Croutons add an excellent crunch factor to any salad or soup, plus make eating your veggies much more enticing. The texture completely transforms into super crispy bites by cutting the bread into smaller pieces, tossing them in olive oil, and toasting.
Table of Contents
- Key Ingredients
- Cut the bread
- Coat with oil
- Season the bread
- Method #1: Making croutons in the oven
- Method #2: Making croutons on the stovetop
- Allow time to cool after cooking
- How to store homemade croutons
- Flavor variations
- Ways to use croutons
- Frequently asked questions
- Baking vs. stovetop method for making croutons
- Homemade Croutons Recipe
If you have week-old bread or maybe unwanted ends, don’t throw them away! Leftover slices or loaves can be cut or torn into smaller pieces and then toasted to make homemade croutons. They taste much better than store-bought croutons, and the flavor’s easy to customize.
Any kind of bread, from fluffy white sandwich slices to sourdough loaves, gluten-free options, uneaten rolls, pita, or even cornbread, are candidates. I will show you step-by-step how to make croutons from scratch using two simple methods: the oven and the stovetop.
- Bread: For the lightest and crunchy texture, use French bread, a baguette, sliced white bread, or wheat bread. Fresh or stale bread can be used.
- Oil: Olive oil adds a rich and fruity flavor. Use extra-virgin olive oil for a more pungent taste. The fat helps to coat the bread, creating a crispier texture.
- Seasonings: I keep the seasoning simple with kosher salt and Italian seasonings for this homemade crouton recipe. The concentrated herbs add a pleasant aroma to the toasted bread pieces.
Cut the bread
Cut or tear the loaf of bread into evenly sized pieces so the cooking time is consistent. I recommend about ¾-inch cubes, but they can be made smaller to about ½-inch or larger 1-inch size.
The cooking times will differ, so check when the bread is entirely toasted and crisp. The crust can be left on the bread, as it adds a nice color and flavor to the croutons.
Coat with oil
Lightly coat the bread pieces with extra-virgin olive oil or any type of oil with a higher smoke point. Alternatively, you can use other fats like avocado oil, vegetable oil, ghee, or even melted coconut oil. The oil fry’s the bread during baking and creates a crispy texture. If making the croutons on the stovetop, add the oil when the bread is in the pan.
Season the bread
You can make croutons plain without any seasonings, keep them simple with salt and pepper, or try flavorful combinations using your favorite herbs.
For this recipe, I add kosher salt and dried Italian seasonings. The dried herbs already contain a mixture of oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and marjoram. It adds a nice aroma to the toasted bread and works well with Italian dishes.
Method #1: Making croutons in the oven
Baking ensures the bread is evenly toasted, completely dry, and crisp. This method works best for cubed bread like French loaves or sandwich bread. But you can also use torn pieces of dense, rustic bread, rolls, and flatbreads like pita or cornbread muffins.
The oven temperature should be 375ºF (191ºC) for baking the croutons. This temperature allows the oven’s heat to effectively dry the center of the bread and add color. Higher heat is needed since the pieces are larger than making bread crumbs. Stir the croutons every 5 minutes until they are crispy and evenly toasted.
Method #2: Making croutons on the stovetop
When you want to make a quick batch of croutons or have limited space in the kitchen, use this stovetop method. It works well for bread cut into cubes or torn pieces. This technique is more hands-on because the heat is not as consistent as the oven, but it’s still very easy.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet like stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium-low heat. Make sure to add the bread in a single layer and do not move them. After about 2 minutes, stir and flip over sides that have not been toasted. Repeat the stirring process every two minutes until the bread is hardened, dry, and lightly browned. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the salt and Italian seasoning at the very end so the herbs don’t burn.
Allow time to cool after cooking
To ensure the croutons are completely dry, leave them on the baking sheet or in the pan to cool completely. The residual heat will gently transfer, allowing the croutons to finish drying without burning them. They will become even crunchier as more water is evaporated from the bread.
How to store homemade croutons
Store croutons in a resealable plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. You can also keep them in an airtight container. They can be stored at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks or frozen for 1 to 2 months.
Try to prevent humidity and moisture from entering the croutons, causing them to become stale and less crispy—Defrost frozen croutons on a paper towel for about 1 hour before using.
- Bread: Use gluten-free bread, leftover rolls, sweeter Hawaiian rolls, or cornbread. Rustic loaves won’t be as delicate, but they give a heartier crunch.
- Fat: Avocado oil, coconut oil, canola, or other neutral-tasting vegetables works well. Melted butter can be used but will brown faster due to the milk solids.
- Seasoning: Freshly cracked black pepper, onion powder, onion salt, or garlic powder. Sprinkle on some sweet or smoked paprika or grated parmesan cheese after baking.
- Herbs: Add fresh or dried rosemary, thyme, parsley, or cilantro.
Ways to use croutons
- Salads like Caesar salad, cobb salad, or wedge salad
- Serve on top of tomato basil, French onion, or minestrone
- Sprinkle on green beans or macaroni and cheese
- Crush as a coating for chicken parmesan or chicken Milanese
- Use to make a panade for meatloaf or meatballs
Frequently asked questions
Make sure that you completely dry the bread pieces. Let them cool completely in the warm pan to drive off any residual moisture. Store in an airtight container for the best moisture barrier to keep them crisp.
If the herbs or fresh garlic burns when making croutons, they can taste bitter. Try infusing the garlic flavor into warm olive oil, then remove the pieces before coating the bread. Alternatively, use garlic powder for a roasted flavor that doesn’t burn.
Since most of the moisture is removed during the drying process, there is less chance for mold growth with very little water available. They will pick up moisture and become less crisp if not properly dried or stored. It’s best to keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Do not refrigerate. The humidity can cause them to become soggy.
Baking vs. stovetop method for making croutons
The advantage of baking croutons is that hot air circulating in the oven from radiant heat dries out the bread by convection, which results in a more even color. For the stovetop, the heat source comes from the bottom of the pan and cooks by conduction. Frequent stirring is needed because the heat is much closer, more intense, and less consistent. The pieces may take on uneven colors and darker spots.
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- 4 ounces bread, French, baguette, or sandwich bread
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning, optional
- Cut the Bread – Cut the bread into about ¾-inch cubes. Measure out 4 cups for the recipe.
For Baked Croutons
- Heat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat to 375ºF (190ºC).
- Season the Bread – To a medium bowl, add 4 cups of bread cubes. Drizzle olive oil on top, and stir evenly to coat. Sprinkle in the salt and Italian seasonings, and stir to combine.
- Bake the Bread – Transfer the bread to a rimmed sheet pan. Spread into a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 minutes. The croutons should be lightly browned and crispy. If needed, bake for another 2 to 4 minutes or until dry and crunchy.
- Cool the Croutons – Place the sheet pan on a wire rack. Cool the croutons completely for about 10 minutes.
For Stovetop Croutons
- Toast the Bread – Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, once hot, add the 4 cups of bread in a single layer. Toast, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes until lightly browned and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes total.
- Season the Croutons – Turn the heat down to low. Sprinkle the salt and Italian seasonings over the croutons, stir to combine.
- Cool the Croutons – Turn off the heat, and move to a cool area on the stove. Cool the croutons completely in the skillet for about 10 minutes.
- Recipe Yield: About 4 cups
- Serving Size: ¼ cup
- Storing: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for up to 2 months.
- Bread Selection: Any type of bread or roll can be used. French bread, a baguette, and sandwich slices will be the lightest and crispest. Less time may be needed for sweeter brioche, Hawaiian rolls, or cornbread to prevent burning.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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