5 Alternatives for Breadcrumbs When You Want a Crunchy Topping
Breadcrumbs are amazing on chicken, fish, or even veggies like zucchini and cauliflower. They give that delicious, crispy, crunchy texture that makes a dish feel more indulgent and satisfying.
But you may find yourself getting bored with breadcrumbs, suddenly out and needing an alternative while you're making dinner, or a gluten-sensitivity might prevent you from eating wheat products.
For when that happens, there are several easy substitutes that will give a great flavor and consistency, just like breadcrumbs. Here are the best options to choose when you're looking to coat your dinner in something new:
Cornflakes or Bran Cereals
These are ideal for coating food when pan frying and deep frying. "They're also a great casserole topping, but avoid using them as a binder since they're not good at absorbing liquid and flavor," says Sofia Norton, RD. Their light and airy, but still crisp, texture makes them a good panko crumbs alternative. Most brands of plain cornflakes also happen to be gluten-free, so they'll work for anyone with a wheat sensitivity or Celiac disease. "Go for sugar-free flakes and grind them using a food processor or blender," says Norton. "Alternatively, place them in a Ziploc bag and crush them with your hands or the back of a spoon."
Try it: Baked Cornflake Chicken
Crushed Nuts or Nut Flours
Crushed nuts and some coarse nut flours (like walnut, almond, and coconut) are a fantastic low-carb coating for fried goods and casseroles, plus they even have some good fats to boost satiety. "They provide a lot of crunch and flavor. But they're not as good as binders, although almond flour can take on this role to some extent thanks to its soluble fiber content ," she says. You can easily make crushed nuts, as well as nut flours, at home using a food processor.
Try it: Almond-Crusted Tilapia
Crushed Baked Goods
Normally breadcrumbs are made from, well, bread. But you can create something similar from other wheat-based products like pretzels and crackers. "These baked goods also typically made from wheat flour and can function as regular breadcrumbs when making breaded chicken, fish, and veggies as well as binders in meatloaves, patties, meatballs, and so on," says Norton. Grind them in a food processor or lightly crush them in a Ziploc bag.
Use whole or pulverized rolled oats both as breading in fried food and as a binder in dishes. Norton says, "Toast them for more flavor before using and make sure to adjust quantities since rolled oats absorb more liquid than breadcrumbs. The only exception is if you're using pulverized oats, which you can work as a 1:1 substitution.
Riced cauliflower is a good low-carb, grain-free, nut-free, and gluten-free alternative to regular breadcrumbs. "It's perfect in making things like crusted chicken, fritters, chicken nuggets, and other fried dishes. But it won't work well as a binding ingredient due to its high moisture content," says Norton. For that extra crunch, it's a good idea to roast a whole head of cauliflower before pulsing it into cauliflower rice. It'll help give it a better flaky, crispy texture.