Bread crumbs are incredibly versatile and can enhance any dish by not only adding crunch but also an extra bit of flavor. But if you want to take the crunch in your dishes to a new level, you may consider using panko bread crumbs, also referred to as Japanese bread crumbs.
Light and airy panko bread crumbs are a great substitute in any recipe that uses traditional bread crumbs. But what exactly are these bread crumbs that are a staple in Japanese cuisine?
If you’re curious about panko bread crumbs, including how they are made, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn what panko bread crumbs are, how to make them, and what you can use them for.
What Is Panko?
Before answering how panko bread crumbs are made, it’s essential to explain what they are.
Panko bread crumbs are Japanese bread crumbs that have an airy texture. Panko is a Japanese word that you can break up to get its full meaning. “Pan” translates to bread, and “ko” translates to flour.
For decades, Panko bread crumbs have been used in Japanese and greater Asian cuisine. Today, you’ll find panko bread crumbs worldwide used for various dishes.
But what makes panko bread crumbs different from traditional bread crumbs? Let’s take a look.
Panko Bread Crumbs vs. Traditional Bread Crumbs
Panko bread crumbs have a lighter and flakier texture than regular bread crumbs. As a result, panko bread crumbs absorb less oil than traditional bread crumbs, making fried foods lighter and crunchier.
Although panko bread and traditional bread crumbs have different looks and textures, the true difference between the two comes down to how each is made.
Panko bread crumbs are unique because they’re made from bread that’s baked using an electrical current instead of heat, which results in crustless bread. This method was developed in World War II out of necessity but continues to be used to make these light and airy breadcrumbs.
For some, this fact may come as a shock (pun intended), and you may wonder if you can make panko bread crumbs at home. Let’s find out how.
How to Make Homemade Panko Bread Crumbs
To understand “how are panko bread crumbs made”, it’s useful to know how regular bread crumbs are usually made.
Bread crumbs usually use stale bread that wouldn’t be great to use on its own anymore. This bread is then toasted and crumbled in some way. For extra flavor, you may add salt or other seasonings to your bread crumbs.
You can make regular bread crumbs in your kitchen with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can even put your toasted bread in a Ziploc bag and hit them with a rolling pin to get bread crumbs. In contrast, panko bread crumbs are a little more difficult to make at home.
What you can consider “real” panko is usually made from a particular type of white, crustless bread; it’s never made with whole wheat bread. This bread is made from a few simple ingredients:
- Wheat flour
As mentioned, this bread uses an electric current instead of heat and characteristically has a lot of little air pockets. This bread usually results in a flaky effect as opposed to the crumble effect that traditional bread crumbs typically have. Once baked, the bread is staled and ground into sliver-shaped bread crumbs that are lighter and more delicate than regular bread crumbs.
With all of this in mind, it’s fair to say that unless you have this electrical current machine in your kitchen, you can’t really make panko breadcrumbs at home. Thankfully, you can easily find panko in most grocery stores, with reliable brands such as Kikkoman typically selling it for a reasonable price.
The good news is that although you can’t make panko bread crumbs from scratch, you can still customize panko bread crumbs to suit your culinary needs. For example, knowing how to season panko bread crumbs can easily elevate any recipe by adding additional flavor. You can use a variety of seasonings — from garlic powder to paprika — to give your recipes an extra kick.
What’s more, knowing how to toast panko bread crumbs allows you to achieve that crispy texture without frying your bread crumbs in oil. Heat some butter in a pan, add your panko to the pan, and cook them in the butter until toasted. For additional flavor, you can also saute some garlic in the butter before adding your panko. Use your toasted panko to top your favorite dishes and add some crunch.
Best Panko Bread Crumbs Uses
Panko bread crumbs have a variety of uses in Japanese cooking and other Asian cuisines. They’re often used to make fried dishes such as chicken katsu and shrimp tempura.
That said, the popularity of panko bread crumbs has gone beyond Japan, and they’re making their way into other cuisines around the world. Other cultures use them instead of regular bread crumbs for their fried dishes. Panko bread crumbs are often used as a crispy topping as well.
To give you some ideas, here are some ways that you can use panko bread crumbs:
- Use them in crab cakes, both in the mixture and to fry
- Add them to the top of your mac and cheese for a crispy topping
- Bind meat in burgers and meatloaf
- Use in chicken parmesan to make it extra crunchy
- Coat your veggies for a crispy snack
You can use panko bread crumbs for anything you would use traditional bread crumbs for. Don’t be afraid to get creative with them!
Storing Panko Bread Crumbs
You must store any breadcrumbs properly to maintain and prolong their shelf life. This is especially true for panko, which are prone to become stale quicker due to their airy nature.
Make sure to store your panko in an air-tight container to avoid having them go stale too quickly and to preserve their crisp nature. Panko bread crumbs have a shelf life of up to two years if properly stored.
How Are Panko Bread Crumbs Made
Although you can’t make panko bread crumbs at home, you should still consider making them your bread crumb of choice for any recipe that requires breading.
Panko bread crumbs are a fantastic substitute for traditional bread crumbs in any dish. They absorb less oil, resulting in a crunchier bite, and they’re also easy to find in any local grocery store.