Keep this list in your back pocket and you'll never have another reason to throw away uneaten bread.
Bread has been called "the staff of life" for good reason. Every culture has a bread that forms the basis of its traditional diet. Whether it's tortillas in Latin America, chapatis in India, or baguettes in France, these diverse combinations of flour and water play a major role in making ethnic cuisines so delicious and diverse.
Along with all these breads, however, comes a lot of leftovers. In the UK alone, where yeasted bread dominates, an estimated 24 million slices of sandwich bread go to waste daily, making it the single most wasted food item in the country. Fortunately, many of these same bread-loving cultures have come up with clever ways to use yesterday's stale pieces. We can learn from these techniques to divert stale loaves and pieces from the trash and transform them into tasty dishes.
Italy is arguably the master of bread reclamation. It has a number of famous techniques for using stale bread, such as panzanella (a tomato-bread salad), ribollita (a white bean-vegetable soup with chunks of bread stirred in at the end), and pappa al pomodoro (pureed tomato soup with mashed bread).
Fattoush is the Middle East's version of panzanella. It features a chopped salad with plenty of parsley, vinaigrette, and croutons made from stale pita. Here's a recipe via the Mediterranean Dish.
Skordalia is a Greek dip, similar to mayonnaise, that can be used on vegetables and cooked meats. It features stale bread soaked in liquid, then blended with oil, nuts, garlic, and spices. Olive oil and lemon juice finish it off.
Bread pudding is a great way to use stale yeasted bread. Almost any kind of bread works, from whole wheat to challah to cinnamon buns or even muffins. The pieces are spread in a pan, covered with seasoned milk and eggs, and baked to a cake-like consistency.
Make toast, but go beyond the usual breakfast toast. Transform stale bread into crispy garlic bread or crostini under the broiler and top with marinated goat cheese, tapenade, white bean dip, or bruschetta. Make your own Melba toasts by slicing bread 1/8" thick and baking at low heat for a half hour; it will keep for days.
Make bread crumbs to add texture and substance to anything. Blitz your old bread in a blender and store in an airtight container. Alternatively, spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and toast until lightly brown for a crunchier feel. Use bread crumbs in pasta dishes, to coat meat, fish, or vegetables for frying, to add crunch to salad and texture to salsa. (In Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat has a delicious recipe for salsa verde, made with shallots, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar -- and bread crumbs.)
Use it for stuffing. Thanksgiving turkey may be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are many things you can stuff with stale bread. This fun recipe shows how to make classic Italian verdure ripiene, which are zucchini, onions, and peppers stuffed with seasoned crumbs and herbs and baked with olive oil and white wine.
French toast, of course, is a perennial winner. Soak thick slices of stale bread in an egg-milk mixture and sauté. For vegans, the Isa Does It cookbook has an amazing version made with almond milk and dipped in toasted shredded coconut.
Make meatballs or burgers. Whether made with actual meat or vegetarian, you'll need bread crumbs to act as a binder and pull the mixture together.
Got extra tortillas? Make a batch of homemade chips. Corn tortillas are the traditional choice for frying, but you can also use flour. Another way to cook is by brushing with oil and broiling for a few minutes. Using corn tortillas, you can also make vegetarian chilaquiles.
What are some of your favorite ways to use leftover bread?