12 Gluten-Free Alternatives For Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a staple ingredient in countless recipes, adding texture and flavor to everything from crunchy fried chicken to juicy meatballs. However, traditional breadcrumbs and the ever-popular panko contain gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten can be an integral component in cooking (particularly baking) because it adds structure and texture to a dish. Luckily, gluten's unique benefits aren't nearly as critical for recipes that call for breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs serve two major purposes: They help create a crispy, crunchy coating for baked and fried foods, and they act as a binding agent for dishes like meatballs and meatloaf. For either of those applications, there are many gluten-free substitutes that will do the job just fine — and in some cases better than standard breadcrumbs.

So whether you've embraced a gluten-free lifestyle for a serious health condition like managing celiac disease, or you're simply seeking potential benefits like increased energy, we've got plenty of options for you to experiment with the next time you whip out a recipe that includes breadcrumbs.

(Note: For all of these options, be sure to check the packaging for any risk of cross-contamination from gluten-containing sources.)

Pork rinds

If one of the reasons you're on the hunt for gluten-free breadcrumb alternatives is that you're following a low-carb or keto diet, you can't find a much better substitute than pork rinds. Often packaged as cracklins (though they're technically different foods), pork rinds consist of pig skin that's been boiled, dried, and then fried in peanut oil or lard. This process creates an impressively light and crunchy texture that ends up remarkably similar to panko when crushed.

Pork rinds work equally well as a coating and a binding agent, and they add an extra hit of umami flavor, which means they're a good choice in everything from chicken schnitzel to classic meatloaf. You can even pick up different flavors of pork rinds to complement whatever you happen to be making — perhaps BBQ or cheddar? One caveat: You will probably be able to detect a hint of porkiness in your final dish (which could be a good or a bad thing). Also, pork rinds are typically saltier than typical breadcrumbs, so adjust your recipe's salt levels accordingly.

To make your breadcrumb substitute, you can throw pork rinds into a food processor and pulse until you reach the desired texture. Or, if you don't have a food processor, place the rinds in a large plastic bag and crush them with your fist. You can also simply purchase pre-crushed pork rinds.

Almond meal

Almond flour or meal is another solid gluten-free breadcrumb substitute that also happens to be low carb. Although technically two different ingredients, both are made of crushed almonds — almond meal includes the skin, while the flour is made up of blanched almonds. Either one offers a lovely texture with a satisfying bite, similar to what you'd expect from the gluten-y chew of standard breadcrumbs. This swap works equally well as a coating and a binding agent, though we think the sweet, nutty flavor lends itself best to dredging meats like pork chops, veggies like squash, and white fish like tilapia.

Because of its high-fat content, almond flour makes for a thicker and denser coating than something like panko. It tends to hold up well in baked applications but may be more prone to flaking off during pan frying. Its different nutritional makeup also means that almond meal also absorbs more liquid than standard breadcrumbs, so you'll want to swap using a 3:4 ratio (3 parts almond meal to 4 parts breadcrumbs). For this same reason, you may also want to add an extra egg to your dredging mixture.

You can find either almond meal or almond flour pre-packaged at most grocery stores, or make your own by blending either raw or blanched almonds in a high-powered blender or food processor. Just be careful not to over process, because you'll end up with almond butter instead!


Cornflakes are perhaps the most OG of all the gluten-free breadcrumb substitutes, considering this cereal has been around since about 1877. They also might be one of the simplest and most cost-effective swaps since so many people are likely to already have a box in their pantry. There's nothing quite like crushed-up cornflakes for a crispy crust with a satisfying crunch. In fact, they're typically even more crunchy than regular old breadcrumbs.

While cornflakes can technically also be used as a binding agent, we're more fond of using them as a coating for fried or baked dishes like chicken or fish. They're a particularly apt substitute for panko, as the texture is similar. Keep in mind that cornflakes cereals tend to have some sort of sugar added, so it will add a slightly sweet flavor to whatever you're cooking. To make your own cornflake coating, simply add the cereal to a sealable plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and pound it gently with your fist until the desired texture is reached.

Rolled oats

If there's one gluten-free ingredient that almost all of us have in our pantry, it's rolled (or old-fashioned) oats. Oats lend a lightly sweet flavor and pleasant textural contrast with a satisfying chew. Because they're high in starch, they make an excellent binder in dishes like meatloaf and veggie burgers. In fact, they absorb liquid so well that you'll want to adjust your recipe accordingly: When substituting for breadcrumbs as a binder, start with a ¾ -to-1 ratio.

Oats aren't a standout when it comes to creating a crispy crust, but you can make them work as a coating as well — you just need to take a couple extra steps. The first is to toast them lightly in a frying pan to dry them out. At this stage, you can also add seasonings if you like (the spices will get toasted as well). Then, grind them up into the texture of breadcrumbs using a blender or food processor. That's it! Now you can use them to coat your desired protein or top a casserole.

Cornmeal or polenta

Did you know that cornmeal and polenta are essentially the same thing? Polenta is just coarsely ground cornmeal, and either one is a solid option as a gluten-free breadcrumb substitute — particularly for dishes with a Mexican or Southern flair (pan-fried okra, anyone?). Cornmeal adds a distinct, slightly sweet corn flavor to your dish, plus a more rustic crunch compared to the finer texture of breadcrumbs.

Because cornmeal isn't as absorbent as breadcrumbs, it won't bind ingredients quite as well, but it does work very well for pan-frying or oven-baking. However, you will likely want to use a wetter batter when adapting your recipe.

Either cornmeal or polenta is an excellent pantry staple to have on hand because there are loads of delicious ways to use them. Beyond its application as a crunchy coating, cornmeal is an essential ingredient for tasty dishes like gluten-free cornbread, fluffy blueberry cornmeal pancakes, and old-fashioned shrimp and grits. And it's widely available in nearly every grocery store.

Potato chips

If you've got potato chips in your pantry for snacking, you've got a gluten-free breadcrumb substitute. No doubt the biggest perk here is the crunch factor. Potato chips offer an off-the-charts crispy texture that can be even more pronounced than breadcrumbs. This is perfect for dishes that benefit from a crunch that's extra, like fried chicken or baked mac and cheese.

Going beyond texture, potato chips offer a veritable world of flavor, which is a boon for those who enjoy getting creative in the kitchen. You can use plain or salted chips for a more neutral base or add a whole new dimension to your dish with flavors like salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, or spicy jalapeño. (That last one would be particularly delightful on the aforementioned mac and cheese.) Another upside: There are dozens of other ways to use potato chips in recipes.

To make potato chip crumbs for coating or topping, add them to a plastic bag and crush with your fists or a rolling pin. One important note is to be mindful of salt when using potato chips as a swap. Pretty much every variety is going to have significantly more salt than standard breadcrumbs, so adjust the salt level of your recipe accordingly.

Rice or Corn Chex cereal

Chex cereal isn't just great for enjoying with milk or whipping up a batch of muddie buddys — it's a good gluten-free swap for breadcrumbs, too. Either Rice or Corn Chex can make an excellent crunchy coating for coating foods like poultry or fish, and you can use it largely the same way you use breadcrumbs: Simply dredge your protein of choice in an egg mix and then press into crushed Chex.

To make your Chex crumbs, add the cereal to a plastic bag, seal the bag, and crush using a rolling pin or your fists. For a finer powder, you can also use a blender or food processor. After they're crushed, you can add spices to your Chex crumbs to boost the flavor before baking or frying your food. Because of its light and airy texture, Chex cereal doesn't work quite as well as a binder, though it will act to absorb some liquid. 

Mashed potato flakes

Mashed potato flakes are one of those magical secret weapon ingredients that we wish we learned about when we first started cooking. They work for everything from sopping up moisture in too-runny homemade mashed potatoes to making nostalgic smiley fries. And yes, they're a great gluten-free breadcrumb substitute, too. Potato flakes excel at absorbing liquid, making them a superstar for dishes that benefit from maintaining both their shape and moisture during cooking (meatloaf and meatballs come to mind).

Because they're essentially dehydrated potato, they can also create a wonderfully crunchy coating for oven- or pan-fried meats (the starch naturally crisps up when exposed to heat). To use them this way, simply dredge your protein in an egg wash and coat with a mixture of potato flakes and spices (and maybe some parmesan if desired). One note here: The flakes tend to get absorbed into more liquidy casseroles, so they aren't necessarily optimal as a crispy topping.

A few things to consider when swapping in mashed potato flakes: For one, they can be a bit bland on their own, so don't be shy with the spices. Season them well before using them to add flavor to your dish. Also, because they absorb moisture so well, you might need slightly less of them than a breadcrumb-containing recipe calls for, so start with a smaller amount and add more as needed.

Coconut flakes and shreds

For a sweet and tropical twist, coconut flakes are a solid swap for breadcrumbs. Because of their flavor profile, this option is a great pairing for seafood and chicken — and it makes for a delightful dessert-topping. To that same end, keep in mind that these flakes will add a distinct coconut taste to your dish.

While they will absorb a bit of moisture, we don't recommend coconut flakes for binding (though you could try coconut flour instead if you want to stay in this realm). But they do add an enjoyable crunch when used as a coating or topping. We love them for coconut shrimp.

For the most breadcrumb-like texture, pulse them a few times in a food processor before dredging and coating your food. You can also leave coconut shreds as is and then mix them with another substitute on this list for a 1-to-1 breadcrumb replacement. To bring out the coco-nuttiness even more, toast the flakes before using them.

Sesame seeds

As far as seeds go, sesame seeds are a nice gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs because there's no need to process or crush them before use — they're already the right size. This option offers a slightly nutty flavor that you can amp up by toasting the seeds in a dry pan. Toasted or not, sesame seeds pair well with both poultry and seafood, particularly in Asian or Middle Eastern recipes.

Sesame seeds are low carb, making them a good choice for those who are following a keto (or similar) diet in addition to being gluten-free. That being said, this lack of starch also makes the seeds a poor choice for absorbing moisture, so they don't work as a binder at all. Stick to using this one to create a crispy coating — like on this sesame-crusted tuna steak. If you have extras lying around after, use them up in a homemade za'atar blend.

Gluten-free crackers

Crackers like Ritz have been a widely-used breadcrumb substitute for years, and gluten-free crackers are no exception. Crushed crackers can add a toothsome bite to baked and fried foods, and they're a good binder thanks to their ability to absorb moisture in a dish.

Thanks to the popularity of gluten-free diets, there's no shortage of compliant crackers on the market — or if you're feeling adventurous, you can make your own gluten-free crackers. In either case, there are some fun flavor options available here, like rosemary and olive oil, cheddar, and even pizza. But go for plain if you're worried about overpowering the flavor of your dish (flavored crackers can definitely have that effect). Another thing to keep in mind is that gluten-free crackers vary hugely in texture, so using them as a breadcrumb swap can involve a bit of trial and error.

The simplest way to create crumbs for coating, topping, or binding is to add the crackers to a plastic bag and crush with your fists or a rolling pin until you reach the desired texture.

Gluten-free pretzels

If you've got any salty snackers in the house, it's never a bad idea to keep some gluten-free pretzels on hand. They're great to munch on and make a remarkably good breadcrumb substitute because they provide a similar texture when crushed. This satisfying crunch makes them the perfect topping for casseroles or coating for foods fried either in a pan or the oven.

Crushed pretzels are also equally as absorbent as breadcrumbs, so they're a solid option to use as a binder. Just remember that most store-bought gluten-free pretzels are coated with salt, so they tend to add a stronger savory hit than typical breadcrumbs. Be sure to adjust your salt ratios accordingly.

To make pretzel crumbs with the most similar texture to breadcrumbs, it's best to pulse them a few times in a food processor. However, you can also crush them up in a plastic bag using your fist or a rolling pin. Once crushed, use them in a 1-to-1 swap for the breadcrumbs in your recipe.