Did you run out of breadcrumbs that you need for your recipe? Take a look at your pantry as you might just find one of these substitutes for breadcrumbs you can use instead. We listed below 30 alternatives, several of which would also fit within a gluten-free diet.
Breadcrumbs are crushed pieces of dried (or even fried) chunks of bread, that are available in various varieties – fresh or dried, toasted, or seasoned, coarse or fine. They are mainly used to add binding, crunch, or control other ingredients’ moisture in a recipe. But, as you will see in this article, it’s not always necessary to use bread for breadcrumbs.
Breadcrumbs are a versatile ingredient to use in a variety of cooking methods and recipes. What can you use them for?
- To add flavor and texture to fried, baked, and grilled foods.
- To absorb moisture and prevent cooked food from getting too wet.
- To use them as cheap filler to stretch meats (or meat substitutes).
- To add as a crispy topping on top of casseroles, salads, and all kinds of pasta.
- To use as a binding ingredient in meatballs, veggie balls, fritters and so on.
Owing to its versatility, there are many reasons why you may need breadcrumbs anywhere and anytime, and many reasons why you may not have any on hand! Why would you need a substitute then?
- The most basic reason being, if you’ve run out.
- It is also a good idea to substitute breadcrumbs if you’re looking for healthier options, as store-bought breadcrumbs typically contain lots of corn syrup and sodium, along with allergens like wheat.
- And speaking about wheat, classic breadcrumbs are made of wheat flour bread (see more info in our “Is panko gluten-free?” article). Therefore, it is not suitable if you are gluten sensitive or following a gluten-free diet. Making your own and finding yummy alternatives for the classic ingredient is always going to be your best bet.
Your pantry is out of breadcrumbs and you need it for a recipe – what do you do? Don’t worry just yet, because there are plenty of creative breadcrumbs substitutes! From rolled oats to chopped rice paper, there is no shortage of options for you. As breadcrumbs can be used for binding or for coating, we also give you an explanation of which substitutes should you choose and why? Here is our list of 30 breadcrumbs alternatives:
- Homemade from stale bread
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Pre-made stuffing mix
- Rolled oats
- Cooked rice
- Pseudocereals like quinoa or buckwheat
- Gluten-free flours like almond flour or chickpea flour
- Nuts and seeds (ground nuts and nut meals)
- Flax seeds and chia seeds
- Shredded coconut
- Chopped rice paper sheets or rice noodles
- Corn flakes, cereals, puffed rice
- Chips or crisps (potato or other veggies)
- Pretzels or crackers
- Parmesan cheese (nutritional yeast for vegans)
- Riced vegetables like cauliflower or sweet potato
Homemade from stale bread
Got bread you forgot to use and now it’s gone stale? Use it to make breadcrumbs! You can make it into toasted breadcrumbs by toasting it a bit before crumbing it, or you can grind it in a blender straight away to make soft breadcrumbs. Another option is to leave the bread out to cool or dry in cubes and let them sun dry for about a day before you crush them further into smaller pieces. If you’re gluten intolerant, it’s all the same process, just use gluten-free bread instead.
Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb, where “pan” means bread and “ko” means flour. This form of breadcrumb was traditionally used for making Pan-Asian dishes, but due to its crispiness, it has since gained popularity in Western cuisine as well.
Panko crumbs are prepared differently from conventional crumbs, to ensure that they are shard-like and flaky rather than refined and crumbly. In addition, it is supposed to be lower in calories and in sodium.
One may wonder if Panko is gluten-free. Sadly, it’s not, but with the growing popularity of this ingredient as a breadcrumb substitute, many gluten-free brands have been introduced in the market, so there is no reason for you not to give them a shot. Because the crunchier your dish is, the better it is!
Crushing croutons is a quick and easy way to make breadcrumbs when you’re out of them. Either use a blender or place the croutons in a plastic bag and crush them manually using some weight. If you’d like to preserve them for a longer period and make them extra crispy while at it, you can bake them at 200°F for 30 minutes before crushing them. You may want to keep blending or crushing till the crumbs are evenly sized.
Depending on your taste, you can spice the crumbs using herbs, lemon zest, powdered garlic, or oregano. You don’t want to have an imbalanced dish, in the end, so make it a point to check how salty your croutons are when you begin. If you’re gluten intolerant, it’s all the same process, just use gluten-free croutons instead.
Pre-made stuffing mix
Most stuffing mixes available in stores are made out of dried and baked bread pieces, making them one of the handiest alternatives to bread crumbs in case of unavailability. However, it’s important to carefully check the labels on mixes, as they can have corn syrup, salty additives, and other ingredients you may not want in your meals. It is also a question of wheat. There are a few brands that do make gluten-free stuffing mix, but the classic products are wheat flour-based.
Oatmeal is a great binding agent, which means that it offers plenty of holds to keep ingredients together instead of breadcrumbs. This is useful when making things like meatloaf or meatballs. Check out this recipe for Eggplant Meatballs (pictured below), which uses quick oats. Trust me, you can’t even tell the difference!
To replicate the crumbly texture, you will need to pulse the oatmeal through a blender for a coarse blend. Opt for instant or rolled oats over steel-cut oats, as the latter may be too grainy. However, rolled oats don’t make the best coating, so avoid using them as a substitute for breading.
Please note that oats are usually cross-contaminated, so it is one of the 11 foods to avoid on a vegan and gluten-free diet. If you use this, please buy certified brands.
You might be surprised to learn that the leftover rice in your fridge can make for a great binding agent in meatloaves and meatballs? If you don’t believe me, you can check out these recipes that use cooked rice to make Chickpea Meatballs or Mushroom Meatballs (both pictured below).
Couscous is basically a tiny pasta made by mixing water with semolina flour derived from durum wheat. There are different types of couscous available in the market, including Moroccan (smallest available), Israeli, and Lebanese.
You can use either dry or moist couscous to replace breadcrumbs in whatever size you like. It all just depends on the end result you are looking for in your dish. Dry for coating and moist for binding the same as cooked rice above.
Do take note that due to its wheat content, this ingredient is unfortunately not gluten-free. However, there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives for couscous that are delicious and can be used all the same.
Pseudocereals like quinoa or buckwheat
Excellent options can be pseudocereals. They behave similarly to cereals aka grains but technically they are not them. Amaranth, sorghum, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are popular examples and all of them fit within a gluten-free diet.
Much like rice, cooked quinoa can also be used as a filling substitute. You’ll see it used this way in this Quinoa Falafel (pictured below). Quinoa works well when toasted up and used as a breading as well.
As for buckwheat, you can use it by grinding soaked seeds into a coarse blend, like in this Lentil Loaf (pictured below). Using buckwheat is a great way to add fiber and crunch to your diet!
It has a nice, coarse texture, which instantly reminds you of breadcrumbs when you bite into it. You can use cornmeal in a variety of ways. For example, this recipe for Blue Cornmeal Baked Onion Rings uses cornmeal for breading. But you can just as easily turn your cornmeal into a delicious porridge or polenta. The great thing about cornmeal is that it is entirely gluten-free.
Gluten-free flours like almond flour or chickpea flour
Did you know that you can switch breadcrumbs for gluten-free flours as binding agents? The great thing about some of these ingredients is that they are light and neutral tasting albeit less crunchy.
To make a breadcrumbs-free gluten-free crunchy coating for this Vegan Orange Chicken (pictured below) chickpea flour and rice flour were mixed then fried in oil. Super crunchy!
Almond flour is yet another satisfactory alternative. Check out this Lentil Burger (pictured below) that uses almond flour instead of breadcrumbs. And this isn’t all! There are many other options you can use. It just takes a little experimenting.
Nuts and seeds (nut meal, ground nut)
They might look big and “nutty,” but nuts in flour form work well for both binding and coating. Nut flours and seed flours are rich in proteins, gluten-free, and very readily available. They work best when combined with other flours, powders, or starches, like arrowroot powder or tapioca starch. Check out this Vegan Wellington (pictured below) that uses walnuts instead of breadcrumbs to capture the moisture of the filling.
If you have your chef’s hat on and are in the mood to experiment, then you can even try using ground nuts, like walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds, for a toasty, crunchy coating. Try making this Baked Tofu Nugget (pictured below), and see for yourself what I am talking about.
Flax seeds and chia seeds
Why use seeds for binding and coating instead of breadcrumbs? I can give you a number of reasons. Firstly, flax seeds and chia seeds are naturally gluten-free. Secondly, they are loaded with protein, minerals, and vitamins! Adding them to your meatloaves can enhance flavor and be the perfect healthy option.
Flax and chia seeds have very special characteristic. If you add water to them, they form a gel-like substance (often called flax egg and chia egg). It is widely used as a binder in egg-free baking.
On the other hand, grinding up the seeds into tiny flakes creates a warm, nutty coating.
Coconut might seem like an ordinary fruit with few applications at first glance, but with further inspection you’ll see it has a lot going for it. For example, this recipe for Coconut Tofu demonstrates how you can use unsweetened, shredded coconut as a coating. You just have to give it a rough blitz or two, and you are good to go!
Chopped rice paper or rice noodles
Now here is a trick you might not have heard about yet – blitz up some rice paper in a food processor until you are left with small rice flakes. Use this as a coating for fried chicken or any other fried food you wish to make. The best part, of course, is that rice paper is completely gluten-free. We have a whole Guide to Rice Paper Wrappers listing many options to use in recipes. If you don’t have rice paper, you can also use dry rice noodles.
Corn flakes, cereals, puffed rice
Cornflakes have a great texture and you can easily buy unsweetened ones. Crush your cornflakes into small chunks to create the perfect breading. You can even grind it down into a smoother mixture if you want to use it as a coating. If you don’t believe me, you should try making these Fried Oyster Mushrooms (as “vegan chicken”) and Buffalo Oyster Mushrooms (as “vegan chicken wings”) and see for yourself how extra crispy their coating is.
You would think that corn flakes are 100% made of corn flour, but sadly it is not always the case. We collected 13 certified gluten-free corn flakes brands if you need to be certain.
Cereals or even puffed rice are other options that are worth giving a shot. They can be crushed and used similar to corn flakes as described above. In this Baked Mac and Cheese, the recipe uses Corn Chex (it is actually gluten-free as well) as a topping and it looks all sorts of yum!
Chips / crisps (potato or veggie)
Once you use potato chips as a breadcrumbs alternative, there is no going back. They do come pre-seasoned, so you might not be able to experiment too much with taste. But that can even be a good thing, as you have some extra layer of flavor.
They also do have the perfect texture for something like a Green Bean Casserole. Besides, crushing packets of potato chips is totally therapeutic. If you don’t like potato chips, you can swap them out for any veggie chips.
Pretzels or crackers
Pretzels work just like chips but remember to always opt for a gluten-free variety if you need one as generally speaking they are not gluten-free.
Pretzels and crackers bring a salty touch to whatever you make, so keep that in mind before adding your own seasonings. Use them just like potato chips – crush into smithereens for a coating or into a more delicate powder for a good bind.
Pop some crackers into a bag and mash them up for a satisfying meatball or meatloaf filling. If you want crumbs, be sure not to accidentally make a fine powder. Otherwise, it’s instant and easy!
Parmesan cheese / Nutritional yeast
Parmesan cheese is an excellent option for breading without breadcrumbs. Bonus, it even melts a bit creating a super crispy coating.
Nutritional yeast or “nooch” is a deactivated, inactive yeast. This substance has a flaky texture and nutty taste, which is why people are calling it vegan parmesan. This Tofu Buddha Bowl (pictured below) combines nutritional yeast with arrowroot and garlic powder to make a wholesome, tasty crust. For people on a gluten-free diet, nutritional yeast is gluten-free but look for certified brands nonetheless.
Riced vegetables like cauliflower or sweet potato
Riced vegetables like cauliflower and sweet potato are ideal for adding a binder to grain-free dishes. They work similarly to cooked rice as explained above.
To prepare cauliflower or sweet potato rice, you should first shred the vegetable using a shredder or a grater. Then, lay out the shredded vegetable on a pan and oven-dry it at a low temperature for about an hour or so or fry it on the stovetop. Heat takes the moisture out and leaves the shredded vegetable crispy and breadcrumb-like.
Yes, but use it with caution because breadcrumbs cook faster than flour. Avoid deep-frying anything coated with breadcrumbs because it is likely that the insides will cook much slower than the outsides brown. If you absolutely must, consider cutting the food you are coating into smaller chunks or slivers to ensure everything cooks evenly.
Yes, crackers are, in fact, excellent substitutes for breadcrumbs. They work well in baked dishes like meatballs or meatloaf, and they add crunch to your dish as well as offer a blast of flavors. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.
Rolled oats, cooked rice, quinoa, and even riced vegetables are suitable breadcrumb substitutes for meatballs. They are both good binding agents and are inherently crunchy. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.
Riced vegetable like cauliflower is a healthier alternative to breadcrumbs. It’s gluten-free, keto-friendly, and helps with weight loss and fighting inflammation. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.
We have a list of 30 options including panko, couscous, riced vegetables, pre-made stuffing mix, croutons, and homemade stale bread, crackers, cereal, rice paper, shredded coconut, nut meals, flax seeds etc. It depends on whether you need it for binding, breading, or topping. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.
Yes, panko and breadcrumbs can be used interchangeably. The only difference is that when panko is used for frying, the dish turns out crisper and less greasy. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.
For the best crunch factor, add panko or crushed croutons on top of your mac and cheese. Think of crackers, cereals, corn flakes, or even potato chips. For more similar substitutes, read the whole article.