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What to Do With Stale Bread: Five Easy Solutions

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Yummy French bread in a basket.  What do you do if it goes stale?

Yummy French bread in a basket. What do you do if it goes stale?

No Intent to Mislead ...

This is categorized under dessert recipes. Hang on, those are here, I promise. I just started with one of the easiest uses for your stale bread.

Further down, I snuck in another not-for-dessert use, but hey—you got 2 desserts here, and maybe 2 breakfast dishes as well. Heck, I'll eat either one as dessert or breakfast. Thing is, we cannot use multiple categories in the same article, so my hand was forced.

So, what's for dessert? Keep reading to find out!

The Good Old Days

When I was a child, bread came in crinkly cellophane wrappers that ripped easily. Bread that was not used up within a few days would quickly go stale. That was okay; there are uses for stale bread.

Nowadays, bread is packed in plastic bags, and can be sealed up nearly airtight. This traps moisture, and moisture and bread are the perfect ingredients for mold. I don’t know of any uses for moldy bread.

French bread, such as shown in the photo above, can still go stale, as it's packaged, for the most part, in the same open-ended paper sacks as it was in my childhood. The pre-sliced loaves also still come in those easily-torn cellophane wrappers, so stale French bread is still a problem unless you overwrap it in a plastic bag.

Never fear: I am here to rescue you from stale bread woes!

1. Easiest of All the Uses

When I was a child, some 50+ years ago, we used to go out to Golden Gate Park and feed the ducks at one of the several lakes there. Alas, that is no more, as it turns out that feeding bread to ducks, or other birds, is really very bad for their health.

So, instead of doing that, I suggest you simply use the stale slices to make your own homemade garlic bread. Since garlic bread is toasted, anyway, it gets a bit crispy, and the butter in the garlic spread serves to soften up the center as it melts into the bread.

Garlic butter is very easy to make, but if you don't care to do that, there are commercially prepared spreads available, and it's as easy as 1-2-3!

(1) Just spread the slices with the garlic butter,

(2) put them on a baking sheet, and

(3) pop them into an oven set at 375°F. for about 5 minutes.

No cutting or other 'processing' of the bread is required.

(Isn't it interesting that we turn up our noses at stale bread, yet turn it stale on purpose by putting it into a toaster, thus drying it out and making it crunchy?)

Make Your Own Garlic Butter

It's super easy to do! Just finely mince a few cloves of garlic—about 3 for every 1/4 cube of butter. Use a garlic press if you have one, otherwise, just chop very fine with a knife.

Mix the softened butter (or margarine, if you prefer) with the minced garlic until well combined. Add some dried basil, if you want.

Spread on your bread and bake as above.

Feeding the ducks or geese in a public park is fun for the kids, but use birdseed or other bird-healthy offerings.

Feeding the ducks or geese in a public park is fun for the kids, but use birdseed or other bird-healthy offerings.

2. The Next Easiest Thing

Croutons!! It is so easy to make your own croutons to top a salad or sprinkle on top of the soup. Simply cut up the stale bread into cubes about 1/2-inch square, and spread them out in a single layer on cookie sheets. (Use the kind with sides, sometimes called ‘jelly roll pans.’)

You can either toast them in the oven as-is or season them to taste. I prefer to leave them plain; they are more versatile that way. It doesn't take very long; perhaps 8 to 10 minutes total. Stir them a bit halfway. You aren't going for a lot of color; you just want some crunchy texture.

If you don’t go through a lot of bread, you can save the heel ends for this by simply tossing them, still in their original bag, into the freezer. Add to this until you have collected enough. You can thaw to cut them into cubes, but you don’t have to. It depends on what kind of knife you’re going to use. A serrated knife will easily cut frozen bread, as bread is one of those things that doesn't freeze as rock-solid hard as say, a piece of meat.

Some families don’t ever use the heels; some use every last piece of bread. When I was a kid, in the days of the cellophane wrappers, we did not eat the heels. Mom proclaimed that the heels had a purpose: namely, keeping the air off the next slice in the loaf. The heels then were sacrificed to go stale to keep the rest of the loaf fresh.

I also recall that a lot of bread went into the stuffing at Thanksgiving. I don’t know if back then, pre-packaged bread cubes were not available, as they are now, or what. I do, however, recall mom putting every slice of an entire loaf out on a tray to deliberately go stale, for use in the stuffing.

But, If you have saved your stale and leftover bread, and cubed it up into croutons, stuffing is certainly another use for those croutons!

When making your own croutons, you know exactly what is in them.

When making your own croutons, you know exactly what is in them.

3. Now We’re Cooking!

A delicious use for bread gone stale is to make French toast. It is not difficult, and only slightly time-consuming.

Yes, this use requires actual cooking, on the stove. It's slightly more involved than putting croutons into the oven. This is an excellent starter-dish for teaching kids to help out with meals.

Most everyone knows what this is, but, here is my recipe:

French Toast á là Dizzy Miss Lizzy

  • 6 to 8 slices moderately stale bread
  • 2 to 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk, or 1/2 cup milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, (more or less to taste)


  1. Pre-heat a griddle or large frying pan, and lightly oil, or use a non-stick pan.
  2. Beat all ingredients except bread, in a flat-bottomed bowl until well blended and evenly colored.
  3. Using a fork, dip each slice quickly into the egg mixture, turn over to coat both sides, and remove. Let excess drip back into the bowl, and place the slice on the heated griddle. Repeat with as many slices as will fit. Adjust heat to medium. (Note that the more stale the bread, the longer you can leave it in the egg mixture to soak up some liquid. Fresher bread has to be a quick dip in and out again, or it will fall apart.)
  4. Turn over when golden brown, and fry the other side. This happens fairly quickly, so stay focused.
  5. Repeat until all slices are used.
  6. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup or sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Some people prefer jam to syrup.

Cooking Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

10 min

15 min

2 to 4 servings of 2 slices each

French toast is a delicious way to use stale bread.

French toast is a delicious way to use stale bread.

Weekend Treat

This is a nice treat and change for the weekend, from the work-day breakfast fare, and the quantity can easily be adjusted up or down for more or less bread. It is not a scientific recipe; it can be modified to suit personal tastes. Unlike cake, which depends upon certain proportions of certain ingredients in order to turn out well, French toast can be whipped up with no actual recipe, just an ingredients list.

If you end up with more than you can eat, simply cool it on a rack, and package it in freezer bags. Then, you can either reheat it in the toaster or microwave it for a quick treat.

Can You Get French Toast in France?

In France, the dish is called “Pain perdu,” or “lost bread,” for it salvages stale bread that would otherwise be thrown away (lost). It is also more likely to be served as a dessert, and not for breakfast as we do here.

4. A Step Further

Aha--now that you have croutons, you can take it a step further, and use them as the base for breadcrumbs. Breading with crumbs is a common method for preparing many foods, whether baked or fried.

Whether you prefer fine bread crumbs or coarse, you have full control. Simply toss your croutons into the food processor, and blend until you have the consistency you want.

Alternatively, if you don't have a food processor, you can put the croutons into a plastic zipper bag and crush them using an old-fashioned rolling pin.

If you don't have a rolling pin, an unopened can of spaghetti sauce or other canned food with some weight to it will work.

5. Would You Believe, Dessert?

That's right! Stale bread can be resuscitated into a delicious dessert. It's an old recipe and comes from the days when people could not afford to throw away any food. So, they made do with what they had and got very creative in using up all the scraps.

What you end up with here is bread pudding, and it can be made in either a plain style, sort of a vanilla custard flavor, or it can be made as chocolate bread pudding (my particular favorite).

Bread pudding makes a yummy dessert and is a very frugal way to use up bread that has gone stale.

Bread pudding makes a yummy dessert and is a very frugal way to use up bread that has gone stale.

My Bread Pudding: I'm Giving Away an Old Family Recipe Here!

This is another super-easy recipe that is good for introducing kids to cooking. They will be delighted to help. If really young kids are involved, and you don't already have the bread cubed up, it can be torn into squares, instead of using a knife, that way they can help and stay safe.

Bread pudding is good either as a dessert or for breakfast. I love it either way. Although, I think I'd use the limber cream; (see definition under 'method,' below) and not the ice cream or whipped cream at that end of the day!

Bread Pudding Ingredients

1 quartstale bread cubescut into 1/2" pieces

1 quart





1/2 cup

granulated sugar

1/2 cup

brown sugar


1/4 cup



1 teaspoon



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat together all ingredients except bread.
  3. Grease a 2 1/2 quart oven dish and place bread cubes in the dish.
  4. Toss in optional raisins.
  5. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread cubes.
  6. Gently press down the bread with a spoon to be sure all is coated.
  7. Bake at 350º F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the knife inserted in the center comes out nearly clean.
  8. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, limber cream,** or ice cream

Makes about 8 servings.


**Limber cream: this is a New England usage from my family. It simply refers to heavy cream that remains liquid instead of being whipped.

Tip: Toss the raisins with a little flour before adding them to the mix; it helps keep them distributed throughout instead of sinking to the bottom

Make Mine Chocolate!

To turn this into chocolate bread pudding, just use 2 squares of baking chocolate in addition to the other ingredients.

However, instead of mixing the milk, eggs, and the rest together, you are going to put the milk and chocolate into a double boiler, and heat until the chocolate is melted. Beat together, and turn into a large bowl. Add in the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla, mixing well. Add nuts if desired; omit raisins.

Pour into a greased baking dish, and set the dish in a shallow pan of hot water. Put in oven and bake at 350°F for about an hour or until firm in the center.

Please don't ask me why the chocolate version requires the baking dish to be sitting in a pan of hot water. I don't know, and neither does anyone I've asked. If you can enlighten me, dear reader, I'd be most grateful.

© 2017 Liz Elias