Use up your odds and ends of bread pieces, stale crackers, and more by making homemade bread crumbs. In just a few minutes, you can have a jar of bread crumbs ready to be seasoned or use as-is in your favorite recipe. Find out what to make them with, how to make them, and how to store them – here’s your bread crumb 101!
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Do you make your own bread crumbs? I confess I am guilty of buying crumbs early in my cooking journey (although I’m freely admitting that’s not much of a guilt trip, ha!).
In fact, I remember when my son was small and my mother-in-law came over and said she was shocked to see the store-bought bread crumbs in the fridge. In my defense, no one I knew growing up made their own crumbs (that I can remember), plus I didn’t have a food processor, and the cheap blender we owned simply whirred the bread pieces around in the container, staying almost the same size (yep, it was really cheap).
When I did need some for a recipe, I was reduced to smashing them with a rolling pin in a baggie. Have you ever tried to coat chicken with bread chunks? Yeah, not quite the same. And so there was a container of store-bought crumbs in my refrigerator.
But of course the more I made things for myself, the more I wanted none of it to go to waste. The ends of 100% whole wheat sandwich bread, toast no one ate, the last part of a whole wheat roll from days before – even half a sleeve of stale crackers that I didn’t make. I soon didn’t want any of it to be thrown out. The answer, obviously, was to get a food processor.
What is the best tool for making bread crumbs?
When I finally did get a processor, it was a $30 model because if you just want to make crumbs (and homemade pesto) they should all be able to do that, right? Wrong. It was loud and made chunks the size of gravel. Sheesh, I had managed to do that with my rolling pin.
A few years later I coughed up $50 for a “name brand” model (which shall remain nameless, though it starts with a K and ends with an S…). This time the “crumbs” were the size of rock salt, but they were a little more usable, so I stuck with this for a few years because I had paid $50 for it. However, I had to make my pesto in a blender because this processor left large pieces of basil in the pesto, which kind of looked like we were spreading grass mixed with oil on our bread. #kitchenissues
Then one day I watched a cooking show where they made bread crumbs with this:
And my food processing life was never the same.
The chef simply put the torn bread pieces in the machine, turned it on for a few seconds and, voila! The most beautiful, fine, crumbs – just like the ones I used to buy. Ah – it could be done at home! I saved up for the “real” thing and when I made crumbs with it for the first time? Success! Finally.
Apparently the right tool can make the difference. So I recommend the same 7-cup model Cuisinart I bought, but you can certainly buy a bigger model if you need it. I like this size as it seems the most flexible to me- not to big and unwieldy, but not too small, either.
What about using a blender?
In the years since this article was first published, a whole new selection of professional blenders have become available for reasonable prices. I now also have a Ninja Blender (and it’s not even the most expensive) that will make fine bread crumbs unlike my previous blenders. So if you have a good-quality blender, use it!
So, on to making bread crumbs – now that I’m an expert crumb maker and all.
What can I use for homemade bread crumbs?
You can use literally any type of bread product to make crumbs with. If you are wanting gluten free crumbs, stick with those types of baked products. TIP: You can even make grain-free ‘crumbs’ by using processed nuts and seasonings!
Here are just some of the things you can use to make bread crumbs:
- Any stale pieces of bread left in packages.
- Baking mistakes like the rolls pictured above – while they look perfectly fine, I forgot the salt. And let me tell you, forgetting salt in homemade bread is a big deal. Who would’ve thought a little salt could make something edible or not? But I made it so it wasn’t going to be thrown out – I just stuck it in the freezer until it was time to make bread crumbs.
- The bread ends no one in the family really likes.
- Opened crackers that have been in the cupboard who knows how long. Stale crackers are fine in crumbs.
- You can even make crumbs from a cereal you tried but didn’t like – use them in fruit crisp toppings (actually, that should really be, “the kids didn’t like” and probably because it was a “healthy” cereal, ha!). Make sure to package them separately, though with a nice, big, “For Crisps” label, because cinnamon in your Parmesan Rice Cakes would not be so great.
TIP: My biggest tip to easily keep these odds and ends for bread crumbs ready without having to stop and make crumbs for every little piece of bread you have left over is:
Keep a container in the door of the kitchen freezer that you can throw bread ends and pieces in whenever you have them. When the container is full or you need them for a recipe, they are ready to be turned into crumbs!
How to Make Homemade Bread Crumbs
To make crumbs, you just do two steps – and maybe three.
Step 1. Break up the pieces of bread and toss into the food processor bowl and add any other bread items you’ve got saved up. I don’t even defrost the bread if it’s frozen before I whir it up!
Step 2. Whir the pieces until finely and evenly chopped. Isn’t this a beautiful thing? These are some nice crumbs!
Step 3 (optional). Season or not. I usually leave mine unseasoned because I like to be able to add seasoning, if needed, according to the recipe I’m going to use (like the parmesan, herbs, and garlic used in the topping of this yummy fish recipe).
If you do want to add basic seasoning, similar to Italian seasoned bread crumbs, add the following ingredients to the processor and pulse to distribute:
- 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon each onion and garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon basil, oregano, and/or thyme (you can add just one or 1/2 teaspoon of each, it’s up to you)
How to Store Homemade Bread Crumbs
Store the crumbs in a freezer-safe container or bag labeled with the date (and if they are seasoned). You can store them in the refrigerator for a few months, but keeping them in the freezer will get you the longest storage. They last in the freezer, well, I’ve never actually had them go bad, but I hesitate to say forever. How about we say a long time?
Recipes to Make to Use Your Homemade Bread Crumbs:
- Baked White Fish with Parmesan-Herb Crust
- Parmesan Rice Cakes (with or without the crumbs, actually)
- Baked Maple Mustard Chicken (my kid’s favorite!)
- Easy Slow Cooker Cassoulet (top and broil in oven right before serving for a more authentic cassoulet)
For even more ideas to use bread crumbs, here’s an article about 15 Ways Breadcrumbs Can Improve A Dish.
I’ve found I love having homemade bread crumbs in the freezer and am glad I’m not stuck having to buy them again.
What about you – do you make bread crumbs?
This how-to kitchen tip has been updated – it was originally published in July 2009.
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