If you’re someone who loves to add a crunchy texture to some of your favorite meals, it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of and possibly even used panko breadcrumbs. If you’ve recently discovered you have a gluten intolerance or decided to try a gluten-free diet, you may wonder if panko breadcrumbs are safe.
Panko breadcrumbs are made from white bread that’s had its crust removed. It is then processed into flakes and left to dry, which results in a light and crispy texture when fried. As panko is made from white bread, it has a high amount of gluten, and isn’t suitbale for someone with a gluten intolerance.
In this article, we are going to discuss panko breadcrumbs, whether or not they contain gluten, and some alternatives to this popular Japanese coating. So keep reading! We have everything you need to know about panko breadcrumbs.
What are Panko Breadcrumbs?
Panko bread crumbs are a popular coating used in Japanese cuisine to give foods an authentic, crunchy texture that simulates fried food without holding an excessive amount of oil. Invented in Japan, panko has been used in Asian cuisine for decades but has since become a popular product worldwide.
The name may seem unique but has a simple meaning. Panko comes from the Japanese pan, meaning bread, and ko means flower. Real panko breadcrumbs are made from a specific kind of crustless white bread that’s baked using an electrical current.
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Panko is never made using whole grain bread, as the white bread produces a much flakier and dryer consistency. The process of creating your panko breadcrumbs involves grounding your white bread into fine flakes that are then dried out to get that perfect crunchy texture.
They’ve been used in traditional Japanese cuisine to make popular dishes such as chicken katsu and tonkatsu, which are renowned for their crunchy texture. Panko breadcrumbs are now used worldwide in dishes such as mac and cheese, chicken parmesan, and even as a casserole topping.
How is Panko Used in Cooking?
Once you have your processed panko bread crumbs, you can use them for breading foods such as fish, shrimp, chicken, and even vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini. Once they are coated in the batter and fried, they have a distinct crunch and texture that’s unlike that which is acheived through the traditional method of frying food.
When you begin to bread your food with the panko breadcrumbs, remember to first create a dry surface on your chosen food item by giving it a dip in seasoned flour. Next, dip it in a bowl with an egg that’s been lightly whisked before finally adding it to the breadcrumbs. For the best texture, use a generous amount of butter or oil to ensure the panko turns nice and crispy.
Panko can be used to create a light breading, but it can also be a great addition to any dish to give it a little extra crunch and texture. Some people add it as a topping on their casserole and mac and cheese, resulting in a crunchy crust for your traybake.
Panko Breadcrumbs vs. Normal Breadcrumbs
You might be wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to panko breadcrumbs and whether or not there’s a considerable difference between panko breadcrumbs and regular or gluten-free alternatives.
The most obvious difference is that panko produces a crispier and lighter texture on your food once it’s fried and doesn’t hold as much oil as regular breadcrumbs.
Regular breadcrumbs can be used in more or less the same way as panko. They are made using bread that’s first toasted and then processed into a fine meal. From here, the same steps apply for frying or baking, yet the final result won’t be as light or crispy.
Are Panko Breadcrumbs Gluten Free?
Gluten is found in most wheat products and is defined as a protein that holds various grains such as wheat, spelt, durum farro, and rye together and helps the grain maintain its shape.
It’s impossible to remove gluten from grains, as it is a naturally occurring element. So, a grain such as wheat which naturally has gluten, will always be considered a glutenous product. Gluten is found in almost all bread as a result of these factors unless the bread is intentionally made with gluten-free ingredients.
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Panko breadcrumbs are made from a mixture of the processed flakes of the crustless white bread, along with salt, oil, and yeast. Panko breadcrumbs are not gluten-free because they are made from a specific type of glutenous white bread. However, they are nearly always vegan.
Luckily, in recent decades people have begun to invest their time and energy into producing gluten-free alternatives to wheat-based products such as panko breadcrumbs.
Gluten-Free Alternatives to Panko Breadcrumbs
If you’re a fan of adding a little extra texture to your favorite dishes or simply looking for an alternative to the glutenous panko breadcrumbs, there are a few options available.
The most common option for people who wish to steer clear of gluten is rice chex. Yes, the popular cereal that’s been a staple since the 1950s is a perfect substitute for panko breadcrumbs. Simply blitz the cereal in your blender until it becomes a powder, and you’ll have a gluten-free alternative to panko that’ll add a great texture to your favorite dish.
Other options include gluten-free panko mixes that you can find in a wide variety of supermarkets or even online. Two great products are 4C gluten-free panko and Kikkoman gluten-free panko, and both are available on Amazon.
If you’re someone who has the occasional craving for that authentic panko crunch on your favorite dish and it feels like you are missing out because you can’t eat gluten, now you don’t have to worry. Enjoy the texture of panko by choosing one of the gluten-free options, and you can continue to enjoy that crispy texture without the added gluten.
So now that you know that panko breadcrumbs are not suitable for someone following a gluten-free diet, will you go and try one of the alternatives to the traditional panko method?