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12 Ways To Use Up Leftover Bread Crumbs

Composite of breadcrumbs and dishes
Composite of breadcrumbs and dishes - Static Media/Shutterstock

Once you've opened a container of bread crumbs or made a batch from scratch, you'll want to use any leftovers up within a brief period. Although store-bought bread crumbs often have best-by dates of around six months, for optimal taste you're best off consuming them within a couple of months. Similarly, if you grind crumbs from stale bread, it's best to find a way to incorporate them into a dish within a few weeks. After all, the best way to up your cooking game is to start with great ingredients. So instead of sporadically using old bread crumbs when burger or meatball night rolls around, how about using them within a month and picking up a new box the next time around?

If you always stick to using your bread crumbs in the same few ways, it's time you expand your repertoire to encompass more recipes. We've collected our favorite ways to use leftover bread crumbs so you can experiment in the kitchen with the freshest ingredients every time. From crispy toppings and coatings to starchy fillers, bread crumbs offer a lot of possibilities; here's the scoop.

Read more: 23 Types Of Potatoes And When To Use Them

Make An Easy Garnish

spaghetti with bread crumbs
spaghetti with bread crumbs - Giovanni1232/Getty Images

If you have even a small amount of bread crumbs remaining after making a recipe, you still have just enough to garnish a dish with a crispy sprinkle. You'll want to do more than shake the bottom of the jar over the top though. The best way to bring out the flavor and amplify the texture of bread crumbs is by toasting them in a skillet or in the oven with butter or olive oil to add moisture. For the stovetop method, just heat the fat and add the crumbs into the pan, stirring until they are golden brown. Otherwise, stir melted butter or oil in with the dry crumbs and transfer them to a baking sheet destined for the oven.

Aside from enhancing the texture of the crumbs with a bit of browning, you can use this technique to add flavor. Sprinkle in some fresh herbs or Parmesan, or add garlic or chili flakes for a spicy kick. Use this textured seasoning to spruce up a buttery plate of pasta, or serve it with a Caesar salad instead of croutons. Alternatively, go the sweet route with browned butter and sugar and you have yourself an easy crumble to spoon over a sundae.

Use Them As A Binder

rolling meatballs in hand
rolling meatballs in hand - New Africa/Shutterstock

Bread crumbs serve a great function in recipes that require dry add-ins to bind wet ingredients. This consists of popular ground beef dishes (meatballs, meatloaf, and burgers), and extends to most types of ground meat. Whether you're making a classic burger or giving it a white turkey meat spin, bread crumbs (and other useful ingredients like eggs) help the meat come together into a mass that you can shape. If you've ever sliced into a meatloaf only to have it crumble into pieces, chances are you didn't achieve the happy medium between wet and dry ingredients.

Aside from meat-based classics, bread crumbs come in handy when you're making a vegetarian burger with beans and assorted ingredients, fish or crab cakes, or fritters. Perfecting the texture of a dish is part of the appeal, but bread crumbs also infuse a dish with flavor. Flour is commonly used as a substitute for binding, but it doesn't impart the same aroma of yeasted wheat crumbs. Furthermore, if you make homemade crumbs from different types of bread, you have plenty of room to play with the resulting flavor profile.

Coat Meat Or Fish

breaded schnitzel cutlet on plate
breaded schnitzel cutlet on plate - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

If you're cooking for one or just a few, you don't need a large amount of bread crumbs to successfully coat a protein. Poultry, pork, and fish tend to be the most popular contenders, and they're commonly deep-fried or baked. Adding a shell to more delicate proteins increases their sturdiness when baking or pan-frying. Not to mention, it seals the meat off from a dry oven, letting it slowly cook while the bread crumbs become crispy.

Familiar favorites like chicken parmesan (or a veal parmesan twist) take advantage of this method, providing a canvas for a cheesy layer to top the protein. Typically, recipes call for first coating the meat in flour, then dipping it in whisked egg, before pressing it into bread crumbs. This method ensures the egg properly coats the meat, and consequently, that the crispy exterior sticks to the egg.

Whip up a classic chicken cutlet recipe or try something new with a fish dish. Panko-crusted red snapper, parmesan crusted tilapia, and escalope-style flounder are great options, or go all out with a baked brioche-crusted salmon recipe. If you're improvising, add seasonings to the bread crumbs for an instant boost of flavor.

Use Them To Crust Vegetables

zucchini fries with dip
zucchini fries with dip - Rudisill/Getty Images

Meat and fish aren't the only contenders when it comes to breading. Vegetables make an excellent candidate for the technique, especially considering the large variety. There's nothing like a hot tender center encased within a crispy shell to titillate the taste buds. For the same reason that french fries are such a fun way to eat potatoes, adding a crunch to your favorite vegetable elevates it into fun territory.

Use leftover panko bread crumbs for an extra crispy result, or experiment with different types of bread to coat your veggies. You'll need to slice the vegetables to start — discs or sticks are a great option — before dipping them lightly in flour, whisked egg, and crumbs. Cook them in an air fryer or deep fryer, or lay them on a baking sheet and brown them in the oven.

Make a mixed vegetable dish with your favorites, such as peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and green beans. Alternatively, make one veggie the focus, such as breaded zucchini with a creamy yogurt dip. And if you can get your hands on delicate zucchini flowers, a light panko breading and quick fry in hot oil makes for a delicious summer snack. Enhance the crumbing further by adding grated cheese or seasonings to infuse loads of flavor. It's a joy to experiment with this, too.

Make Croquettes

mashed potato croquettes with dip
mashed potato croquettes with dip - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Croquettes, in all their forms, are a prime example of the delicious culinary vision that combines a hot and crunchy exterior with a center that's oozing with creaminess. The standard recipe is adaptable and can be modified to make use of a wide range of ingredients, often leftovers. Mash whatever you plan to use to form a mixture, then mold it into round or oblong shapes and coat them in bread crumbs before frying.

Spanish croquettes are filled with rich bechamel and typically feature ham. In Italy, arancini and supplì al telefono consist of a mixture of leftover risotto and cheese (and plenty of modern variations), rolled in bread crumbs, and deep fried. International versions are popular, as the portable format makes croquettes great as a snack or street food option.

Experiment at home with fillings like a ricotta, potato, and herb mix to make light cheese and herb croquettes. For the ultimate leftover makeover, use up Thanksgiving leftovers to make turkey and mashed potato croquettes with a cranberry sauce center. Switch up the usual crab or fish cake by making salmon croquettes with canned fish. The options are endless.

Transform Them Into Dessert

classic bread pudding stacked cubes
classic bread pudding stacked cubes - Catherine Brookes/Tasting Table

A classic bread pudding is proof that incorporating bread into a dessert is a delicious idea. Whether you're using chunks of soft white bread, baguette, or brioche, the recipe takes advantage of the starchy quality of bread and dresses it up with sweet ingredients. Look at bread crumbs through the same lens, and you'll find plenty of ways to experiment with their sweet qualities in the kitchen.

To ease yourself into it, start by sprinkling extra crumbs over a rich bread pudding recipe to give it a crispy layer on top. While you can use any remaining store-bought crumbs for this purpose, it's an easy option to try from scratch. Choose milder-tasting bread for a subtler note, or play around with dark rye or honey wheat for a twist ─ whatever you have to hand.

Meanwhile, you can also make a bread crumb pudding relying solely on ground-up bread. Make sure you aren't starting with very dry bread, or it will absorb the moisture from the remaining ingredients too quickly. Incorporate eggs, milk, pecans, spices, and even dried fruits like raisins. Transfer the mixture to a dish and spread it out, then bake until cooked through and pillowy soft.

Make Dumplings

german bread crumb dumplings
german bread crumb dumplings - Olga Bombologna/Shutterstock

German cuisine might be especially well-known for its abundance of sausages, but dumplings play an important role too. They come in various formats and are made with different ingredients, including bread crumbs. Known as semmelknödel in German, the starchy balls are a Bavarian specialty, typically served with a thick gravy. You can make your own at home by soaking bits of stale bread in milk. Add fried bacon bits, parsley, and eggs, stirring in extra bread crumbs to properly bind. Shape the mixture into balls and boil them in salted water.

A similar version called canederli is common in South Tyrol in northern Italy. This variation usually includes grated cheese and small pieces of speck, a type of cured and smoked ham from the region. Try this version with a meaty stew or add a couple of dumplings to a broth to bulk it up. Experiment with various fresh herbs, cheeses, and finely chopped meat for a personalized take. Similarly, play around with the type of bread, as you'll have a very different result using pumpernickel versus baguette crumbs.

Use Them For Casseroles

crispy topped macaroni cheese casserole
crispy topped macaroni cheese casserole - The Crimson Monkey/Getty Images

One of the great qualities of bread crumbs is that they can bulk up a casserole while thickening its consistency. Additionally, they can act as a crumb topping to transform the surface of the dish. Leftover bread crumbs are the perfect ingredient to have on hand when you're preparing a hearty meal in a baking dish. Make an easy green bean casserole, by first tossing onions with a bit of flour and bread crumbs and baking. Combine the crispy onions with green beans, cheese, mushrooms, and other add-ins, saving some of the crunchy topping to garnish at the end.

Meanwhile, other tasty recipes like an elevated chicken divan or a cheesy carrot casserole are instantly enhanced by a buttery crumb topping. Everyone knows that the best baked mac and cheese casserole includes a crispy panko shell coating the surface. The contrast between the creamy filling and crunchy top makes the combination extra drool-worthy. Similarly, a yellow squash casserole gets an extra boost from a bread crumb top. Add herbs, grated cheese, or other seasonings to the leftover crumbs to amp up the flavor too. To guarantee optimal browning, use your oven's broil setting for the final minutes.

Stuff Meat Or Vegetables

Italian stuffed rolled meat
Italian stuffed rolled meat - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

While it's common to use bread crumbs to coat the exterior of meat or vegetables, adding them to the filling is another option. If you're stuffing a hollowed-out vegetable with a tasty mixture, a small amount of crumbs can help bind everything together. Use panko for added crispiness, a fine grind for its binding qualities, or a coarser grind to add some texture.

For example, consider stuffed peppers; many recipes incorporate a starch like rice along with ground meat or finely chopped vegetables. Skip the rice and bind ground meat and seasonings with bread crumbs, adding grated cheese and eggs if desired. You'll want to save some to sprinkle over the opening as a crispy topping. Alternatively, make zucchini boats with a similar filling, or stuff mushroom caps with a basic bread crumb, garlic, herb, and Parmesan blend.

Braciole, an Italian specialty, is made by stuffing thinly pounded meat with savory ingredients, rolling the meat into a tube, and braising everything in tomato sauce. That filling typically contains bread crumbs, garlic, Parmesan, parsley, sautéed onions, and pancetta. The starchy breadcrumbs soak up some of the meat juices during the cooking process, helping the ingredients bind together into a cohesive filling.

Add Them To A Gratin

crispy potato gratin in dish
crispy potato gratin in dish - Lapina Maria/Shutterstock

Topping a creamy dish with cheese amplifies dairy's ability to transform an ingredient from okay to amazing. Adding bread crumbs to the mix further boosts the flavor profile, giving it a textural quality that makes every bite a multi-layered affair. Sprinkle leftover panko crumbs on top for an instant crunch factor, or try mixing them with chopped nuts to stretch them further. For example, a Brussels sprouts gratin with a walnut crumble consists of a creamy bechamel vegetable base topped with seasoned crispies, proving that any vegetable can taste infinitely better with the right recipe.

Similarly, make a creamy artichoke hearts gratin recipe to highlight this savory ingredient in a rich bechamel sauce topped with a crispy crumb and Gruyère coating. Alternatively, add a bit of texture to a cheesy, creamy filling by mixing in buttery bread crumbs and reserving some for the topping, such as in this summer squash gratin. While you can follow a recipe for this purpose, sprinkling a small handful of bread crumbs into the bechamel and over the top of the gratin is enough to enhance any dish.

Incorporate Them Into Cookies

bread crumb cookies
bread crumb cookies - wickedwellbeingjsy/Instagram

Considering that bread (and consequently bread crumbs) is made with flour, the idea of making cookies with this ingredient shouldn't be so unexpected. Of course, you'll want to skip crumbs seasoned with cheese, herbs, or garlic for a suitable base. Use leftover store-bought crumbs to fill out your cookie dough or make your own to customize the flavor. Pick whole wheat, white, brioche, or sweet options like honey wheat. Alternatively, you can use panko to give your cookies a crispy texture.

The remaining ingredients are surprisingly basic and include ordinary baking staples like eggs, butter, and sugar to round out the batter. Most recipes call for a decent amount of flour too, which is perfect if you only have a small amount of bread crumbs remaining from a past meal. As for flavoring, you can take your bread crumb cookies in any direction. Add chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or dried fruit to give them a special touch. As well, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg infuse the crumby batter with aromatic notes, doubling down on the sweet cookie taste.

Freeze Them For Later Use

bread crumbs in glass container
bread crumbs in glass container - Photo Sync/Shutterstock

As much as you may be inspired to experiment with tasty ways to use up leftover bread crumbs, sometimes the best option is to freeze them. If you're going on vacation for a few weeks or don't plan to cook at home for an extended period, guarantee freshness by using a longer-term storage alternative. The key to properly freezing bread crumbs is to ensure no moisture gets into the container. Otherwise, this can lead to the formation of ice crystals which will result in soggy crumbs once they thaw. Make sure the seal is airtight to avoid this problem.

Depending on what you plan to do with the leftovers, you can use them frozen or you can thaw them out first. In the former case, make sure there are no ice crystals or be ready to adjust for the added liquid. Incorporate the crumbs as a binder or sprinkle them over a casserole. If you want to use them as a coating, it's best to thaw them first. For maximum success, spread them out on a baking sheet so they don't clump together. Nevertheless, try to use them within a few months to avoid freezer burn.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.