How to Make Homemade Bread Crumbs quickly and easily from any type of bread ~ fresh or dry, seasoned or unseasoned, whole grain, gluten free, even from crackers. I’ll show you how to make them from scratch in minutes without all those preservatives and artificial ingredients…homemade bread crumbs are healthy, delicious, and frugal, too!
Stop yourself next time you’re about to pitch a stale half-baguette, some forgotten English muffins, or the last few slices of a whole wheat loaf — you can make something wonderful and useful out of all that leftover bread! Bread crumbs are one of those under-appreciated workhorses in the kitchen — so many recipes depend on them for texture and crunch, but they rarely take center stage or get the credit they deserve. Luckily, with hardly any time or effort you can make your own customized bread crumbs that will actually enhance your cooking.
Once you’ve made your own bread crumbs you’ll feel downright silly ever buying them again. Let’s start with the most basic ~
FRESH BREAD CRUMBS Sometimes a recipe will call specifically for fresh bread crumbs. Usually it’s some kind of meatball, meatloaf, or fish cake, but both Ina Garten’s Mustard Roasted Chicken and one of my favorite pasta dishes also call for them. Fresh bread crumbs are moister and fluffier than dried, and they’re something you have to make yourself, you can’t buy them, they’d dry out before you got them home from the store! Fresh bread crumbs are made with fresh bread of any kind. Break the bread up into large chunks and then add them to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the machine until the bread has turned into fine crumbs. It’s that simple. Plan on using these right away, they can’t be stored.
TIP: You can cut off the crusts or leave them on, it’s your call.
More often, though, a recipe will call for dried bread crumbs, they’re needed in all sorts of dishes from fried chicken and meatballs to stuffed mushrooms. They lighten up the texture of ground meats, create beautiful crusts on fried foods like my Fried Olives, and crisp toppings on casseroles. You can’t make stuffed artichokes without them.
DRIED BREAD CRUMBS Dried bread crumbs are made from stale or dried out bread. If you don’t have any leftover bread you can dry it by leaving it out overnight. Separate the slices so the air can get to all the surfaces, or cut up a whole loaf into pieces. You can also dry the bread in a low 250F oven…spread it out on a baking tray and let it cook until dry, about 15 minutes or so. Put the dried bread into the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture becomes crumbs. You can make them as coarse or as fine as you like. Keep the crumbs in a airtight container, such as a clean jar, in a cool dark place, such as a cupboard, indefinitely.
TIP: You can also freeze homemade bread crumbs as well, just put them in a ziplock freezer bag and remove the excess air before freezing.
If you’d like to preseason your homemade bread crumbs you can process them with dried herbs and spices.
SEASONED BREAD CRUMBS To season your crumbs, use dried herbs and spices like thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano, or an Italian blend. You can also use salt and pepper, garlic or onion powder, and chile or cayenne powder for a zesty kick. Simply add them to the processor after you have processed your crumbs, and process again to blend.
TIP: Be sure that any herb or spice you add to your homemade bread crumbs is completely dried, no fresh garlic!
You can use specialty breads for custom crumbs, and unusual types of bread will lend subtle flavor to your recipes. You can use gluten free bread for gf crumbs.
SPECIALTY BREAD CRUMBS When you use specialty breads your crumbs will unique and fully flavored. You can use rye bread, whole wheat, artisan, seeded, or sourdough bread, one of my favorites is deep dark pumpernickel. Don’t overlook English muffins, bagels, and challah, they all make great crumbs, too. If your bread has a seeded crust be sure to leave it on! Specialty bread can be used for fresh or dried crumbs.
TIP: Be aware that the flavors of specialty bread crumbs will often transfer to your recipe, so plan accordingly.
Extra crunchy Japanese Panko bread crumbs are in vogue right now, and lots of recipes specifically mention them. They usually come in small packages, and are definitely more pricey than regular crumbs. Luckily these can also be made at home ~ they’re kind of a hybrid between fresh and dried crumbs. The irregular flaky surface results in a lighter, crispier crust. I use them to great effect on my Shrimp Cakes, Sweet Walla Walla Onion Rings and Coconut Chicken.
PANKO CRUMBS To make Panko crumbs, you will start with FRESH bread crumbs, see directions above. Spread out the crumbs in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 300F oven for about 8 minutes, or just until they are dried out. You will need to give them a stir a couple of times during the cooking to get them evenly dried. You don’t want them to brown, or toast. Once cooled, you can store these like you would any other dried bread crumb.
Cracker crumbs are some of my favorites, and they come in handy in all sorts of recipes from savory to sweet. I especially love to use them to top baked fish, and stuffed mushrooms, and to coat fish cakes. They tend to have a richer, more buttery flavor than bread crumbs but they can usually be used interchangeably. Matzo crackers make incredible homemade matzo balls.
CRACKER CRUMBS Crackers make fantastic crumbs, and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with different types, there are SO many interesting varieties on the shelves these days. You can’t go wrong with Ritz or Saltines for starters. Process in the same way as with bread crumbs, but I recommend breaking them up with your hands as you add them to the processor, and use a pulsing action to break down the bigger chunks. If you’re left with any stubborn big bits, just remove them.
TIP: Cracker crumbs can easily be made without a food processor, just seal them up in a zip lock baggie and roll over them with a rolling pin.