Unexpected Croutons

Optimize the flavor of your soups and salads by adding a crunchy ingredient that does more for the dish than standard toasted white bread.

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Stephen Johnson ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Beyond Basic Bread

Croutons complete a salad. Their dry crispness provides contrast to what would otherwise be a lot of cool, wet salad ingredients. And they add nice crunch to a bowl of soup. But why stick with the plain white-bread variety when there are so many other bread products that can be turned into croutons?

Miniature Piece-o'-Pizza

Leftover pizza triangles, especially from thick-crust pizza, would work well on Caesar or garden salad. Serve with Italian dressing.

Add a Savory Touch

Go beyond pizza and add meaty, cheesy flavor with any of the following:

Pork Rinds: What salad doesn’t want to hang out with crunchy, porky puffs?

Cubes of Bacon: Skip straight to the bacon. Envision a large cube of pork belly on a lemony frisee salad, or on a radicchio salad with pears.

Shrimp Crackers: These are good on Thai beef salad, shaved cabbage salad or any salad featuring lime, cilantro and radishes.

Chicken Skin Shards: Crisp salted chicken skin on a baking sheet in the oven, then break it into shards and sprinkle it over greens with a tart vinaigrette.

Cheese Curls: A spare sprinkle of airy, cheesy curls tastes amazing on any salad that would normally have cheese on it.

Cut-Up Croissants

Buttery slices of croissant enhance salads made from baby greens, spinach or other tender leaves.

More From the Bread Bin

Why stop at croissants? Create cubes out of any bakery delicacies:

 

Toasted Pita: After toasting, break the pockets into chips, drizzle with oil and serve over a Greek salad.

Bagel Chips: Whether you toast them yourself or buy a tin from the grocery store, serve crumbled-up chips over arugula salad with roast beef or flaked salmon. Another idea? On borscht or creamy tomato soup.

Snow Pea Crisps

Toss these veggie puffs on spinach salads, or thick soups like pea soup (where they will float like an edible raft).

Veggies Squared

Let snow pea crisps inspire you. Dried or puffed vegetables add new layers of flavor to soups and salads:

 

Wasabi Peas: Ambush your sinuses with these green, crunchy balls. They're great on creamy soups and sturdy, hearty salads.

Corn Nuts: Sprinkle these on pretty much any salad, or on hearty soups like posole or vegetable soup. If they happen to be barbecue flavor, even better.

Corn Chips: The dense crunch of a corn chip goes great on Southwestern salads, on salads that have peppers or on a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing.

Kale Chips: Two kales make a right. The contrasting texture of kale chips on fresh kale salad is pretty fun — as fun as kale can be, anyway.

Popcorn: Reach for your favorite snack bag to enhance salads of any type.

Biscuit Hunks

Dense, rich biscuits do well in a hearty chopped salad, or a tangy one that has pickled anything (like pickled beets).

Bits of Quick Breads

Biscuits are just the start. Crumbly, tender quick breads add flavor with a more subtle texture than some of the crunchier crouton ideas:

 

Toasted Cornbread: Cubes of delicate, slightly sweet cornbread go well on salads with tomatoes or shrimp. 

Crumbled Scones: The lightly sweet tea pastries are perfect accompaniments to green salads that are topped with fruit.

Chunks of Cake

Lightly toast cake (or cupcakes, pound cake or coffee cake) and toss cubes of it on fresh fruit salad.

Sweet Toppers

Dig into the dessert drawer for other crouton ideas, beyond cake:

 

Pie Crust: Slice a not-too-sweet dough into squares, or use a small round cookie cutter and bake, or break up if already baked. Serve crisped pie crust cubes on salads made with chicken, fresh peas and carrot strips. 

Muffins: Cubes of muffins will work as well on fruit salad as those cake chunks, or consider tossing them onto puddings, oatmeal or yogurt bowls.

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