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 soups, salads, and other foods, including casseroles. Once you've experienced the rich, buttery, fresh taste of a homemade croutons recipe, 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-notch croutons start with high-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 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.
Learn how to make croutons for Caesar salad (and the best salad your dinner table has ever seen) with this easy oven method.
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.
No time to bake? No worries! You can still toss homemade bread croutons with your salad. Making croutons in a skillet is as easy as these three steps:
Because croutons can add so much to a dish, the BHG 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.
From classic salad croutons to polenta croutons, there are no bland store-bought croutons here. Make your own croutons to add to soups, salads, and any other recipe that needs an extra crunch.