Here at That Salad Lady, we say there’s only one thing better than a good salad: that’s good croutons. With their rich, savory flavor and delightfully crispy texture, good croutons can bring a crunch of happiness to practically any salad bowl. Croutons are also great for appeasing salad skeptics and finicky eaters, as they help mask the bitter tastes of certain veggie ingredients.
While there’s a whole slew of bagged options out there, nothing beats the flavor of homemade croutons – and you don’t have to be a masterful baker to make them. Our no-hassle homemade croutons recipe involves three simple steps: cutting, seasoning and baking. That’s it! All you’ll need is a loaf of bread plus five ingredients and they’re ready in about 25 minutes.
THE BALANCING ACT
You’re probably wondering how a homemade croutons recipe made it on our site. After all, a crouton is just a piece of rebaked bread, right? Love it or hate it, bread is arguably the most popular food in the world. But since carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient in bread, it’s also deemed to be one of the main culprits in unwanted weight gain.
You can rest assured that the simple act of eating carbohydrates won’t cause you to gain weight – this includes bread. As with any other carbohydrate-dense food (or most foods for that matter), the key to eating bread lies in portion control.
Our bodies only need around 3-5 daily servings of carbohydrates. This not only includes bread, but also starchy vegetables like potatoes, quality grains like oatmeal and even beans and peas. If you’re not familiar with the collective serving sizes of these foods, you can easily eat too much of any of them. This is when weight gain and other problems generally arise.
Rather than using bread as a default meal or snack, That Salad Lady recommends using it as a condiment. That’s why you’ll always find it as an “optional” salad topper as opposed to a primary ingredient in our salad bowl recipes.
Below we suggest sensible portions of our homemade croutons. Just enough to bring that good savory flavor and delightful crunch to your salad bowl. We also highlight some of the different types of breads you can use to suit your unique eating style or nutritional needs.
So, let’s talk about what’s in our homemade croutons recipe and why?
The Must-Have Ingredient
As we’ve already discussed, croutons are made with bread – and you can use just about any kind of bread to make them. Our recipe specifically calls for using a French baguette or French bread, but sourdough and Italian breads work as well. You can also use whole wheat or whole grain, gluten-free or low-carb bread varieties – whichever best suits YOUR eating style.
Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that some breads are more nutritious than others. Whole wheat breads, for instance, are naturally high in protein and fiber so you’ll get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck. But, if you only like white bread, we say use it. Here at That Salad Lady, we believe food is meant to be enjoyed.
So long as you enjoy croutons as a condiment and in sensible portions, there’s no need to fret over the type of bread you choose. We do, however, suggest skipping the bread aisle and looking for a freshly baked loaf within the in-store bakery or even a local stand-alone bakery if your budget allows. It’s certainly worth a few extra bucks to find a loaf made with quality ingredients. You’ll taste the difference too!
Regardless of the type, ideally, your bread should be a few days old, as it’ll be easier to manage. Stale bread works great so long as there’s no presence of mold. To prevent molding, we suggest storing your bread in an air-tight container and keeping it in the fridge that way it’s always available when you’re ready to make a batch of croutons.
A lot of bakeries offer stale and day-old breads at hefty discounts (sometimes over 50%), which’ll save you a lot of money plus the added step of letting it get old or go stale at your house.
100% Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
With its distinctly fruity, peppery flavor, a good quality extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) will transform your homemade croutons from just delicious into downright craveable. Even if you’re not a fan of EVOO you’ll love it on croutons. The more bitter the better, as this is a tell-tale sign of freshness. Besides being a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins E and K, EVOO is also packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
You can also use unsalted butter if you like more “buttery” tasting croutons, but even then we recommend mixing it with equal parts EVOO for maximum flavor.
A Savory Seasoning Blend
Along with EVOO, our blend of garlic powder and Italian seasoning brings a rich depth of pleasant savory flavor (technically called “umami”) to croutons. Garlic itself contains many unique phytonutrients that boast powerful antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more). Though relatively lower in nutrients, garlic powder is a much better form of consuming garlic than say garlic salt.
Then there’s Italian seasoning, which is basically a blend of dried herbs. The blend typically includes some combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram along with other herbs. You might already have an Italian seasoning blend in your cabinet or on your spice rack. If not, don’t be afraid to play around with whatever herbs you have on hand. By experimenting with the different types, you’ll start to discover which combinations you like.
Our recipe also calls for sprinkling a little sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over the bread to complement the other seasonings.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
To prep the croutons, start by cutting your bread according to the size you want. Again, we suggest using a French baguette or French bread. Our recipe calls for slicing the bread into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices, and then cubing it into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes using a serrated knife. You can also just tear or rip the bread from the loaf for more rustic croutons. If you’re using a crusty bread, keep the crust on for more flavor and texture. Be sure to keep the crumbs too. That’s it!
Our recipe calls for baking the croutons at 350 degrees F. Prior to baking, we suggest adding EVOO to the bottom of a medium bowl, adding the bread cubes to the bowl, drizzling on more EVOO, and then turning the cubes with a wooden spoon or spatula to give them a good coating. From there, you can season the cubes with garlic powder and Italian seasoning along with salt and pepper, and then turn them again with your spoon or spatula to coat.
Once you’ve oiled up and seasoned the bread cubes, you can then spray a baking sheet with EVOO or whatever cooking spray you have. From there, just spread out the cubed and seasoned bread in a single layer on the sheet and then place it in the oven. We recommend turning the bread cubes at the halfway point and then continuing to bake them until they transform into croutons. This generally takes about 20 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet when the croutons reach your desire level of doneness. Depending on their size and how browned or crispy you want your croutons, you may need to bake them for up to five more minutes. Either way, it’s best to let the croutons cool completely before enjoying them.
The Versatility of Homemade Croutons
Our no-hassle homemade croutons recipe makes 8-10 deliciously rich and savory servings. Combine them with That Salad Lady’s homemade Caesar salad dressing to whip up a restaurant-quality Caesar salad at home or use them to add craveable crunch to any of our salad bowl recipes. But it doesn’t stop at salads. You can use your croutons to elevate the taste and texture of soups, chilis, casseroles and much more!
We recommend storing your croutons in an airtight plastic bag or container. When properly stored, they’ll last up to two weeks at room temperature and up to a month in the freezer.
SHOW US YOUR WORK
That Salad Lady wants to see all your great work. If you enjoy our homemade croutons which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.
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