What to Do with Bread Heels

Some people consider the ends of a loaf of bread to be the best parts. My family, though, prefers the middle slices. Daniel often will eat the heel that is at the top of the bag, but by the time we get to the bottom of the bag, the other heel is less appealing. (This is despite our policy of keeping the bread in the refrigerator most of the time. That prevents mold, but the last bit of the bread does get very slightly damp so that it isn’t so appealing, especially if a fresh loaf  is available.)

We go through at least a loaf of bread a week, thanks to our seven-year-old’s fondness for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so every few months I notice that there are a lot of bread bags with one heel in each one, lying around in the back of the refrigerator. What to do with all of them?

Cheesy Vegetable Bread Pudding!

This versatile recipe is an easy and relatively cheap way to make a filling, high-protein casserole that, at least in our family, gets a kid to eat some vegetables. It’s another way to use up random odds and ends of vegetables, fresh or frozen. It pairs well with salad for even more vegetables! Bread can be stale or frozen-and-thawed for this recipe, just not moldy.  You can use any type of bread (except sweet kinds like raisin bread) and mix different types if you like.

The first step is to cut all your bread heels into squares of about 1 inch.  Put the squares into a measuring cup and shake to settle them, but don’t smush them down.  You may be surprised at the large volume of squares you get from what looked like just a few slices of bread.

For each cup of bread squares, you will need:

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded vegetables (You can use frozen vegetables, as long as they are thawed enough to mix with the other ingredients instead of being in a clump.)
  • 2 tsp. herbs (parsley, dill, rosemary, oregano, basil, tarragon, thyme, sage, marjoram–whichever you have)
  • salt and pepper to taste (Try white pepper for a more gourmet flavor.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup diced onion (optional)

If using onion, cook it in olive oil until lightly browned, and add it to the milk.

Mix herbs, salt, and pepper into milk, taste it, and adjust seasoning as desired.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until well-mixed and slightly fluffy.  Mix in at least some of the milk; it helps to distribute the egg in the pudding so that you get a custardy texture instead of wet bread sprinkled with cooked egg.

Grease a casserole dish or baking pan that is large enough to hold everything.  (If you don’t have a big enough pan, use two!)  Place bread and vegetables in the dish and mix with your hands.  Pour in egg and milk, distributing it as evenly as you can.  Sprinkle cheese on the top.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until you no longer see pockets of liquid.

If that’s too much work for you, or you don’t eat dairy products, here are three other things to do with bread heels or stale bread:

Bread Crumbs

Toast all the bread slices.  Use a food processor or blender to pulverize them.  Pack portions of 1 or 2 cups into individual freezer bags and freeze until you are making a recipe that calls for bread crumbs.  UPDATE: See our detailed photo tutorial on making bread crumbs!

Croutons

Follow these helpful instructions.

Sweet Bread Pudding

Combine milk, eggs, and bread as in the recipe above, but season the milk with maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.  Instead of vegetables, use whatever fresh or dried fruit you have handy (but not cantaloupe!!), or make a plain bread pudding and serve with a fruit sauce made from your random fruit.

More ideas–with recipe links!–at Premeditated Leftovers!

Turning the sad collection of bread heels into tasty food works for me!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more delicious recipes and Frugal Food Thursdays and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways for more money-saving ideas!  I’m also linking to Waste Not Want Not Wednesday although it’s on a gluten-free site, because if you have gone to the trouble of making gluten-free bread or the expense of buying it, you surely won’t want to waste a bit of it!

About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

22 Responses to What to Do with Bread Heels

  1. Thanks for the mention, ‘Becca. I love those croutons. They’re stupid simple and much tastier than the store-bought variety. Thanks for all the great information on other bread heel uses, too. I’ll have to try that bread pudding!

    Kristi

  2. Maureen says:

    Make cheese sandwiches, put into a dish, put over a mix of 2 eggs and half a pint of milk, leave for half an hour. Put sliced tomatoes and grated cheese on top. It can be cooked in the microwave but don’t put the grated cheese on – then finish it off under the grill – broiler (I think it is in the US).

    You can put ham in the sandwiches, nice.

    Secret with all these stale bread dishes is leaving it to soak long enough.

  3. Becca, you are sooo right! GF bread is expensive, and I have a crusty little heel of GF bread in my freezer right now that isn’t much good for anything else, except for one of your great ideas!

    Had you not shared this on Waste Not Want Not, I might have just choked that crust down ;p I have tossed cubed old bread in soups sometimes, but your suggestions are better. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Great ideas! Now I’m in the mood for bread pudding.

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  15. Maureen says:

    ‘Cheese Pudding’ is a useful dish to use up bread. I have my own version – take two heels (known as ‘crusts’ here), put on a this smear of mustard, this can be left out if not a mustard fan, then put grated cheese or a slice of cheese on and make a sandwich with the other crust.

    Make one of these per person and put them in a dish. For 2 of us I use 2 eggs beaten with 1 and half cups of milk and a teaspoon of mild mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Pour this over the sandwiches and leave it to soak for at least an hour. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 to 400. It is done when the custard is set.

    You can put ham or tomatoes in with the cheese and sliced tomatoes on the top before the grated cheese. Very tasty.

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