5 Healthiest Substitutes for Bread Crumbs

finely milled bread crumbs

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If you have ever made baked mac and cheese, meatloaf, homemade meatballs, or breaded meats, you may have come across a recipe that calls for bread crumbs. Adding bread crumbs to sauces and other dishes helps bind and thicken wet ingredients while sprinkling bread crumbs on top of casseroles can add a crispy, crunchy texture to the dish.

You can make bread crumbs at home by adding toasted bread pieces to a blender and pulsing until you reach the desired consistency. You can also purchase store-bought bread crumbs at most grocery stores in the baking aisle near the boxed mixes of baked goods.

If you do not have bread crumbs on hand or want to use an alternative, these substitutes for bread crumbs may yield similar results without sacrificing flavor or texture.

Why Use an Alternative?

People with food allergies or dietary restrictions may seek a substitute for bread crumbs since they may contain common allergens like wheat and gluten. Wheat is among the most common food allergies in the U.S., according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

There are gluten- and wheat-free bread crumbs available to purchase at some grocery stores for those with allergies or sensitivities. Some people use alternatives out of preference.

Crushing different varieties of chips, crackers, and even croutons can be used in place of bread crumbs as this adds a unique flavor and texture to the dish.

But, there may be times when you simply run out of bread crumbs or are unable to locate them in the store. In those cases, using a substitute may be your only option.

Depending on the recipe, you may also opt to omit bread crumbs altogether if you do not have any or do not have access to them. This may not be an option for recipes that call for bread crumbs to bind or thicken wet ingredients.

But omitting bread crumbs is likely an option if they are used to create a top layer in recipes like baked mac and cheese and other casserole dishes and you are fine without this extra layer. Here is what you need to know about bread crumbs and the alternatives.

Bread Crumbs Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information for 1 ounce (28.35 grams) of unseasoned bread crumbs is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 1.5g 
  • Sodium: 208mg
  • Carbohydrates: 20.4g
  • Fiber: 1.28g
  • Sugars: 1.76g
  • Protein: 3.8g

Bread products like bread crumbs can be part of a balanced diet. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends between 3 and 5 servings of whole grains per day for adults, which includes whole-wheat bread.

Bread crumbs are usually consumed in small amounts because they are not the main ingredient in most recipes. The main macronutrient in bread crumbs is carbohydrates. They can also make some recipes more calorically dense, such as fried zucchini.

Popular Substitutes

If you are looking for the most similar taste, texture, and nutritional profile to wheat-based bread crumbs, store-bought gluten-free bread crumbs are sure to satisfy. However, they can be pricey, processed, and hard to find. The following foods can be used as substitutes for bread crumbs, though some may work better in certain recipes.

Rolled Oats or Oat Flour

Oats and oat flour are often used as gluten-free alternatives to wheat in baking. If you have wheat allergies, celiac, or gluten sensitivity, be sure to check that your oats are truly gluten-free. Though oats are inherently gluten-free, they may be processed on shared equipment and exposed to cross-contamination.

Like regular flour, oats can be used as a binder in meat-based recipes. If a recipe for meatloaf or meatballs calls for bread crumbs, you may have success swapping it out for rolled oats or oat flour.

Oats by weight are also lower in calories, provide more complex carbohydrates, and are a richer source of dietary fiber than bread crumbs, making them a nutritionally sound substitute.

Cornflakes

Cornflakes are a popular cereal choice and can also be used to add a crunchy texture to baked recipes as bread crumbs would. While corn is inherently gluten-free, cornflakes may not be.

If you have allergies or sensitivities, ensure that you are using gluten-free cornflakes. To use cornflakes instead of bread crumbs, be sure to crunch them up. You can do this by adding the cornflakes to a ziplock bag and pressing them down on the outside.

Nuts

If you want to add crunch to a recipe along with some nutrients, try nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews. They are a rich source of good fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Plain nuts are also gluten-free, but roasted nuts may contain a wheat-based coating. Be sure to read the nutrition labels before using nuts.

Seeds

Like nuts, seeds are a nutritious substitute for bread crumbs. These likely are not the best option if you are looking to add a crispy, crunchy texture to the exterior of your food.

But, they can elevate certain recipes. They are also rich in dietary fiber and some are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Shredded Coconut

For sweet or rich recipes, shredded or desiccated coconut can be used in place of bread crumbs. They are perfect for adding to baked goods, especially gluten-free varieties.

Because coconut has more moisture than regular bread crumbs, you may need to adjust the recipe slightly. Be sure to experiment first to see how replacing bread crumbs with coconut works in your recipe.

A Word From Verywell

Replacing bread crumbs in recipes often yields similar results. People who follow low-carb or gluten-free meal plans or those with allergies to wheat may choose to avoid bread crumbs and dishes made with them. For some, you can use wheat-free substitutes for bread crumbs, though the recipe may vary slightly.

If you do not have any dietary restrictions or allergies that prevent you from consuming bread products, bread crumbs can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Food allergies. Updated October 2015.

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Bread, crumbs, dry, grated, plain. Updated April 1, 2019.

  3. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.