Make Your Own Croutons

I enjoy a good lettuce salad, especially if it boasts more than just lettuce and other veggies:  shredded cheese, hard-boiled eggs, perhaps some leftover meat from the grill, and some crunch.  Gotta have the crunch.

In the “what can we sucker people into paying for” convenience category, croutons have to rank right up there with the top embarrassingly overpriced items.  I can’t believe I used to shell out money for what takes me pennies and only a few minutes to make myself!

Make Your Own Croutons

  1. Cut some day-old or stale french bread into cubes.
  2. Drizzle the french bread cubes with olive oil.  Toss in a pan.
  3. Spice them up with a few shakes of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or whatever spices sound good.  Toss again.
  4. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes.  Shake and toss. Bake until toasted.  ***Pay attention so you don’t burn them!

That’s it!  Definitely worth the minutes and pennies.

What convenience foods do you make yourself for a fraction of the store price?

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Comments

  1. I’ve only tried homemade croutons once & they flopped!! I need to try it again your instructions! Thanks for posting!

  2. I make my own buttermilk, which saves us a TON of money because we use it alot and it’s kind of expensive. Just wait until there’s about 1/2 to 1 c. left in the container, fill with regular milk, and let it sit on the counter for a few hours until it smells “buttermilky”. Refrigerate and use. You can use this homemade buttermilk to start your next batch of buttermilk. It is thinner than store-bought buttermilk because it doesn’t have the thickeners in it, but it works great.

    I also make my own yogurt, about a gallon at a time, because why even bother buying the “large” containers at the store when they won’t even make it through one meal?

    This year I learned how to make buttermilk salad dressing, which I LOVE~it’s way better than store-bought and for summer I messed around with the seasonings to figure out how to create ranch dip for our veggies. Why do I love it? #1 It tastes wonderful. #2 It’s super cheap. #3 I can identify and pronounce every ingredient by heart.

    If you’re interested, I can give you the recipes.

    • @Michelle,I would love to have your buttermilk dressing recipe. Thanks for sharing….

      • @cheryl,
        Whoops! Replied in the wrong spot…Here’s the recipe:

        Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing:
        1 c. mayonnaise
        1 c. buttermilk
        2 tsp. parsley
        1 tsp. onion powder
        1 tsp. garlic powder
        1 tsp. dill weed

        Whisk together & store in the refrigerator. Tip: If you stick a paring knife in the opening of the squeezie lid from store bought salad dressing bottle and pull straight up, the lid will come off and you can refill the bottle with your homemade dressing, then replace the lid. This will make enough to refill a large Hidden Valley Ranch bottle, but can easily be halved for smaller quantities.

        For ranch dip, simply add the parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and dill (quantities above) PLUS 3/4 tsp. salt to 16 oz container of sour cream

      • @cheryl,

        I just found a recipe for homemade blue cheese dressing and tried it out for lunch today. It is so simple! (Although I think it may be a toss up whether is it actually less expensive because you have to buy blue cheese.) It was very yummy.

        Blue Cheese Dressing:
        1/2 c. buttermilk
        1/4 c. sour cream
        1/4 tsp. black pepper
        4 oz. (1 c.) blue cheese

        Whisk first three ingredients together in a small bowl. Fold in blue cheese. Refrigerate.

    • Never thought to make buttermilk like that! What a great idea!

      • @Amy,

        Just be careful not to forget you have buttermilk culturing on the counter and leave it out for a couple of days. Ask me how I know. :o(

        Seriously, this has saved us a TON of money this year.

    • I would love to have your recipe for yogurt! Thanks

      • Kathy,
        This recipe was sent to me by a friend years ago. My notes are at the bottom.

        Slowly heat 1 gal. milk to boiling. Heat it right to the point it starts bubbling, but not a rolling boil. Shut it off, and remove it from the burner.

        Let it sit, until you can dip your finger in the top of it and it does not “sting.” You want it still hot, but not where it “bites” your finger.

        When it gets to that point, throw in 1 cup of plain yogurt ( You can use any type of milk you want…fat content does not matter.) This is your starter. Whisk it together.

        Now, I place it in my crock pot, with the lid on. I have one of those little insulated cover thingies for my crock pot, but if you don’t, simply wrap it or cover it all up in a heap of towels or blankets. I’ve done it both ways.

        This way it will gradually cool down and thicken up, or incubate. Let it sit for four hours. It can sit for longer if you desire, but the longer it sits the more sour it gets.

        That’s it. Really.

        Michelle’s Notes: 1. Be very careful not to scorch the milk, it will ruin the whole batch. Ask me how I know this. 2. I usually add 1 c. powdered milk to the starter (adds nutrition). 3. The longer you let it incubate, the thicker it will get. After 4 hrs, my yogurt was something similar to kefir. I usually let it sit 6-8.

    • In your buttermilk recipe ..are you adding regular milk to buttermilk…as it states wait till you have 1/2- 1 cup left remaining(what are you referring to ) then add reg milk and let sit… I would like to try this but just want to be sure what you are referring to. Thanks

      • When I am making buttermilk, I wait until I have 1/2 to 1 c. of buttermilk left in the container (which for me is one of the 1/2 gal. containers from the store) and fill it up with regular milk (we use skim, but try whatever you have on hand) and let it sit out. HTH!

    • For buttermilk, my family just uses up milk that has gone sour – it’s basically the same thing. This way, nothing is going to waste. If you really need buttermilk in a recipe, you can also just add a little vinegar to the milk and it will instantly turn into the sour milk you need.

  3. We made homemade croutons the other day and my 2 and 4 year old gobbled them right up!

    I’ve also been making homemade chicken broth for a while now and love the price and ease of it.

    • I haven’t mastered the seasoning of my homemade chicken broth, but I keep working at it!

      • I use a large chunked up carrot, 2-3 stalks of celery plus the leaves, (I save the inner yellow wilted part plus the leaves for broth as it has loads of flavor), a large chunked up onion, salt and plenty of pepper and some thyme. Yummy! I have never bought chicken broth as the yeast extract ingredient gives me migraines.

      • I haven’t done chicken broth but I make turkey broth in the crockpot often. I just put the turkey carcass, a couple of chopped carrots, some celery and onions in the crockpot and leave it on low overnight. It has great flavor! You could try adding a clove of garlic and/or some sage…

        • I think my palate was too used to the high-sodium broth in a can! Need to retrain the palate. ;)

          • Just add more salt :) And please make it kosher salt. The difference between kosher salt and iodized salt in seasoning foods is best explained like this: Kosher salt makes foods taste more like themselves; and iodized salt makes foods taste saltier.

            When I do chicken broth, I simmer a whole chicken or cut up pieces with onion, carrot, celery. Sometimes I throw in garlic or leeks. For a really flavorful soup base for chicken noodle soup, I use Montreal Steak Seasoning (McCormick brand) in the broth while it’s simmering and season with kosher salt as needed once it has been strained but is still hot. Never season cold or you will overseason. I let it sit overnight in the fridge and then scoop out the fat that hardens on the top in the morning.

        • Claire – how much water over the carcass – just enough to cover it?

  4. In the same vein- homemade bread crumbs. I just recently started making my own salsa with great success too! :)

    • Yep! I have a container of bread crumbs in my freezer at all times. :)

    • I just started making salsa out of canned tomatoes about 2 weeks ago.. Just this past weekend I had to make 5 batches of it cause everyone wanted some..

      • Salsa is one of our favorite staples, but I’ve only made it a few times. I definitely need to do that more!

        • 1 large can of tomatos, 1 small can of rotel, 1/2 handful of cilatro and garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste. Pulse in blender.. Comes out yummy every time and taste like restaraunt made it…

  5. We love homemade croutons! :D You can also dry out bread but putting in oven at low setting, if you don’t have any stale bread.
    We make our own bread, cream of whatever soups, dressing and a few others that I can’t think of… Such a big taste difference and healthier with no preservatives. :D

  6. Homemade croutons taste so much better than the bag… and it’s less waste. Good post.

  7. Wow! Super easy! And a great answer to how I could use the heels of bread and other bread that gets a little crusty. (Wow– I bet I could even use some of those crusts that I cut off of sandwiches!
    Thanks, Amy!!

    • I’ve used the crusts, too, like cute little “crouton strips.” :) I’ve also frozen the heels and crusts, then pulsed them in the food processor for instant bread crumbs. Handy!

    • I use the heels as sandwiches. I just put the peanut butter/jelly on the crust side instead of the regular side. So far in the 6 years I’ve had children, no one has noticed the brown on the inside.

  8. Antoinette says:

    We make our own cream soups for casseroles/yummy potatoes/dutch oven cooking – saves a ton and we can make it “healthier” if we want.
    2 cups milk (can use powdered milk as well)
    2 heaping tsp. corn starch
    chicken bullion to taste
    some onion flakes and thyme
    Whisk all together and heat on stove top until desired thickness. I usually leave a little runny as it will thicken as it bakes/absorbs into veggies/meats. (Original recipe called for butter, but I usually skip that unless I’m making yummy potatoes.)

  9. Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing:
    1 c. mayonnaise
    1 c. buttermilk
    2 tsp. parsley
    1 tsp. onion powder
    1 tsp. garlic powder
    1 tsp. dill weed

    Whisk together & store in the refrigerator. Tip: If you stick a paring knife in the opening of the squeezie lid from store bought salad dressing bottle and pull straight up, the lid will come off and you can refill the bottle with your homemade dressing, then replace the lid. This will make enough to refill a large Hidden Valley Ranch bottle, but can easily be halved for smaller quantities.

    For ranch dip, simply add the parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and dill (quantities above) PLUS 3/4 tsp. salt to 16 oz container of sour cream

  10. I just made homemade refried beans and we love them! They are so easy to make in the crockpot and I now have three cans’ worth in the freezer.

  11. When I worked in a restaurant a long time ago, we made our own croutons and I have often thought about it but have yet to do it at home…I am adding this to my list of to dos for next week! Thanks for the reminder.

  12. I have been making homemade breadcrumbs a lot lately-from the heels of bread because we don’t eat those. In fact, I just posted about it the other day at http://myfavoritefinds.blogspot.com/2011/02/bread-heels-to-breadcrumbs.html. Also, I make my own salsa and freeze it in the summer. I love making things homemade. Your croutons look better than mine. I think I’ll try this recipe instead.

    • Yes! I have a stash of homemade bread crumbs in the freezer at all times. Add a little Italian seasoning = instant Italian bread crumbs. Perfect!

  13. I made my own croutons once early in my frugal experimentation days, and put them over homemade soup. They got such rave reviews I couldn’t believe I had made them out of bread that was ready to toss.

    • I know! Makes me think that the ones in restaurants have to be made from old bread, too!

      • I have worked at Cracker Barrel for several years, and there bread crumbs are made from there left over bread, made almost like you make yours.

        • We rarely go out to eat, but Cracker Barrel and Outback Steakhouse are our favorites. Their croutons are yummy… but I can’t help wonder how many hands touch the bread that they’re made from. Do they use bread left on the tables? Hmmmm ;)

          • ohh. yuck. I’ve been enjoying the comments until that and learning so much. Some things I don’t want to think about.

            I will be trying your crouton recipe. It has been a few years since I tried to make them.

  14. I’ve been making my own croutons for a couple of years. I save every heel of bread that we don’t use. I chop them and stick them in a bag in the freezer until they accumulate to make enough croutons.
    Also, last year I got a bright idea! With my coupon shopping I was able to get a lot of spray butter for free. I had never bought it before and found that I really didn’t know what to do w/it! Ha! Anyway, I was making croutons one day and it dawned on me that I could spray the butter on my bread instead of using melted butter (I never used oil before).

  15. For croutons, I like to use leftover garlic bread made in my breadmaker, too. It’s VERY inexpensive, and already seasoned! :D

  16. You all have inspired me to make croutons. I hate how expensive they are and only buy them when they’re super cheap!

    From now on I’ll be saving all those heels I usually toss (gasp – I know, don’t hate me!), chopping and freezing until its time to make coutons.

    How long do the croutons last and how do you store them?

    • I don’t make a ton of them at a time. Usually just what I need for a week, and we don’t eat a whole lot of salad. When I have extra, I store them in a baggie or tupperware-type container in the fridge. They’ll crisp right up in a skillet!

      • I buy day-old breads (often the seasoned artisan ones discounted at walmart) and cube them up and keep them in the freezer in a ziploc bag. When I need croutons, I just pour on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and spices and bake like you said. I can often just bake them along with what’s already cooking for dinner. I store mine in a tupperware in the pantry-they stay crisp a least a week but we all love to snack on them so they don’t usually last that long! :)

  17. We make homemade salsa all of the time.

    1 can tomatoes
    1-2 jalapeño or 1 roasted green chile
    cilantro
    garlic salt

    Yummy!

  18. Thank you. I found this recipe through moneysavingmom.com
    I just made a batch of homemade croutons! Not bad! I would make them again. : ) Plus my son liked them.
    Heather

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