9 Creative Ways to Use Up Hamburger Buns
Achieving the correct burger bun to patty ratio for a barbecue is a lesson in futility. Somehow, no matter how many times you take a headcount, you end up with a few buns extra, destined to sit in your freezer until the next time the grill calls. Well, we’ve teamed up with two culinary experts to say, “NO MORE!” Burger buns, especially hearty ones like Dave's Killer Bread buns, can do far more than hold a patty, and these fresh takes for all mealtimes prove it.
Toast some simple crostini
With a little reshaping, a burger bun can become a blank canvas for your appetizer masterpiece, and as long as you have an oven, homemade crostini is one of the easiest ways to please a crowd. Tracy Wilk, a pastry chef and culinary instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, recommends using a biscuit cutter to create precise cutouts for your crostini. Just flatten them with your palm, brush the cut side with a little olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and pop in the oven until golden. From there, you can make elevated mini pizzas, serve them with a cheese board, or break out the spinach & artichoke dip.
Serve egg & cheese sandwiches for a crowd
Lewis Donald, pitmaster at Sweet Lew's Barbecue and chef at Dish in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a hack for making brunch at home: batch-bake your egg & cheeses and turn an open-face breakfast sandwich, like a toad-in-the-hole, into a buttery, decadent bake using burger buns. First, flip open and flatten out the buns, then place half of them in a baking dish with the cut side facing up, and layer on the meat and cheeses of your choice. Place another bun upside down on top of the meat and cheese, then egg-wash the cut side (you do that by whisking an egg and brushing it onto the bun). To put the eponymous toad (read: the egg) in said hole, use a biscuit cutter (a cookie cutter or knife also works) to make the perfect round cutout in the sandwich. Crack an egg into the hole, bake the whole thing until the eggs are just set, and chow down.
Make salads better by nixing the lettuce
Everyone needs to eat more greens, but before slogging through another kale salad, consider the bread salad, aka panzanella. Here, toasted bread pieces (or croutons) make up the base, which is then mixed with fresh vegetables and a simple, tangy vinaigrette. First, cut up the buns, season with garlic and parsley, and pop them in the oven until toasted. Then, mix them with summer veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers. Donald suggests getting creative here by using pickled versions of veggies like okra, carrots, green tomatoes, and cauliflower for a Southern-style salad that complements the sweetness of the buns and will impress at the next potluck.
Simmer a dinner-worthy soup
Many filling soups feature bread as a centerpiece, like traditional Italian ribollita, and turns out that a burger bun can be swapped into that recipe seamlessly. “Italian soup is super hearty, and the bun is basically going in as a thickener,” Wilk explains. A ribollita usually includes white beans, greens, and a brothy tomato base alongside crusty bread, which the buns replace here easily thanks to their pre-toasted exterior. Just tear them into bite-size pieces, and put about half into the soup to thicken. (The rest can be used as a topping just before serving.) Wilk also recommends playing with bitter greens, like dandelion greens, since the flavor can mellow out during simmering. Or, for a soup that’s essentially fondue in a bowl, try Donald’s take on a Welsh “rarebit”: a combo of beer, cheddar, and burger buns that thicken up the soup base.
Use the bun to make a tostada
Is a tostada really a tostada without the tortilla? If you can get your bun flat enough, we say yes. To achieve this effectively, Donald recommends using a rolling pin, or, if you own one, a pasta roller. Get the bun as flat as you can, cut it into a circle, and shallow-fry it in a pan with hot oil until it crisps. From there, Donald suggests steering away from more traditional tostada options and trying a “sloppy Joe nacho,” in which ground beef is simmered with tomato sauce, onions, and peppers until it’s super tender. Then, top with sour cream, cheese, jalapeños, and red onion. For a slightly lighter take, grilled pork with a tangy slaw and avocado crema will complement your bun tostada, too.
Bake a sweet bread pudding
When it comes to bready desserts like donuts, bread pudding, and French toast, Wilk says the best doughs are brioche-based, as they are usually buttery and slightly sweet. Burger buns are typically made with a brioche dough, too, so they work just as well in a sweet bread pudding, which Wilk makes with a custardy base of eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. From there, customize as you like: Summer-y fruits like blueberries can be included as long as you account for the extra liquid fresh berries are likely to produce. To combat that, a thick custard made with mascarpone can keep the consistency correct. Wilk opts for chocolate chips, bananas, and cocoa powder for an especially decadent treat.
Make a stuffing for any day of the year
You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to whip up stuffing, a bready casserole, or savory strata -- not when you have a few burger buns around. Wilk suggests making an elevated stuffing with pancetta and oysters and portioning it into appetizer sizes for your next cocktail party, or serving a traditional stuffing alongside a roasted chicken for an especially homey weekend meal. Donald, on the other hand, said his grandmother used to make a broccoli, turkey, and cheese casserole with a burger-bun base for literally every family holiday, so he carries on the tradition with a smoked turkey leg at his restaurants today.
Bake a new take on breakfast muffins
Because they have a similar structure to brioche, burger buns are actually a better option for a French toast than regular old white bread, Wilk says. But we’re advocating for taking the French toast spin a step further and cashing in on a bun’s portability by baking a few cinnamon French toast muffins. The ingredients are similar to making French toast: Cut or tear the buns into bite-size pieces; drizzle on a mix of eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract; and fit the pieces into a muffin tin. Bake until they’re toasted, and while they’re in the oven, mix up a few DIY toppings like homemade vanilla glaze, fruit jams, and plenty of maple syrup.
Use them as the base for meatballs
Buns only need to be toasted, then pulsed in a food processor to make simple breadcrumbs, which is just as effective at binding meatballs as the store-bought stuff. Once you have your breadcrumbs, you can customize the other flavors, like adding cumin and chili powder for taco-style ’balls or more traditional oregano, parsley, and garlic powder for classic Italian meatballs. Or, make a decadent vegetarian “meatball” with lots of gooey melted cheese. Just tear your buns into bite-size pieces, mix with cream and an egg to get them a smidge doughy, toss in some shredded cheese (or cheeses), and roll the mix into balls. Bake in a hot oven for just a few minutes, and you’ll have a mini grilled cheese to top your tomato soup, or an extra-cheesy addition to a classic bowl of spaghetti.