How to Tell If Bread is Bad

When you think of bread, you likely think of something light and fluffy that’s perfect for toasting up or using for a sandwich. But if your bread is smelling a little “off,” has a hardened texture, or there’s mold growing on it, then your bread is bad and should not be consumed.

Hi! I’m Michelle, and I eat bread every day. Sometimes, I prefer a crunchier, crispier sourdough for breakfast while pillowy whole-grain slices accompany me for lunch. Since I consume bread so regularly, I have learned how to tell if it’s gone bad – molds are not always present. 

Are you wondering whether or not your bread is still good? Put those worries to rest and learn the few different ways to tell if your bread has gone bad. Don’t worry – it’s not rocket science, and you won’t need any special equipment other than your nose, hands, and taste buds.

Let’s talk about bread, bakers.

How to Know If Bread is Bad

You don’t want to eat old bread. Not only is it disgusting, but sometimes it can be a risk to your health, too. The good news is, there are many ways to tell whether or not your bread has gone bad. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Your Bread is Growing Mold

Let’s start by saying ew. There is nothing more distasteful than finding mold growing on your once delicious bread loaf. But whether it’s pink, green, brown, black, or white, you should not eat moldy bread.

You shouldn’t try to discard moldy slices and throw the rest of the batch away, either. While you’re most likely not going to get violently ill from eating some of the “safe-looking” bread, know that you’re still eating mold spores – even if they haven’t shown up yet.

You see, the bread acts sort of like a sponge. If there are mold spores in one area, it’s going to be in the entire loaf. Sometimes, other slices are just slower to grow visible mold. 

Needless to say, at the first sign of mold, it’s time to ditch the loaf. (A fresh loaf is only a few dollars anyway, right? You deserve it.)

2. There is an Odd Odor

Bread is supposed to smell like, well, bread. There really isn’t much of a distinct flavor (unless you’re dealing with a flavored bread loaf like raisin, lemon, rosemary, etc.). But what happens when your bread smells weird?

Bread with an odd odor should be discarded as it is past its prime. Bad bread will typically have a vinegary or beer-like smell which won’t be typical for the bread you’re consuming. Sometimes, it can smell just straight-up different and unappealing. 

Note: if you see any mold on the bread, do not smell it. While I’m sure there are not a lot of people out there that are itching to smell mold, some may be curious. But smelling moldy bread can give way to accidental inhaling of mold spores. Yuck!

3. It Tastes Bad

You know what they say – always follow your nose. But if your nose isn’t too reliable and you need a second opinion, don’t hesitate to give your taste buds a shot.

When it comes to eating, your taste buds are great at pinpointing whether something has gone bad or not. And it is not a pleasant experience. 

Eating bad bread will not taste good. It might not be as horrific as sinking your teeth into an old piece of meat, but it will still have an undesirable flavor you can pinpoint immediately.

If you notice an odd flavor, don’t mask it by turning it into French toast or grilled cheese. Splurge and buy a new loaf of bread for your breading adventures.

4. It’s Rock Hard and/or Dry

Have you ever reached in to grab a slice of bread, only to notice it’s as hard as a rock? Bread that has become hard and/or dry is an indicator it’s not at its prime. However, if the texture is the only issue with the bread, it can technically still be consumed.

If you want to use dried-out, hard bread, you can turn it into tasty breadcrumbs. You can also try masking the texture by creating French toast topped with butter and syrup or turning it into a pizza. The more toppings and moisture you can add to the stale bread, the better.

Now, keep in mind that some bread might be more challenging to distinguish between fresh and dry. Take sourdough bread, for example. It naturally has a crunchy outer shell, but the loaf’s interior is still somewhat pliable and soft. 

You may have to look below the surface regarding bread that is firmer and crunchier than typical pillowy loaves. 

Note: Do not try to save stale bread that has mold on it! 


When it comes to finding out whether or not your bread is bad, you can rely on your senses. If you still have some curious questions about how to tell if bread is bad, keep reading. Below are some must-know frequently asked questions.

What happens if eat expired bread?

Most of the time, nothing will happen, especially if you ate a minuscule amount. The issue with consuming expired bread is mold. Mold, while disgusting, will typically not render ailments. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible. Digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea can occur.

Is it OK to eat bread after the expiration date?

Yes, because bread typically has a best-by date, not an expiration date. Therefore, if you stick the bread in the freezer, it will last for several months beyond the best-by date. It all depends on how your bread is stored. Perform the checks listed above to tell whether it’s still good or not.

How long does bread stay fresh?

Every loaf of bread is different, but most bread can stay at room temperature for close to a week as long as it’s stored properly (bread box, brown paper bag, etc.). Bread can also be stored in the fridge and freezer but should be covered to prevent dryness and freezer burn.

Can old bread give you diarrhea?

It’s not likely, but everyone’s immune system is different. If you consume excess amounts of old bread (especially if it contains mold), you may end up with diarrhea and vomiting for a day or two. This can also happen if you have an allergic reaction to mold in the old bread.

Does putting bread in the fridge prevent mold?

Keeping your bread in the fridge will prevent mold for a longer period because it is not the right environment for mold spores to grow and thrive. However, dry and hard bread is a common problem with fridge storage. Make sure it’s sealed properly before sticking it in the fridge.

Final Words

Old bread isn’t tasty, but there are many ways to tell whether or not your bread has gone bad before you dig in. The fastest way to tell whether bread is bad or not is to check for mold. If no mold is present, check for an odd flavor, smell, or texture.

How do you tell whether or not your bread is bad? Do you use one of these methods? Share with us below.

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Malachi

    I have been baking with my cousin for awhile now. So if baking if baking teaches you anything it should be to NOT USE STALE BREAD!!!!

  • Moe

    I have a loaf of rather expensive, organic, commercial bread that I bought in June 2021. I never opened it and just put it in the pantry. It’s become an experiment followed by my whole fam. It is now 12/29/2012 and the loaf has NO mold, and although it is slightly firmer, it is still as squishy as loaves I have bought in the past. The ingredients are all simple and recognizable. There is ascorbic acid listed, which I THINK is just VitC. This is a very well known “seed bread” you can find in most grocery stores. What’s going on here? Should I distrust this brand, or maybe concede that I have a magic pantry? I don’t want to open it and introduce any new bacteria, but I can clearly see there is no mold yet. What do you think?

  • Anon

    You shouldn’t try to discard moldy slices and throw the rest of the batch away, either.
    Needless to say, at the first sign of mold, it’s time to ditch the loaf.

    I’m confused. I shouldn’t throw it away, or I should?

    • Michelle

      Hi! I’m so sorry for the confusion. You should ALWAYS throw out the ENTIRE loaf, even if only a single slice of bread contains mold. 🙂