, although your stale bread does need to still be pliable for this method. If your bread is hard, make dried breadcrumbs instead.

Tear the stale bread into 2cm/ 1″ pieces and put them into a food processor. Blitz until breadcrumbs form.

Fresh homemade breadcrumbs are best used straight away as they do not keep well, although they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days if necessary.

If I have made a large volume of fresh breadcrumbs I prefer to freeze any excess for later use. Homemade breadcrumbs can be frozen for up to three months in zip lock bags (or reusable silicone zip lock bags to reduce plastic waste) or freezer safe containers.

I use frozen fresh breadcrumbs straight from the freezer as I find they defrost very quickly when added to other ingredients during recipe preparation.

Fresh breadcrumbs are handy for stuffings, for mixing into sausage rolls and meatballs, pangritata (a crispy pasta topping used in place of Parmesan) and even for dessert in a classic treacle tart.

Whilst not as instant as fresh breadcrumbs, dry breadcrumbs are just as versatile. The simplest way to make dried breadcrumbs is to leave slices of stale bread to air dry. I do this in a paper bag in my kitchen (also known as the 'Oh I forgot that bread was there' method). It can, however, take a few days to dry the bread completely using this method.
You can also dry slices of stale bread at a low temperature (120C/250F) in the oven or in a dehydrator.

Once the bread is dry and crispy, break it into 2cm/1″ pieces and blitz them in a food processor until fine crumbs form.
I do find when using sourdough bread for dry breadcrumbs that some pieces take longer to break down that others. When this happens, I pour all of the breadcrumbs into a bowl then transfer any large pieces of sourdough bread back to the food processor. Another quick blitz will usually break up the stubborn large pieces.

Dry breadcrumbs are quite stable, and can be stored in the pantry in an airtight container for up to one month.
Dry breadcrumbs can also be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

Dried breadcrumb are much finer than fresh breadcrumbs, which makes them ideal for crumbing foods. I use them to coat chicken schnitzels and my leftover mashed potato cakes.
If you want to get really inventive though, why not turn them into chocolate chip cookies.

Homemade Croutons from Stale Bread

Did you know you can buy croutons? They come in a lovely box, are cut to a uniform size and taste like rancid oil. I prefer to make my own.

How To Make Homemade Croutons

There are three different methods you can use to make croutons at home:

  1. Deep fry your stale bread cubes in oil until crispy. This method is not one I have tried personally but feel it would work better with uniform cubes of bread. If you own an air fryer, this would be a great way to make croutons.
  2. Saute your bread cubes in a pan with a little oil until crisp. This is the method I use for my Salmon Caesar Salad.
  3. Bake your croutons in the oven until crispy. This is my preferred method which is detailed below.

Method To Oven Bake Croutons

I like to make rough, nuggety croutons a la Jamie Oliver but if you prefer them to be all the same size and shape then just slice your stale bread into cubes with a bread knife.

To make oven baked croutons:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced) and line a baking tray.
  2. Tear or cut your bread into pieces and toss in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper. I work on an average of about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to 1 cup of stale bread. You want enough oil to lightly coat the bread cubes or pieces without them becoming soggy from the oil.
  3. Spread the oiled bread pieces on a lined tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Toss the bread cubes once or twice whilst cooking to ensure they brown evenly, and make sure to keep an eye on them towards the end of the cooking time as the croutons can burn easily .
  4. Remove any smaller pieces when they start to brown to prevent them burning.
  5. Once cooked, allow the croutons to cool slightly then use as desired.

To flavour the croutons

I sometimes get fancy and season the olive oil with other flavourings. Try crushed garlic, finely chopped rosemary or thyme, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika etc.
The options are endless and you are only limited by your imagination.

How To Store Homemade Croutons

Homemade croutons do not really lend themselves to storing and are better eaten on the day they are made. Croutons can be made a few hours in advance if required.

Unbaked croutons can, however, be frozen and then baked from frozen. I cut or tear the bread into pieces and store them in silicone zip lock bags in the freezer until required.

Frozen bread defrosts quickly, so just use the method above and add an extra 1 - 2 minutes to the cooking time.

How To Use Homemade Croutons

Scatter homemade croutons over creamy soups or use them as a base for ribollita soup, toss them through Caesar salads or tomato salads or add to any dish that needs a little texture and crunch.

Crackers from Stale Sourdough Bread

You can make your own bread crackers from any stale bread, but I find that old sourdough bread makes the very best crackers. Sourdough is generally denser and heaver, which makes it easier to slice thinly.

How To Make Crackers from Old Bread

Whilst crackers can be made from any sized bread, I find sourdough baguettes work particularly well for this method. To make your own sourdough crackers:

  1. Slice your old bread into 3mm slices.
  2. Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place in a single layer on a lined baking tray.
  3. Bake at 180C (160C fan forced) for about 7-10 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool.

More detailed instructions are provided in the recipe card below.

For larger slices of bread, bake as a single slice then break into pieces for serving.

How To Store Homemade Crackers

Homemade crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

If you don't have time to make crackers, you can also slice the bread and freeze the slices in freezer-safe containers or zip lock bags for up to three months. There is no need to defrost the bread before proceeding with the recipe. The slices will defrost as you brush the oil on them.

How To Use Homemade Crackers

My favourite way to eat these crackers is to load one up with a nugget of Cheddar cheese and eat it standing in the middle of my kitchen when hunger strikes.
Snacks aside, crackers make a great addition to a cheeseboard, and are delicious served with dips and spreads.

Other Recipes For Old Bread

Bread is one of the most wasted kitchen foods. And yet despite appearing to be fit for nothing better than the compost bin or the chickens, old and stale bread is actually infinitely useful in the kitchen and forms the basis of many delicious meals.

If you find yourself with a large amount of old bread, why not make:

Frequently Asked Questions About Stale Bread

Is it safe to eat stale bread?

Stale bread that is hard and not pliable is perfectly safe to eat. However if the bread shows any signs of mold it should be discarded and not eaten.

Is it OK to toast stale bread?

Stale bread toasts extremely well. Do be aware that old bread may cook faster than fresh bread as the moisture content of the fresh bread seems to slow down the toasting process.

Can you take the mold off bread and still eat it?

No, bread that shows any sign of mold should be discarded. The visible signs of mold are the reproductive process in action and the whole loaf of bread will actually be infested with mold organisms.

Does bread last longer in the fridge?

Surprisingly, bread stales faster in the fridge than in the pantry. Store fresh bread at room temperature for up to two days.
Bread will also remain fresh if frozen, and can be frozen for up to four months.

What happens if you eat stale bread?

Nothing. If the bread is stale but not moldy the bread is perfectly safe to eat.

How can I make a loaf of bread last longer?

The best way to maximise the storage time of a loaf of bread is to store it in the freezer.
For whole loaves of bread, slice the bread prior to freezing to make it easier to use. Single slices can be removed from the freezer as required.

Do you throw out #stale bread because you don't know what to do with it? Turn your old bread into breadcrumbs, #crackers, croutons, #puddings, French toast etc. Never get stuck with #leftover bread again. #foodwaste... Click To Tweet

Other Leftover Recipes You Might Like

Do you have a favourite way to use up stale bread? Tell me about it in the comments below.

And if you loved the recipe, please don't forget to rate it.

I have an ever growing library of recipes that use leftovers, which you can see here. A few of my favorite recipes that use common leftovers are:

And if you are looking for one resource that will change the way you look at your leftovers forever then I highly recommend River Cottage Love Your leftovers: Recipes for the resourceful cook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I am now a huge fan of bubble and squeak as a result of this book - no more leftover potatoes for the chickens.


The Easiest Homemade Crackers From Stale Bread

Update Notes: This post was originally published on 18th September 2014. It was substantially updated on 1st July 2019 to restructure the text to make it more readable, to include a Table of Contents, FAQ's, nutritional information and to add additional information and recipes for using up old bread.

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