Because the cookout math never, ever works out.
Credit: Getty / gjohnstonphoto

It is the age-old problem. Balancing buns. Whether you are doing the math of 8 hot dogs in a package and 12 buns in a bag, or half your guests are eating their burgers "keto-style" on slabs of lettuce, it seems inevitable that you will wake up the morning after any backyard barbecue with a lot more leftover buns than you have leftover meat to put in them. And we all know that despite the logic, thinking of them as bread for sandwiches tends to not go over terribly well with kids. 

I have the unique problem of a husband who gets an occasional craving for burgers on nights it is just the two of us. Which means I am always opening the bread box to six leftover buns the next day. Buns, because they are pre-sliced, tend not to freeze terribly well; they are prone to freezer burn and iciness. So, I have had to come up with some creative uses for these orphaned breadstuffs so that I don't end up tossing a bag full of penicillin the week after burger night. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to use them up!


Breadcrumbs are always useful to have around. I make my own by drying out leftover buns in a 200° oven until totally dried through. It can take a few hours, but you should be able to snap them in half. Then break up and pulse in a food processor until you get the texture you want. Store in an airtight container in the pantry for two weeks or in a freezer bag for up to three months.


Croutons are one of my first uses for any leftover breads. Cubed, tossed in clarified butter or olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and any spices that catch my fancy, and toasted in a 300° oven till fully dried and crisp, these DIY beauties add crunch to my salads or top my soups. Croutons freeze better than bread, since the moisture has been driven off, so if you make too many to use within a week, stash a bag in the freezer for later.

Bread Pudding

Leftover hot dog and hamburger buns are ideal for bread pudding, they have great texture like challah or brioche, and since they are designed to soak up meat juices, they also soak up custard! Swap them in for the bread in your favorite recipes or check out some of ours!

Sheet Pan Suppers

Adding large chunks of torn bread to any sheet pan supper is a great substitute for potatoes. They soak up the juices from the meats and vegetables, get crunchy, and make for that perfect one-bowl comfort meal.

Bread Soup

The Italians figured out that if you love dunking bread in your tomato soup, you'll love tomato bread soup even more! While usually this is a way to use up leftover country breads, you can absolutely swap in leftover buns. 

Summer Pudding

This bright combo of fresh berries and bread is a classic British summer dessert, and one of my favorite ways to use up leftover buns since the season tends to be the same!