Don't let these surprisingly versatile cookout staples go to waste.
Greek Turkey Burgers
Credit: Victor Protasio

It always happens--you have a cookout and end up with a handful of straggler leftover hamburger and hot dog buns. You may have good intentions of grilling out again the following weekend, but a few weeks later you seemingly always discover the bag of forlorn buns hidden behind cereal boxes and granola bars in the pantry with an expiration date that's long overdue. We've all been there.

Thankfully, you'll never have to waste your leftover cook-out bread again thanks to these 10 inventive ways for using up your leftovers that don’t involve eating more of the burgers and dogs you’ve been gorging yourself on all holiday weekend.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Hamburger or hot dog buns + salt and pepper are all you need for these homemade "bun crumbs." In addition to making a terrific coating for chicken or pork cutlets, bread crumbs can add a touch of crunch to all kinds of dishes. Just toss them with a little oil or melted butter in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, and, if you're feeling it, add some chopped herbs or grated cheese. Then sprinkle the toasty crumbs over pasta, vegetables (think steamed broccoli or roasted tomatoes), salads, baked fish, or fried eggs.

All-Purpose Croutons

A homemade crouton is a crouton worth eating. Crunchy, warm, and buttery croutons are a great way to use up any leftover bread before it goes stales and add delicious heartiness to soups, salads, and more. All you have to do is cut hamburger or hot dog buns into 1-inch cubes, toss with melted butter and seasonings, and bake. Once cooled, you can store the croutons in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Try them in this this tasty BLT Salad or this Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup.

Garlic Toast

Everyone needs a quick and easy garlic toast recipe to serve with favorite pasta entrees. This four-ingredient recipe is warm, cheesy, and perfect for busy weeknights--but better yet, you can simply replace the whole-grain bread slices with halved hotdog or hamburger buns. Serve with One-Pan chicken Alfredo or Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce for a hearty and satisfying supper.

Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast casseroles and stratas are typically made with Italian or French bread, but here's an inventive hack: replace the called-for bread with cubed hamburger or hot dog buns. It's not a foolproof solution as commercial buns aren't as crusty and hearty as other commonly called-for breads--but your cookout bread leftovers will oftentimes be a perfectly viable substitute and can certainly save you when you're in a bind. Try the replacement in Cheesy Sausage-and-Croissant Casserole or one of these breakfast casserole recipes or sweet French toast recipes.

Bread Pudding

Decadent bread pudding is a favorite, year-round dessert (that can also be eaten for breakfast... you may just want to skip the sauce), but did you know you can make it with hamburger buns? Yep, you can. Try the swap in your favorite bread pudding recipe, or check out some of our best bread pudding recipes (Did someone say Peanut Butter-Banana Sandwich Bread Pudding? Oh yeah, I did.).

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This recipe is so genius that we're giving it a category all on it's own. As a super-simple take on traditional pineapple upside-down cake, this 5-ingredient recipe uses split hamburger buns that are baked with a homemade caramel sauce and fresh pineapple slices for a mouthwatering dessert that's ready in just 30 minutes. Your guests will never suspect you're using up leftover cookout ingredients.


Don't just think sourdough or whole-grain bread: a warm, grilled sandwich can be made with essentially any bread you have on hand--including hamburger buns. The above recipe uses salami, fontina cheese, and pepperoncini in addition to buns, but the beauty of paninis is that you can use whatever sandwich ingredients you have on hand. Try the substitution in any of these cheesy and warm grilled sandwich recipes.


Similar to garlic toast, bruschetta can be made using hot dot or hamburger buns. You'll want to use a rolling pin to roll the bun halves until they're flattened. Broil until golden brown--and then spoon a fresh tomato mixture over top. Try the replacement in Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta or Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta.

Easy Gazpacho

Our take on the classic chilled Spanish soup takes just 20 minutes to throw together in this quick and easy recipe. Whole-grain bread is used here, but you can replace with day-old hamburger or hot dog buns. Try using it as a thickener in Gazpacho with Shrimp and Avocado Relish or Summer Gazpacho with Avocado.