Unsure of what to do with those stale, random pieces of bread floating around at the end of the week after your family has used the "good" pieces for avocado toast and sandwich recipes? Or have a few chunks of crusty bread left in the basket after last night's pasta party? Learn how to make bread crumbs and you'll not only have a savvy way to give old bread new life, but you'll also trim down on your overall food waste footprint.
Ahead, we'll share our complete guide on how to make bread crumbs, including the best carbs for the task, how to recreate those store-bought Italian bread crumbs, plus how to save them for future use—in a way in which your homemade bread crumbs won't spoil.
How to Make Bread Crumbs
Let your leftovers be your guide! Pretty much any kind of bread can be transformed into homemade bread crumbs: from squishy white to chewy sourdough and whole wheat to gluten-free. Even extra pieces of baguette or hamburger or hot dog buns are perfect as you master how to make bread crumbs. Feel free to mix-and-match bread types in a single batch, too; there are few ways to "mess up" this method for how to make bread crumbs. Unless you're making a sweeter recipe, just steer clear of using more sugary options like quick bread, muffins, or Hawaiian rolls. These also tend to be denser and moister, so stick to more typical savory loaves and buns.
No matter what type of bread you use, here's some happy news: You're actually better off using bread that's not baked fresh that same day. Stale (and less moist) bread will break down easier in the food processor. (See our "bonus tips" section below for what to do if you only have fresh bread handy.)
How to Make Fresh Bread Crumbs
Also referred to as "soft bread crumbs," this style is the quickest bread-based crumb to make since it requires zero toasting. Fresh bread crumbs are ideal as a topping or filler, while dried bread crumbs are normally used for breading fried, oven-fried, or air-fried foods.
To make soft crumbs, cut bread into cubes and process as you would cracker crumbs. Use 1 slice of fresh bread for every ⅓ cup of fresh bread crumbs.
How to Make Dried Bread Crumbs
First, make dry bread cubes, just like you would as the first step for your favorite homemade stuffing recipe. To do so, stack a few slices of bread and cut them into ½-inch-wide strips using a serrated knife. Cut these strips crosswise into ½-inch cubes. Preheat your oven to 300° F. On a sheet pan, arrange the bread cubes in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once or twice; let cool.
Use a food processor or blender to process or pulse the cubes into crumbs. Each 1 slice of bread yields ¼ cup of dried bread crumbs.
How to Make Panko Bread Crumbs
With origins in Japan, panko bread crumbs are flakier, larger, and less dense than typical bread crumbs. As a result, they lend even more crunch and texture when used as a topping or coating.
To make panko bread crumbs, start by preheating your oven to 300° F. Use a knife to remove the crusts from the bread (ideally white bread for this type of bread crumb). In a food processor or blender, process or pulse the crust-less pieces into coarse crumbs. Pour these onto a sheet pan, spread the crumbs out to form a single layer, then dry them in the oven for 7 minutes or so, stirring halfway. Allow to cool.
Each 1 slice of bread yields about ¼ cup of panko bread crumbs.
How to Make Italian Bread Crumbs
The most common variety of seasoned bread crumbs you'll find in most major supermarkets and online comes with a hint of Mediterranean flair.
To make Italian bread crumbs, toss together 1 cup homemade dried bread crumbs with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, and ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning.
Spice Substitutes to Save Your Recipes in a Pinch
Bonus Tips For How to Make Bread Crumbs Far Better Than the Supermarket Kind
Now that you know how to make bread crumbs from scratch in all the ways you might purchase them, here are a few more tricks from our Test Kitchen to ace this money-saving strategy.
- Take this slice test. Bread should be dry but not rock hard.
- Say "freeze." If your bread is veering from fresh to dry before you have time to whip up homemade bread crumbs, transfer it to a zip-top bag or airtight container and place it in the freezer. That way you'll have some bread to thaw and make into dry crumbs as needed.
- Fix your fresh bread. If you're in a pinch and only have a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of bread, you can still utilize these steps for how to make bread crumbs. Simply pop slices into the toaster or a 300° F oven for a few minutes to dry them out, then proceed with the grinding and toasting steps.
- Go appliance-free. If you don't have a food processor or blender to blitz up the crumbs, place the toasted bread into a zip-top bag (with the air pressed out) and use a rolling pin to crush the pieces into crumbs.
- Keep the crust. Unless you're making panko bread crumbs, there's no need to trim the crusts off unless you're a stickler about an even color on all the crumbs.
- Master this conversion. One full cup of fresh bread crumbs is equal to ½ cup of dried bread crumbs, so plan ahead for your recipes accordingly.
- Save those crumbs. Can you freeze bread crumbs once they've been toasted? You bet. Transfer them to an airtight container or zip-top bag and freeze for up to 4 months. You can also store dried breadcrumbs in an airtight container for about 2 weeks at room temperature.
- Herb it up. Don't feel confined by our Italian bread crumb recipe above. Experiment with a variety of fresh or dried herbs with flavors that might play nicely with your crumby recipe.
10 Ways to Use Homemade Bread Crumbs (or Store-Bought, For That Matter)
- Coat slices of eggplant with homemade bread crumbs for next-level Chicken Parmigiana or Baked Eggplant Parmesan.
- Sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over a pasta recipe, just like we do in this Spaghetti with Seared Asparagus.
- Try bread crumbs instead of croutons as a salad or soup topping. Our Escarole Bistro Salad with Bacon and Scalloped Potato and Ham Soup shows just how delicious this can be.
- Use bread crumbs as a binder in meatballs or meatloaf, a la this customizable Basic Meatball recipe.
- Shower over a skillet of stovetop macaroni and cheese (or even a bowl of the microwave kind!) to recreate the baked mac experience in far less time.
- Mix them into—or use to coat—crab cakes.
- Try bread crumbs as a topping for stuffed artichokes or stuffed tomatoes.
- Use them to crank up the crunch factor in your favorite air-fryer recipes.
- Saute with butter and fresh herbs for 5 minutes or so to create a crumble to top Fish with Crispy Bread Crumbs, Spinach, and Onions.
- Press into the exterior of a roast or scallops for a crunchy coating, as we show in this Herb-and-Garlic-Crusted Pork Roast.
Now that you know how to make bread crumbs and put them to great use, you're all set to crunch-ify your menu any time you like. If you find yourself fresh out of bread crumbs and don't want to go to the effort of going the full DIY route, consider one of these savvy pantry staple substitutes for bread crumbs.