Breadcrumbs are an essential ingredient in so many recipes: They act as a binder for meatballs and meatloaf and keep them from becoming dry. They also add crunch on top of bowls of pasta and casserole dishes, and they’re the secret to extra-crispy cutlets. So it’s likely that you’ll come across a recipe that calls for them. If you’ve recently run out, however, our best substitutes for breadcrumbs might be able to save you a trip to the store. Or maybe you’re looking to make a gluten-free dinner and want a substitute for breadcrumbs; we’ve got options for that too. Armed with these genius replacements for breadcrumbs, you’ll never need to worry about running out.
From rolled oats to tortilla chips, there are plenty of pantry staples that can be crushed finely to mimic the crunchy texture of store-bought breadcrumbs, and they are a perfect canvas for loads of flavor additions: Lemon zest, fresh or dried herbs, a decent dose of Parmesan, you name it! Read on for our favorite substitutes for breadcrumbs.
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Fresh or Stale Bread
The next best thing to a bag of breadcrumbs? Actual bread! If you have stale bread, or fresh bread that you’re willing to toast, you can easily make your own crumbs as a great sub for store-bought ones. If using fresh bread, on a sheet tray, toast slices at 300°F until dry, about 15 minutes. Then, with your bread, stale or toasted, use a food processor to grind into a fine crumb. Add those fresh crispy crumbs to recipes like Mini Meatballs With Garlicky Tomatoes.
Oats are the perfect substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs or meatloaf. While they aren’t ideal for a crispy coating, they add the right amount of texture to bind meat, eggs and flavorings together into a delicious Italian-inspired feast.
Crushed Tortilla Chips
For a gluten-free substitute to traditional breadcrumbs, look for gluten-free corn tortilla chips. You can use these crunchy crumbs to coat chicken cutlets and fish fillets, or you can fold crushed tortilla chips into your meatball mixture for a crowd-pleasing family dinner idea. Just remember, unless you use no-salt-added chips, you should take into account that the crumbs will boost the salt in your dish.
Crushed Potato Chips
Looking for another crunchy gluten-free pick? The snack aisle is where it’s at! Crushed, gluten-free potato chips add extra flavor (try a seasoned bag, like we did with this BBQ Chip Chicken recipe!). And ever wonder what to do with the broken chips at the bottom of the bag? This is the perfect flavorful solution!
Crushed nuts add extra flavor and a boost of nutrients to dinner. Almonds, pecans, walnuts or cashews will create a flavor-packed crust for fish, chicken or pork. Try crunchy nuts on the outside of a fillet for this seriously tasty Almond-Crusted Creole Salmon.
Some of our favorite seeds (which make for a great granola addition) are a great sub to breadcrumbs. Try sesame or sunflower seeds for mild flavor and great texture.
Parm is a perfect sub and is incorporated into many recipes. Unlike other cheeses, Parmesan won’t entirely melt, so coating proteins and other foods in it will result in a crunchy, cheesy, salty crust. Don’t believe us? Just try this Jalapeño Parmesan-Crusted Grilled Cheese.
Just like Parmesan, many recipes already utilize coconut as a coating (coconut shrimp, anyone?). Opt for unsweetened shredded types if you’re prepping savory meals.
Why not snag some ingredients from your snack cabinet to help get dinner on the table? Simply add a handful of pretzels to a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin.
Then you can flavor as you would any breadcrumb. Think about using these snack-crumbs as a coating for protein or even sprinkled on top of a creamy salad for a bit of added crunch. Opt for pretzels with less salt so that you can control the seasoning yourself.
A sleeve of crackers goes way beyond snacking. We rely on Ritz, Saltines or club crackers to create a crave-worthy coating or binder for meatballs. They add buttery, slightly salty flavor – but be sure to adjust the salt amount in your recipe if opting for salted crackers! Try this Gochujang-Glazed Meatloaf that uses saltines instead of breadcrumbs for a flavorful and rich family favorite.
The same goes for your trusty breakfast supplies. As long as you’re using mildly flavored cereals (think cornflakes or bran), you can crush them using a food processor, then proceed as you would with any average crumb. Try their crunchy magic in action in these Wedge Salads with Buffalo Tofu Croutons.
No matter what option you choose, all of these substitutes for breadcrumbs offer a fun twist on your classic crunchy crust.
Can I use flour instead of breadcrumbs?
While coating cutlets in flour provides a golden-brown exterior (and some thickening power if you’re making a sauce in the same pan!), don’t use flour as a binder for meatballs or meatloaf. This will result in a paste-like mixture that won’t be as delicious.
If you’re hankering for some great crunch, you can raid your pantry for these epic options to add to your favorite meatball recipes, coat cutlets or crumble onto pasta.
Becca Miller (she/her) has been working in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen since 2018, where she researches and writes about tasty recipes, food trends and top cooking tools. She graduated from NYU with a liberal arts degree focusing on creative writing. She makes killer scrambled eggs, enjoys a glass of un-oaked chardonnay and takes pride in her love of reality television.
Samantha (she/her) is an Assistant Editor in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, where she writes about tasty recipes, must-try food products and top-tested secrets for home cooking success. She has taste-tasted hundreds of products and recipes since joining GH in 2020 (tough job!). A graduate of Fordham University, she considers the kitchen to be her happiest place.