11 Easy Substitutes For Panko Bread Crumbs

It never fails that you start a recipe that calls for panko bread crumbs, and when you reach into your cabinet to grab them, you find yourself fresh out. These Japanese-style dry breadcrumbs are much like their Italian counterparts, just left a bit larger and flakier. Panko breadcrumbs are most known for their starring role in dishes like chicken or a pork katsu recipe. This ingredient is neutral in flavor and contains no added salt, so it's a perfect starting point for recipes of all tastes and cuisines.  

There's nothing that can match panko bread crumbs exactly in satisfying crunchy texture. However, you can still try plenty of options that will bring some level of crispiness or crunch to your dish if you need an easy substitute for panko bread crumbs. Some have gluten, and some are gluten-free — whatever your dietary needs, there should be something on this list that can provide the perfect swap for panko.  

Crushed cereal

No, we're not talking about the sugar-coated breakfast cereal. Plain, unfrosted corn flakes can make a great gluten-free substitution for panko bread crumbs. Essentially just crispy, dry sweet corn, corn flakes have existed as a staple in the American diet for the better part of the last century, so it's no wonder some came up with other ways to eat them besides in a bowl with milk. Crushed cornflakes have made their way into the crunchy coating of everything from fried chicken to our baked veal parmesan recipe

Cornflakes make a great substitution for panko bread crumbs because, like panko, their flavor is relatively neutral while still providing maximum crunchy texture. Cornflakes are gluten-free as they are, as well as low in sodium. They start out extremely crunchy, so there's no need to toast them before using them as a breading or a topping. Simply combine with any spices you might desire and go from there. 

Cracker crumbs

An extremely versatile and available substitution for panko bread crumbs lurks in your pantry, just waiting to reveal its full potential. Already a widely known substitution for bread crumbs, crackers can easily be substituted for panko bread crumbs once crushed. To crush them, you can put the crackers in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin. Be careful not to go too fine or you'll lose all the crunchy texture that you need to resemble panko. Keep in mind that some types of crackers may contain (or be coated in) a fair amount of salt, so you may have to reduce the salt in the recipe you're adding the crushed crackers to. Crackers are already baked, so there's no need to toast them before adding to your dish. 

It doesn't have to just be plain crackers, either. Cheese crackers (like Cheez-Its) can make a super-flavorful coating for chicken or macaroni and cheese. With so many types of crackers out there, feel free to experiment. You may end up with a final dish so good, you never go back to panko. 

Crushed chips

Your grandma may have used this next panko substitution to elevate her tuna casserole. Crushed potato chips make a great substitution for panko bread crumbs and are an ingredient most people have in their cabinets already. As an added plus, they're naturally gluten-free, depending on the type used. Chips are already crispy, so there's no need to toast them before substituting. Simply chop them up with a knife or pulse them in a food processor. Be careful not to go too small, or you'll lose all the texture you're looking for. 

You don't have to stop with just potato chips. Corn chips, tortilla chips, rice chips, and even veggie chips can all be substituted for panko once crushed. Some might add extra seasoning to your dish as well. While potato chips can work as a crunchy topping for a casserole, crafty home cooks can also use them in other dishes. Crushed chips can make an excellent coating for something like chicken or lighter food, like a green bean salad. 

Dry bread crumbs

It may seem like a no-brainer, but dry bread crumbs work very well as a substitute for panko bread crumbs. If you have some leftover white or sourdough bread, all you have to do is crumble the bread (leave off the crusts) and toast for a few minutes to achieve a remarkably similar end result. Ideally, you should toast at a lower temperature (like 300 degrees F) for about six or seven minutes. 

Be careful not to let the crumbs get too dark! Any dish that calls for the breadcrumbs will likely build in time to toast the crumbs the rest of the way, and you want to leave enough room for the recipe to do that without burning. For extra flavor, you can always toast dry bread crumbs in butter or olive oil in a pan. Feel free to add some fun spices or flavors, too, like lemon zest, garlic, or fresh thyme. 

Crushed pretzels

Like crackers and other kinds of dry bread, pretzels can make for an easy and unexpected substitution for panko bread crumbs. The brittle, crunchy texture of a pretzel rod or other kind of dry, hard pretzel is perfect for adding texture and a little bit of flavor to most dishes that call for a kind of crispy coating or topping. Remember that pretzels come with their salty exterior unless you're using unsalted. You may choose to back off the salt in the rest of your dish to compensate.  

When using pretzels as a replacement for panko bread crumbs, you'll want to match the size as close as possible. Leaving the pretzel crumbs too large may hinder their ability to coat foods, and grinding them too small will just result in a dry powder. Pulsing in a food processor is probably your best bet, though chopping with a knife can work too. If done correctly, you can use this substitute for delicious and unique dinners like this air fryer pretzel chicken fries recipe from Mashed.

Chopped nuts

For an excellent gluten-free substitution for panko bread crumbs, consider using some chopped nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and even pistachios can all work well to provide a nice protein-packed crunch. Nuts won't absorb liquid like panko, and other kinds of bread or cracker crumbs would so that's something to think about when planning your dish. However, they will provide a crunchy texture and will toast to a nice golden brown. This substitution will work best for coated and crusted items, like chicken strips or the fish filets in our pecan-crusted trout recipe

Nut-crusted fish is one of the most popular examples of this type of coating. Most people would be familiar with macadamia nut-coated mahi-mahi, made famous when tropical and Hawaiian fusion began trending in the culinary world. You could also used chopped nuts for creating a crispy topping for baked dishes, like chopped pecans or walnuts on a sweet potato casserole. 

Matzo meal

Just like crackers, matzos are a dry, unleavened, bready substitution for crumbs — and you probably have them kicking around in the back of your pantry. Even when slightly stale, matzo can still provide a crunchy topping or coating when in a pinch. Crushed matzo is sometimes called matzo meal, especially when it's used to make something like a matzo ball. Sometimes, you can even find a pre-ground matzo meal

If you're using matzo to substitute for panko and you have the choice, you're better off crushing the crackers yourself. A store-bought matzo meal can be very fine, as it's most often used to absorb liquid and stick together in a ball. Make sure to leave some texture when grinding the matzo so that you will still have a crunch with your final dish. Even though the matzah is unleavened (and therefore kosher for certain holidays like Passover), it still has gluten, so gluten-free bakers, cooks, or eaters should stay away. 

Toasted coconut flakes

An unexpected but still decidedly tasty substitute for bread crumbs could be something you'd never think of but have probably tried at least once. Dried coconut is soft when uncooked, but develops a gorgeous golden-brown and crunchy texture when baked or fried. Most people have tried a coconut shrimp recipe at least once in their life, thus discovering for themselves the pleasant texture and tropical flavor that toasted coconut provides in a savory dish. 

While many coconut shrimp recipes use a combination of dried coconut and bread crumbs, you can feel free to try an all-coconut breading, or some combination of coconut and one of the other substitutions on this list. Crushed macadamia nuts and dried coconut could make for an excellent, equatorial-inspired coating for fish. If you opt to use coconut as a substitution, make sure you stay far away from sweetened shredded coconut, which has a lot of added sugar and a sticky consistency that won't brown the same way at all. Unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut will both work great.

Stuffing mix

There might be something hidden in the very back of your pantry that you haven't even thought of as a perfect substitution for panko bread crumbs. If you still have a package of stuffing mix leftover from last Thanksgiving, then you have bread crumbs. Most stuffing mix contains a package of dry cubes of bread, along with a package of spice mixtures. Ditch the spice mixture and simply blitz the bread cubes in a food processor until you have crumbs of the right texture for your dish. 

If you have a stuffing mix with the spices and herbs already added in, you might just have to work with what you got. For certain things, that may not be so bad, like when making a breading for an arancini recipe or with chicken nuggets. For others, you may have to consider that when assembling the rest of the dish and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Toasted almond meal

For another panko bread crumb substitution that doesn't have any gluten or flour, consider using almond meal. Almond meal is very finely ground blanched, skinless almonds. It's different from just chopped almonds because it's much finer in consistency and can be used as a replacement for wheat flour in certain gluten-free recipes. Almond meal is a great option for those looking to add a bit of protein to their meals as well. Plus, it is a much more neutral starting point than chopped nuts when substituting in a recipe because almonds don't provide as much flavor as, say, walnuts or pecans. 

Raw almond meal doesn't have much crunch until you toast it or bake it. However, you can combine it with ingredients like grated parmesan, egg, and spices to make a delicious coating for gluten-free eggplant parmesan. Almond meal should work well, either baked or fried, though the nut can be prone to burning if left unattended. 

Gluten-free breadcrumbs

It may seem obvious, but you can use gluten-free bread crumbs in any recipe that calls for plain wheat flour bread crumbs. Gluten-free bread crumbs are made from, you guessed it, gluten-free bread. If you only have gluten-free bread on hand, you can crumble it into bread crumbs yourself and toast it. This option will get you the most similar texture to panko bread crumbs. Store-bought gluten-free bread crumbs tend to be ground very finely and might not achieve the same crunchy texture as panko. 

If using gluten-free bread crumbs, you can always improve the taste by toasting the crumbs in a pan with melted butter or olive oil. The fat will add flavor and texture as it clumps the crumbs together in a way that can resemble the texture of panko. Gluten-free bread crumbs work best when substituting panko in foods where it's used as a coating, like Mashed's gluten-free chicken nugget recipe