How to Use the Whole Loaf of Bread, Including the Ends!

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Wait! Stop right there! I see you have your trash can open. What are you planning to do with those two ends of the loaf of bread that you think you can’t use?

Don’t throw them out!

Vertical image of baked white bread in slices on a wooden cutting board, with text in the middle and on the bottom of the image.

I know they aren’t usually the favorites across the entire loaf – they’re often drier, oddly shaped, and a little more browned and bitter than the perfectly fluffy center pieces.

But for the sake of managing your food waste, remember that you paid for the entire loaf of bread at the store!

Or maybe you baked your bread from scratch at home after hours and hours of preparation with high-quality ingredients – which would not only be a waste of food, but also a waste of your precious time.

Here are seven different ways to use the ends, instead of simply tossing them away into the stinky depths of the garbage bag.

All of these methods apply to the often-discarded heels of your favorite loaf, as well as anything remaining that might be stale and singing its final swan song in the kitchen.

Horizontal image of the end pieces of bread on a board next to a knife.

And if you’re like my family, where we go through a couple loaves per week, then you’ll find yourself accumulating multiple sets of heels. This is the perfect time to find another use for them.

No more waste – let’s load up on all the carbs!

1. Combine with a Custard

French toast, breakfast casserole, bread pudding

All of these sweet treats can definitely be made with misfit bread parts!

Horizontal image of a portion of homemade French toast casserole on a white plate with a fork, in a pool of maple syrup, on a dark brown wood surface with two white square dishes in the background, one of which is filled with fresh raspberries, and scattered chocolate chips strewn across the tabletop.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Overnight Raspberry and Chocolate French Toast Casserole – Get the Recipe Now

Recipes that use a thick and creamy custard for soaking chunks of bread are manipulative masters of disguise – no one will ever realize you used the unpopular selections of a loaf, or pieces that are past their prime.

You can test this method by baking our overnight raspberry and chocolate French toast casserole. An overnight soak helps to soften even the crustiest of cubes, and the final results will never let you down.

A generous dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup upon serving will also help!

2. Entertain with Crostini

For an impromptu, casual get-together with friends and family, you don’t need to rush out to the store for a fresh loaf of bread. Be scrappy with the scraps you already have!

Roasted tomato crostini topped with chopped basil and a balsamic drizzle, on a white rectangular ceramic serving dish, with fresh produce and herbs in the background, on a beige wood surface.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Tangy Roasted Tomato Crostini – Get the Recipe Now

You can utilize stale bread for crostini and bruschetta that everyone will be raving about.

You’re just a few steps away from making fun finger food apps like our tangy roasted tomato crostini, or our herb-roasted carrot tartines with freshly made pesto and creamy goat cheese.

And if you think the heels are a little too topsy-turvy to serve flat, use them in a chicken bruschetta bake, a hearty main course idea inspired by your favorite appetizer.

3. Invest in a Bread Box

Are you discarding an excessive amount of stale bread every single week? Or does your bread develop mold at a questionably fast pace?

Vertical image of thick slices of white bread on a wooden cutting board next to a knife.

Let’s put a brief pause on the recipe ideas – we need to take it back a few steps to review your chosen bread storage methods.

You will be able to extend the freshness of your loaf by reconsidering how you store it!

If you’re keeping your loaf in the same airtight bag you bought it in, or if you’re storing the bread in the refrigerator, you are sealing it in an environment that’s too moist, with no air circulation.

Conversely, if you are leaving the bread out on the counter, or if said airtight bag has a big rip in it created by impatiently ravenous eaters at home, you are exposing it to too much air, hastening the process of becoming stale.

How do we address this predicament?

With a tool that you never expected would make a comeback from your grandma’s kitchen – a bread box!

Image of the Barbantia Roll Top Bread Box.

Barbantia Roll Top Bread Box, available from Sur La Table

This countertop container creates a casually controlled environment, one that isn’t completely sealed but does not directly expose bread to airy conditions.

Invest in a model that is thoughtfully designed with quality materials and smart features. We think you’ll love the sleek design and multiple color options of the Brabantia Roll Top Bread Box, available now from Sur La Table.

4. Make Toasty Sandwiches

Here’s an easy idea, a reminder of the versatility you have with stale slices or heels:

Your favorite handheld recipes don’t always need to be made with the perfect center cuts of a loaf – use the rejected slices for making sandwiches!

Two halves of a grilled cheese sandwich with peaches and basil stacked on top of each other on a white plate, with a plate of sliced fruit in the background, on a brown wooden cutting board.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Peach Basil Grilled Cheese – Get the Recipe Now

You may find they are particularly enjoyable when they’re toasted.

Rather than serving the slices as is, toasting before you build all the layers helps to give them a new life, new flavor, and much-needed texture. And they can more readily embrace your favorite spreads, from mustard to mayo.

You can also salvage the heels the next time you want to make grilled cheese – the slightly bitter end pieces of your loaf will actually balance the sweet flavors of our fig and gruyere, peach and basil, or tomato jam grilled cheese recipes.

5. Rely on Breadcrumbs and Croutons

When in doubt, an easy choice is to make your own breadcrumbs.

The next time you need crumbs for cooking or breading, you will have a ready supply!

Horizontal image of a large white bowl filled with a green salad topped with shaved cheese and toasted bread cubes, next to wooden spoons on a blue surface.
Photo credit: Meghan Yager

Classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons – Get the Recipe Now

You may also season your own to taste, using salt and pepper, or maybe a blend of dried herbs and spices.

You’ll always have a stash waiting the next time you want to make fried zucchini, breaded chicken, or when you need a filler for your meatloaf recipe.

You can also use the bread to make homemade crunchy croutons to top classic Caesar salads and more.

6. Satisfy with Soup

Rather than tossing the rejects into the trash, toss them in a soup instead!

These leftover pieces will help to naturally thicken soup, and provide a hearty texture to recipes.

Horizontal image of two white bowls filled with a hearty stew topped with shaved cheese and fresh herbs.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

Italian Tomato and Bread Soup – Get the Recipe Now

Still a little hesitant? Can’t really imagine what it would taste like?

We have some easy recipes for you to prepare:

Our Italian tomato and bread soup, pappa al pomodoro, is a vegetarian recipe with a soft and super slurp-worthy texture.

Made with simple ingredients, this rustic preparation is a seasonal necessity when juicy tomatoes and aromatic basil are abundant in the summer, and you have some crusty pieces of bread on hand that you can’t figure out how to use.

And for yet another summer favorite, you may not have known that a refreshing chilled gazpacho uses bread as part of its base!

7. Savor Aromatic Garlic Bread

Another tasty option for those unappreciated pieces is to use them to make garlic bread.

You can use your family’s favorite recipe, or try our version that’s prepared with a homemade chili oil.

Horizontal close-up image of bread topped with cheese, tomato slices, and fresh herbs.
Photo credit: Raquel Smith

Spaghetti Squash Marinara with Chili Oil Tomato Garlic Bread – Get the Recipe Now

But we really love any form of garlic to provide a flavor-boosting spin that will perk up any miserable end piece!

You might try spreading the slices with roasted and caramelized garlic cloves, or use thick smears of compound butter made with minced garlic and assorted fresh herbs.

Garlic bread goes so well with many different dishes, so you can easily serve these toasty, aromatic pieces for multiple dinner occasions.

You can never go wrong with a classic combo like spaghetti and meatballs!

Give the Rejects a Shot

With these tips to use up the entire loaf of bread, you can get all that you paid for out of your store-bought purchases, and you won’t waste any of your hard work if you made fresh bread at home.

Horizontal image of slices of plain white bread on a cutting board next to a knife.

On top of all that, you’ll also provide your family with extra tasty meals, desserts, breakfasts, and appetizers!

Even if they aren’t the first choice, the ends can always be good for something. So try to think of ways to use up those rejects, as well as any pieces that are a little on the stale side, and make the most out of your food dollars.

What are your own creative strategies to use – and enjoy – stale bread or end pieces? We are always hungry for more ideas, so leave a message in the comment section for us.

If you’re hunting for more food management advice and helpful how-to tutorials, we are happy to offer our expertise! Become master of your home kitchen in no time after reading the following articles:

Photos by Meghan Yager, Nikki Cervone, and Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 1, 2014. Last updated on June 1, 2023.

About Nikki Cervone

Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

41 thoughts on “How to Use the Whole Loaf of Bread, Including the Ends!”

  1. Good advice, Lynne! I don’t know how many heels of bread I’ve thrown out over the years, even though I’m always saying I will make use of them somehow. Occasionally, if there’s a couple of heels hanging around, I will whizz them up for breadcrumbs, but I have often wondered if there were more creative ways of getting them used up effectively. Your suggestion of making French toast is a great idea though, and the garlic bread would definitely be enjoyed in my house.

    I totally agree that we should make full use of the loaves of bread we buy, and keep waste to a minimum.

  2. I usually end up of tossing dozen as of leftover heels of bread. Thanks for this article as I need to save all those heels! This will save my penny. A friend has suggested too that I can make a bread pudding by using them but I have to study it first. But the french toast would do for this heels, as well as the garlic bread that goes away with my creamy fettuccine!

  3. I am one of those who loves to eat the heels, in fact I take them out first! I love them toasted with peanut butter. Any left overs get made into croutons for soup. I just cube them and pop them in the oven when I am cooking something else and store them in a jar.

    • I’m the only one who eats them too! Everyone else in my house thinks that they are gross. My mom used to refer to the heels as “the ugly bread”. I usually toast mine and cover it in peanut butter and add bananas onto it. The heel piece makes it much sturdier.

      I’ve never made my own croutons before. I always buy another bag. I’ll have to try to make them myself.

    • I do the same. except I use my croutons for salads.
      Super easy to do and then they have a nice shelf life too.
      We always buy local bakery bread which gets stale faster then normal bread since it has less preservatives. Which is a good thing though.
      I find we have WAY to many croutons though so I will give garlic bread a try tonight for dinner!

  4. I’ve never seen anyone throw out the “butt pieces” until I moved in with my husband. I was SHOCKED! There’s nothing in the end piece that I would not think of as food. Unfortunately, I don’t eat bread anymore for health reasons, so they still go to the trash in my house 🙁

  5. Good information. I personally eat the ends as well, that is when I do eat bread, but I know a lot of people who won’t. This is really good information to know. Thanks!

  6. I’ve never minded the bread heels but everyone in my family leaves them behind. I love the idea of using them for french toast and bread crumbs but I’d like to see a food challenge where chefs have to use bread heels as a main ingredients in the dish.

  7. I’m going to start saving my heels in the freezer and make them into breadcrumbs when I have enough to make it worth the effort. Do you think freezing them will give close to the same results as unfrozen?

    Also, my favorite crumbs are panko. I think panko needs to be made from really fluffy, soft bread. Can panko be mad from heels? Anyone have any insight here?

    • Oakey,

      Since I hate to grocery shop (and I mean really hate it), I normally buy a bunch in one whack and regularly freeze my bread and I notice zero difference in taste once it’s thawed. Same for homemade.

  8. I’m going to have to start saving my heels. Freezing the bread shouldn’t be a problem, though once the bread is toasted and reduced to breadcrumbs, I think the shelf life is a few weeks. Just cut the crust off if you want panko breadcrumbs, that’s the only difference, hence panko are white.

  9. I usually toss it to the animals outside, but now I have better ideas for it. Bread crumbs seems so obvious, but I never thought of that before. Thanks!

  10. Heels are my favorite…you mean people don’t like heels??…i love them especially accompanied with a hot bowl of soup…just bliss…i can’t see myself tossing out heels…that would be a faulty tragedy.

  11. Nobody in my house likes to eat the heels. I never thought about making them into garlic bread! Great idea also with the bread crumbs. My only question is how long will the bread crumbs keep before I have to throw them out?

  12. French toast is a great idea for those end pieces. Nobody in my house wants them either. I’ll eat some as toast if I’m particularly desperate but otherwise they usually get tossed or fed to ducks at our local park. I’ve never thought about making breadcrumbs from them but that’s a good idea too. They can go into my future meatballs 🙂

    • Same here, but in my case, the heels should be hard toasted and really crusty…the part i love most is applying butter just immediately i have removed them from the toaster…just watching that butter melt is an awesome sight…then the delight unfolds in my mouth…sweetest heaven for me :)…thou shall not toss heels of bread into the trash can! 🙂

  13. I remember as a child my mother would yell at us for hours on end for throwing away the “end pieces” of the bread. I had no idea they were called heels! Anyway, after being yelled at so many times, I never dare throwing away the heels. At my house, we either use the food processor to grind them up to breadcrumbs for chicken breasts or make buttered toast!

  14. That’s a great idea, you can use them to make a delicious apple crumble or oven-baked pasta. However I find that I can use the chunky end bits by adding tomato sauce, oregano and cheese in the oven they make for nice -quick pizzas.
    If you’re not convinced with that , you can always go to the park and share them with pigeons or swans if you have any in your area.

  15. Just a question, is there a bakers store that sells heels of bread only?…like the whole packet of loaf would be heels only?…or one would have to make a special order for such in that regard?…i prefer the heels to other parts of bread, i guess i’ll ask the bakers store if at all they do so 😉

  16. My mum collected them from her working place back when it was still allowed! We stopped buying loaves, we had complete bags of heels. She made quite often French toast like you; she gave out some to the in-laws for them to make bread pudding; and, and this might be a good trick for you or anyone, she made grilled cheese, with the crust side inside, held together by melty cheese, none the wiser! It was great.

  17. Some great tips to not wasting any food. I remember hearing that you throw away around 20-30% of food we buy. Just buy using all our bread not only will you save money by using what you have but also won’t need to buy more. It bread is getting stale it can be great toasted, make into breadcrumbs, dipped into soups or just to absorb fat from meat.

    • Wait, What?!…if bread is getting stale…you do what?…alright that is frigidly disturbing don’t you think?…Alright, after absorbing fat from meat…what happens next?…what about the mold that forms on the bread whilst going stale, isn’t that enough to do away with the stale loaf?…am sorry, am asking too many questions, its just that i can’t get my head around using bread gone stale 🙁

  18. There’s only two of us at home so we often have trouble finishing the loaf whilst it is still fresh. I usually make breadcrumbs too – they keep for a while. Sometimes, I freezer the ends, then get them out when t hey are required.

  19. Yeah I hate when people waste stuff, especially bread. I mean, come on. Worst case scenario you dry it up a bit, and make bread crumbs which can be used in a lot of things and stay in the cabinet for a good while…

  20. Thanks for speaking to my BIGGEST pet peeve: Waste!

    So often I catch my guy tossing the bread ends when he opens a batch of grocery wheat bread. It’s insanity! At least I can say he knows I will go ape insane if he were to do that with my fresh grocery loaves. I had to literally sit him down & show him that because of the thickness that comes with a bakery loaf you can simply slice the end you don’t care for off & have a ‘regular’ slice of bread. While making sure he saves the discard for my breadcrumbs! =)

  21. I’ve seen people toss out the heels many times and I’ve never understood it, either. I love making garlic bread out of the heels, so delicious. Or just making them into buttered toast to eat with soup. I always appreciate ideas to reduce waste, so this is a great post.

  22. This is so inventive, especially with the French toast! I would honestly have never thought to do this; my grandfather always making sandwiches for lunch as he has Alzheimer’s and likes to have a routine (e.g. cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch). As a result, I have stacks of heels that I end up sadly tossing away every time I clean out the refrigerator. Another thing that I’ve found that you can use them for are egg sandwiches in the morning. Simply fry up an egg, slightly toast the heels, and then put it all together. 🙂 Thank you so much for these tips!

  23. Well for starters, I didn’t know that the end pieces of the loaf are referred to as heels; very interesting.

    I am not fond of crust. I’ve hated it since I was a kid. I do eat it now because I don’t want to waste it, but I don’t like it, so I always skip over the end bits. Thanks for giving these tips to use them without just throwing them away and adding to waste.

    One way that wasn’t mentioned on here that I do occasionally put it outside for the birds. I love having birds in the yard and they love it. 🙂 I like the idea of using them as croutons or for bread crumbs though, great ideas!

  24. Thanks for the advice! I’ve never thought of turning it into garlic bread or french toast. I’ll have to start doing that because there is a lot of left over bread at my house. This also due to my dogs – yes – you would think that dogs would love heals compare to dog food. Nope, not my dogs! They hate it and will only eat the middle. Which mean I have to see bags after bags of bread scraps being throw away each week. Now, I can save those poor pieces and get my money worth! ~thanks so much Lynn! 🙂

  25. I totally agree! I do the same things with the unwanted pieces of bread. It’s so frustrating when I notice the ends of the loaf are still in the bag… my siblings are just so picky. I love crust on all breads. I’ve used the ends pieces as “hot dog buns” when we don’t actually have any buns available. They’re sturdy enough and hold the hot dog with toppings 🙂

  26. Oh, these are some great ideas. I hate to waste food, even bread, especially the pricier versions. My mom used to do the crumb thing. I don’t know why I forgot about that. I should be doing that too. Her favorite thing to do though was to make bread pudding.

    Another thing I do is save the crusts and toss them in the freezer. Once you’ve gone through a few loaves and saved the ends, you can use them to make a small pan of stuff to go with some chicken or pork chops.

  27. I think the main thing that stops people eating the heels is the crust to bread ratio. Some people have trouble freeing the idea that crust is bad from their heads, this is usually an idea that forms when you are a young child. I usually eat the heel of the bread as an easy peanut butter sandwich, I spread the peanut butter on the heel and then just fold or roll it. You could also use it for croutons or bread pudding, that way no one notices they’re eating the “yucky” part of the loaf.

  28. The birds and squirrels in the garden get all of the heels at my mother-in-law’s house. She has a whole flock that wait patiently for her every morning and one cheeky pigeon that taps on the window when she’s late!
    In my house the heels make the perfect toast soldiers for soft boiled eggs, and my mother uses them in her hamburger meat. It really is important to teach children not to waste food, so many people go to bed hungry, I think I’ve had that drilled into my sub-conscience from a young age.
    Thanks for encouraging people not to be wasteful.

  29. This list has some really good ideas…I never thought of using the heels of bread for french toast but that sounds like it would be perfect. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to make garlic bread 😉 Back home my dad always uses them for sandwiches, and we also have chickens out back so any bread we don’t finish usually goes to them.

    Now that I’m living on my own though they pretty much always go to waste, I’m definitely going to keep these suggestions in mind for next time.

  30. I personally like the heel, especially on a really good bread. I’m a huge fan of crispy and crunchy, so I always ASK for the heel since nobody else seems to like it. Another thing we like to do with heels is to make croutons. Cube them, brush them with some olive oil mixed with your preference of spices, and toast on a low heat in the oven. Of course, any slice of bread can be used, but it’s a great way to use up your growing heel collection.

  31. In my post above, stuff should have been stuffing. I also thought of another thing I’ve used the crusts for: croutons. You can make them like garlic bread and then let them sit out a while. You can cut them into cubes or just break them up. Use right away or store in an airtight container.

    One of my kids says that the end pieces are the best part. I could just save them and make a whole loaf of ends for her, ha ha.

  32. I’ve never been one to think twice before throwing them in the bin, really, I don’t know why. One thing I can vouch for is that they don’t taste the same as the other pieces of bread. They just don’t. They don’t taste bad either but it’s just too much bread in one loaf for me. I do like the idea to turn them into garlic bread, that’s brilliant. I will have to try and see if I like it.

  33. While I’ve never objected to the end slices myself, I’ve always found that everyone I know tends to leave them alone. My family has always referred to them as “stepmother slices” (rather unfair to both stepmothers and bread I think). French toast is definitely the quickest and tastiest solution. Another thing I like to do is make something called Bread Upma. Upma is a popular south Indian dish usually made out of semolina. The semolina is easily substituted with broken bits of bread. Tastes great with a side of tomato/ tamarind sauce or coriander chutney.

  34. Oh, there’s a name for it! Most of my family members also discard this part of the loaf. I, however, don’t mind eating them. I guess that’s because I like that it’s a bit brown as I don’t like white bread much. This saves me from browning my sliced bread, hehe. Besides, I truly hate throwing away stuff. Thus, the suggestions here, especially about using them for French toast and for breadcrumbs are good advice.

  35. $1000000 business idea….. start a bakery and sell healless loaves, appeal to restaurants (who NEVER serves heels) replace heel with 2 normal slices. Free sandwich in every loaf (eventually paying for itself). Now since u stuck with all the heels…. chicken/hog farms… sell the “trash” as feed or sell bread pudding or something. Every restaurant would be ALL over that stuff!! Google it….. it is UNHEARD OF.

    make a mountain of dollars from the mountain of heels 🙂

    • This is a great idea Rusty, and it’s actually already done! Many commercial manufacturers do discard the heels before selling their bakery-style sliced loaves, resulting in a huge amount of waste. Some bakeries trash these ends, while others donate to farms for animal feed, or to food banks. The issue here is legality, since this isn’t permitted everywhere. Another exciting new development is that companies like Toast Ale and the Brussels Beer Project are using wasted bread to brew beer and ale- delicious!


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