Learn everything you need to know about Japanese light and crispy panko breadcrumbs. This post includes how to make panko at home using various techniques and types of bread as well as 10 delicious recipes to put your homemade panko to good use!
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What are Japanese panko breadcrumbs?
Panko breadcrumbs are light and flaky Japanese style breadcrumbs. When it comes to the term "panko", it's not anything complicated or technical. Pan (パン) is the Japanese word for "bread" and "ko" (粉) can be translated as "powder" or in this case, "crumb".
So technically, panko is just another way to say breadcrumbs or can be translated as Japanese style breadcrumbs in English. But how are they different to Western breadcrumbs? That's the question.
Panko VS Regular breadcrumbs: How is panko unique? What are the differences? What's so special?
So are there any differences between panko and regular breadcrumbs? Linguistically, there isn't, but there are a few things that are unique to Japanese panko.
One of them is "raw breadcrumbs". In Japan, raw breadcrumbs (nama panko) were created using Japanese style white loaf (shokupan), which were suitable for yoshoku dishes such as tonkatsu and ebi fry. By saying "raw", it means using bread in a normal fresh state, not stale or dried.
When raw panko is used for frying, the moisture in the breadcrumbs is quickly replaced by the oil, and the fine air bubbles give the breadcrumbs a crispy, light texture. Raw panko tends to be bigger than regular breadcrumbs as well. However, they absorb oil well, so their calorie content tends to be higher than dry breadcrumbs.
This style of breadcrumb became popular and led to the creation of various uniquely Japanese-yoshoku dishes such as ebi fry, tonkatsu and korokke. So, the true traditional Japanese panko is this raw breadcrumbs, not the dry ones.
Differences between nama panko and dried panko
So, the fresh panko breadcrumb is unique to Japanese cuisine, but what's the difference between fresh one and dried one? That's right, a lot of people still use dried panko breadcrumbs at home! Other than the obvious difference where fresh or dried, where are the differences? Let's check it out.
|Dried panko||Fresh panko|
|Size of crumb||Smaller||Bigger|
|Storage||Long shelf life||Spoils quickly|
|Recommended||korokke, kushiage||ebi fry, tonkatsu...|
The general rule of thumb would be that fresh panko is typically used for coating raw ingredients such as raw pork for tonkatsu and raw shrimps for ebi fry. But it's just general talk. You can interchange these two types of panko as you like!
Can I make my own panko breadcrumbs? Why I never buy packaged panko anymore
Until recently, whenever I make deep fried dishes with panko breadcrumbs, I bought packaged panko as it's not an expensive product at least in Japan. However, I never buy them anymore. Why? Firstly, the package always contains at least 100g and I end up with leftovers taking up space in my freezer and secondly, making homemade panko is 10 times easier than driving to a supermarket. All you need is some kind of leftover bread, it doesn't even have to be shokupan!
One purpose to make this panko breadcrumbs 101 post is to explain how easy it is to make panko at home, as well as the fact you can use almost any kind of bread available. I mean, originally breadcrumbs were made as a way to use up leftover bread right? Let's keep the tradition and spirit!
To make this post more interesting, I also experimented making homemade panko with different kinds of bread that I had at home ranging from baguette to English muffin. You know what? They both turned out to be amazing. But first, let's explain a bit about the process of how to make panko breadcrumbs before getting into the experiment.
Are panko breadcrumbs gluten free?
In normal sense, it's not gluten free. However, if you use this homemade panko recipe and use gluten free bread, you can make your own gluten free panko!
Stay tuned for how to make homemade panko!
3 ways to make homemade panko breadcrumbs
As I said, making homemade panko breadcrumbs is a lot easier than you imagine! In this section, I will explain 3 easy ways to make Japanese style panko breadcrumbs at home! When the desired fineness is achieved, the product is ready.
Straight into a food processor
This way is the easiest and simplest. You can just roughly cut your leftover bread and put it in a food processor. How long does it take? Honestly within a minute! The longer you run the food processor, the finer and smaller the panko will be.
With fluffy and big breadcrumbs, the texture is more of a crunchy rather than a crispy one when fried. They are more satisfying to eat. And as I mentioned before, the bread can be fresh, you don't need to dry it out or use stale bread for this.
Grate frozen bread
This is an alternative way especially for someone who usually freezes leftover bread or who doesn't have a food processor. Bread is just frozen here so it will still be fresh panko!
The key to making panko with grater is to make sure the bread is fully frozen. If it is even slightly soft, it will be difficult to shave. I would also recommended to cut the bread into pieces and freeze it beforehand, as it is easier to hold in the hand and does not melt easily at body temperature.
Making dried panko
Even if you want dried panko breadcrumbs, it's not hard to do! You can basically take dried (stale) bread and either throw it into the food processor or grate it just like above. Dried panko tends to be finer with smaller crumbs.
Can you make panko breadcrumbs with any types of bread? Experimented!
In conclusion, you can make panko breadcrumbs with almost any kinds of bread as long as it doesn't contain fillings or sauces. Don't go and buy expensive shoku pan just to make panko! Use what's available in the kitchen! But I know seeing is believing. So I did some panko experiment with 3 kinds of bread (somewhat unique) I had at home.
- Japanese "hotel-style" shokupan loaf
- English muffin
I chose the food processor for the method of making breadcrumbs in this experiment. I can re-confirm that it's ready in 30 seconds!
Then, in this experiment, I deep fried pork to make hire katsu with each homemade panko. Below is the result!
Surprisingly, my favoruite of all three was baguette panko! The crust of the baguette became really crunchy and its texture was almost like crunchy cracker snack attached on the outside. You can't make that heavy crunchy sensation with any other two.
On the other hand, Japanese style loaf and English muffin panko breadcrumbs turned out to be somewhat similar. The only major difference was English mufffin panko turned out to be a bit finer and paler, a little more like dry panko. Nonetheless, they both tasted amazing and did the job of panko breadcrumbs properly.
After this experiment, I got so intrigued about what would happen with other kinds of bread. If I try something new, I will keep adding it here.
But until then, here are the other bread ideas for homemade panko:
- Whole grain bread
- Soda bread
- Rye bread
The beauty of this is you can use any leftover bread!
How long can you store homemade panko breadcrumbs?
Storage time of homemade panko breadcrumbs is simple. Homemade breadcrumbs are made from bread literally, so the shelf life is basically the same as bread. If you make too much but don't intend to use the leftover soon, you can store it in the freezer for 2 weeks-1 month for good flavour.
However, best practice would be to check the packaging of the bread (if you use store bought bread) and follow the expiry date once it's open. I personally keep the leftover in zip lock bag and store it in the freezer.
Nonetheless, it is still important to use them up as quickly as possible.
Recommended Japanese recipes using homemade panko breadcrumbs
So finally, you might thing what can I use this homemade panko for Japanese cooking? Don't worry, I got everything covered. Here is the list of every recipe I have that uses panko breadcrumbs!
Tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet)
Tonkatsu (とんかつ) is a delicious pork cutlet that has been coated in egg and panko breadcrumbs, then deep fried to golden perfection. It's probably one of the most popular dishes in Japan and the cutlet itself can be used in many other dishes.
The word "ton" (豚) comes from the Japanese reading for the kanji character "pig". The "katsu" part comes from the Japanese pronunciation of "cutlet".
Katsudon (Japanese Pork Cutlet Bowl)
Katsudon is the king of all rice bowls! It is a popular rice bowl dish topped with breaded deep-fried pork cutlet and onion simmered in soy sauce-flavored dashi sauce and mixed with egg. It is one of the most well-loved Japanese dishes among children and adults.
The recipe page explains not only recipe itself, but also its background information and tips and tricks to make the best of it.
Chicken katsu is basically a chicken version of tonkatsu. Tender chicken thigh coated in a thick and crunchy layer of panko breadcrumbs and fried to perfection, then drizzled with a delicious homemade katsu sauce.
You can see the special sesame katsu sauce in the recipe page!
Katsu curry is basically a Japanese curry rice with any types of katsu. In my recipe, you can check how to make katsu curry from very scratch inspired by the original Japanese curry, as well as chicken katsu using chicken breast.
Menchi Katsu (メンチカツ) is a delicious deep fried dish made with ground meat, onions and seasonings shaped into a patty. To finish it off, it's coated in crunchy, golden panko breadcrumbs and drizzled with a zingy "katsu sauce". You could say it's like a deep fried hamburger patty.
The page below has the detailed menchi katsu recipe and special tips and tricks.
Katsu sando (Japanese Katsu Sandwich)
Katsu sando is basically your favourite "Tonkatsu" recipe in a sandwich. You've probably noticed that tonkatsu is always served with shredded cabbage, the sandwich is no different. Crispy fried katsu, with cabbage and sauce in a sandwich, it's a taste and texture sensation!
You can check out two kinds of sauces for katsu sando below!
Ebi fry (Japanese-style Fried Shrimp)
Ebi Fry is an iconic Japanese deep fried dish made with large shrimp coated in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs. The history of Ebi Fry is uncertain but some theories go all the way back to early 20th century by creating a different version of tonkatsu or menchi-katsu (deep fried mince meat).
In my recipe, there are explanations for what kind of shrimps to use, how to make Japanese style tartar sauce and how to prep shrimps!
Korokke (Japanese style croquette)
Korokke (コロッケ) is the Japanese word for "croquette", a popular type of "dumpling" often made with potatoes, meat or seafood. It's considered as a "yoshoku dish" which is a type of Japanese dish with heavy Western influence.
In the recipe page, you can check it history and secret tips and tricks!
Kani kurimu korokke (crab cream croquette)
As you can assume from the name, crab cream croquette is a type of korokke with a creamy filling. Rather than using potatoes, cream korokke is made with white béchamel sauce and then mixed with other ingredients such as crab, shrimp or chicken.
Check out the recipe for this elegant type of korokke below!
Kabocha Korokke (pumpkin croquette)
Pumpkin croquette is a delicious deep fried dish made from soft, sweet and tasty Japanese winter squash covered in crispy panko breadcrumbs then drizzled with a tangy sauce.
Check out the recipe to see how to make this colourful korokke!
Japanese panko is generally made of Japanese style loaf called "shoku pan". Their production process actually starts from making the bread.
The texture of the result will be different, but those two are interchangeable. However, dishes like katsu and ebi fry turn out to be very different as you can only achieve their iconic flakes by using panko.
No, you cannot use flour instead of panko. The result will be completely different and a lot of dishes end up failing. If you want to substitute panko, you have to use other types of breadcrumbs.
Oatmeal and corn flakes can also be substitute ingredients. Corn flakes are more recommended as a substitute ingredient because they are easier to use than oatmeal. If you use corn flakes, put it in a bag and crush them by hand. Please note to use non-flavoured corn flakes only.