How to Revive Stale Bread: Uses for Stale Bread

How to Revive Stale Bread: Uses for Stale Bread

Cutting costs on groceries is one of the surest ways to slash household expenses. And the first step to spending less on food is to not waste what you buy. This is obviously a big issue to tackle all at once, so let's start with the basics: bread. A backbone of the Western diet, bread unfortunately doesn't stay fresh long. Because stale bread is practically a given, a little culinary creativity is called for to make sure it doesn't end up in the trash. Here are some ideas to give new life to the staff of life.

Toast it. If your bagel, boule, or baguette is starting to harden, slice it and make toast. (Who doesn't love toast?) Bump this bread to the front of the meal-planning line and make grilled cheese sandwiches, BLTs on toast, tea with cinnamon toast, toasty garlic bread drizzled with olive oil, or minipizzas made with a slather of jarred marinara and grated cheese. You can make big batches of toast in the broiler on a cookie sheet.

Transform it. Make that stale bread into bread crumbs or croutons and give it a whole new life. Get started with recipes for French Toast Casserole, Panzanella (Bread Salad), and Meatballs.

Make it dessert. Bread pudding is a time-honored way to use up stale bread, but there are simpler routes to dessert: Top sliced bread (try a baguette, an English muffin, or a bagel) with chopped bittersweet chocolate or a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and then toast until the bread is golden brown and the chocolate is melted. Spread the chocolate smooth and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. For dessert crostini, thinly slice Italian or French bread, brush with oil, and toast under the broiler until lightly browned, about five minutes. Top with ricotta or goat cheese mixed with honey, mashed berries, or even caramel sauce.

If your loaf is a bit past its prime, don't despair. Here's how to soften bread that has hardened.

1 Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2 Put the stale bread in a clean paper bag and twist the end shut tightly.

3 Sprinkle the bag lightly and evenly with cool water, but don't soak it.

4 Heat the entire package in the oven (keeping it far away from the heating element or flame), allowing 5 minutes for small rolls and 20 minutes for full loaves. If needed, rewet the bag and repeat.

5 Serve the bread within 10 minutes, or it will harden again.


Any kind of bread pudding works for me, but banana and melted chocolate take this dish from homey to fabulous. Serve it topped with freshly whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Serves 4 to 6

8 large slices stale white bread

3 tablespoons butter, melted

¾ cup chocolate chips

2 bananas, sliced

6 large eggs, beaten

2½ cups whole milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Break the bread into small pieces and place them into an 8-inch square baking pan. Drizzle the melted butter over the bread. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and banana slices.

3. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.

4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, and lightly push down with your fingertips. Let the pudding stand for 10 minutes until the bread has soaked into the liquid.

5. Bake for 45 minutes, until puffy and golden, and the top springs back when lightly pressed.


Hearty, flavorful meatballs deploy the frugal cook's secret weapon to stretching ground meat: cubes of stale bread soaked in milk. In fact, meatballs made without bread are heavy, dense, and dry, so it's an excellent way to use up stale bread and make a good dinner at the same time. Baking meatballs is much easier than frying them in batches, and they taste just as good.

Makes 2 dozen meatballs; serves 4

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 large onion

4 tablespoons butter

4 slices white bread, torn into large chunks

1 cup whole milk

1 large egg, beaten

1½ pounds ground chuck

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon whole dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Hot cooked pasta

1. Put the diced tomatoes in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Peel the onion, slice it in half, and add one entire half to the pan along with the butter. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the sauce simmer gently, stirring now and then, while you make the meatballs. Dice the rest of the onion finely and put it in a large mixing bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil (for easier cleanup).

3. Add the bread, milk, and egg to the onion in the mixing bowl. Stir and let sit for 3 minutes so the bread absorbs the moisture. Add the meat, Parmesan cheese, garlic, oregano, and salt, and mix thoroughly, ideally using slightly wet hands.

4. Form the mixture into 24 meatballs and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and cooked through. (Break one open to check.)

5. Remove and discard the onion half from the tomato sauce. Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve over hot pasta with additional Parmesan cheese.