17 Recipes to Bring Leftover Bread Back to Life

published May 20, 2023
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Overhead photo of Bombay Toast with sauce/garnish on plate. Fork and knife, a bite is on the fork
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Rebecca Jurkevich; Prop Styling: Paulina Velez

Stale, many-days-old bread is a very good thing. I should know — I just developed a dazzling pistachio-raspberry croissant using days-old croissants from the store (like the ones from Costco, Aldi, or Trader Joe’s). Yes, comparatively, a bone-dry loaf of sourdough or a deflated challah bread certainly lacks the charm it had when you picked it up from the bakery, and you couldn’t fathom slathering an untoasted slice with salted butter. But before you toss it in the compost bin, you’ll be pleased to know leftover bread is the perfect ingredient to star in a whole slew of fresh and exciting dishes. Throw cubes into decadent dessert or hearty savory casseroles, blitz them to make pantry staples and sauces, and, hello, haven’t you heard of French toast?

To take a step back, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that you can extend the life of fresh bread using a few clever hacks, such as storage in a designated bread box. Another way to go is to slice a loaf, keep it in the freezer, and only pull out single slices as the craving strikes for fresh toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. What’s more, there are many ways to reheat bread back to life. But sometimes you just want more.

You can’t predict the next time you’ll want to give leftover loaves some TLC, so let’s dive into all of the great recipes that start with stale bread.

1 / 17

Croutons from the store are good, but homemade croutons are great. The truly top-notch ones are made with slightly stale bread. While any type of bread — white, whole-wheat, levain — should work, a rustic, handmade-style loaf is usually the best.

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2 / 17

Fresh or dry, coarse or fine, breadcrumbs come in handy for so many things — and breadcrumbs couldn't be easier to make.

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3 / 17
Polonaise Sauce

This sauce adds a look of elegance, a buttery crunch, eggy richness, and brightness (both from the lemon and herbs) to any dish it’s added to.

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4 / 17
Milk Toast

This quick and cozy breakfast is exactly what it sounds like: toasted pieces of stale bread and warm milk served in a bowl to be enjoyed like cereal.

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5 / 17
Double Chocolate Croissant French Toast Casserole

Have a clamshell of stale croissants you want to repurpose? Soak them in chocolate milk custard and shower them with chocolate chips for the most decadent breakfast casserole.

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6 / 17
Pain Perdu

Roughly translated, pain perdu means “lost bread” (lost, meaning day-old or stale bread that may have been thrown away). Slightly stale bread is the perfect vehicle to absorb the creamy and sweet egg custard that’s a signature component of this breakfast toast.

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7 / 17
Bombay Toast

If you want to take French toast in a savory direction, Bombay toast is the answer. Each slice of stale bread is reinvigorated in a spicy egg mixture with turmeric, cumin, coriander, cilantro, chiles, and onions, before it's hit with mozzarella and served with cilantro chutney.

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8 / 17
Cheesy Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Stuffing
A cheesy egg-free breakfast casserole with spinach and mushrooms.
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9 / 17
Baked Croque-Monsieur Casserole

If you love casseroles and cheesy sandwiches, and you just so happen to have leftover bread, here's a recipe idea with your name on it.

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10 / 17
Brown Betty
Flaky, croissant breadcrumbs make this treat even better than apple crisp.
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11 / 17
Banana Bread Pudding

When in doubt, banana bread pudding is a delectable new way to use up slightly ripened bananas and day-old bread.

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12 / 17
Rotisserie Chicken Panzanella

Rotisserie chicken, toasted bread cubes, and sweet summer veggies combine for a shortcut Italian bread salad you'll want to eat all summer long.

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13 / 17
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Dorie Greenspan says that this culinary arts-and-craft projects can take on many variations. With either stale bread or leftover rice, on different occasions you can stuff the gourd with things like cooked greens, frozen peas, bacon, nuts, cheese, and even chunks of apple or pear.

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14 / 17
Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup (Ribollita Soup)

Tusan ribolita soup has got to be one of the most delicious ways to have lots of veggies and use up and eat your bread, too.

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Oyster Dressing

In addition to being a great pescatarian alternative for turkey stuffing, oyster dressing is an unexpectedly delightful way to transform crusty day-old bread.

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16 / 17
French Onion Frittata

This frittata is loaded with all the best parts of a great bowl of French onion soup: velvety caramelized onions and melted Gruyere. As the cherry on top, it's even got cubes of toast.

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17 / 17
Easy Gazpacho

Stale bread is the reason why this simple gazpacho has a starchy, wonderfully thick texture.

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