What Are Panko Breadcrumbs, and How Should You Cook with Them?
Crispy, crunchy, and airy, panko seems to be the ingredient we find ourselves reaching for whenever a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, making it a staple in our pantries and favorite ingredient at dinnertime. It's finally time for old-school Italian breadcrumbs to share the spotlight.
Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb that's widely available in grocery stores. Perfectly engineered, panko breadcrumbs are made using a special technique that creates a crustless bread and light jagged flakes filled with tiny air pockets. These characteristics are the key to the crispy texture of panko and are what also prevent the crumbs from absorbing too much oil. The result is a light, crispy coating with a wonderful crunch.
Can You Substitute Panko for Italian Breadcrumbs?
The alternative on grocery store shelves, Italian breadcrumbs, are much finer with a denser crumb. Despite textural differences, panko and Italian breadcrumbs can be used pretty interchangeably in recipes. Try panko in any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs. A 1:1 substitution usually does the trick. If the recipe calls for finer breadcrumbs, just pulse the panko in the food processor or break it up a bit in your hands.
How to Use Panko
Panko's versatility goes well beyond breaded and fried food. Think crunchy crusts, crispy toppings that are great sprinkled on just about anything, perfectly textured meatballs, and more. But if you do want the crispiest breaded foods, reach for panko. It's not only super crunchy, but it also stays crisp. To bread meat cutlets, shrimp, vegetables, or even candy bars, just follow the standard breading procedure: dip in flour, then in egg, then coat in panko, patting to adhere before frying to crispy perfection. Panko doesn't always have to be fried to get that crunchy goodness, as evidenced by these breaded chicken cutlets and zucchini fries which are both made in the oven. Pro tip: The key is toasting the panko until golden, then breading and baking the final dish.
Skip the breading procedure and opt for a crust instead. Our coconut crusted shrimp are dipped in a Dijon mixture before coating them in panko, adding tons of tangy flavor. This beef tenderloin is browned in the oven, getting a nice flavorful outside, before patting a leek, panko, and parmesan crust overtop and finishing the roast in the oven.
As a topping, panko can add a textural boost to a number of our favorite dishes. Sprinkle panko on top of baked dips, casseroles, egg bakes, or baked mac and cheese baking. Or toast the crumbs in a pan with a little oil or butter. Season with garlic and herbs to make a version of pangrattato, a crispy breadcrumb topping known as the poor man's parmesan in Italy. Sprinkle this flavorful crunchy mixture over cooked vegetables such as roasted cauliflower, pasta, or anything savory that could use a little crunch and burst of flavor.
Panko is also a good option for fillings, and it's great used as a binding in meatballs, meatloaf, and veggie burgers. The result is a lighter and fluffier dish, and you'll find that the finished dish is better than it when you use other store-bought breadcrumbs. You can also try it in crab cakes or the filling for stuffed mushrooms.