Homemade croutons take just a few minutes and are a tasty way to use day-old bread. Make them in the oven or a skillet, and check out our list of seasoning ideas.
Croutons are typically cubes of bread that have been mixed with butter or oil and crisped in the oven or on the stove. Sometimes they are seasoned with garlic, herbs, or cheese. Croutons are one of the simplest recipes to make, and they add so much flavor as a wonderful textural contrast to soups, salads, and other foods, including casseroles. Once you've experienced the rich, buttery, fresh taste of homemade croutons, you might never go back to the purchased kind. Another advantage of the homemade variety is that you can customize the croutons to suit the dish: choose the bread, the seasonings, and the cooking method. Croutons are also a great way to use up leftover artisan bread that is starting to dry out. You can make them ahead of time, too: Store cooled croutons in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator.
You can use just about any kind of bread, but top-quality croutons start with top-quality bread. Artisan breads, such as French, Italian, ciabatta, or sourdough, usually have a tuggy texture and firm crust, which work well for croutons. Rye bread also makes a tasty crouton, especially suitable for salads and hearty soups such as split pea or cream of cauliflower. Should the crusts be cut off? The choice is yours. Another choice is whether to cut or simply tear the bread. Again, it's up to you, depending on the look you want. Some people like the traditional appearance of neat cubes, while others like the more rustic look of torn pieces of bread.
Tip: You can substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil for the butter, or use half of each. Do not use margarine-like spreads in plastic tubs; they can contain more water than butter, so you'll end up with soggy croutons.
Tip: If you want to flavor croutons using a natural cheese, such as cheddar, Gruyere, or Asiago, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese over the croutons midway through baking.
How to Make Other Kinds of Croutons
Because croutons can add so much to a dish, some cooks have gone way beyond plain bread to create these novel croutons.