Panko (パン粉), sometimes referred to as Japanese breadcrumbs, are a special type of breadcrumb designed to be perfect for coating deep-fried foods. They are originally from Japan, where they are popularly used in dishes like tonkatsu pork and katsu chicken, and their popularity is growing in other countries, too, thanks to their deliciously crispy, non-greasy texture.
Panko vs regular breadcrumbs
Unlike regular breadcrumbs, which can be made from any bread you happen to have in the kitchen, panko must be made in a particular way. They are always made using white bread, and typically do not include any of the crust, so every panko crumb is made from the light, fluffy centre of the bread. Commercially, they are made from special crustless loaves, baked using electrical currents, but if you want to make them at home you can just cut the crusts away.
Panko are not typically breadcrumb-shaped, instead being sliced into large, thin flakes with more surface area, and a light, airy texture. They are then dried to make them less absorbent to oil. The result is a larger, crunchier breadcrumb that is perfectly crisp and non-greasy when fried.
What does panko taste like?
Panko is not about flavour, it’s all about texture! By itself, panko doesn’t taste of much. Because it’s a flake rather than a crumb, it doesn’t stick together and provides a greater surface area for crisping. This is what makes it so crunchy! Panko makes a great foil for other flavours as it absorbs whatever the ingredients around it taste like.
How to use panko in the kitchen
Because they have little flavour of their own, panko can be used to add texture to a wide variety of dishes without altering their flavour. They are traditionally used as a crispy coating for fried foods like meat, fish or tofu, but they can also be used as a crunchy topping for dishes like mac and cheese or fish pie, and even sweet dishes like crumbles.
To enjoy panko at its deliciously crispy best, you need to cook it at a high temperature, whether you’re deep-frying or baking it on top of a dish. Heat will really make those breadcrumbs crisp up, so make sure your oil is sizzling hot before you start frying, and consider placing your dish under the broiler for a few minutes after baking. You can also mix the breadcrumbs with different flavours to compliment your dish, with Parmesan, herbs and spices all being popular choices.
How to make panko at home
Making your own panko breadcrumbs at home is quick and easy. All you need is a loaf of white bread, a food processor, and about 10 minutes.
First, preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C.
Remove the crusts from your bread, and use the grater setting on your food processor to cut them into coarse breadcrumbs. Do your food processing in a series of short bursts, checking the size after each one to avoid making them too small.
Spread the crumbs evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes to dry them out, twice removing the sheet and shaking it well to ensure everything cooks evenly. Watch the process carefully to make sure the crumbs do not brown.
Leave your homemade panko to cool, then store in an airtight container. Use within 3 months.
Can you substitute panko with breadcrumbs?
You can use panko and regular breadcrumbs interchangeably, but the texture will be a little different. Other panko substitutes you might want to try include cracker crumbs, crushed melba toasts, matzo meal, crushed tortilla or potato chips, dry stuffing mix, or crushed cornflakes.
Recipes with panko
Experience the irresistible crunch of panko for yourself with these delicious panko recipes.
Ticken panko by Thomas Troigros: from the menu of Thomas Troigros’s Rio de Janeiro fast-food project, Ticken, this is fried chicken taken to the next level.
Avocado fries: creamy avocado and crunchy panko breadcrumbs contrast beautifully in this tempting snack dish.
Parmesan-crusted chicken: Parmesan adds a deliciously savoury note to this simple but elegant deep-fried chicken dish.
Deep fried tofu with wasabi, daikon and herbs: this Japanese-inspired appetiser is flavoured with aromatic ginger, fiery wasabi and daikon, and deep-fried to crispy perfection.
Panko crumbs should be kept in a cool, dry place, away from moisture or pests. If you have store-bought panko, keep them in their original packaging in a pantry or cupboard. Once opened, transfer them to a sealable plastic bag or airtight container, and they should keep for up to 6 months.
This article was update on 03/04/2023.