Level Up Your Salad Game With One Simple Crouton Swap

Any good salad features a mix of textures and flavors to keep your taste buds on their toes, from crisp lettuce to juicy tomatoes to tender bits of meat. And no veggie medley is complete without the perfect bit of crunch. Croutons are the typical go-to, but if you want to level up the crunch factor in your next salad, we suggest swapping in some good old-fashioned saltine crackers.

In our opinion, the light, flaky little squares hardly deserve their bland reputation. There are a ton of creative ways to use saltine crackers, including as an alternative to basic croutons in your salad. Given their crispy, crumbly texture, saltines are much easier to break into bite-sized bits than those dense, hard croutons. Not only are they easier to bite into, but they can also be more evenly distributed throughout your bowl, so you're never left without a forkful of crunch. You can even opt for the mini versions of saltines to easily sprinkle into your salad.

Beyond their texture, saltines can amp up the taste of various ingredients in your salad thanks to their contribution of salty goodness. You don't need to be a culinary pro to know that a pinch of salt makes everything taste better by enhancing food's flavor and cutting through any bitterness, bringing overall balance to a dish. 

How to add more flavor to your saltine croutons

While even plain saltines can work magic in your salad, you might want to add seasonings to your crackers. Thanks to their subtle, salty profile, they are uniquely poised for presenting the more robust flavors of herbs and spices.

You can use saltines in just about any salad recipe that calls for extra crunch, but to help guide your hand when choosing seasonings, you do want to consider the other components of your dish. Suppose you're whipping up a Mediterranean-inspired chopped salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and bits of salami. In that case, you may want to dust your crackers with an Italian blend of basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme to complement the core ingredients. Craving a taco salad topped with beans, avocado, and corn? Play up the Mexican flavors by seasoning your saltines with a fiery mix of taco spices, then use the crackers in lieu of tortilla chips. And if a classic Caesar salad is on the menu, you can bake your crackers with a dusting of black pepper and parmesan cheese.

To infuse your saltines — and ultimately, your entire dish — with a kick of multi-dimensional flavor, coat the salty squares with butter or oil, sprinkle them with your choice of seasonings, and pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes of re-baking. The result? Extra-crunchy, extra-flavorful cracker "croutons" that transform your favorite salad in the best way possible.