How to Make Croutons

Do you make your own croutons? I’m convinced that the world of cooks is divided into those who do, and those who don’t, make their own croutons. I make my own, always have. I’ve never even bought a box of croutons, though I’ve certainly eaten them. When I see a box on the shelf at a friend’s I wonder, “how could they? Homemade are so much better!” And when the same friend sees me make my homemade version, they ask, “how could you? The box is so much easier!”

If you do make your own croutons, then I’m preaching to the choir. If not, I implore you to try, just once. It’s really so so easy, and they are soooooo good. Especially if you start with a good quality Italian or French loaf bread, or a lovely baguette. Looking around at other recipes I’ve noticed that many people make croutons in the oven. I’ve done that (and still do on occasion); but you do have to be careful if you cook them that way. In the oven it’s easy to overcook them, turning them solid brown all around, when what you want it just lightly toasted on the outside, crunchy, but still a little spring in the bread.

The way my mother makes croutons (once at year at least for her famed and fabulous turkey stuffing) is to toast them in a little melted butter in a wide shallow pan on the stove-top. It’s best to use day old French or Italian loaf bread, but you can dry out the cubed bread in a warm oven for a few minutes if you are working with fresh bread. Butter is for the flavor. It can’t be beat. You don’t need anything else actually. Just butter. If you are working with butter and some good bread, the flavor is just perfect.

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How to Make Croutons

Ingredients

  • French or Italian loaf bread, or a French baguette
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp butter

Method

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1 Cut the bread into even-sized cubes, about 3/4-inch to an inch wide. A loaf will yield about 8 cups of cubed bread (give or take a couple cups, depending on the size of the loaf).

2 The bread should be a little dry, at least a day old if you are using French or Italian loaf or a baguette. If the bread isn't just a little dry, spread the cubes out on a baking sheet and put them in a warm oven for about 10 minutes. You don't want them to be all dried out, just a little dry on the surface so that they brown better, and they hold up better when tossed in a salad or baked in a stuffing.

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3 Melt butter on medium high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the croutons and mix them up in the butter so they get lightly coated. Spread the croutons out in a single layer in the pan. Then don't stir them until they start to brown on one side. Once they start to brown, use a metal spatula to lift them up and turn them over, so more sides brown. When the croutons are at least a little toasted on a couple of sides, remove from heat.

If storing, let cool completely before putting in an airtight container. Otherwise the steam released from the warm croutons will take away their crunch.

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Links:

Garlic Parmesan Croutons - video by Chef John of Food Wishes
Potato croutons - from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks
Homemade croutons - same technique but with olive oil and herbs, from Jane of This Week for Dinner

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15 Comments

  1. Richard

    I don’t think a baguette works – too much crust and the round cross section means it is difficult to cut cubes. And I prefer to use olive oil for the higher initial temperature. But you are right – any way is better than bought.

    I like the fact that there is more crust on the baguette, but it is a bit more difficult to get even cube shapes. ~Elise

  2. Jessica

    I was cooking with my friend Sophie a few weeks ago, and she convinced me that we should make our own croutons. Previously, I had always enjoyed croutonless salads – although I suppose enjoy is a relative word, there is no question that I enjoy salads more now!

    I make them the same way, following the Julia Child train of thought (the more butter the better). One addition though – I’m a big garlic lover, so I always add in some minced garlic and herbes de provence.

  3. Brandi G

    Sounds awesome! How long can you store them?

    Much of the point of making your own this way is to only make as much as you need at the moment. They are best eaten right away. If you do store them I would let them sit at room temp until all the way cooled down, then put them in air tight ziplock bag or jar. Do not put in the refrigerator, store at room temp. I wouldn’t store them for more than a few days. ~Elise

  4. Kevin

    Elise,
    I cut up leftover bread into cubes and freeze it for making croutons and bread crumbs.

    Great idea, thanks Kevin! ~Elise

  5. tommy2rs

    I make croutons out of rye or pumpernickel (yes, with garlic) for salads. My homemade sourdough makes a good crouton also.

    I don’t always make them little cubes either. Slab style (cut like steak fries) they make pretty efficient dippers for entertaining.

    I top my chili with cornbread crouton stars. Just make the cornbread fairly thin and cut out stars with a cookie cutter, then carefully croutonize them.

    Great ideas, thank you! ~Elise

  6. Amu

    After much trial and error I have found that homemade croutons are much better if you use buns, i.e. leftover hotdog or hamburger buns. Perhaps because they are not so heavy, therefore don’t make a crouton that is too crunchy. I cut them up, throw the cubes in a large bowl, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with a little garlic powder, salt, and parsley and bake at about 300 for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them, when they are a little browned, turn the oven down until they are totally dried out and crunchy. I keep mine in a Ziplock bag in the pantry for up to a month, no problem.

  7. andrea

    Homemade sage croutons are my favorite. Usually I end up snacking on them before they can even get near a salad bowl. I think the recipe is from deborah madison, but it’s simple – just chop up and add sage and the teensiest bit of red wine vinegar I think it was. Haven’t made it in a while but now am thinking I should make some tomorrow. ;)

  8. Mary Brockmeyer

    I have been making mine in the oven, but will switch to the stovetop- you’ve never led me astray!

    I will vouch for croutons made from a sourdough bread available from CostCo that has roasted garlic baked right into the loaf. Unbelievable flavor. And if you really want to try the perfect combo, add grape tomatoes that you have roasted in a light coating of olive oil, S&P. Let cool, add to crisp romaine, homemade breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and your favorite dressing.

  9. Tran

    I use sourdough bread, olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and a small sprinkle of sage and put it in the oven. Mmmm!

    Yeah I don’t understand why people buy croutons. It’s so easy!

  10. Lucy

    Love homemade croutons! I make mine from Brioche bread (homemade too, of course), drizzled with olive oil and mediterranean sea salt and then toasted. Really, really good.

  11. Allie M

    Just tried this for the first time. I used an Everything Italian loaf (from walmart) & the croutons are perfect! Super simple recipe & much better than prepackaged croutons! Thank you so much :)

  12. Daisy

    I thought I would give it a try with actual pre-sliced bread – 2 slices for me is more than enough, Perhaps even too much!

    NOTE: Not a lot of the bread is needed.

  13. kay ellen

    Hello~~~I made my first batch of homemade croutons tonight.
    I have no idea why after 27 plus years of marriage I had never tried it before? oh well never to late right? ha-ha

    Decided to googled you after I started my bread cutting…Now I am hooked! Wow so much better then store bought croutons!

    I did add a tiny bit of italian dressing to the butter…tickled they they tasted so yummy :))

    Kay Ellen

  14. Becky Hunt

    You have created a convert! Attempted to make my own croutons for the very first time today and they are delicious. Thanks for providing this simple recipe

  15. MT

    “I’m convinced that the world of cooks is divided into those who do, and those who don’t, make their own croutons.” From a mathematician – that, my friend, is a statistical certainty!

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