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Whether you are making croutons for a caesar salad, soup or let’s be real – snacking – these easy 15 minute homemade croutons are crispy and golden, with just the right amount of garlic powder and can be made with any bread you have on hand.
A good homemade crouton makes any recipe even more satisfying. Whether it’s a rich and flavourful panzanella, a quick and easy lunchtime salad or a warm and cozy soup, croutons add another layer of texture and flavour that is hard to beat.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been developing plant-based recipes for a decade now…particularly when you know that my culinary repertoire in my 20s was essentially a Greek salad, macaroni and cheese and stir fry. I am, of course, a dietitian and not a trained chef…so over the years, I had a lot to learn about how to make nourishing meals that are just as delicious and satisfying as more typical fare.
A couple of big AHA moments: that texture is everything…as is salt.
Creating a balance of flavours and textures is what takes a ho hum meal over the top. It’s a technique you’ll see me use again and again in my books, like Good For Your Gut. Whenever I can add a bit of crunch to a softer recipe, or a creamy sauce to a drier one, or another hit of salt, acid or spice, I will.
And I cannot think of an easier – or more delicious – way to get that crunch factor with your favourite salad or soup than to add a good homemade crouton. Croutons couldn’t be easier to make…which means you’ll A) save money and B) never have to eat a stale boxed crouton again.
A bit of a warning: these croutons are so good, I have to fight my family off so the croutons actually make it to dinner time. And by my family, I also mean me.
Gather your ingredients and let’s make croutons!
Really, you only need 2 ingredients to make croutons: bread and oil. The rest build flavour…and I highly recommend adding a bit of seasoning.
- Bread: spoiler alert…you need bread! Use whatever bread you have on hand whether it is fresh or 1-3 days old.
- Extra virgin olive oil: my love of EVOO is legendary; it’s both my 50% Mediterranean blood and also that it is the best researched cooking oil with respect to health benefits. And yes, you can cook with a standard (clear/filtered) olive oil. If it’s cloudy/unfiltered, it’s for cold uses only.
- Garlic powder: my ride-or-die for building umami + flavour. You could increase it if you want a more pronounced garlic taste, but I’ve added just enough in the recipe to build a flavour foundation.
- Dried thyme: this is optional…and changeable! If you don’t like thyme, you could do dried parsley, Italian seasoning or even, heck, everything bagel seasoning.
FAQ: What is the best bread for croutons?
You can make croutons out of any bread…but I do have two favourites: a good bakery sourdough for its wonderful texture, or a sprouted grain sandwich bread that is super high in fibre and has plenty of flavour.
You can make gluten free or even low FODMAP croutons just by using your usual gluten free or low FODMAP loaf! If you’re low FODMAP, watch for higher FODMAP ingredients in gluten free breads. Cob’s Bread makes a low FODMAP loaf. And be sure to ditch the garlic powder for some fresh herbs…or try a low FODMAP garlic-flavoured oil.
How to make the best homemade croutons, step by step
It is ridiculously easy to make croutons and the first time you do it, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. AND…now you’ll never see a loaf of bread go to waste! Just make croutons and it will disappear in no time. Faster than the 15 minutes it takes to make them.
- Step One: cube the bread. You can tear or cut the bread into any size you wish. But it is important to keep the cubes fairly uniform so they cook evenly. Smaller croutons will be more crisp, larger croutons a balance of crisp + chew. I like roughly ¾ – 1 inch (1.5-2.5 cm) so they aren’t too much of a mouthful.
- Step Two: toss with oil and seasonings. Toss the cubes with oil, salt and herbs right on the baking sheet. TIP: sprinkle seasonings evenly over the cubes or you might end up with some that are totally plain and others that are too strong!
- Step Three: Bake….and watch like a hawk! Smaller croutons will cook faster, about 5-8 minutes. Larger take a bit more time, maybe 8-12 minutes. You’re good for 5 minutes, then I highly recommend checking every 3 minutes onward so you don’t go from crisp to dry/burnt.
- Step Four: eat them all, right off the tray because they are so delicious and make another batch to go with dinner…just kidding (or am I???)
Ways to use these homemade croutons
Like I said, I don’t think there is a recipe that isn’t made better with a good crouton. Like how they make a creamy bowl of parsnip soup, or a light lentil vegetable soup, more of a meal. Croutons are right at home on a vegan caesar salad and add heft to a light beet and arugula salad. I love these on my winter pear and kale salad or my roasted tomato soup!
Tips, Tricks and Suggestions
- Use a serrated bread knife to avoid just mashing the bread as you cube it. Day old bread will be easier to cube but you can totally make this recipe with fresh bread too.
- The size is up to you, but about ¾ – 1 inch is going to be easier to cut but also, not so big that it’s a mouthful! The bigger they are, the more you’ll get a chewy inside/crisp outside. Smaller croutons will tend to just be crisp (and cook faster…watch out!)
- You can customize the seasoning here as you wish – ditching garlic, or swapping in Greek or Italian seasoning blends for the thyme