Homemade croutons add a nice crunch factor to any salad or soup, plus makes eating your veggies much more enticing. By simply cutting bread into smaller pieces, tossing them in olive oil and toasting, the texture completely transforms to super crispy bites.
It happens all of the time, perfectly good pieces of bread are just thrown away. Just because they’re a week old or maybe the unwanted ends, doesn’t mean they can’t be used for another culinary application. Leftover slices or loaves can be cut or torn into smaller pieces then toasted in the oven or over the stove top to make a tasty garnish.
Any type of bread, from fluffy white sandwich slices, sourdough loaves, gluten-free, uneaten rolls, pita, or even cornbread are candidates. I’m going to show you two methods for making croutons so that you always have these tiny taste boosters on hand.
Cut the bread
Cut or tear the bread into evenly-sized pieces so the cooking time is consistent. I recommend about ¾-inch sized pieces, but they can be made smaller to about ½-inch or larger 1-inch size. The cook times will differ so use your senses to check and see when the bread is completely toasted and crisp. The crust can be left on the bread and adds a nice color and flavor to the croutons.
Coat with oil
The cut bread should be lightly coated with extra-virgin olive oil or any type of fat with a higher smoke point. Other fats that can be used are avocado oil, vegetable oil, ghee, or even melted coconut oil. This will make the bread lightly fry during baking and to create a crispier texture.
Make croutons plain without any seasonings, or have fun with some flavor combinations. For this recipe, I add salt and dried Italian seasonings. Other options are black pepper, onion powder, onion salt, dried rosemary, thyme, or smoked paprika sprinkled on after baking.
Method #1: making croutons in the oven
Baking ensures that the bread is evenly toasted, completely dry, and crisp. This method works best for cubed bread like French loaves or sandwich bread, torn pieces or more dense rustic bread, rolls, flatbreads like pita, or savory and sweet cakes like cornbread.
The oven temperature should be at 375ºF (191ºC) for baking the croutons. This temperature allows the oven’s heat to effectively dry the center of the bread and add color. Since the pieces are larger compared to making bread crumbs, higher heat is needed. Make sure to stir the croutons every 5 minutes until it’s crispy and evenly toasted.
Method #2: making croutons on the stove-top
When you want to make a quick batch of croutons or have limited space in the kitchen, use this stove top method. It works best for bread cut into cubes or torn pieces. This technique is a little more interactive because the heat is not as consistent compared to the oven, but it’s still very easy to do.
Heat a large skillet like stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium heat. Make sure to add the bread in a single layer and do not move them. After about 2 minutes, stir the croutons, and try to flip over any 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.
Allow time to cool after cooking
To ensure that the croutons are completely dry, leave them on the baking sheet or in the pan. The residual heat will gently transfer allowing the croutons to finish drying without becoming burnt.
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. The croutons can also be stored at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or frozen. However, it’s best to keep them on the counter or frozen. This helps 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. Croutons will last 2 weeks at room temperature or 1 month frozen.
Ways to use croutons
- Add them to salads like kale Caesar or cobb salad
- Serve on top of soups like French onion or minestrone
- Break them up and sprinkle on top of green beans or macaroni and cheese
Baking vs. stove-top
The advantage of baking croutons is that hot air circulating in the oven from nearby radiant heat dries out the bread by convection, and results in a more even color. For stove-top, the heat source comes from the bottom of the pan and cooks by conduction. Because the heat is much closer, more intense, and less consistent, frequent stirring is needed for even drying, but you’ll notice darker spots.
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- 4 ounces bread, cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon Italian seasonings, optional
- Set the oven rack to center position. Preheat to 375ºF.
- Add about 4 cups worth of bread cubes to a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top, stir evenly to coat.
- Sprinkle salt and Italian seasonings, stir to combine.
- Transfer bread to a sheet pan, spreading into a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes, stir and bake another 5 minutes. The croutons should be lightly browned and crispy.
- Bake for another 2 to 4 minutes, or as needed to make the cubes dry and crunchy.
- Allow them to cool on the sheet pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container.
Stove Top Croutons
- Add bread cubes to a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top, stir evenly to coat.
- Sprinkle salt and Italian seasonings, stir to combine.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot add breadcubes in a single layer.
- Allow bread to toast, stirring every 2 minutes until lightly browned and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes total.
- Allow them to cool in the skillet for 10 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container.
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