Crunchy and flavorful, these Easy Vegan Croutons are the perfect topping for soups and salads. Flavor them any way you wish and make them quickly in the oven or air fryer.
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Hey Internet, it might seem strange for me to do a whole blog post on croutons, but truth be told it seems like all of the store-bought versions have butter and cheese.
Today I’m also publishing a fantastic vegan Italian salad that mimics Olive Garden’s and I was in need of croutons. But none of the croutons at my local grocery store fit my lifestyle, and I couldn’t find many recipes online that would either.
Although I could (and have) just eat all these croutons by themselves, they're especially fantastic on salads like my vegan goat cheese salad with strawberries and pecans, vegan avocado salad, vegan kale caesar salad, vegan white bean salad, and pomegranate orange pecan salad. These vegan croutons are also awesome on soup like butternut squash soup or corn chowder!
I know not all of my readers eat oil-free, but many of you have shared that you are. So I decided to make some oil-free croutons myself and share the recipe with you, no matter how simple it is.
I've also shared how to use a bit of oil to make your vegan croutons richer and more like traditional croutons. I have tried both methods (oil and water) and they both work very well.
As you will see with the water method, I basically just cut up bread, affix spices with water, and bake them until they are crispy. You can make them slightly soft if you prefer!
You can customize these croutons with any spices you like. Make them cheesy with nutritional yeast if you like, or you can even make sweet croutons with a little sugar and cinnamon!
So yeah, there’s not much to say about croutons, honestly, so let’s just get into the article, or you can scroll to the recipe—your choice.
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Why This Recipe Works
It's not that hard to make croutons. All you need is some bread, spices, and either water or oil. If using oil, I recommend spray oil so you don't soak your bread too much.
As far as bread, you don't absolutely need to have stale bread. I've made this with fresh bread and it's totally delicious. The only difference is that stale bread actually cooks a little faster into vegan croutons (because a lot of the moisture has already left the bread).
Also, stale bread is easier to cut into cubes than fresh soft (especially sandwich) bread.
For the oil-free version, I like to mist the cubed bread with water and then add the spices/herbs while the bread is still wet.
The spices stick a *little* better with the oil, but the water method still works.
You can bake or air fry these croutons. I think air frying is faster, but you can make a larger batch while baking, so you decide which method is right for you.
I will say, if I'm making a salad, I'll often just pop one or two slices of bread worth of croutons in the air fryer and they're done and cooling by the time I'm done making a salad. So convenient!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- 4 slices of sandwich bread: Technically any bread will work. I've made vegan croutons with French bread, whole wheat bread, white bread, and sourdough bread. You could even get fancy and make vegan challah bread into croutons. You can also use gluten-free bread if you need to.
- For more protein, you could use this method with chickpeas instead of bread! You may need to cook them a little bit longer, but the prep work is the same.
- Spray oil or water in a spray bottle: I recommend a spray oil for evenly misting the bread without soaking it. If using water, I also recommend putting it in a spray bottle to distribute the water evenly without using so much that your bread gets soaked through.
- Spices and dried herbs of choice: Use whatever spices and seasonings you like. I like to use garlic powder, onion powder, and dried parsley. You could use Italian seasonings or any other spices you like. Everything seasoning is also fantastic for croutons (thanks to my hubby Paul for the idea!). You can use salt if you wish.
How to Make Vegan Croutons
- If you're using the oven method, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 degrees Celsius). Line a baking tray with parchment paper, or if you can use silicone baking mats. I like them because they are more cost effective and they are reusable!
- Also, make sure you have your water in a spray bottle (if using water instead of oil).
- I also recommend having your spices measured out and mixed in a little bowl. It helps evenly apply the seasoning on the croutons, plus we don't want to be fumbling with spices and measuring spoons when the bread is wet (especially when using the water method.
- Now slice up your bread into squares. I find it easier to use a serrated knife for this task so I don’t squish the bread. You can also just tear it into pieces. Leave the crusts on or remove them according to your preference. Add the squares of bread to a large bowl.
- Using your oil or spray bottle, finely mist the bread a few times, and quickly sprinkle the spices and herbs on top. Use a silicone spatula to gently stir the bread. You can then repeat this process if you wish to cover the unseasoned side of the bread, but I find there’s enough flavor just doing one side, plus I’m usually kind of lazy to be honest.
- Oven method: Bake the croutons at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius) for approximately 10 minutes. Check on them halfway through, as everyone’s ovens differ.
- Air fryer method: Arrange your croutons in a single layer in your air fryer basket and cook for about 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees degrees Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius) or until they are browned to your liking.
- You may choose how brown you want your croutons. Barely browned will be a little softer, while more browned will be crunchier.
- Store leftover vegan croutons in an airtight container on the counter for up to 5 days. Mine never last that long though; everyone in my house snacks on them.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Nope, your bread doesn't have to be stale. It may take just a tiny bit longer to cook (since there is more moisture in the bread) and softer, fresher bread can be slightly challenging to cut, but if you don't care what it looks like, just tear it into similar sized pieces.
Just use water in a spray bottle as indicated in the recipe. You'll have to work a little quicker though, since water will absorb into the bread while oil sits on top. I like to mist the bread with water and quickly sprinkle already mixed seasonings from a small bowl. Toss gently to coat and spread out on your baking tray or add to your air fryer basket.
Yes, but your little cubes of bread may fall through the rack. Either use a solid tray built for your toaster oven, or cut your croutons large enough that they won't fall through.
These vegan croutons are as healthy as the bread you use. If you're concerned, try a healthier whole grain or sprouted grain bread and use the water method. You can also swap out the bread for chickpeas (they will take a little longer to cook).
Yep. I've made vegan croutons with sourdough, French bread, white sandwich bread, whole wheat sandwich bread, even vegan challah works well.
Pro Tips for Success
- Measure out your spices in advance and mix them in a small bowl. This will ensure a much more even application and less stress.
- Add a little nutritional yeast to your spice mixture for a savory, almost cheesy flavor.
- Check your croutons halfway through the cooking process to make sure they're cooking evenly. I usually stop mine a minute early just to check and make sure they aren't overcooking.
- You can make a double or even triple batch of these in the oven, but if using an air fryer, try not to crowd the basket. If you have a smaller air fryer basket, you may even want to halve the recipe. Croutons should be cooked in a single layer, ideally with a little breathing room around each piece so it gets evenly crunchy.
How to Use Croutons
The BEST applications for croutons in my opinion are salads, but they’re also super good in soups. Here are some awesome vegan recipes to throw croutons onto:
- Vegan Italian Salad (Olive Garden style)
- Vegan Goat Cheese Salad with Strawberries and Pecans
- Kale Caesar Salad
- Avocado Salad
- Pomegranate Salad with Oranges and Pecans
- White Bean Salad
- Butternut Squash Carrot Ginger Soup
- Corn Chowder
- Tomato Soup
- Hearty Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Vegan Cream of Chicken Soup