Bread crumbs are a crucial ingredient in the kitchen and they're so adaptable! Come see if you know all there is to know about them — we bet you'll learn something new today!

Bread crumbs in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

So, you're in the middle of whipping up a recipe and you reach to grab your bread crumbs… Only to realize you barely have any left in the carton. You could freak out and call your husband, asking him to stop at the grocery store on his way home…

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OR you could keep your cool and do one of two things: 1) grab one of the many breadcrumb substitutions from your pantry, or 2) make your own like the master shelf cooker that you are! (And the crowd goes wild, ahhhhhh!!!)

Keep on reading to learn how to do just that, plus get tons more of our great tips! You're seriously going to know everything there is to know about bread crumbs by the end of it. 😉


Breaded chicken on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Bread crumbs are literally just that — crumbs from dried bread! They're typically used as a binding agent, a coating, a thickening agent, or a topping. Talk about versatile! Here are the most common things you can use them for:

  • Meatloaf
  • Meatballs
  • Coating to fry food or roast veggies
  • Chicken parmesan
  • To thicken soups, stews, sauces, and gravy
  • Topping for casseroles, mac and cheese, or salads

There are so many other ways you can use them, these are just the most common ones! Are you starting to realize why bread crumbs are such a handy ingredient to keep as a pantry staple yet?


Now you know what bread crumbs are and the most common ways they're used, let's get on to the different types! We've basically got the big three when it comes to them. Any given recipe will call for one of these types!

  • Plain – These bread crumbs are made from a variety of breads, from white to wheat, which still have their crusts on when they're made. They can be used in pretty much any recipe and you can season them however you need, especially if your recipe calls for Italian bread crumbs and you only have plain.
  • Panko – This Japanese-style is made from white bread without the crust. It's usually used for coating deep-fried foods. Of the three types, it's the healthier alternative. Panko bread crumbs are lower in calories, fat, and sodium, and higher in fiber.
  • Italian – Basically these are the same as the regular bread crumbs, but they have Italian seasonings added to them. They're great to use for Italian dishes, such as meatball marinara, chicken parmesan, and fried ravioli, just to name a few!

You can find other types at the store, such as gluten-free. There's also pre-seasoned types. They're still plain bread crumbs, they've just already been seasoned for you. But you could totally save the extra money and just season them how you like them at home! #ShelfCooking for the win, anyone?!


Croutons in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

Alright, now let's get on to other ingredients (that you probably already have in your pantry, remember?) to substitute for bread crumbs when you run out. All of these can be subbed for the exact same amount as the recipe calls for:

  • Homemade Bread Crumbs – Make your own! We've got a great recipe coming up for you in a few.
  • Cracker Crumbs – Throw them in a baggie and roll them with a rolling pin until they're the consistency you like.
  • Oats – These work as a great substitute and they're healthier than the plain ones, too! (Not to mention gluten-free.) You do have to grind them, though. A coffee grinder or food processor work great for this.
  • Crushed Corn Flakes – Plain corn flakes (NOT the sugary kind!) are another great substitute. They crush up really easily in a baggie — you can just use your hands, a wooden spoon, or even a book!
  • Crusted Croutons – These may be an obvious to you since they're also made from dried bread. Our biggest tip is to be mindful of what flavor they are. There may be a recipe where you don't want to use garlic and herb or caesar-flavored bread crumbs.
  • Crushed Potato Chips – Pretty much everybody has some potato chips in their pantry, so put those to good use! Like the croutons, you do have to be mindful of what flavor they are. However, if you're frying chicken, then feel free to use some BBQ chips! Mmmmm, they'll make it that much more delicious.

Don't those all sound super easy to use?! Now, let's get on to that recipe we told you about.


Bread crumbs in a white bowl, from Shelf Cooking

Making homemade bread crumbs is so easy! You can pretty much use whatever type of bread you have on hand. It's a great way to use up bread that's going stale. Not only that, but you can also make them out of leftover crust (picky kids, anyone?) or even the ends of the loaf that nobody likes.

So, let's get on to how to make those homemade bread crumbs!

  • Dry Out the Bread – Put your bread and/or crust on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 250° F for 20-30 minutes, or until your bread is a light golden-brown. Let cool completely.
  • With a Machine – Place the cooled bread into the bowl of a blender or food processor in small batches. Pulse, stopping and rearranging the crumbs frequently, until you reach your desired size.
  • Without a Machine – Put cooled bread in a baggie and smash into small pieces with a rolling pin or small pot. If you have some pent up anger and you just need to take it out on something, then this is the perfect way to do that! 😉

Sounds pretty darn easy, right?! There's really no sense in going to the store for some when you can make your own!


Feel free to spice your bread crumbs when you make them, especially if your recipe calls for Italian. You can either go ahead and add spices to them when you make your bread crumbs, or you can leave them plain and then spice them up when you pull them out to use them in a recipe.

If you wait to add seasonings until you're ready to use them, then you don't have to worry about using the wrong kind of spices beforehand. But if you are constantly using Italian bread crumbs, then it's smart to go ahead and season the whole batch when you make them! We'll let you be the judge. 😉


Whether they're store-bought or homemade, you need to know the best ways to store your bread crumbs. It's always best to use them before they go to waste! Our biggest tip to make sure they don't go to waste is to keep a kitchen inventory.

Add them to your inventory when you buy or make them and notate when they'll go bad. That way, you never have to worry about wasting them! Here are the best rules of thumb when it comes to storing your bread crumbs:

  • Store-Bought – These will last in the pantry for up to 6 months or freezer for over a year.
  • Fresh – They will last up to a month in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. Make sure you store them in an airtight bag or container so they'll last as long as possible!

Pretty simple, right?


For those who use Italian crumbs all the time, then make and season your own! It's cheaper and less wasteful, since you're using bread that you would otherwise be throwing out.

Bread crumbs in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

Homemade Italian Bread Crumbs

Have a recipe that calls for Italian bread crumbs, but you've only got plain? Make your own!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Ingredient
Cuisine Italian


  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs, homemade or store-bought
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp dried parsley flakes
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried basil


  • Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  • Store bread crumbs in an airtight container in the refrigerator (if homemade) or in the pantry (if store-bought).
Keyword easy, quick

Viola! You've got fresh, homemade Italian bread crumbs, perfect to use in all of those wonderfully delicious Italian recipes.

Whew, there you have it! That is absolutely, positively, everything that you need to know about bread crumbs! What's your favorite way to use them? Let us know in the comments!

Image with text that reads "how to make bread crumbs" from Shelf Cooking

Looking for more great posts to binge-read? 😉

Now go break some bread!