There is really nothing better than a homemade dinner for the whole family. But what happens when you reach into the cabinet for your trusty carton of breadcrumbs, and there's nothing left but a few, well, crumbs? Armed with these genius substitutes for breadcrumbs, you'll never need to worry about running out.
Breadcrumbs are a key ingredient in plenty of recipes. They act as a binder for ground beef recipes like meatloaf and meatballs, create the perfect crust on plenty of proteins (chicken cutlets, anyone?), or add crunch when sprinkled on top of a delicious casserole recipe, pasta, or a healthy salad.
But if you've run out, there are plenty of pantry staples that can be crushed finely to mimic the crunchy texture of store-bought breadcrumbs, and they are a perfect canvas for loads of flavor additions: Lemon zest, fresh or dried herbs, a decent dose of Parmesan, you name it!
Here's how to make breadcrumbs from scratch:
If you have stale bread, or fresh bread that you're willing to toast, you can easily make your own crumbs as a great sub for store-bought ones. If using fresh bread, on a sheet tray, toast slices at 300°F until dry, about 15 minutes. Then, with your bread, stale or toasted, use a food processor to grind into a fine crumb. Add those fresh crispy crumbs to recipes like Mini Meatballs With Garlicky Tomatoes.
Can I use flour instead of breadcrumbs?
While coating cutlets in flour provides a golden-brown exterior (and some thickening power if you’re making a sauce in the same pan!), don’t use flour as a binder for meatballs or meatloaf. This will result in a paste-like mixture that won’t be as delicious.
If you're hankering for some great crunch, you can raid your pantry for these epic options to add to your favorite meatball recipes, coat cutlets or crumble onto pasta.
What are the best substitutes for breadcrumbs?
Oats are the perfect substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs or meatloaf. While they aren't ideal for a crispy coating, they add the right amount of texture to bind meat, eggs, and flavorings together into a delicious Italian-inspired feast.
Crushed Tortilla Chips
These are a great gluten-free substitute to traditional breadcrumbs. You can use these crunchy crumbs to coat chicken cutlets and fish fillets, or you can fold crushed tortilla chips into your meatball mixture for a crowd-pleasing family dinner idea. Just remember, unless you use no-salt-added chips, you should take into account that the crumbs will boost the salt in your dish.
Crushed Potato Chips
Looking for another crunchy gluten-free pick. The snack aisle is where it’s at! Crushed potato chips add extra flavor (try a seasoned bag, like we did with this BBQ Chip Chicken recipe!). And ever wonder what to do with the broken chips at the bottom of the bag? This is the perfect flavorful solution to crunchy crumbs!
Crushed nuts add extra flavor, and a boost of nutrients, to dinner. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, or cashews will create a flavor-packed crust for fish, chicken, or pork. Try crunchy nuts on the outside of a cutlet for this seriously tasty Pork Milanese Sandwich With Tomato Salad.
Some of our favorite seeds (which make for a great granola addition) are a great sub to breadcrumbs. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen opts for sesame or sunflower seeds for mild flavor and great texture.
Parm is a perfect sub and is incorporated into many recipes. Unlike other cheeses, Parmesan won't entirely melt, so the coating proteins in it will result in a crunchy, cheesy, salty crust.
Just like parmesan, many recipes already utilize coconut as a coating (coconut shrimp, anyone?). Opt for unsweetened shredded types if you're prepping savory meals.
Why not snag some ingredients from your snack cabinet to help get dinner on the table? Simply add a handful of pretzels to a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin.
Then you can flavor as you would any breadcrumb. Think about using these snack-crumbs as a coating for protein or even sprinkled on top of a creamy salad for a bit of added crunch. Opt for pretzels with less salt so that you can control the seasoning yourself.
A sleeve of crackers goes way beyond snacking. We rely on Ritz, Saltines, or club crackers to create a crave-worthy coating or binder for meatballs. They add buttery, slightly salty flavor – but be sure to adjust the salt amount in your recipe if opting for salted crackers! Try this Gochujang-Glazed Meatloaf that uses saltines instead of breadcrumbs for a flavorful and moist family favorite.
Another snack that may be in your cabinet already: crunchy chickpeas! These fiber- and protein-packed legumes have become a popular pick to munch on and come in a variety of seasonings. Only have a can on your hands? Make a batch or two of Chickpea Nuts and reserve a few handfuls to smash once cooled, then use as you would breadcrumbs.
The same goes for your trusty breakfast supplies. As long as you're using unsweetened, mildly flavored cereals (think cornflakes, bran, corn-based cereal), you can crush them using a food processor, then proceed as you would with any average crumb.
Cooked and cooled quinoa is an excellent choice if you have the grain on hand. Bonus: quinoa is also a great source of fiber and plant-based protein, so you’ll get a boost of nutrition, too!
No matter what option you choose, all of these substitutes for breadcrumbs offer a fun twist on your classic crunchy crust.