13 Clever Ways To Use Canned Bread

Canned bread, also referred to as Boston brown bread, has its roots in Colonial-era Boston. Early settlers created the first versions by mixing rye, cornmeal, and molasses. Many lacked ovens, so instead of baking, they poured the dough into a can and steamed it in a water bath. Although the exact date remains unclear, canned bread became commercialized sometime in the early 20th century when baked bean giant B&M introduced its version of brown bread.

B&M continues to sell canned bread to this day, although you're most likely to find it in New England supermarkets. If you're lucky enough to chance upon a can, you'll probably feel a mixture of excitement and confusion. Just how exactly are you supposed to use this bizarre food item? Not to worry — we've put together a list of clever ways to use canned bread. From simple toast recipes to mouth-watering desserts, canned bread is surprisingly versatile. Read on to discover everything you need to know about cooking with this unique item.

Serve it as your morning toast

Depending on who you ask, canned bread can either pass for rye bread, a bran muffin, or a dense cake. While there's not a ton of consensus about what this culinary oddity tastes like, one thing is for sure — it's a solid stand-in for your regular morning toast. You can eat it right out of the can, but canned bread connoisseurs swear it tastes better toasted.

If toasting is your plan, remove the bread log from the can, cut off a couple of thin slices, and pop them into the toaster for a few minutes. Both regular toasters and toaster ovens will do the job, but we recommend using a toaster oven if you have one. Canned bread leads on the crumbly side, so you might lose quite a bit trying to extract it from the toaster. As an aside, B&M, the manufacturers of canned bread, recommend toasting it in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes, but who's got time for that? After your bread has achieved that perfect crispiness, top it with your favorite breakfast ingredients. Butter, jam, or cream cheese are all tasty options, but the sky's the limit when it comes to experimenting with such a unique ingredient.

Prepare it as a side dish

Burnham & Morrill, better known under the brand name B&M, is the best-known (and perhaps only) canned bread manufacturer. The brand also happens to be a massive producer of canned baked beans. Whether because of clever marketing or a coincidence of grocery store layouts, the two disparate products have been paired together since they were introduced to the market in the 1920s.

In fact, Saturday night baked beans and canned brown bread is a New England dinner tradition going back decades. If you're not one for sweetness, we recommend using the plain option. If you enjoy a touch of natural sugar, opt for the raisin variety. Once you've got your bread and beans sorted out, it's time for the finishing touch — sliced hot dogs. While this rather monochrome dish isn't much to look at, the combination of salt, fat, and carbs must have something to do with the dish's enduring success.

Upgrade your avocado toast

It's hard to improve on a dish as perfect as avocado toast, but we're always on the lookout for ways to turn tried and true dishes into masterpieces. In the past, we've recommended topping avocado toast with tomato jam to create a sweet and spicy rendition of the dish. We also shared that mashing cream cheese into your avocados gives them an irresistible creaminess. While we've talked a lot about how to dress your avocado toast, we haven't spent a lot of time discussing the all-important base.

With its rich flavor and slight tanginess, sourdough bread is the obvious foundation for avocado toast. But it's not the only option. Any dense, sturdy bread that's strong enough to support the weight of the avocados works. As you might expect from a loaf of bread shoved into a metal cylinder, canned bread is extremely dense, making it an excellent avocado toast base. Besides that, canned bread has a slight molasses sweetness that adds an unexpected layer of flavor complexity. But the relationship isn't one-sided. The creaminess of the avocado provides some much-needed moisture to the canned bread. Talk about an unexpected match made in heaven.

Make a sweet sandwich with it

The main ingredients in canned bread are whole wheat flour, water, molasses, dextrose, and whole grain rye flour. Thanks to molasses and dextrose, canned bread has a slight sweetness you might not expect. That's even truer when it comes to the raisin variety. Take advantage of this unexpected flavor profile by using canned bread as a base for your favorite sweet sandwiches.

Peanut butter and jelly is an obvious choice, but don't limit yourself to this childhood lunchtime staple. For example, try smearing some Nutella on canned brown bread, then add sliced banana on top. Another tasty option is the trifecta of almond butter, sliced apple, and honey. But the best way to honor canned bread's Boston roots is to use it for making another Massachusetts favorite, the fluffernutter. To make this tasty treat, smear equal parts marshmallow fluff and peanut butter on the bread, then press the sides together. These are just a few options for inspiration. As long as there's a spread or butter adding some moisture to the brown bread, you can't go wrong.

Pair it with cured or pickled fish

With its subtle sweetness and dense texture, canned bread is a pretty convincing stand-in for kavring, a traditional Swedish rye bread. Served during the midsommer festival, as well as during Easter and Christmas, kavring is a beloved addition to all kinds of holiday meals. The Swedes eat it in the morning topped with butter and sliced cheese, butter with a hard-boiled egg, or butter and marmalade. While these are all tasty options, kavring with pickled or cured fish is the most delicious combination we've found.

Using this pairing as inspiration, top canned bread with your favorite fish. Pickled herring, lox, or cured salmon (aka gravlax) are all accessible options that combine well with the molasses-heavy bread. Before adding the fish, be sure to add some kind of spread. Mustard sauce is a popular Scandinavian option, but cream cheese-based sauces are equally enticing. Not only will the spread complement the flavors of the fish, but it will help soften the bread, giving it the perfect consistency.

Use it for appetizers

We don't know about you, but we're sick and tired of eating white bread appetizer sandwiches. Even at its best, white bread is flimsy. It can't stand up to the weight of the ingredients, nor can it absorb much liquid before turning soggy. Well, enough's enough. From here on out, we're only making appetizer sandwiches with bread that's worthy. Canned bread is incredibly dense and hearty, making it a strong, if unexpected, contender for the job.

If you're fresh out of ideas, start with a classic like cucumber sandwiches. To make this British favorite, mix cream cheese with mayonnaise, dill, chives, salt, and garlic. Top with sliced cucumbers and watercress. Tried-and-true rye bread sandwich combinations are another good starting place. Both rye bread and canned bread are slightly sweet, making them convincing doppelgängers. Salted butter, ham, and cornichons is one of our favorite mashups, but mini Reubens made with sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and pastrami come in a close second.

Bake a canned bread apple brown Betty

Dating back to colonial times (the first recipe was published in 1864), the apple brown Betty is a dessert made by alternating layers of sliced apple with breadcrumbs. Combining flour, butter, spices, and sugar, the brown Betty bears a striking resemblance to apple crisp. The only difference is that apple crisp's crust contains oats, whereas Betty's doesn't.

Like lots of desserts that have been around for decades, Betty's main theme has been riffed on quite a bit. Whether it's using peaches in place of apples or serving it with lemon sauce, there are countless ways to prepare this classic dessert. One variation we enjoy is using canned raisin bread for the breadcrumb filling. To make this version, mix sliced apples with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Cube the bread, then cover it with melted butter. Pour alternating layers of the apple mixture and the coated bread into a slow cooker and cook until the apples are tender.

Top with maple syrup

Canned bread isn't exactly bread. It's not exactly cake, either. In fact, this bizarre circular carbohydrate defies just about every label we've tried to put on it. Instead of getting upset about this tough-to-define misfit, we're throwing all caution to the wind. That means pairing canned bread with just about anything we can think of. And what better topping for cakey bread than maple syrup?

After all, canned bread has a lot more in common with maple syrup's regular partner (pancakes) than meets the eye. Texture-wise, both are dense and chewy. When it comes to flavor, canned bread and pancakes have a subtle sweetness that begs for some extra sugar. Plus, there are plenty of unique ways to use maple syrup in the kitchen. What's the harm in adding one more? If you're ready to experiment a bit, warm up slices of canned bread in a frying pan. Don't leave them in the pan for too long, though — you want them warmed up, not crispy. Once they've reached the right temperature, smear butter on top and douse with maple syrup.

Work it into strawberry panzanella

Hailing from Tuscany, panzanella is a hearty bread salad made by combining cubes of old bread with vegetables and topping with a vinaigrette. Ripe tomatoes are the classic add-in, but panzanella has many faces: grilled vegetables and salmon with green beans are just a couple of the variations that exist. We're all for eating more veggies, but a fruit panzanella works best with the molasses-y sweetness of canned bread.

More specifically, we're pairing canned bread with strawberries for a dessert version of this classic Italian dish. If this combination sounds strange, hear us out. Panzanella, whether it's a vegetable or fruit version, benefits from dense bread. With all of the liquids swimming around, the bread needs to be hearty enough to maintain its structural integrity. Canned bread is about the densest bread we've come across, so it's the perfect option. Even still, it doesn't hurt to leave it out for a day or two. Once the bread is nice and crusty, cube it and toss it in a brown sugar glaze. Bake until toasted, then top with mashed strawberries and plain yogurt.

Slide some cheese on top

Are there any combinations more perfect than bread and cheese? Truly, the heartiness of the bread paired with the creaminess and saltiness of the cheese is the stuff of dreams. And while you're probably used to pairing your favorite brie with a baguette, we're here to encourage you to change up your bread routine.

By that, we mean swapping your true blue bread options for the canned variety instead. Now, if you're a cheese connoisseur, you're probably freaking out, but try to keep an open mind. As we mentioned previously, canned brown bread has a lot in common with rye bread. Therefore, it stands to reason that any cheese that plays nicely with rye bread also pairs beautifully with canned bread. That means cheddar, Swiss, and Gruyère all go well with canned bread. When it comes to the raisin variety of canned bread, try fresh goat cheese. The earthy tartness of this cheese variety benefits from the sugariness of the raisins.

Enjoy slices alongside soup

When the mercury drops, there's nothing better than tucking into a steaming hot bowl of soup. More than mere sustenance, soup is one of those dishes that feeds the soul and makes you feel like everything is alright in the world. Given how perfect this simple dish is, it seems impossible that it could get better. But it can.

Here, we're talking about pairing a bowl of soup with a delicious slice of bread (or five) for dipping. A hearty country loaf or a chewy baguette are the obvious choices, but when have we ever stayed with the safe option? Canned bread, with its dense texture and mild flavor, is the perfect type of bread to pair with your favorite soup. Not only will it stand up to repeated dunking, but its sweetness will complete the savory flavors swimming around in your bowl. Try it with our creamy roasted tomato soup or be a rebel and serve it alongside a meaty chili.

Author a fresh take on French toast

Sturdy, delicious, and slightly stale — these are three characteristics we look for when choosing a French toast bread. That may sound obsessive, but quality French toast requires bread that's strong enough to withstand the egg bath and the heat of the pan. Brioche, sourdough, and challah are all solid options, but they're a bit tired if we're being honest. Canned bread French toast is where it's at.

We like the raisin variety in particular for this recipe. It's got all the sturdiness a good French toast bread requires, plus the added benefit of the natural fruit sweetness. Thanks to its dense texture, you don't have to wait for the bread to become stale, but it wouldn't hurt to leave it out for a day. When the bread has the texture you want, slice it and dunk each slice for 20 seconds in an egg, milk, and vanilla extract mixture. Cook in a medium-high skillet until a crust forms.

Elevate your bread pudding

Sure, it lacks some of the pizzazz of strawberry shortcake or cheesecake, but don't be so quick to dismiss the humble bread pudding. Dating back to the 11th century, bread pudding has long been a tasty way for thrifty cooks to use stale bread. The beauty of bread pudding lies in its simplicity. By covering the hard bread with a sweet mixture of cream and sugar, then baking it until golden brown, the once unyielding loaf is transformed into a toothsome treat.

You can use just about any neutrally-flavored bread for this recipe, so both plain or raisin canned bread work well. Since you'll be drenching the bread in milk and cream, we recommend leaving it out for a couple of days to allow it to dry out. Cut the bread into small pieces, mix it with the wet ingredients then bake for 90 minutes in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven. Allow it to cool, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.