13 Creative Ways To Use Ritz Crackers

Ritz crackers are an American snack food staple, and they have been around so long that they are downright historical. The name "Ritz" promised affordable luxury to consumers suffering through the Great Depression, and the borderline-addictive cracker has been extremely popular ever since. The salty, rich, buttery taste of Ritz crackers is mild but satisfying, and they've become a faithful standby due to their versatility. They fit right in inside a kid's lunchbox or next to a party dip. But with some creativity, Ritz crackers can do much more in your kitchen than you think they could.

The possibilities become endless once you consider what these savory snacks are — basically, a kind of seasoned bread. These round, golden beauties can be taken from their iconic brown wax sleeves and become an ingredient in all sorts of recipes. Some of those recipes are classics, like mac and cheese, while others are a bit more inventive (mock apple pie, anyone?). Once you consider the possibilities, you will want to double up on Ritz crackers next time you shop.

Top your mac and cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. At its core, mac and cheese is just pasta coated in a salty, savory cheese sauce, but its popularity has birthed a thousand recipes and variations. One favorite addition to the dish is a crunchy, crispy topping that contrasts the creaminess of the sauce. Whether you are making it from scratch or a box, ritz crackers do make an incredible topping for mac and cheese.

Like breadcrumbs, Ritz crackers bring texture to any mac and cheese recipe, but they also add their buttery, savory flavor, upping the richness of an already wonderfully rich dish. The rich crackers are moist enough to stand up to the heat of an oven without drying out. Combine them with butter to promote browning, and top your macaroni and cheese right before it goes into the oven. If you are making a stovetop version, toast the butter-coated crackers in a pan before piling them on your plate of mac and cheese. For the best results, roughly chop the crackers to get uneven, delightfully crunchy edges. 

Replace crispy onions in a green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is an American holiday classic; cans of cream of mushroom soup and green beans combine in the oven to make something comforting and delicious. Green bean casserole is traditionally topped with crispy fried onions or shallots before baking. Crispy alliums make an excellent topping for the dish because they add a much-needed crunch to an otherwise soggy (though delicious) bake. But crushed Ritz crackers will achieve the same effect and can be pulled from the pantry like the rest of the classic casserole ingredients.

Shelf-stable fried onions in a jar can be hard to find at typical grocery stores, and homemade fried onions require an oily, teary-eyed process. Ritz crackers are a quick and easy replacement. To top your casserole, just break up the crackers and sprinkle them over the dish. Try not to break them up too heavily, leaving large enough shards that they can get crunchy in the oven. The salty and crispy cracker topping will do the job of fried onions without the fryer or fuss.

Change up chicken breading

Breaded chicken has many beloved forms: chicken nuggets, tenders, cutlets, and fried chicken all serve as a testament to the deliciousness of crispy-coated poultry. Typically, chicken is breaded with a three-stage dredging process that ends in seasoned breadcrumbs. But Ritz crackers can be pounded into a crumb coating that will give the chicken an easy and delicious crust.

Not only will Ritz crackers work as deliciously pre-seasoned breadcrumbs, but they can also simplify the tedious and messy dredging process. First, pound out your chicken to an even thickness. Then, marinate your chicken in yogurt or mayo, which will help make the meat super tender. Finally, add your still-coated chicken to a bowl or plastic bag, add lightly smashed Ritz crackers and butter, and mix thoroughly. The result will be a buttery, crunchy crust on the chicken. If you prefer to keep some elements of the dredging method, you can do so by dipping the chicken in butter or egg before finishing in the crushed crackers. No matter how you incorporate the Ritz cracker crumbs, just remember to take it easy with salting your chicken; the cracker coating will already be delightfully salty.

Make an apple pie without the apple

Swapping apples for Ritz crackers in an apple pie may sound like an unorthodox substitution to you. But as strange as it sounds, mock apple pie has been a suggested use for crackers for quite some time now. Crackers and biscuits appeared as fruit substitutes in baked goods recipes in the 19th century. A mock apple pie recipe was printed on the side of Ritz cracker boxes, and the recipe allowed bakers during the Great Depression to mimic the all-American apple pie without the increasingly unavailable fruit.

While a classic apple pie relies on layers of apples soaked in sugar, spices, and lemony syrup, a mock apple pie instead takes advantage of the dryness of pantry crackers. When swapped with the main ingredient, Ritz crackers absorb the sweet and spicy liquid, creating a moist filling that is distinctly apple-like. Simply combine sugar syrup with cream of tartar and lemon, then pour over a crust layered with Ritz crackers. Once baked, the pie has all of the comforting flavors of apple pie without the fruit itself.

Coat fish before frying

Deep-fried seafood is an international favorite for everything from fish and chips to tacos. Delicate fish, coated and then fried until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, is a dish on countless menus and is deeply embedded in cultures around the world. But the best method for perfectly fried fish is hotly debated, and anyone serious about a proper fish fry is serious about how the fish is coated before it enters its hot oil bath. In New England, crushed crackers like Ritz are the preferred choice.

Fried fish is typically given a crunchy exterior with some kind of starchy coating, like beer batter or breadcrumbs. Different areas and cultures all have their preferred style and preparation of fried fish. Along the Northeastern coast, salty crackers are a popular choice for mild white fish like haddock. Ritz crackers are flavorful, with a saltiness that will help season the fish, but they are also mild enough not to overpower the protein. Preferred techniques vary — some use a classic dredging process, while others mix the crackers with butter and seasoning — but generally, this classic fish fry method works best in a deep fryer, not baked.

Rethink pie crust

Crackers are often the base of a pie crust; they just tend to be sweet varieties, like graham crackers or chocolate wafers. But savory Ritz crackers or saltines make a smart and easy addition to a pie base.

A graham cracker crust is typically made by adding butter to the sweet, crushed crackers and then pulverizing them together. This creates a thick, wet sand-like mixture that can be pressed into a pie pan and prebaked. This results in a dense, crumbly crust that pairs well with creamy pie varieties like cheesecake and custard pie. When Ritz crackers are folded into the crust, their salty and buttery flavor complements the sweetness of the pie. Ritz crackers have a light, almost airy melt-in-your-mouth texture, while graham crackers or wafers are denser and chewier. Adding Ritz crackers will lighten up the texture of the crust. To incorporate them into your crust, you can add some of the salty crackers to your food processor alongside graham crackers or wafers. Just a few Ritz crackers are enough to create a sweet and salty combination. But you can go further and replace the sweeter crackers entirely, making a crust with just Ritz alone. 

Save a runny sauce

It's a universal cooking experience: you've added every ingredient, your sauce has been bubbling away for ages, and it just won't get any thicker. The typical solution is an added thickening agent, usually in the form of starches like flour. But one quick fix can be found in an unexpected place: next time you struggle with a runny sauce, try reaching for the sleeve of crackers in your pantry.

While cornstarch and flour are classic thickeners for stews and sauces, they must be premixed with water or fat and cooked first. Ritz crackers are a super-starchy option that can be crumbled straight from the box to save your sauce. That means it works great in recipes that don't need heat, like salsas or salad dressings. Crackers will soak up liquid from the dish, thickening while adding its own salty richness. It's a fast and easy fix when you are trying to get something on the table, and it's really as simple as adding the crumbled-up crackers. Just be sure to crush the crackers up as finely as possible, preferably in a food processor. Large pieces will get mushy instead of dissolving seamlessly into the final product.

Great creative with a classic meatloaf

Most meatloaf recipes will call for some kind of starchy, bread-based binder: it's what makes it a meatloaf, not just, well, meat. The classic choice is a basic breadcrumb, and while that works great, Ritz crackers will do the job while enhancing the smoky, slightly sweet flavors of a meatloaf.

The binding agent of a meatloaf may seem like a bland afterthought, but it's a critical element of the dish. It is an essential factor in both its flavor and texture. Meatloaf recipes will usually call for dried breadcrumbs from the can, which will absorb and hold the moisture of the meat. But crumbled Ritz crackers can be the same binding workhorse that breadcrumbs have always been; they keep the inside of the dish moist while giving it a light and tender springiness. As an added bonus, the salty and savory cracker will subtly boost the flavor of the meatloaf. There is no need to use a particular recipe if you opt for this breadcrumb alternative — swap out the breadcrumbs in your favorite recipe. Meatloaf is all about adaptability, so don't stress about the switch.

Serve your favorite tinned fish

Tinned fish are healthy and delicious. Now, they are cool, too. The recent tinned fish trend has caused an explosion in tinned food varieties, and now everywhere, from your favorite hip restaurant to your aunt, is serving tinned fish at dinner parties. It's never been a better time to enjoy this delicious snack, and according to chef Nyseha Arrington, it's even more delicious when paired with a Ritz cracker.

While there are all kinds of delicious and creative uses for canned seafood, Chef Arrington notes that sometimes simple is better. One of her favorite snacks is a Ritz cracker topped with tomato, pepper, and tinned mackerel.

The buttery cracker is a yummy and convenient vehicle for trying all kinds of flavor-packed tinned fish. It is neutral enough in flavor to work with anything from mussels to spicy octopus. Plus, a pairing of seafood and Ritz crackers can be dressed up or down; It can be part of an impressive tinned fish appetizer board, but it will also shine when all you can muster for lunch is opening a can. Whatever works.

Make easy croutons

Croutons play a crucial role in many salads — in fact, they are arguably the best part. Chunks of torn bread are dried and toasted, adding a delicious crunch to fresh and delicate leafy greens. But croutons can be fussy to make and often feel too big and tough in their final form. Ritz crackers or saltines make a creative and convenient solution.

With the need for stale bread and an oven, it's easy to imagine just skipping croutons altogether in a salad. But the role of a crouton is far more than just a much-welcome carb in a vegetable dish. They absorb the dressing, creating piquant flavor bombs between the salad greens. They also add interesting texture to the mélange, bringing crunch on the outside with melt-in-your-mouth tenderness from the absorbed dressing. Ritz crackers are a great substitute that will do all of the above while adding their salty flavor. They are far cheaper than store-bought croutons, and you may already have them in your kitchen. To make Ritz croutons, roughly chop the crackers and toast them in butter before adding to any salad.

Pair with peanut butter cups

Salty and sweet is an undeniable pairing that makes for some of the best and most indulgent desserts. The combination of peanut butter and chocolate proves that fact: From fudge to Girl Scout cookies, it's a match made in candy heaven. But you can take that combo to the next level at home with salty baked crackers.

Ritz crackers have a crisp yet tender crumb and a balanced salty flavor. It complements the chocolate and peanut butter perfectly by enhancing the peanut butter's salty-savory flavors, contrasting the chocolate's sweetness, and bringing a new crunchy texture to the combination. You can sandwich a peanut butter cup between two Ritz crackers for a quick and delicious treat. But if you have a little time, try topping each Ritz cracker with a peanut butter cup and blanketing them in rich melted chocolate. Then chill the cookies until the chocolate shell hardens. The result is definitely worthy of any candy counter.

Make a two ingredient cake

Ritz crackers may be humble, but they are still a favorite snack of the stars. "Today" host Hoda Kotb was treated to a vanilla cake decorated with Ritz crackers while on air, showing millions of viewers that simplicity is something to celebrate.

Simple might even be an understatement: The cake itself is just two main ingredients. The boxed yellow cake mix meets crushed Ritz crackers, and after following the instructions on the cake box, it can go right into the oven. Beyond the sheer ease factor, the crackers add a delicious richness to the cake batter. The saltiness will actually enhance the sweetness of the cake and bring added moisture. Kotb's vanilla-frosted cake was decorated with whole Ritz crackers, so there was no mistaking the dish's star. But you can also blitz the crackers into a fine crumb and coat the outside of the cake after frosting. Plus, this easy baking hack is not just for vanilla cake. Ritz crackers would be a great addition to chocolate or red velvet cake mixes as well; the saltiness of the snack will complement almost any cake flavor you can possibly dream up. 

Layer on a pineapple casserole

Okay, maybe you do not know what pineapple casserole is. Perhaps you do not want to know what pineapple casserole is. But you would be missing out. Pineapple casserole may sound strange to non-southerners, but to know it is to love it.

Like many classic homestyle casseroles, it makes use of pantry staples to create deliciously indulgent results. Canned pineapple is mixed with cheddar cheese, a familiar combination to any defender of Hawaiian pizza. Then sugar, flour, and butter are folded in. The mixture is then topped with Ritz crackers before it goes into the oven, ensuring a crumbly and crispy layer on top.

This simple, if unorthodox, dish from inexpensive and accessible ingredients makes a sweet oven bake with a salty punch. Like some other American holiday dishes like sweet potatoes, it straddles the line between dinner and dessert; for many, a cheesy pineapple casserole tastes like home. Don't knock it till you try it.