PHOTO: ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLING: KAY E. CLARKE; FOOD STYLING: TINA STAMOS

File croutons under, “Better When Homemade” from now on.  

Store-bought meals and ingredients make life much easier, but some things are undeniably better homemade (Mama knows this too well). If you’ve never tried homemade croutons, get ready—they’ll quickly be moved to your list of things you should always make at home. It might seem like a hassle to bake croutons when there are plenty of varieties on the shelf at the grocery store, but it’s shockingly easy to make your own. Because you control what kind of bread and seasonings to make them with (as well as the size and crunchiness to your preference), homemade croutons are healthier than processed. Not only are they healthier, homemade croutons are much more affordable than store-bought. They taste better, have a better consistency, and are healthier and cheaper than store varieties. If your last argument against making croutons is that it’s time consuming or requires a lot of cleanup, think again. They're a cinch to make, and two of our Test Kitchen experts explain their favorite methods below.

Great Debate: The Case for Homemade Croutons

Two Test Kitchen pros face off about the best way to make a batch from scratch.

Karen Rankin Swears by Stove-Top
“Sautéing the croutons in bacon drippings and olive oil creates a chewy and tender exterior with tons of favor,” Karen said.
How-To: Toss 4 cups bread cubes with 1 ½ Tbsp. each warm bacon drippings and olive oil, ½ tsp. each salt and pepper, and ¼ tsp. garlic powder. Cook in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring often, until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes.

Deb Wise Is All About the Oven
“Toasting the bread cubes on a baking sheet gives them plenty of space so the entire surface can dry out and become crisp,” Deb said.
How-To: Toss 4 cups cubed bread with 5 Tbsp. melted butter; ½ tsp. salt; and ¼ tsp. each pepper, garlic powder, and dried thyme on a baking sheet. Bake at 375°F until golden brown, stirring once, 16 to 18 minutes.

Whichever side you take in the homemade crouton showdown, here are a few more tips for making, storing, and serving them best:
- Use quality bread for homemade croutons; day-old bakery bread like baguettes work wonderfully, so if you have leftover bread lying around, might as well make some croutons! (Psst…Cornbread works great for a Southern twist.)
- Try to cut the bread cubes about the same size so they cook evenly, but size and shape are up to you—make tiny, crunchy croutons, rustic ripped pieces, or classic squares
- You can change up which seasonings you include in your mixture depending what’s on hand or what you’re serving the croutons with (get creative with herbs, spice mixes, and shredded cheese)
- Store croutons in a zip-top plastic bag or airtight container for up to five days
- If you have leftover croutons, put them in the food processor for flavored breadcrumbs (chicken parm, anyone?)

WATCH: Brussels Sprouts With Cornbread Croutons

Whether you bake them in the oven or toss them on the stovetop, homemade croutons are the way to go when it comes to the best taste, consistency, price, and presentation. Plus, you’ll seem like you totally have it together to dinner guests when they see that even the croutons are homemade.