16 Ways To Upgrade Store-Bought Garlic Bread

Whether you're transforming a bowl of plain mashed potatoes into a culinary masterpiece or taking grilled cheese to the next level, there are many delicious foods that can be made even more sublime with an extra ingredient or two. Store-bought garlic bread is the perfect example. With its soft, fluffy texture on the inside and crunchy, butter-drenched crust, it is the perfect accompaniment for everything from pasta dishes to soups, while its spicy garlic flavor acts as a bonus seasoning for the entrée. We are big fans of store-bought garlic bread. Sure, you could make your own, but keeping a loaf on hand in the freezer to pop into the oven last minute is the kind of forward-thinking that will serve you well numerous times over.

Any grocery store you visit will likely have several frozen garlic bread options. You can opt for pillowy loaves, individual garlic knots, or single-serving breadsticks, but whichever you choose, there are a handful of easy upgrades you can employ that will separate them from the crowd. Keep reading to discover which option will steal the show at your next meal.

1. Drizzle it with brown butter sage sauce

Most store-bought garlic bread contains either butter or oil, which might make you think that adding brown butter would be redundant. But, thanks to the magic of chemistry, it's a different ingredient entirely. When you let butter heat in a saucepan past its melting point, it undergoes the Maillard reaction, the process by which sugar, protein, and heat result in a darker color and fragrant, toasted flavor. It's responsible for everything from the crispy dark crust on a seared steak to the intense aroma of roasted coffee beans. When butter undergoes the Maillard reaction, it takes on a nutty, caramelized flavor that tastes heavenly in both sweet and savory recipes.

Combined with the earthy, slightly peppery taste of sage, brown butter becomes fragrant and complex, lending the perfect variation to garlic bread. Even better, brown butter sage sauce is almost laughably quick to make. You only need five minutes, significantly less time than it takes many store-bought garlic breads to heat in the oven.

2. Turn it into bruschetta

Bruschetta is one of those deceptively easy appetizers that looks impressive but is quick to make and easily adapted. The classic recipe calls for slices of toasted or grilled bread topped with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Many recipes also include basil, balsamic vinegar, and Parmesan. Our own recipe takes things up a notch, adding mozzarella and red onion to the mix.

If you want to branch out a little further, you can make crostini, a similar but more adaptable appetizer involving small slices of bread topped with various ingredients. You can let your imagination or the contents of your fridge guide you on this one, but you can never go wrong with a sweet and savory version, such as our brie apple honey crostini recipe. This option may not suit individual buns of garlic bread, but for the classic long, thin loaf, it's easy to cut it into slices, grill them in the oven, and top them with whichever ingredients fit the occasion.

3. Turn it into pizza bread

To turn garlic bread from your favorite side dish to your favorite main dish, pizza bread is the answer. Making pizza might sound like a steep hill to climb when all you were planning was to pop some pre-made garlic bread in the oven and call it a day, but trust us when we say that this recipe is not only easy to make, but fun and creative too. You'll need tomato sauce (marinara is delicious but even tomato purée will do), mozzarella, and your favorite toppings. Our recipe suggests pepperoni, dried thyme, fresh oregano, and fresh marjoram, but if you want to add olives, gouda, or even the dreaded pineapple chunks, you can.

If you have long loaves of garlic bread, all you need to do is slice them in half length-wise, slather them with tomato sauce, top them with your preferred ingredients. Bake them for 12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy. For a browned, bubbly top, put them under the broiler for a minute or two before serving.

4. Serve it with a side of Turkish eggs

Known as çılbır in their native Turkey, Turkish eggs are a beloved breakfast dish around the world due to their silky texture and light spices. Made with poached eggs and garlicky yogurt drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, they are healthy, warming, and quick to prepare, whether you're planning a special weekend brunch or taking a few extra minutes to make a spectacular weekday breakfast.

Turkish eggs are often served with some kind of bread to mop up all the yogurt and runny egg yolk. While you could opt for any crusty bread, we think garlic bread is the best option. Already suffused with garlic and oil, its flavor perfectly complements the ingredients in the classic recipe. To elevate the dish even further, consider adding fresh herbs such as dill or parsley, or sprinkling it with sesame seeds.

5. Make Texas toast

One could argue that garlic bread is basically just glorified toast, and we're here to convince you to go all the way with the comparison. With only a few extra ingredients, you can transform your garlic bread into the most glorious toast of them all: Texas toast. Regardless of your thoughts on the Lone Star state and whether it can claim to have all things bigger, its toast is renowned for its considerable size and mouthwatering preparation.

At its most basic level, Texas toast is a piece of bread sliced nearly an inch thick, covered in butter, and fried or griddled until it's crispy and golden on the outside and soft on the inside. Many recipes call for garlic and parsley, but the benefit of making it with garlic bread is that it already has all the flavorings you need.

Legend has it that the supersized toast was born in 1941 at the Pig Stand drive-in restaurant in Beaumont. The owner wanted extra-thick slices of bread but had to improvise when he realized that they wouldn't fit in his toaster. This may be more fiction than fact, but it's 100% true that a toaster will not do you any favors here. Frying the bread in butter is where the magic happens.

6. Make bacon and ranch cheesy bread

Some might say that garlic bread is already decadent and doesn't need to be made less healthy. To them, we say that you can never have too much decadence, and this bacon ranch cheese bread proves the point. Think of it as a deluxe, open-faced grilled cheese with bacon, and you'll get the picture. There's even some Greek yogurt in there, so it isn't entirely unhealthy.

To make it, you'll need to mix parsley, onion flakes, garlic powder, dill, onion powder, and salt with butter and Greek yogurt. Then spread it over a loaf of garlic bread, sliced length-wise (or individually sliced garlic knots). Top it with bacon crumbles, sprinkle it liberally with cheese, and bake it until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy. This recipe tastes delicious for lunch when paired with soup, or simply as a quick snack on its own.

7. Add pesto or sun-dried tomatoes

If you love garlic bread for exactly what it is and aren't trying to change it, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes might be the perfect way to dress it up. Pesto is garlic-based, so you're basically just intensifying the central flavor of the bread while adding the spiciness of basil and the nutty richness of Parmesan and pine nuts. Sun-dried tomatoes are not adding to a pre-existing ingredient in garlic bread, but they do complement the garlic and olive oil the way they do in many other Mediterranean recipes. There's a reason you see garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil in everything from bruschetta to pasta sauce. The sweet tartness of tomatoes cuts through and balances the sharpness of the garlic, while the olive oil makes the dish rich and buttery.

You don't have to choose one ingredient over the other, either. Our recipe for 5-ingredient pesto grilled cheese includes the garlicky basil spread and sun-dried tomatoes, and can easily be made with garlic bread.

8. Drench it in cheese sauce

Cheese is an obvious option when it comes to upgrading savory dishes. With its near-universal appeal and so many kinds to choose from, it's hard to go wrong. But one option that might not immediately spring to mind is cheese sauce. Instead of reaching for a block of manchego or a chunk of brie, why not take a few extra minutes to create a velvety, cheesy gravy to give your garlic bread something to mop up?

There are plenty of options. For a classic recipe tailored toward nachos, you can make a roux out of butter and flour before adding salt, a hint of chili powder, milk, half and half, and cheddar. It's creamy, mild, and perfect for picky eaters. Then there's the more flavorful cheese sauce that includes Dijon mustard and Parmesan. If you want something completely different, try this easy beer cheese. Made with beer, Dijon, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and mozzarella, it's full of flavor and makes an ideal dipping sauce.

9. Make muffuletta

Muffuletta is a Sicilian-American creation featuring the hallmarks of Sicilian antipasti sandwiched between thick slices of round, sesame-encrusted bread. The muffuletta sandwich is inextricably linked to New Orleans, but you can make it yourself no matter where you happen to be. For a variation that sticks with the Italian theme, you can swap the classic round loaves for garlic bread.

To make the antipasti filling, you'll need green olives, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, dried oregano, dried thyme, sliced provolone cheese, sliced Swiss cheese, sliced salami, sliced mortadella, and sliced capicola. Unless you have an unusually well-stocked fridge, you'll probably need to make an extra trip to the grocery store for some of these ingredients, but the resulting sandwich will be well worth the effort. Full of bright Mediterranean flavors and the soft, pillow texture of the bread, it's a delicious addition to any meal.

10. Add a barbecue flair

Garlic bread can serve as an excellent means of revamping leftovers. You might not feel like eating post-Thanksgiving turkey for the fourth day in a row, but throw some light meat and cranberry sauce onto some garlic bread and you may as well be eating an entirely different meal. The same is true of barbecue. Red meat is mouthwatering when pulled off the grill, but after it's been in the refrigerator overnight, it can look cold, sinewy, and bland. You could turn it into a barbecue sandwich with leftover burger buns, but busting out the garlic bread will take it farther away from the meal of the day before, and may even make you forget that you're eating leftovers altogether.

To start, heat the meat with barbecue sauce. Adding chicken broth or beef stock will help rehydrate the meat even more until it's soft and succulent again. You can also shred it first if you want to make the sandwich extra tender and juicy. Once the meat is softened and heated through, pile it onto your garlic bread and serve warm.

11. Grill it

When you think about upgrading garlic bread, you might consider any number of elaborate toppings, fillings, and spreads, but changing the way it's heated might not bring up any ideas at all. It's already baked, so how could it make a difference? Grilling is the answer. Instead of heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or whatever temperature the packaging calls for, fire up your grill (or broiler), and marvel at the difference it makes.

Grilling suffuses the bread with a smoky flavor and creates a crispy, slightly charred exterior without burning it. The direct heat will also cook the crushed garlic and melt the butter deep into the layers of bread, filling it with flavor. Sprinkling the cut sides of bread with juice from a fresh tomato will add to the deliciousness, but if you want to keep things extra simple, this upgrade requires no additional ingredients to shine.

12. Stuff it with cheese

As soon as you start experimenting with grilled cheese recipes, you discover that the supposedly simple, childhood snack is a delicate art that can take a lifetime to master. Sure, the concept is easy enough — bread, cheese, heat. But the more you get into the details, the more complex it becomes. For example, which cheese do you use? And how much? Do you grill the sandwich in the oven or in a skillet? Should the bread be buttered on both sides, one side, or neither? And where do you stand on fillings?

The answers to all these questions are subjective (though the bread should definitely be buttered on both sides), but the goal is to constantly experiment. Maybe you prefer brie to cheddar or favor an added sharpness of kimchi to cut through the fat. Maybe you like a hint of sweetness from fig butter or just want to test-run three or four different cheeses all at once. Whatever your preferred recipe, garlic bread provides a reliably delicious foundation. With its fluffy texture, it is perfect for toasting, leaving a soft interior with a crispy crust.

13. Cover it with herbs

Herbs punch well above their weight when it comes to transforming a dish through flavor. Whether you use fresh or dried, they can change the whole character of a recipe, brightening rich dishes, adding zest to bland proteins, and making salads pop with flavor. Garlic bread is often made with herbs such as parsley and basil, but you can double down by adding your own mix of green seasonings to match the entree you're serving it with. By adding herbs, you can make sure that the bread is tailored to suit the entire meal rather than a ready-made side dish that you have little control over.

For a hearty, aromatic depth, rosemary is the perfect option. If you want something more in keeping with the zesty punch of garlic, opt for chives. Timing also plays a role in the decision-making. Delicate herbs like fresh basil and parsley should be added after the bread has been heated so they don't wilt and burn, while more robust options like rosemary can be added before baking.

14. Make a tapenade

Garlic bread may contain garlic, but that doesn't make it a flavorful side dish. In fact, it can be downright bland. While this works to its advantage when you're using it to mop up marinara, it's a distinct disadvantage when you're trying to make a quick appetizer or snack out of it. This is where tapenade comes in to save the day. Made with olives, garlic, lemon zest, herbs, capers, and often anchovies, it's not messing around with flavor and will cut straight through every millimeter of fluffy carbohydrate.

If anchovies aren't your thing, you can always stick to the olives and garlic. Our recipe keeps things relatively simple with two kinds of olives, garlic, horseradish mustard, and dried herbs, but the flavor will still knock your socks off. Serving freshly toasted slices of garlic bread with tapenade on the side makes for a unique and sophisticated appetizer that is perfect for pairing with your favorite wine. If you're running short on time, you can even purchase ready-made tapenade at many grocery stores.

15. Dip it in skordalia

You've heard of hummus. You've heard of tzatziki. You've heard of guacamole. But have you heard of skordalia? The Greek dip is made with potatoes, garlic, and almonds, and offers an unusual texture compared to other more widely known spreads. Although the potatoes are starchy, skordalia doesn't taste or feel like mashed potatoes due to the high proportion of almonds and extra virgin olive oil. The amount of fresh garlic also adds potency to the spread that makes it much more of a condiment than a side dish. Smooth, rich, and intensely flavored, it's the perfect accompaniment to garlic bread when you've gotten tired of hummus and pita chips.

Garlic bread is most closely associated with Italian cuisine, but serving it with skordalia lends a different type of Mediterranean flair to the table. You can serve them as an appetizer or side dish alongside Italian or Greek food, creating the perfect fusion of flavors.

16. Adapt it for breakfast

Garlic bread is much more versatile than many of us give it credit for. Not only can you adapt it into a complete meal or serve it as the perfect appetizer, but you can also turn it into a mouthwatering breakfast. If you're running short on sandwich bread or have a few extra mouths to feed, pull some trusty garlic bread out of the freezer and start improvising. You can fry up a few eggs, serve them on the toasted bread, and call it a day, or try something more creative. Why not recreate your favorite breakfast sandwich? Bacon, eggs, and cheese taste even better on a crusty, garlicky loaf than on an English muffin, while tomatoes and avocados complement the pungent flavor of garlic as if they were made for the task.

For those who like a little bit of sweetness in the morning, you can simply have garlic bread slathered with butter alongside a bowl of fruit and yogurt. This provides a well-rounded meal of protein and carbohydrates to fuel your morning.