How to Make Croutons for Your Favorite Salad Topper Ever
If you spend a lot of time baking bread at home, croutons are also a great way to use up your leftover masterpiece that is starting to dry out. Croutons are 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. Making croutons is incredibly simple, and they add so much flavor as a wonderful textural contrast to soup recipes, salads, and other foods, including casseroles. Once you've learned how to make croutons and experienced the rich, buttery, fresh taste, you might never go back to the purchased kind.
How to Make Croutons
This easy method for basic baked croutons is going to be a go-to anytime you have stale bread. Learn how to make croutons for Caesar salad (and the best salad your dinner table has ever seen) with this easy oven method.
Step 1: Prepare the Bread
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cube or tear bread to make 3½ cups (this will yield eight ¼-cup servings). Aim for ¾-inch cubes or pieces. For ease of cutting bread, use a serrated knife. Set bread aside.
Step 2: Season the Bread
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave on 50% power (medium) about 45 seconds or until melted, or melt the butter in a small saucepan ($8, Walmart) over medium-low heat. Add bread cubes to butter mixture, stirring until cubes are evenly coated.
Ideas for Seasoned Croutons
Another advantage of making croutons at home is that you can customize the croutons to suit the dish: choose the bread, the seasonings, and the cooking method. Stir in any of the following seasonings or your favorite seasoning blend:
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon Greek seasoning
- ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
- ½ teaspoon Mexican spice blend
- 1 clove minced garlic (or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder)
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar (this option is great on a salad with fruit, such as a strawberry-spinach salad)
Step 3: Bake Croutons in the Oven
Spread bread cubes in a single layer in a shallow baking pan or on a baking sheet ($5, Walmart). Bake in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes; stir then bake about 10 minutes more or until bread cubes are crisp and golden brown. Cool completely (croutons will get crisp on standing).
Test Kitchen Tip: If you want to flavor croutons using a natural cheese, such as cheddar, Gruyère, or Asiago, sprinkle about ¼ cup of shredded cheese over the croutons midway through baking.
How to Make Croutons in a Pan
No time to bake? No worries! You can still toss homemade bread croutons with your salad. Making homemade croutons on your stove top is as easy as these three steps:
- Prepare bread cubes as for oven method (above); place in a large bowl.
- In a large skillet ($25, Walmart) heat butter over medium-low heat. Stir in seasonings. Drizzle butter mixture over bread cubes in the bowl, tossing to coat evenly.
- Pour cubes into the skillet. Cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until cubes are lightly browned and crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove croutons from the pan; drain on paper towels.
How to Store Croutons
Good news: You can make croutons ahead of time, too! Store cooled croutons in an airtight container for up to 24 hours at room temperature or up to three days in the refrigerator.
Best Bread for Croutons
Just about any kind of bread will do, but top-notch croutons start with high-quality bread. Artisan breads, such as French, Italian, ciabatta, or sourdough, usually have a nice tuggy texture and firm crust, which work well for croutons. Rye bread also makes a tasty crouton, especially suitable for salads and hearty soups like 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 prefer the traditional appearance of neat cubes, while others like the more rustic look of torn pieces of bread.
How to Make Next-Level Croutons
Because croutons can add so much to a dish, our Test Kitchen likes to go way beyond plain bread to create novel croutons. Feel free to make your own creations, like garlic croutons, cheesy croutons, or spiced croutons.
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich Croutons: Prepare grilled cheese sandwiches. Cut them into 1-inch squares. Try them on tomato soup, carrot soup, or chili.
- Cream Cheese Croutons: Cut an 8-ounce package of brick cream cheese into ½-inch cubes. Coat with ½ cup finely chopped sliced almonds or pistachios. Refrigerate or freeze in an airtight container until ready to cook. To cook, spray a heavy medium saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add cream cheese cubes to skillet; cook and stir 3 minutes or until golden brown. Try them on fruit salad or parfaits. For a savory option, try our garden soup with feta or halloumi cheese croutons.
- Cake Croutons: Cut angel food cake or into large cubes (about 2 cups total). Brush all sides of each piece with melted butter. Grill cake sections on the rack of an uncovered grill, directly over medium coals, for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Try them on grilled fruit or ice cream. You can also try our pound cake baked croutons on fruit.