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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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Tangy Roasted Tomato Crostini – Get the Recipe Now
You can utilize stale bread for crostini and bruschetta that everyone will be raving about.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.