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An estimated 32% of bread gets thrown out—here’s how to use stale bread to the very last crumb

Kara Jillian Brown

Kara Jillian BrownApril 29, 2020

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We’ve all been there—you get a hankering for toast, or a sandwich, and head to the store for a loaf of bread. You get your fix for a few days, and then, you’re over it. A week or two later, you find the saddest, stalest loaf of bread that’s the opposite of enticing. Research shows that an estimated one-third of bread in America goes to waste. Instead of chucking it in the trash, Andrea Mathis, RDN, an Alabama-based dietitian, says there are more than a few uses for stale bread in healthy cooking.

First-things-first, prevent your bread from going bad. “In my experience, it usually takes about a week or so after the “best by” date on the package for bread to start showing signs of aging,” says Mathis. “After buying, I place the bread in the refrigerator to help keep it fresh until we’re ready to use it. After opening, I keep the bread on the kitchen counter or freeze it if we’re not using as much.”

While storing bread in the fridge is good, storing it on top of the fridge is not. “I do not recommend putting the bread on top of the refrigerator,” says Mathis. “I remember doing this growing up, but it’s really not a good idea. Bread should be stored in a cool, dry place. Heat from the refrigerator is not good for bread life. It takes away moisture, which causes bread to go bad sooner.”

Keep in mind that stale bread is not moldy—bad, inedible bread is moldy. “We don’t recommend cutting mold off of bread, because it’s a soft food,” Marianne Gravely, a senior technical information specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture tells NPR. “With soft food, it’s very easy for the roots [of the mold], or the tentacles, or whatever creepy word you want to use, to penetrate deeper into the food.”

If your bread is close to going bad (read: not yet moldy) and you want to save it for a future recipe, Mathis says to pop it in the freezer for a month or two. “If bread is getting close to going bad, I put it in the freezer before cooking with it,” says Mathis, “This helps save the life it has remaining. When you’re ready to cook with it, unthaw and go!” To do this, she says to store the bread in two freezer bags to ensure a solid barrier between the bread and freezer air. “When I’m ready to use it, I leave it on the counter to thaw back to room temperature,” she says. “Then, I oven-heat the bread on 350°F for about 10 minutes to restore it back to life.

There are tons of ways to use stale bread. “If you’re like me, you don’t like wasting food,” she says. “If bread goes bad at my house, I use it for croutons, delicious bread pudding, and cornbread dressing for binding and thickness.” Browse different options below.

Creative uses for stale bread in healthy cooking

1. Croutons

In an episode of Cook With Us, recipe developer Rachel Mansfield makes croutons for her kale caesar salad. To make, preheat your oven to 425°F. Take three to four slices of slightly stale bread and slice it into cubes. Toss the cubes with avocado oil (or your favorite oil) and garlic oil, put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with a bit more oil and then bake the croutons for 13 to 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

2. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are another great way to use stale bread. This simple recipe by Jessica Gavin, certified culinary scientist and author, just requires bread and spices.

3. French toast

Because the bread for French toast soaks up an egg-milk mixture, you can get away with using slightly stale bread. This Vegan French Toast recipe from Wholesome LLC is perfect. And if “vegan” and “French toast” in the same sentence freaks you out, Alison Tierney, MS, RD, the registered dietitian who created the recipe says you won’t even miss the egg. “I made this french toast for my extended family and they couldn’t believe it wasn’t made with eggs,” she says.  “It certainly doesn’t have quite the eggy flavor that some french toast may have, but the toast still turns out crispy, sweet, and golden brown.”

4. Bread pudding

Bread pudding doesn’t have to be heavy and loaded with sugar. This recipe from Simple Vegan Blog uses only seven ingredients, and can be made with your go-to natural sweetener.

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