Don't Toss Out Those Leftover Hamburger Buns

If you've ever thrown a backyard barbecue or brought burgers to a potluck, the chances are that you've ended up with extra buns. It's impossible to calculate exactly how many portions you'll need to feed a gathering of people with unspecified appetite levels, and most of us just opt to over-purchase rather than be the person responsible for a bun shortage. While it might be tempting to toss out the surplus, there are many ways you can use hamburger buns that won't doom you to eating burgers for every meal — unless that's your idea of heaven of course.

No matter what types of burger buns you have left over, they can be used to make savory breakfasts, mouth-watering desserts, salad garnishes, Eastern European side dishes, and everything in between. The recipes are so versatile and delicious that you could be eating hamburger buns at every meal without realizing it. Keep reading to find out how you can put those leftover hamburger buns to good use instead of tossing them out.

Make your own all-purpose breadcrumbs

One of the easiest and most multi-purpose options for leftover buns is to turn them into breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor, all you have to do is pulse the buns in the machine until they're the desired consistency. Then spread them on a tray and put them in a 300ºF oven for five to 10 minutes until they're lightly browned and crispy. If you want more flavorful breadcrumbs, you can toss them in olive oil with salt and pepper before you bake them, and add your favorite seasonings once they've cooled. When stored in an airtight container, homemade breadcrumbs can last up to one month.

Breadcrumbs are a handy kitchen staple required to make a wide variety of dishes. You can use them to bread chicken, make meatloaf, or try your hand at homemade meatballs. They also make a delicious, crunchy topping for casseroles. It takes less than 30 minutes to make them and they taste twice as good as anything you can get from the store.

Indulge in chunky French toast

Hamburger buns make for a sinfully delicious variation on French toast. The thickness of the bread soaks up more of the milk, egg, and sugar mixture than regular sandwich bread does, and the light, buttery texture of the buns almost melts in your mouth. French toast is more than just a quick and delicious breakfast, it also covers your nutritional bases. There are plenty of carbohydrates to keep your energy up, along with protein from the eggs and fat and calcium from the milk. Sprinkle your portions with fresh fruit and you'll have an irresistible and mostly nutritious power breakfast to jumpstart your day.

To make French toast with hamburger buns, whisk together eggs, milk, and as much sugar as you'd like, along with a teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. Grease a skillet with oil or butter. Soak the buns in the mixture until thoroughly drenched, and fry them over medium heat until they are crispy and browned on both sides. If you prefer not to use eggs, you can make eggless French toast by substituting two tablespoons of cornstarch. 

Switch up your morning routine with a breakfast strata

Strata might not be your go-to breakfast, but it's a great way to use hamburger buns and create a complete meal in one casserole dish. The best part is that you can make it the day before and not have to worry about rolling out of bed to prepare breakfast before heading to work or getting the kids to school.

The main ingredients of strata are eggs, stale bread, and milk. You can add various savory ingredients to the egg mixture like you would with a quiche, including cured meat, herbs, cheese, and whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. You can pack it full of nutrient-rich veggies or go for a rich, indulgent version with ham and cheddar. If you want to make it extra fancy, try it with feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto.

Strata is simple to assemble and even simpler to bake. Just put a layer of shredded burger buns in the bottom of a casserole dish and whip up the eggs, milk, and additional ingredients of your choosing. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and let it sit for at least an hour to ensure it is fully saturated. This can be done overnight, giving you nothing left to do in the morning apart from preheating the oven and baking the strata until it's set.

Make a breakfast-for-dessert bread pudding

Bread pudding has long been a reliable recipe for using up stale bread, and it works just as well with hamburger buns. It's easy to make and provides a crowd-pleasing dessert that you can dig into at home or take to a dinner party to impress your friends. It's also highly adaptable. Classic bread pudding recipes call for nothing more than vanilla, cinnamon, and maybe a handful of raisins, but you can add nuts, bourbon, lemon curd, and any kind of fresh or frozen fruit. Top it with ice cream or tuck into it right out of the oven, and you'll soon be thanking yourself for over-purchasing burger supplies.

To make bread pudding with hamburger buns, mix two cups of milk or cream with ½ cup of sugar, two eggs, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Cut your hamburger buns into two-inch cubes until you have six cups worth. Spread them evenly in a casserole dish and drizzle them with two tablespoons of melted butter. Then pour the milk mixture over the top, ensuring that none of the bread is dry. Bake the pudding at 350ºF for 35 to 45 minutes until only the center jiggles when you shake the dish. You'll probably want to devour the whole thing right away, but if there's any left it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Elevate your soups and salads with homemade croutons

The humble crouton can turn even the drabbest salad and blandest soup into fragrant, buttery entrées. Whether you prefer them plain, garlicky, or coated in herbs and parmesan, they open doors to all kinds of delicious meals. Like freshly-baked cookies, homemade croutons offer another layer of flavor that you simply cannot get from the store. If you have bread lying around, toasting up some croutons is a no-brainer.

One of the best things about this option is that croutons are really just stale bread. If you're left with a few lingering burger buns — despite having made as many leftover bread recipes as you can think of — then you're in luck. Unless they're moldy, those stale buns are perfect for croutons. Many recipes call for crusty bread, such as sourdough, since it yields the crunchiest results. But softer bread, such as hamburger buns, brioche rolls, and challah, make for light, melt-in-your-mouth croutons that are arguably more delicious and won't compromise your teeth.

To make them, slice your hamburger buns into whatever size cubes you prefer. Coat them in oil or melted butter and sauté them in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, making sure to brown them on all sides. You can also roast them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 350ºF if you prefer. To customize the flavor, you can add spices, herbs, and even parmesan halfway through sautéing or baking.

Make a stuffing to enjoy at any time of the year

There is no rule banning stuffing 364 days out of the year, so why does everyone act like there is? Stuffing is one of the best Thanksgiving side dishes, and you deserve to eat it during any season. Known for its near-infinite adaptability, you can perfect a signature recipe or experiment with various versions, all while using up those leftover hamburger buns. You don't even need a turkey to stuff.

To make a simple stuffing, you'll need to shred the buns and then toast them in the oven while sautéing onions in a generous amount of butter. Fresh herbs are a must-have ingredient. Sage, thyme, and flat-leaf parsley are popular options, but you can choose which combination you prefer. You'll add them to the onion and butter mixture with chicken or vegetable stock and let it simmer while you mix the toasted bread with eggs. Once you've poured the broth mixture over the bread, you'll bake it until it's browned and the eggs are set.

Variations of this recipe call for everything from raisins to almonds. You can even make an easy sausage stuffing or take the oven out of the equation altogether with a 20-minute stovetop option. If you have leftovers, you can turn your stuffing into croquettes, fry an egg over them for a delicious breakfast, or use it to make a rice stir fry.

Try an Italian spin on salad with Tuscan Panzanella

When it comes to putting bread in salads, croutons are the most obvious option, but one beloved Italian dish offers an alternative. Panzanella is a refreshing dish originating from the sunny region of Tuscany. Combining juicy tomatoes with crunchy, toasted bread, it's the perfect recipe for a summer picnic. Since the bread is diced into cubes and roasted in the oven for extra crispiness, it doesn't matter if your hamburger buns are stale.

Once you've chopped and toasted the bread, all you have to do is combine it with chopped tomatoes, onions, and basil, and douse it in a dressing of garlic, vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper. While this makes for a delicious, simple salad, there are many versions of panzanella that take the textures and flavors to another level. You can add capers for an added kick, cucumber and bell pepper for a light crunch, and mozzarella for creaminess.

Put your own twist on TikTok's viral egg sandwich

TikTok is full of flash-in-the-pan food hacks, but one that stands the test of time is the viral egg sandwich. As demonstrated by the user @the.sandwichmaker in 2022, it's a handy one-pan solution to making a perfectly toasted sandwich. Start by pouring a mixture of whisked eggs and milk into an oiled pan. Add two sides of a burger bun and let them soak in the egg mixture. When the eggs are cooked, flip them like a pancake, transferring the bread to the bottom and the eggs to the top. Layer butter, cheese, ham, or whatever fillings you're craving onto the eggs, and then use a spatula to fold the edges of the eggs into a neat rectangle to fit the bread. Lastly, scoop one toasted slice of bread to the top, folding the eggs and fillings inside.

The recipe is perfect for leftover burger buns because, like French toast, staleness is irrelevant once the bread soaks up the eggs and milk. Using burger buns will give you a thick sandwich that won't fall apart under the weight of the toppings. To ensure the bun is soaked through, cook the eggs on low heat so it takes them longer to set and gives the bread more time to absorb.

Turn them into gourmet bruschetta

For a quick meal that uses up multiple leftovers, look no further than bruschetta. Traditional bruschetta is made by toasting slices of an Italian sourdough bread called pagnotta in oil and topping them with chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. The dish has evolved to include nearly every ingredient imaginable, from fig jam to chicken. Ciabatta is a common bread of choice in lieu of the traditional pagnotta, but you can also use burger buns. They won't have the same chewiness as ciabatta, but they will provide a thick base for your ingredients and give a light, airy texture.

You can stick with the traditional tomato and balsamic topping or opt for something more adventurous. If you have ingredients in your fridge that you don't know what to do with, chances are, they'd taste pretty good on bruschetta. Top your toasted buns with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan or drizzle honey over leftover salami and you've got the perfect meal.

Indulge your cheese cravings with supersized grilled cheese

Whether you're looking for a midnight snack or an indulgent lunch, grilled cheese is a fail-safe option that never gets old. No matter how stale your burger buns are, nothing can detract from the combination of butter and melted cheese. Go for a classic, streamlined recipe of sharp cheddar and butter, or get creative with smoked gouda and roasted veggies. There's no reason to only use one cheese, either. Try a combination of goats cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella, or sprinkle parmesan over freshly melted brie.

The best way to make grilled cheese on hamburger buns is to flip them so that the insides are facing outward. This gives you a flat, porous surface to absorb all the butter and flavor from the pan. If you prefer using the oven, bake the sandwich at high heat and make sure to butter both sides of the buns. You'll end up with a buttery, crispy exterior and a gooey, cheesy center.

Take a virtual trip to the sunny coast of Spain with Spanish-style migas

If you're familiar with Tex-Mex food, you probably think of migas as a variation of scrambled eggs that includes cheese, salsa, and tortilla chips. But in Spain, it's another dish entirely. Spanish-style migas can be eaten at any time of day and calls for fried eggs instead of scrambled. Traditional recipes include chorizo, bacon, paprika, and cubes of toasted bread. Various vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, are popular additions. The dish is native to the southern region of Andalusia but has been adopted across the country for obvious reasons: Once you've tried it, you'll never want to have fried eggs any other way.

To make Spanish-style migas, start by cooking the bacon and chorizo. Using the same pan, toast the shredded pieces of stale burger buns, coating them in the bacon fat. If you're adding vegetables, set aside the toasted bread and fry the vegetables in the same pan. Combine all the ingredients, and top them with fried eggs.

Take your breakfast to the next level with a baked French toast casserole

If the mere mention of French toast has your mouth watering, it's about time you tried a French toast casserole. Think of it as the love child of traditional French toast and bread pudding. Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? The choice is yours. You can even customize it to fit your cravings. If you're looking for something sweet and caramelly, you can add extra brown sugar, nuts, and lots of vanilla. Or if you want something lighter and healthier, add fresh fruit and cut back on the sugar.

As a starting point, layer a buttered baking dish with shredded burger buns and cover it in a mixture of milk, eggs, and sugar. You can add cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and vanilla to the liquid ingredients as well, or simply leave them plain. If you want a richer casserole, use half-and-half or a combination of cream and whole milk. To make the dish even tastier, let it sit overnight to allow the custard to fully saturate the bread. This will create a casserole that looks and tastes more like a coffee cake than French toast, thanks in large part to the light, highly permeable burger buns. Sprinkle the dish with sugar and cinnamon and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the custard has set.

Spice up your dinner menu with bread umpa

One of the best ways to use uneaten burger buns is to make a bread upma. The dish is a favorite breakfast food in Southern India and incorporates spices and vegetables into a carbohydrate source. Although it frequently consists of semolina or cream of wheat, some recipes use stale bread. If you love savory breakfasts but are tired of eating eggs, bread upma is not to be missed.

To make the dish, cut your leftover buns into cubes and toast them in a skillet. Then, sauté your spices. Most recipes call for a combination of mustard seeds, ginger paste, curry leaves (which may be difficult to find in some places), green chilis, and onions. Some also include turmeric, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and nuts. Once you've sautéed your spices and vegetables, add the bread. When it's coated and fragrant, it is ready to eat. It's a spicy, warming breakfast that can use up all the vegetables in your fridge and your leftover burger buns in a new and delicious way.

Take a culinary journey to Czechia with knedlíky (Czech bread dumplings)

One unexpected way to expand your food horizons with leftover burger buns is to make traditional Czech dumplings, known as knedlíky. While they aren't the fastest or most straightforward option, they are so delicious that you might find yourself returning to the recipe even when you don't have burger buns that need repurposing.

Unlike East Asian dumplings that are popular in the U.S., knedlíky are leavened with yeast. Flour, milk, eggs, and yeast are mixed to make a dough which is then combined with cubes of stale bread. Knedlíky was created as a way to use leftover bread, so your uneaten hamburger buns are the ideal ingredient — the staler, the better. After rising, the dough is shaped into a log and cooked in boiling water before being cut into slices like a baguette. They can also be steamed for a lighter, bread-like texture. Knedlíky is often served with gravy and frequently accompanies a meat entrée. They may not resemble the dumplings you order from a Chinese restaurant, but they are a unique addition to your meal that creates a delicious alternative to more common starches like potatoes and rice.