Don’t Throw It Out! Turn Stale Bread Into Zesty Croutons

Croutons not only add some flavor to your favorite soups and salads, they also add just the right texture (or filler) to complete the dish.

I don’t know if you’ll be happy to learn this (because boy can this be addictive), but they make a delicious snack too…helps nip in the bud that craving for a crispy nibbly (…who needs potato chips when you have these on hand).

You can buy them packaged in all sorts of seasonings that are made with a variety of different breads, but did you know you can make your own using leftover bits of baked goods you have at home?

Homemade just makes things better with less preservatives and additives and the flavor profile can be tweaked to perfection.

Here’s a quick and easy method to get you started, tweak the seasonings as you like. I’ve also included a herbed recipe underneath (that one is a stove-top method). Then you’ll find more suggestions for working with flavors and storage solutions. Lots here!

How To Make Oven Version

  • Cut loaf into large cubes or break into pieces, uniform in size is best for even cooking.
  • Crush garlic and mix with olive oil, brush on bread (or put them in a bowl and toss with oil until evenly coated).
  • Brown in oven at 400° F. Watch till they are nicely toasted, stir occasionally then remove from oven when they’re done. Tip: Lining the bottom of the baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper will make cleanup a breeze.

Stove-Top Recipe & Instructions

Herb & Garlic

3 cups dried bread cubes (about 1/2″ in size)
3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TBS butter
2 to 3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp chopped parsley (fresh)
1 tsp chopped chives (fresh)
1 tsp chopped tarragon (fresh)

Directions:

  • In a large skillet heat the butter and oil (medium/high heat).
  • Toss in the cubes and cook, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium/low and add the fresh garlic and herbs.
  • Cook for another 20 minutes, stirring and tossing frequently.
  • Remove from heat and cool.

More Toppings To Consider

You’ll never tire of experimenting with different seasonings and flavors, there are just so many options to try!

  • Parmesan cheese (!) Can be added just before popping in the oven or shred fresh cheese over the croutons as they come hot out of the oven. You’re welcome.
  • Dry parsley (this is especially nice to bring out the flavor of a dish).
  • Fresh herbs: Try thyme, rosemary, parsley…chop finely, add to melted butter or olive oil then coat the croutons before baking.
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Dry ranch dressing mix
  • Paprika & butter (about 1/4 tsp of the spice)
  • Onion salt
  • Oregano
  • Spicy Twist: Try about 1 tsp Tabasco with 2 cloves crushed garlic in enough olive oil to coat all pieces. Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Dill

Experiment: Use either melted butter or olive oil to coat the cubes, both offer a different flavor profile & help the herbs cling to the surface.

Get crazy: Any bread will work and buns too! Use up hot dog buns, bagels, french – sourdough – italian varieties, even pumpernickel turns out a lovely product.

Storage Tips

  • Keep them sealed in an airtight container and they can be left out on the counter, they’ll be good for 3 days or so. You can also refrigerate to extend the shelf-life another couple days.
  • For a longer expiry date, they freeze beautifully! Allow the batch to cool completely first then put them in a ziploc freezer bag and toss in the deep-freeze. Remove the amount you need as you need them and leave on the counter to thaw. If they need to be re-crisped, toss them in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Quick Tip: Keep your leftover bread/bun/loaf bits frozen in a container or bag until you can chop them up to make into homemade croutons (keep adding to the bag as slices become available). Simply take out the amount you want to make (only in the amount that will be used within the next couple days), thaw and proceed as above. For best results, I wouldn’t refreeze these.

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What Readers Are Saying: One Comment
  1. soft_flame says:

    You won’t believe this.
    I couldn’t sleep, and was wondering about what to do with my leftover bread when this same idea struck my mind.

    Now an hour later, I come online to find this same tip. 🙂

    Happy holidays, by the way.


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