We’ve all been there before: you bake or buy a beautiful loaf of bread and make a lot of plans for how to use all of it, but then life gets in the way and a few days later you realized you didn't follow through and all you've got is some stale bread on the counter. “What a waste!” you say as you throw up your hands in frustration. You pick up the no-good food and begin your walk of shame towards the trash can.
But wait! What if there was some way you could bring that stale bread back to life? What if it could be used to make creamy soups, crispy croutons, and more? It’s true! Stale bread can make its way into a number of recipes, so step away from the trash can and join us at the drawing board. From a cheesy French onion strata to a hearty Tuscan stew, these are our favorite ways to make use of leftover bread.
Migas is Spanish for “crumbs,” so that might give you an idea of how leftover bread makes its way into this dish. Chunks of hearty bread get moistened and then crisped in olive oil that’s infused with smoked paprika and pork fat. This is then added to a vegetable and chorizo mixture, and topped with fried eggs. It’s an easily customizable dish that’s all about turning whatever you have on hand into a rich and satisfying meal—one that’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner, but just as worthy of a spot at your weekend brunch.
Simply put, gazpacho is like a cold version of creamy tomato soup, sans the dairy. Instead, it uses bread to create a thick texture and similar consistency. Layering and salting the vegetables above the bread allows the starch to sop up all of these juices before blending. Once you blend the mixture, you’ll want to pour it through a strainer to get that silky smooth texture. And just like that, you have an easy and delicious lunch.
This Mexican version of gazpacho uses smoky, grilled tomatoes, tomatillos, and jalapeño as its base. After soaking the bread and grilling the vegetables, the ingredients get transferred to a blender along with vinegar, lime juice, and olive oil. You don’t want the mixture to get too smooth; just blend it until it achieves a slightly chunky consistency. Once chilled, served the soup with grilled shrimp for the ultimate summertime meal.
Also referred to as “white gazpacho,” ajo blanco is made with bread, almonds, garlic, olive oil, and a splash of vinegar. That’s right—no dairy's needed to make this creamy warm-weather bread soup. Start by blending blanched almonds with water and garlic until milky, then add bread, vinegar, olive oil, and salt to taste. Once chilled, serve with a garnish of green grapes, crushed almonds, and mint leaves.
No fresh tomatoes? No problem. This Tuscan tomato-bread soup works just as well with good-quality canned tomatoes and plenty of olive oil. The key to getting the bread to a custardy consistency is spooning stock over it and allowing it to simmer until softened. You’ll want to hand-crush the tomatoes to create a chunky texture, then let the remaining ingredients achieve a porridge-like thickness on the stovetop. Top with fresh basil, then bask in the warm golden glow of accomplishment after turning some stale bread and pantry staples into a beautiful bowl of soup.
The flavors of French onion soup in the form of a savory bread pudding? Sounds like a winner in my book. The secret to turning the soup into a strata is all in the ratios. In this case: more bread, less liquid. Stale bread helps absorb the egg mixture better. After soaking in that custard for about 30 minutes, the bread gets layered in a cast iron skillet with caramelized onions and buttery Gruyère cheese. Once baked, the strata emerges from the oven as a hearty, cheesy dish that works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Another version of strata, this recipe incorporates asparagus, leeks, mushrooms, sausage, and Gruyère cheese. Perhaps the best thing about almost any version of savory bread pudding is that it’s easy to put together and can be made ahead of time, so long as you bake it just before serving. The longer it sits, the more liquid the bread is able to absorb, so we recommend making it the night before. Sunday brunch just got a whole lot easier.
Croutons may be the easiest way to make use of old bread. Here, we add anchovies to give them an umami boost. The anchovies get broken down in olive oil first, creating a savory base coating for the croutons. After tossing the chunks of bread in the oil, you can toast them to crispy, crunchy perfection in the oven or on the stovetop. Just three ingredients help revive your bread, making golden croutons that are perfect for salads or even just snacking on all on their own.
Loaded with vegetables and beans, this Tuscan stew gets its thickness from bread. If you fancy an even thicker, porridge-like consistency, you can simmer it down even further. And you've got other options: Our pressure cooker version streamlines the process; our summery version makes use of vegetables like zucchini and green beans; and if you don't feel like eating soup, ribollita cooks down well enough that it can be sautéed into a savory pancake.
You can still achieve creamy tomato soup without a drop of actual cream. This recipe is completely vegan, relying on bread to help thicken it up. Sliced sandwich bread adds plenty of starch and wheat proteins to the soup. Once it’s blended with the tomatoes, garlic, and onions, you’re left with a rich liquid that has a bright tomato flavor. And, of course, no serving of tomato soup is complete without a side of crispy grilled cheese.
Bread doesn’t just make an appearance in panzanella—it’s the star of the show. And when summer rolls around, we get to make use of ripe, in-season tomatoes, too. When salted and drained, those tomatoes offer up their flavorful liquid, which is the perfect base to create a delicious vinaigrette. Once we toss the vinaigrette with the tomatoes and leftover bread, we have a summery salad that’s hearty enough to serve as a meal or on its own.
We broke down the classic flavors of a banh mi sandwich and turned it into panzanella. First, we marinate tofu in a mixture of lemongrass, soy sauce, honey, and fish sauce. After draining and patting it dry, we sear it until crispy. The tofu is then tossed with pickled vegetables, stale bread, and hoisin-honey sauce, and drizzled with chili mayo. You’ll want to keep this in your rotation of tasty summer salads.
There’s a lot that goes into making this one of the best meatloafs around, and one of those additions is bread. If you're having a hard time pulsing the bread in the food processor, try adding a splash of water or chicken stock to get things going. In addition to the bread, the other ingredients in this recipe, such as buttermilk and marmite, create a meatloaf that’s tender, moist, and velvety.
Our basic French toast recipe brings together bread, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg—staples that you likely have on hand. We managed to find the perfect ratio of egg, milk, and sugar, resulting in a French toast that’s neither too wet and soggy nor too firm and eggy. When using stale bread, you’ll want to let it soak up a little more batter than usual so it doesn’t turn out dry. A sprinkle of sugar on each side before flipping creates a crisp caramel crunch.
Who said French toast has to be sweet? This version incorporates ingredients like green curry and fish sauce for a spicy and funky twist. Soaking the bread overnight ensures that even stale bread can make a French toast that’s custardy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and packed with flavor all around. Since most of the prep work is done the night before, I can’t think of a better dish to enjoy on a lazy Sunday.
With its intensely savory sauce and loads of cheese, French onion soup is the perfect dish to incorporate leftover bread. The broth base is made up of chicken stock, fish sauce, sherry, and the juices from the caramelized onions. After the base is spooned into individual bowls, slices of rustic bread are then pushed in, topped with Gruyère cheese, and broiled. While this recipe takes a while to prepare, our pressure cooker version can be made from start to finish in 40 minutes.
If you ask me, you can never have too many condiments on hand, and they taste even better when homemade. This Spanish sauce is packed with almonds or hazelnuts, fruity roasted tomatoes, garlic, and earthy dried peppers. Stale bread makes its appearance when it's moistened with vinegar, smashed to a paste, and mixed with the other broken-down ingredients. The good thing about romesco sauce is that everything from the proportions of ingredients to the finishing texture is up to your discretion. Whether you like it thin and smooth or thick and chunky, the sauce work well on roasted meats or grilled fish, in soups, and even as a spread for your favorite sandwich.
This tomato and bell pepper sauce brightens up any meal, from boiled and grilled meats to loaded sandwiches. Sautéed carrot and garlic add flavor and depth, while a panade made from bread and vinegar give the mixture both its thickness and tanginess. Thank you, bread, for once again coming to the rescue.
Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, we can all agree that it can’t be made without bread. Depending on how stale your bread already is, you probably won’t need to dry it in the oven. Once you’ve got the bread base ready, the possibilities are endless: a classic version with sage and sausage, an elevated version with oyster and fennel, and even one that vegans can enjoy. And if you don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving to whip some of these up, go for it!
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