The humble loaf of bread definitely doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It is the ingredient that keeps on giving. From its fresh-out-the-oven goodness with a slather of butter, until its sorry stale state, there’s never a bad time for bread.
Breadcrumbs are used for coating or breading chicken strips, fried fish, chicken parmesan, and as a topping for mac n cheese or casseroles. Soft bread crumbs are used to bind meatballs, burger patties, and meatloaf by locking in the moisture and can sometimes be used as a thickener in stews.
No breadcrumbs? No problem! Our extensive list of bread crumb substitute options are items you probably already have in the pantry. They’ll offer a quick solution and even add a bit of flavorful pizzaz you didn’t know your fish or chicken strips could have.
In addition, there are some gluten-free options if you are catering to someone with allergies.
Here’s everything you need to know about the various types of bread crumbs and which replacements will be best suited for your recipe.
Types of breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are usually made from white bread and are available in the following varieties:
Dry Breadcrumbs (Plain)
Store-bought plain dry breadcrumbs are made from white bread that is toasted then ground down to a fine crumb. Although they are known to be pretty bland, they are ideal for adding your own flavors and spices to get exactly the flavor profile you want for your dish.
They are excellent for the traditional coating of baked or shallow fried items, adding to meatloaf, using in meatballs, fish cakes, hamburgers as well as casserole toppings. Buying these ready to use is a great quick fix when you don’t have the time to make your own.
Italian breadcrumbs have the same base as the plain dry type, except they also include seasonings such as parsley and garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. They can be used in all the same ways as regular bread crumbs but don’t require additional seasoning.
Panko is a store-bought crumb made with white bread. White panko is the more common type that is made without the crust while tan panko is made including the crust. These crumbs are coarse and flaky, providing a crisp texture and are perfect for extra crispy fried chicken, fish, or mac n cheese topping.
The wonderful thing about panko is that it absorbs less oil during cooking so you get a crispy exterior without the excess oil.
Making your own crumbs at home is a convenient way to use up stale bread. You can even freeze any excess crumbs in resealable freezer-friendly bags so you always have a stash on hand. If kept in airtight bags they will last for 3 months in the freezer.
To make your own fresh bread crumbs tear a few slices of white bread into chunks and place them into a blender or food processor. You can leave the crust on or remove it as per your preference. Pulse until the bread breaks down into the desired crumb size.
You can also add seasonings such as salt pepper, dried herbs, or spices to incorporate your seasoning into the crumb mixture. These fresh crumbs are ideal as a binder for meatballs, burger patties, and fish cakes.
You can make your own toasted breadcrumbs by placing the fresh crumbs you have blended on a baking sheet and toasting them in the oven. Toast them for just a few minutes since they can burn quickly. Mix or turn them halfway through so that they can bake evenly. Optionally you can drizzle them with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper prior to toasting.
Best Alternative to Bread Crumbs
Replace the chosen breadcrumbs substitute measure for measure in each case. Here’s what you can use instead of breadcrumbs:
#1. Rolled Oats
Rolled oats flakes are a bland blank canvas for flavoring to your liking. They are richer in fiber than regular breadcrumbs and can be used as a binder. Blend them in a food processor with dried herbs and seasonings to yield a slightly finer texture and flavorful replacement.
Plain corn flakes add a great crunch factor and can either be combined with crumbs or used on their own. Crush them roughly in a food processor and use them as a chicken breading or topping for mac n cheese and casseroles.
#3. Potato Chips
Potato chips are already seasoned, which saves you a step in the cooking process. Crush them by hand or lightly pulse in a blender to use as a topping or coating for anything from fish to veggie casseroles.
Whether you have plain, salted, or flavored pretzels in the pantry, any type can be used as a substitute. Do not add additional seasoning to already salted or flavored pretzels when crushing them as the blend will turn out overly salty and overpower your dish. If you have plain, unsalted pretzels you can spice them up as you like.
Roughly blended, these are ideal as a coating. If you require a substitute as a binder, blend the pretzels until they are fine. Using pretzel crumbs as a binder can cause your dish to be slightly denser than if you were to use fresh breadcrumbs so add a little at a time just until your mixture binds well, but not so much that it becomes heavy.
#5. Cracker Crumbs
Saltines crushed in a blender or by hand can be used as a binding agent or even as a topping the same way you would use pretzels. Just keep the level of salt already present in the crackers you use in mind before adding additional seasoning to avoid an overly salty outcome.
#6. Chopped Nuts
Nuts are a great healthy option. They won’t work as a binder but will work well as a crunchy coating on chicken or fish. Place any type of nuts you prefer in a food processor and pulse until fine but not powdery. If the nuts are unsalted you can add seasoning while you process the nuts to blend the flavors in evenly.
As with nuts, you can also use chia, sunflower, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds as well as a blend of different seeds.
#8. Shredded Coconut
Shredded coconut can be used as an exterior coating on pork chops or sweet items and can be used as a binder. Keep in mind that coconut has a slightly sweet taste and will influence the flavor of your recipe.
#9. Shredded Parmesan Cheese and Bread
Blitz together stale bread and parmesan until evenly mixed into crumbs. This is delicious as a coating, topping, or binding agent.
#10. Almond Flour
You can use an almond meal or chop almonds in a food processor until it becomes a flour consistency. Keep in mind that if you blend it for too long it will become a paste.
Almond flour will add a lovely nutty flavor to your dish which can be great in sweet and savory coatings. It is also great as a gluten-free replacement. If you use almond flour be aware that it will burn quicker than using breadcrumbs so check on it regularly while cooking.
#11. Pork Rinds
Place pork rinds in a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin into pieces that are still big enough to have some texture. This is a good alternative for someone on a low-carb diet who doesn’t mind the high fat content.
Best Panko Substitutes
Panko bread crumbs are mainly used as an exterior coating and bring a delicious crunch factor to any dish. If you don’t have panko or need a gluten-free substitute, try some of these alternatives:
#12. Crushed Cornflakes or Crackers
We’ve already discussed these above, however, using them specifically as a panko substitute can be great if crunch is really what you’re after.
Some corn flake brands are gluten-free, but make sure to check the packing to be certain. Blend in a food processor and use as a chicken coating for absolute deliciousness.
#13. Crushed Tortilla Chips
Don’t throw out your leftover tortilla chips, they are perfect as a panko alternative. Blend or crush them and use the crisps as a coating or casserole topping. Check the packaging to ensure they are gluten-free as some seasonings may include gluten or wheat.
#14. Dry Stuffing Mix
Although this is generally not gluten-free it is a delicious panko replacement. Place your dry stuffing mix in a resealable bag and use a glass or rolling pin to break it down into crumbs.
Whether you are using breadcrumbs in a recipe to bind, coat, or make a crust it is amazing how such a simple addition can transform any dish from good to great. If you need a gluten-free substitute, try almond flour, cooked rice, ground nuts, flaxseed, or shredded coconut. Low-carb diets can replace panko with crushed nuts, seeds, or pork rinds.
If you’re simply looking for a flavorful quick fix that you may already have in the pantry, try any crushed potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, pretzels, or corn flakes. With so many options available, there really is no reason you’d have to forgo the crisp on your crispy fried chicken, ever.
Up next: how to dry out bread for stuffing
*image by HandmadePicture/depositphotos