Depression Bread Pudding


I want to preface this recipe by saying that I’ve found bread pudding tends to be rather polarizing – folks either love it or hate it. That having been said, if you are not a bread pudding fan, you will not be thrilled with this recipe. If you are a bread pudding fan, I am your new best friend.

This is one of those classic “make do” recipes. At some point, there was this lady who was trying to make ends meet and needed to use up some leftover bread buns in addition to feeding her family. She whipped this up and a classic was born. I also call this “depression food” as it was just the type of dish which was born out of the necessity of hard times.

There are tons of bread pudding recipes out there. Some use fancy breads with names I can’t pronounce, some use leftover buttermilk biscuits. Regardless of the ingredients, I always love the outcome of any bread pudding.

I particularly like this recipe because I find myself with leftover buns from time to time and hate for them to go to waste. I have a rule, food never goes to waste if I can help it. This is well known throughout my family and sometimes has comical results.

My brother is a caterer (and national grand champion winner at the Jack Daniels BBQ Cookoff) and not too long ago he had purchased hamburger buns for a BBQ for three hundred. When he arrived, someone had actually donated the buns so all he had purchased were not used. “Do you want some hamburger buns?” Sure! I was greeted with four Wal mart sacks full of hamburger buns. We had some hamburgers, of course, and bread pudding as well, but there were still so many left and I was determined not to let them waste. I think it has something to do with the fact that I am actually among the first generation in the history of my family to have never gone hungry – making use of the food we have is in our blood.

So I decided to make French toast. I made my batter of eggs, milk, and cinnamon and dipped the buns in them before frying to a nice golden brown. I then flash froze them on cookie sheets before plopping them into gallon Ziploc freezer bags. Two cycles in the toaster and we had fresh French toast anytime! I was so thrilled with my discovery that I made about eight packages worth of frozen French toast (that’s sixteen pieces per package). I then called everyone bragging over my thriftiness and creativity. The next day when I got home from an errand – four more wal mart sacks of hamburger buns were hanging on my door.

Needless to say, we still have plenty of french toast.

I should also note that this recipe came from a church cookbook. Now if you aren’t from the south, let me interpret that for you. “Came from a church cookbook” automatically gives a recipe at the very least a four star rating on account of no one would serve bad food in a church – that would surely be an unforgivable sin in the bible belt.

Alrighty so here we go! Please note, I made a half recipe so what you are seeing is half of the recipe at the bottom of the page! We need two eggs, melted butter, two hamburger buns – split, cinnamon, sugar, and milk. Exact recipe is at the bottom of this page.

Place hamburger buns in baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together all other ingredients.

Pour over hamburger buns, pressing down to make sure they get saturated.

Place in oven and cook, about twenty to thirty minutes, until browned and puffed up a bit.

Umm…you know how I said that bread pudding is a polarizing recipe? Folks either love it or they don’t – I’m in the “love it” group and therefore forgot to take a pic before I scooped myself out some!

Depression Bread Pudding
  • 4 hot dog or hamburger buns
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sweet milk (this is what old folks in the south call “Whole Milk”)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ stick butter
  • cinnamon to taste (optional)
  1. Open buns in half, brown side up. Put in 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in mixer and pour over buns.
  3. Bake in 350 degree oven until buns puff up and are heated through.

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  1. Stephanie says

    I’m the kind that loves it. This looks great. And good job being so frugal and economical. I’m that way too – I did a huge loaf of Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and we only ate half the loaf before it started going hard. So I tore it up and made a bread pudding!

    My husband is pretty funny about bread pudding. He always declared that the very thought of it made him gag. He’d never had any, but it just didn’t sound appealing to him at all. I consider my bread pudding a success because when I made it, he tried a little and said, surprised, “This isn’t bad!” :-)

  2. Southern Plate says

    You know, my husband is the same way! My best friends mother says that, generally, women love bread pudding but men don’t. I wonder if there is a little truth to that for some reason. She thinks it has something to do with a natural inclination towards meat and potatoes….a testosterone thing. Hehe.

    No telling.
    I would have been just like you though, “I made this whole loaf of bread and there is half left!! I have to do something!!!”.
    I know the whole “children starving” thing was used a lot on us as children, but it really is something I think about. Here we have all this food and there are so many who don’t. I’m fortunate to have plenty of matriarchs who knew how to put this and that together and make it a meal.

    Plus, its just kind of fun to take something you might have thrown out and turn it into yumminess!

  3. Nikki Miller-Ka says

    I cannot pass up bread, no matter what kind it is! I’m not in the “love it” group for bread pudding though. I don’t like custardy things (except vanilla creme brulee). But I like your recipe. My momma would like this. I’m going to see her tomorrow. I’ll make this for her.

  4. Southern Plate says

    OOOOOOOOOOOOH I love it, love it, love it! I make a sweet potato creme brulee that is so good.

    I have posted my mother’s bread pudding recipe following the depression bread pudding recipe. I’ll do a tutorial on it soon!!
    As always, thank you for reading my blog!

  5. Southern Plate says

    MyViews: Absolutely!! I love India! I saw a movie with Aishwarya Rae where she ran this store which sold nothing but spices. I’ve wanted to taste Indian food ever since. I don’t even think we have an Indian restaurant here!
    You know, I’ve never even tasted curry?
    Okay, soon as I get a chance, I’m nosing through your entire blog!!

  6. Liane says

    I don’t think I have ever tried bread pudding before last night. I came across your blog and I love every inch of it! I made this recipe and this was a wonderful treat! Thank you for sharing this easy, yet truly delightful dish!

    I am making the hobo packets tonight and I just know with you behind the recipe, it will be delicious!

  7. Shreela says

    Despite having a Southern father, a Yankee mother, Dutch aunts from the Caribbean, and growing up in the big city, I never even heard of bread pudding until I was a young adult (except for my Yankee grandmother, the women in our family mostly cooked everything from scratch, and even though none of them really taught me to cook, watching them over the years made it easier to teach myself).

    The bread puddings I ate were torn up, usually in bigger hunks, then had some kind of sauce poured over it. Sometimes they’d have fruit and/or nuts in the pudding too. Mmmm, apple bread pudding with vanilla/cinnamon sauce {drooling!} Nuts and raisins would taste good with that too, but I think they’d bother me now.

    Now I’m going to try hamburger and hotdog buns the next time I have some leftover, thanks.

  8. Taylor35 says

    This recipe was soooooo what I have been looking for for years!
    I read it yesterday & made it last nite!
    I did reduce the sugar & milk from 1 cup to 3/4 cups. (I was making 1/2 the recipe)
    I did as you do sometimes Christy… I improvised with the bread.
    I don’t have a brother with loads of hamburger buns but I did have whole-wheat bread that was gonna die on me soon! So I tore it into large pieces & put it into the 8×8 pan & poured the mixture over it and it was just incredible! SOOO easy!
    Thanx for bringing back my Mom’s bread pudding to me again…

  9. Andrea says

    Was so happy to read about making French Toast with hamburger buns and to know I am not the only one. I’ve done this off and on for years, also using hot dog buns. Sometimes I will find buns on sale for less than .25 and I just can’t pass up the deal (5 growing children). Great way to make bread pudding too!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Well you sound like a smart guy, thinking to do a survey like that!
      A lot of younger people don’t eat the traditional foods older people were raised on mainly because they aren’t familiar to you. Just imagine, when I was your age there was no such thing as chicken nuggets!

      Food habits change a lot over the years and across generations. What is beloved and prized to someone older may seem foreign to a younger person.

      The neat thing is that you will find that as you grow older your taste in food will broaden and you just might find yourself liking foods you disliked as a child- and even disliking things you used to like! A lot of things change as we grow and that one often surprises people.

      I sure do appreciate you commenting Jasper! Hope you have a great weekend :)

  10. Arisa says

    I heartily agree, Christy. As a child, I intensely disliked bread pudding, so I can relate to Jasper’s feelings about it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to taste some very yummy bread puddings that friends have made, heavy on the cinnamon, which is one of my favorite spices. However, I haven’t had the courage to try making it myself. Today, I ended up with a lot of bread left over from a pre-holiday event and decided to look for recipes because I, too, cannot bear for food to go bad. I came across your blog post and I’m going to make bread pudding tonight! And maybe French toast tomorrow. I am so excited. Thank you for posting this.

  11. Nancy says

    Your bread pudding sounded so good I made it with some going stale dinner rolls night before last for a luncheon w/friend next day. Smelled so good baking couldn’t wait till next day so dived into it. Between hubby and me half was gone. GF liked it sent some home w/her and after she left I polished it off –the whole 9×13 pan gone almost overnight! Added a litt.le more cinammon and some raisins but raisins were on top but added necessary iron to diet.

  12. winniemom says

    Yes, I am a lover of good bread pudding. This recipe is basically what I do. You need to try using the cinnamon raisin breakfast bread and adding some chopped nuts. Getting the day old bread from bread store makes it cheap. One time I didn’t have quite enough milk so I added crushed pineapple with the juice to make up the difference. Nice change.

  13. Bob M. says

    This is absolutely fabulous. I thought I had a super recipe for bread pudding,
    until I made this one today and had it for lunch. I kinda snickered when I
    noted the ingredients. But what the heck I’ll try it anyway, can’t cost much.
    Boy were we surprised, this will be my thing when I want bread pudding.
    It is so good it is hard to describe, my wife just carried our daughter a piece
    when she went to have her nails done. Can’t wait to find out her take on it.
    Couldn’t get by anymore without Southern Plate, just keep it coming.

  14. Julie says

    I love it!! and this is my Nanny’s recipe. It must be a southern thing too b/c she has always used the heels and the recipe calls for heels…so I never thought about using anything else. And I’m always excited when I’ve saved enough heels!! But left over buns…I always have those!!! It’s time to update Nanny’s recipe. YUMMY! I think i have left over buns at the house right now!!!!

  15. says

    My brother, sister and grew up in a Tennessee orphanage in the late 40s and 50s. Needless to say, we had LOTS of bread pudding (also rice) made by some black ladies who were fabulous southern cooks. When I was little, I used to hang out in the kitchen to talk to them and watch them cook (when they weren’t too busy)! I still love GOOD bread pudding, but my brother won’t touch it!!! Thanks for this recipe. Sounds delicious!

  16. says

    I love bread pudding. It’s on some of the dessert menus down here in lower Alabama. I think some places add chocolate to it. Lester’s in Orange Beach even has a coupon in the winter months for free bread pudding.
    I’m glad you posted this. Now I can try it at home. Thanks Christy :)

  17. Sue says

    Christy…Have been using this recipe for many years.
    Like you, it was called poor man’s dessert at our house.
    Another thing my mother and grandmother did, (living in SC we had lots of peaches) was to take about 5 large peaches and cook in little water and sugar (now I have to use Splenda), and put in bottom of pan (spray with butter spray first). Then place bread over and pour the sweet milk mixture. I have also used plums, apples, blueberries and raisins instead. So you can make any number of fruit pies or fruit bread pudding. Ummmm.

    • Jamie Wicox says

      Sue, I just now saw the bread pudding recipe and want to try it. Do you just substitute Splenda for the 2 c. of sugar? I know I’ll pig out on it, so as a diabetic, I hope the Splenda will work ok. Thanks for such a fantastic idea as adding fruit. Oh yummmmmm….

  18. Deltajoy says

    Hi Christy, always have loved bread pudding but I can’t imagine putting 2 cups of sugar for 4 buns that’s 1/2 c per bun. I’ve never tried it with bun but will soon and I love raisins in mine.

  19. Mary Little Loper says

    I made this tonight, am putting it in the fridge to share with the family, but had to try it tonight and it is delicious! I never thought of using buns before and am always having to throw them out! Not anymore!

  20. Heidi says

    This is to die for and I should have NEVER made it. I cant stop eating it!! .ROFL..I just had a bowl of it and there is plenty left over. Everytime I go into the fridge, I get a spoonful..I am going to wind up eating the whole thing myself..=)

  21. Tobi says

    Hmmm I have hamburger buns in my freezer. Guess I know what we are having for dessert. I always save my left over bread in the freezer for bread pudding. I can’t stand to throw it out. My favorite is to toss in a handful of chocolate chips, and some dried cranberries.

  22. says

    I found your site looking for something to do with leftover hamburger buns (the 4th of July was a few days ago) and stumbled onto this. Loved the description of ‘church cookbooks’ – I never put 2 and 2 together before :D. Hope to make this or the french toast, thanks!

  23. Pat says

    I’m in the “I like it’ category but I forget to make it. The best batch I ever made was a few years back and for some reason I’d begun putting partial loaves of bread in the freezer rather than letting it go bad. One night I decided to use it all up and made bread pudding with white bread, buns, dinner rolls, whole wheat bread and left over home made biscuits. I also had a few peaches left that were starting to get soft so I used them up too. I sure wish I’d made notes so I can do it again. LOL Love your website!

  24. theBigmac says

    I never thought I would be one of those people who say something is too sweet but here I am. I followed the recipe and used about 1&3/4 cups sugar and it was sweeter than I like. Next time I make it I will try 1 cup sugar. I sprinkled the cinnamon atop the finished unbaked product and it looked pretty. I used 4 Tablespoons of butter , 4 buns (8 individual pieces plus ripped off bits of another bun stuffed in here and there and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes. It does puff up! (I was surprised). I used end of life whole wheat hamburger buns and put them brown side down but poked them a lot with a fork!

    Thank you for posting this recipe!

    • says

      But you said it in a kind way, lol! Trust me, that makes a difference on this end! You know, I find as I get older (not saying you are older than me, just saying that things change with different times and situations) that I prefer things less sweet than I did in my younger years. I do believe that if I made these this very day I’d use 1 cup as well. Then again, it also has to do, for me, with seasons, moods, etc. At the end of a long day, I make my coffee a little bit sweeter. At the start of a busy day, I hardly sweeten it at all, it’s more of a “lets get down to business” type coffee. Your bread pudding sounds lovely either way and I’m glad you found a recipe you can modify to make perfect for you :).


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