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Pantry Staples

What to Use Instead of Bread Crumbs

Bread crumbs are the ultimate kitchen workhorse for use as a binder, breading or to add texture to dishes. But what happens when you run out? We've got 6 ways to replace bread crumbs with items you likely already have in your pantry.

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Bread crumbs are a kitchen staple that we almost take for granted. They serve as a binder in meatballs and meatloaves, add texture to the top of casseroles and pastas, and bring the crunch as breading on chicken, fish and vegetables. So, what’s a cook to do when you go to the pantry and find you’re fresh out? Thankfully, there are several simple, good ways to replace bread crumbs.

Before you break out the swaps, know that you can DIY bread crumbs. Simply chop bread into pieces and pulse in a food processor to form crumbs. If you need toasted crumbs, spread them out on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 250ºF until light golden and toasted, stirring once or twice. In fact, if you find yourself with a few pieces of stale or nearly-stale bread, or you don’t like the end pieces, make yourself some bread crumbs. They’ll keep in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Out of bread? No problem. Here are some good substitutes for bread crumbs. When swapping, try to match the texture called for in the recipe. In other words, softer items for fresh bread crumbs, crispier ones for toasted bread crumbs.

1. Oats

If you need a binder, quick-cooking or rolled oats will serve you just fine. Steel cut won’t work. They’re too hard and won’t absorb liquid quickly enough. Oats are not a good way to replace bread crumbs in breading as they won’t crisp up. If you’re sensitive to gluten, be sure to seek out certified gluten-free oats.

2. Cracker or pretzel crumbs

Add instant flavor as well as texture with crushed crackers or pretzels. You may need to adjust the seasoning in your recipe depending on the flavor and saltiness of your crackers or pretzels. Pro tip: Save all of your broken crackers in a bag in the freezer and when you have a good stash, grind up into crumbs and keep on hand.

3. Nuts

These work better as breading than as a binder, since they don’t absorb liquid as readily as bread crumbs. But nuts work beautifully to replace bread crumbs when it comes to adding crunch. For best results, chop very finely and keep the pieces as uniform as possible. Use one kind of nut or a mix. And if the nuts are seasoned, be sure to factor that into the seasoning of your dish. Or, you can keep almond flour on hand, which works nicely for breading. Bonus: Nuts add healthy fat and a little protein to your dish. 

4. Chips

Crushed tortilla chips or potato chips can serve as a good swap for breading. Tortilla chips may work as a binder as well; different types will absorb liquids to varying degrees, so this might take some trial and error. But as a breading, crushed chips work beautifully. As with other swaps, note the seasoning and adjust your recipe accordingly.

5. Cooked white rice

Here’s a perfect use for that leftover takeout rice languishing in your freezer. Cooked rice works perfectly as a binder to replace bread crumbs. It’s too mushy to work as a breading, but rice in a meatloaf can yield a great texture. White rice works best here as you’ll hardly notice it, whereas brown rice will add a chewy element.

6. Pork panko

If you’re looking for a lower-carb option to replace bread crumbs, consider pork panko. Made from crushed pork rinds, it’s free of carbs and adds protein. Pork panko is best for breading, not as a binder. It can be salty, so factor that in when seasoning. You can make your own by grinding pork rinds in a food processor, or save a step and buy one such as Bacon’s Heir or 4505.

Also read What to Use Instead of Wine.