Up-cycled Stale Food

There is a big difference between stale and spoiled. If something is spoiled and/or contains mold, discoloration or a funky smell – these items must check into the nearest compost pile or landfill. But, with many food items that carry a “best if used by” date instead of a “use by” date, stale is quite another story. If it’s only the crispness or moisture that has left the building, that can often be re-worked and/or re-purposed!

The following “up-cycled leftovers” make use of these older, yet still usable, foods in somewhat different ways than you would use them if they were fresh. Find ways to transform a “best if used by” product into a “better if used after” dish.

The addition of heat can often do wonders for most stale food products. Used properly, it can often breed new life into older foods. Let’s look at some of the options to revive a few common food products that often go stale before their actual useful life has completely ended. We will take a look at uses for stale chips, uses for stale crackers, uses for stale bread, uses for stale cereal, uses for stale cookies and even uses for stale cake.

Wait, not so fast to the trash with those leftover snacks!

To check what to look for when a product is going or has gone bad, open the proper menu categories of EatByDate and then see the specific food pages of our site.

Up-cycled Stale Food

Uses for Stale Chips

Have you ever tried warm chips? Stale potato chips can be baked for a few minutes to restore their crispness.
To transform stale chips into fresh chips using the oven:
Simply roast stale chips in a 400°F oven on a rimmed cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes.
You may not return to fresh after trying these crispy warm chips. The crunch will not only return, but it will be intensified by the warmth.

stale chips

Stale chips can also be used to crunch up and make a coating for deep frying or oven baking. Place stale chips into a heavy plastic bag and run a rolling pin over the bag to crunch them up. You can then dip meats into an egg wash and then into the broken chips (alone or mixed with flour for a more interesting batter). They will fry or bake up crispy and no one will know that they were once stale chips.

Another use for stale chips is to crush and then sprinkle them on top of a casserole before placing it in the oven. The chips will add a little extra flavor & crunch, especially on a potato or macaroni based casserole.

Check our chip page for help in determining if your chips have actually gone bad.

Uses for Stale Crackers

Stale crackers are almost as versatile as fresh ones. Here are three different ways to put them to good use.

Filler: Cracker crumbs also make a tasty filler for patties, balls or a meatloaf. Try adding them to a can of salmon (or tuna) along with an egg and a dash of salt & pepper. Pat the mixture together into the desired number of patties and then pan fry them for delicious salmon patties. Ritz crackers work especially well in making fish patties because of their buttery flavor.

stale crackers

Crust: Stale crackers can be placed into a baggie and either smashed (let those frustrations out) or civilly rolled (with a rolling pin) to create a tasty breadcrumb coating for fish or chicken. Simply dip the protein into an egg or milk wash and then roll it into crushed stale cracker crumbs before baking or frying.

Topping: Cracker crumbs can also be used as a topping – simply melt a little butter in a pan and then add crumbled stale Ritz crackers and continue to stir over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle them on top of a macaroni casserole to intensify the texture and flavor just like the chips did.

Uses for Stale Bread

Make croutons (recipe here), bread crumbs, french toast, stuffing or bread pudding… all with stale bread! Actually, these recipes are all improved with the use of stale bread instead of fresh bread! Fresh bread tends to condense together and make flat overly chewy clumps when pressed into a recipe whereas stale bread retains both its structure and soft qualities.


Note: Always be sure to inspect old bread very closely for mold before using because breads without preservatives may mold before they actually become stale.

Check our bread page for help in determining if your bread has gone bad.

Uses for Stale Cereal

Stale cereal can transform into tasty treats. Rice Krispie treats and Cheerio bars don’t need the freshest cereals. Slightly tweak the recipe to allow the cereal a minute or two over the heat instead of removing the pan from the heat prior to adding the cereal. Just a little heat goes a long to re-toast or re-crisp a stale cereal.

Chex mix is one of our favorite uses for stale Chex cereals, stale pretzels, stale bagels, stale Bugels and stale nuts . Chex mix, yes you can just buy it, but making it homemade with stale cereal is actually much tastier, crunchier and cheaper then getting it from the store. This way, you can even customize it to just the ingredients that you prefer and/or have on hand. Load it with raw nuts, which are cheaper than roasted ones, and they will get that roasted flavor in the oven right along with your stale cereals.

original chex mix

Don’t throw out sugar frosted flakes either, they can be turned into a tasty crust for my version of magic cookie bars (recipe to follow next week).

Check our cereal page for help in determining if your cereal has gone bad.

Uses for Stale Cookies

Make different cookies, cookie bars, cookie crusts or pie crusts with stale cookies. Stale cookies such as chocolate chip, chocolate sandwich or grahams can be crushed and mixed with a little melted butter then pressed into the bottom of a pie plate or baking pan. Bake the firm mixture to form an amazing cookie pie crust more than capable of holding your favorite creams, puddings and other fillings.

cookie crust

Check our cookie page for help in determining if your cookies have gone bad.

Uses for Stale Cake

Up-cycle your dry cake in a variety of ways, including these cute cake pops. Find this and several other fun recipes for stale cake on craftsy.com.

cake pops

Check our cake page for help in determining if your cake has gone bad.

Additional Stale Food Information

Another good option for leftovers, if you’re not going to eat or otherwise use them, is to send them home with your guests. After a party, send off your leftovers while they’re still fresh. We found some great reusable/disposable containers on 70% off clearance after Christmas at Target. Stored in the back of your cupboard for an occasion like this, it doesn’t really matter if they’re red or green, they’ll get the job of transporting leftovers done with ease again and again.

store leftovers

For gourmet french toast made at home using stale bread, see our french toast recipe.

For more on uses for stale bread, see our stale bread post.

Check to see if you’re throwing away these usable foods (hint: you probably are).

Explore the many uses for vegetable stems and save them from the trash.

If you’ve got Easter leftovers, see our post on ham leftovers ideas.

We also did a post on Thanksgiving leftover breakfast recipes which shows ways to turn leftover dinner items such as mashed potatoes and stuffing into things like pancakes and waffles.

For information concerning the safety of leftovers, please see our blog post for leftover safety tips.

To find out how long leftovers last, see our page on leftovers.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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