The Best Gluten-Free Substitutions: Breadcrumbs

Living a gluten-free lifestyle should never limit your creativity in the kitchen, and because breadcrumbs are a key ingredient in so many delicious dishes, we decided an in-depth review of both homemade and store-bought gluten-free breadcrumbs was in order.

Using my hungry and willing family, I prepared two types of recipes and tested six varieties of gluten-free breadcrumbs: three DIY versions and three popular store-bought brands.

I made an oven-baked chicken finger recipe using breadcrumbs as a coating and a simple meatball recipe integrating the breadcrumbs into the meat mixture. My family and I then blind taste-tested them all. Here's the list of what we tried.

Store-bought, gluten-free breadcrumbs:

  • Kroger's Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs ($.33 per ounce)
  • 4C Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs ($.36 per ounce)
  • Ian’s Gluten-Free Original Panko Breadcrumbs ($.54 per ounce)

Homemade/DIY gluten-free breadcrumbs:

  • Breadcrumbs from toasted gluten-free bread
  • Breadcrumbs from gluten-free pretzels
  • Breadcrumbs from crushed rice cereal

Which gluten-free breadcrumbs made the best breaded coating?

For the breaded coating on my chicken finger recipe, my family and I rated each brand/type of breadcrumb on flavor, how well they adhered to the chicken and the texture in the final product.

Evaluating The Store-Bought Brands:

As a coating for the chicken fingers, Ian’s Panko Breadcrumbs was by far our favorite.

The Ian's crumbs toasted to a beautiful golden brown color and remained deliciously crunchy. They also adhered to the chicken evenly and stayed put, even when dipped in honey mustard sauce.

Both the 4C brand and Kroger’s store brand adhered well, too, but once baked, both brands of crumbs seemed to have absorbed moisture from the chicken, leaving the texture a bit mushy.

Evaluating The Homemade Varieties:

My family and I loved the taste and texture of the crumbs made from stale gluten-free bread. Used as a baked coating, they adhered reasonably well and definitely had a wonderfully crunchy texture.

That being said, we liked the chicken breaded with the gluten-free pretzel crumbs nearly as well. As the pretzel crumbs are far less time consuming and a bit less expensive, they will remain my top choice to use for a breaded coating.

The breadcrumbs made from rice cereal seem to get a little mushy and chewy when used as a coating. Even though I left the pieces a little larger and toasted the crumbs before using to give them added crunch, they absorbed quite a bit of the juice from the chicken creating that unwanted texture.

Which gluten-free breadcrumbs made the best meatballs?

For my meatball recipe, we rated the breadcrumbs on flavor, how well the meatballs held together and the overall texture once they were cooked.

I used 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs per 3/4 cup of ground meat mixture and baked them at 400°F for 35 minutes before simmering them in sauce.

Store-Bought Brands:

All three gluten-free breadcrumb brands made perfectly delicious meatballs!

We found that the meatballs made with the Kroger and 4C brands were slightly moister than the ones made with Ian's, so we liked Ian's slightly better in this recipe, too, but overall, taste and texture was just fine with all three.

Homemade Varieties:

The gluten-free pretzel breadcrumbs were the favorite choice when it comes to making meatballs. The meatballs were flavorful, tender and moist without falling apart. They also held their shape when simmered in sauce and even reheated well the following day.

The breadcrumbs made from toasted gluten-free bread did not produce the best results in meatballs as I had to add almost twice the amount of these crumbs to get a mixture that would hold together.

That extra quantity of crumbs created meatballs that were a little too soft and “bready” tasting. Once the meatballs were smothered in sauce though, these qualities weren't as obvious.

The meatballs made with rice cereal breadcrumbs had a bit of a gummy quality, but again, served in sauce, that texture wasn't really noticeable.

Our Conclusion:

You now have a basic run-down on how different varieties of gluten-free breadcrumbs perform in two very different types of recipes. Our recommendations are as follows:

Store-Bought Crumbs: Ian’s Gluten-Free Panko Breadcrumbs easily out-performed the others when it came to a making a breaded coating but seemed to do only slightly better when used in meatballs.

Homemade Crumbs: Based on prep time, price and overall taste and texture, gluten-free pretzel crumbs were our favorite homemade version.

Tips For Using Store-Bought Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs:

If you'd like to add a little more crunch when using gluten-free breadcrumbs as a coating, try toasting them first. This keeps them from absorbing too much moisture, and they stay extra crispy.

Just spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet that has been lightly coated with olive oil spray, spread the crumbs evenly in a thin layer, coat with a little more spray and bake 3-5 minutes in a 400°F oven. Watch carefully as you don't want to let them burn!


About the author: Contributing author Jennifer Partridge is an artist, teacher, home school mom and experienced cook who has perfected a delicious gluten-free lifestyle. Look for her advice, recipes and gluten-free substitutions throughout the site.