These homemade croutons, made with any type of stale bread you have hanging around, is a simple way to transform leftovers into everyday staples.
You can make homemade croutons out of any bread. But consider the end use. (Are the flavors in your stale bread the same flavors you want in your gratin topping? Will the tang of sourdough be a nice counterpoint to the chocolate in your dessert? Would you enjoy rye bread in that soup?) And then act accordingly.
And, pleasingly, any croutons can be turned into fine or coarse breadcrumbs in a jiffy. [Editor’s Note: To learn how to turn croutons into breadcrumbs, look for the note just beneath the croutons recipe below.]–Tabitha Alterman
LC Which Came First? Note
Which came first, the imparting of flavor to croutons or the baking of them? For most of us, the familiar order is tossing stale bread with oil or melted butter, salt, and maybe some finely grated cheese or herbs, then sliding the whole shebang in the oven. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But we gotta say, after trying this recipe, we’re going to reverse the order from here on. See, making plain homemade croutons not only allows the croutons to last longer (quick science lesson: fat turns rancid more quickly than carbs), but it allows you to turn all your stale bread into croutons at once in one easy go without having to pause and contemplate exactly how much you want flavored this way and how much you want flavored that way. You can then fancy up your toasted croutons later, when you need them, in exactly the amount you need, with exactly the flavors you need. You’re welcome.
- 5 cups leftover bread (any type and amount)
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Cut or tear the leftover bread into roughly 1-inch chunks. Place the chunks in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake the croutons, tossing occasionally to help toast all sides evenly, until crisp, thoroughly dry, and browned to whatever your desired shade on all sides, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the freshness of your bread and the size of the chunks. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.
How To Make Bread Crumbs From CroutonsMaking bread crumbs from croutons couldn’t be easier. Simply toss the cooled croutons in your food processor and pulse until the desired texture is achieved. (No food processor? No problem. Place some croutons in a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it tightly, and then bang on it with a rolling pin, heavy skillet, or empty wine bottle.) See? Easy peasy.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I ran a mini-experiment with two slices of stale baguette. My bread had a lot of holes in it, so the chunks were very rough and misshapen, not at all even cubes. My bread was completely crisp, dry, and toasted after 18 minutes, and, even during this short baking time, needed regular monitoring throughout in order to end up with the desired dry cubes that were evenly toasted on all sides but not burnt.
I love croutons and could make them again and again with different breads. The next I make these, I might turn the temperature down a bit in order to slow the browning part and allow me to be less attentive during baking. I can always eat croutons as a snack—no need to worry about what to do with them! I once gave someone a lovely container of homemade croutons.
Croutons are a great way to salvage leftover bread of any type, size, shape, or flavor, even though I did not get perfect little squares from my very hole-laden bread.
I had a bunch of leftover bread in my freezer, so this was an ideal—and super easy—recipe. This is the perfect way to make your own homemade breadcrumbs. To make homemade croutons for soups and salads, I use this exact recipe, but toss the bread chunks in some extra-virgin olive oil and season them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper before baking. This is a great alternative to store-bought croutons—better-tasting, fresher, and less costly! The chunks took exactly 20 minutes to get crisp, dry, and toasted on all sides.
I often tell myself that making homemade croutons isn’t rocket science—until I start digging through a cookbook or Google to find what temperature to set the oven at and how long I have before I need to start checking.
This time I used store-bought sliced bread to make 2 baking sheets of croutons—1 baking sheet contained croutons cut into 1-inch chunks, and the other in about 2-inch chunks. I completely forgot to toss the croutons during baking, but the thin slices weren’t dense enough to trap any moisture underneath so I’m glad I didn’t expend the effort. The smaller size took 25 minutes, the larger took 30 minutes.
These are perfect to pulverize into bread crumbs or toss onto a salad. And they’re infinitely riff-able. Try spraying these with cooking spray then sprinkling with salt, Parmesan, or a favorite spice blend before baking to customize the perfect crunchy garnish for soup or salad. I’ll be bookmarking this method for next time! And I just used crappy store-bought sandwich bread destined to go stale otherwise. I left them on the baking sheet to cool without them over browning. The larger ones went into a salad last night, and the smaller are packed into freezer bags. They are completely dry and will be very easy to use either as croutons or smashed into bread crumbs.
These homemade croutons are as simple and basic as you can get. Based on the written recipe, I had nice results, but the croutons were pretty bland. I used leftover French rolls, cut them into 1-inch pieces and baked them for 9 minutes, turning the tray once about 5 minutes in.
I also made up a separate batch of croutons but added a little flavor. I only had 2 rolls so I used about 2 teaspoons of butter, which I melted. I added a sprinkle of garlic powder and a nice pinch of kosher salt. I tossed the bread cubes just to slightly moisten them and baked the croutons at 375°F for about 8 to 9 minutes, turning the tray half way through. The croutons were golden brown with a nice crunch. I found that these croutons stayed a little softer after storing while the croutons without and seasoning got very hard. I’ve made croutons this way for years and they are always a big hit!
Use good bread and there is no reason this recipe for toasted bread will not work. I happened to have bread on hand and wanted to make a Caesar salad with dinner so I followed this method. (I used a combination of leftover home-baked brioche and whole-wheat rye.) Worked well. It took about 25 minutes to get the croutons toasted. I usually flavor my croutons with herbs and toss them in olive oil before baking. I actually think this method is easier and better. From now on I’ll toast them unadorned and then toss them with oil or flavoring if I want.
Originally published April 25, 2015
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
There always seems to be leftover bread in our fridge, and I hate wasting stuff! I was making a baby kale and asparagus Caesar salad and thought I would give these easy homemade croutons a whirl. I had a multigrain loaf to use, and like the recipe suggests, the cooking time really does depend on how fresh or stale the bread you happen to have on hand is.
At 375°F, my bread cubes were crisp and thoroughly dry after only 11 minutes. You should really check the cubes after about 10 minutes—not only does the freshness of the bread matter in cooking time, but also the heat of your oven.
I have to say, I loved that no additional oil was needed on these tasty croutons. They really did add a special crunch to our salad! (I have a loaf of challah in the fridge as well…my next mission is to use this croutons recipe for a custard dessert!)