Are breadcrumbs fattening?

Breadcrumbs are a common ingredient used for coating and topping various foods. They provide a crispy, crunchy texture and are often used in dishes like breaded chicken, casseroles, meatloaf and more. But some people wonder, are breadcrumbs actually high in calories and fat? Can they sabotage your healthy eating goals?

What are Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs are made from bread that has been dried out and ground up into tiny crumbs. There are a few different types of breadcrumbs:

  • Plain breadcrumbs – Made from white bread. Most common type used.
  • Whole wheat breadcrumbs – Made from whole wheat bread. Provides more fiber.
  • Panko breadcrumbs – Japanese-style breadcrumbs made from white bread without the crust. Crispiest type.
  • Gluten-free breadcrumbs – Made from gluten-free bread for people with gluten intolerance.
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs – Plain breadcrumbs with added seasonings like garlic, oregano, parsley, etc.

Store-bought plain breadcrumbs are typically made from refined white bread. However, you can also easily make breadcrumbs at home from whole grain or sourdough bread for a healthier option.

Nutritional Profile of Breadcrumbs

The calories and fat in breadcrumbs can vary based on the type:

Type Calories per 1/4 cup Fat (grams per 1/4 cup)
Plain breadcrumbs 106 1.5
Whole wheat breadcrumbs 93 1.4
Panko breadcrumbs 120 0.5
Seasoned breadcrumbs 112 2

As you can see, a 1/4 cup serving of plain or seasoned breadcrumbs contains around 100-120 calories and 1-2 grams of fat. Whole wheat and panko breadcrumbs are a little lower in calories and fat.

So breadcrumbs are relatively low in calories and fat compared to many other cooking ingredients. The small amount used to coat foods adds a crisp texture without much added fat or calories.

Are Breadcrumbs High in Carbs?

Breadcrumbs are made from bread, so they do contain a good amount of carbohydrates:

  • Plain breadcrumbs: 21g carbs per 1/4 cup
  • Whole wheat breadcrumbs: 18g carbs per 1/4 cup
  • Panko breadcrumbs: 24g carbs per 1/4 cup

The majority of the carbs come from starch and a small amount of naturally occurring sugars. Breadcrumbs don’t contain any added sugars.

The carbohydrate content may be a concern for people following very low-carb or ketogenic diets. But for most healthy adults, the small serving used to coat foods is a reasonable source of carbohydrates.

Tips for Reducing Carbs and Calories in Breadcrumbs

If you’re looking to lower the carb or calorie count, here are some ideas:

  • Use whole wheat panko breadcrumbs – These provide more fiber and nutrients than plain white breadcrumbs.
  • Make your own whole grain breadcrumbs – Use 100% whole wheat or seed bread and process into crumbs.
  • Replace half the breadcrumbs with rolled oats – Adds more fiber and lowers the carbs.
  • Use almond flour instead – Much lower in carbs than breadcrumbs.
  • Use less breadcrumbs – A thin coating will still provide crunch without excess carbs.
  • Skip breading – For chicken or fish, you can skip the breadcrumbs and use just egg and seasoning.

Making adjustments like this can reduce the carbs and calories from breadcrumbs, if needed. But for most healthy diets, plain breadcrumbs in normal amounts are fine.

Do Breadcrumbs Cause Weight Gain?

Breadcrumbs can be part of a healthy diet without causing weight gain. Here are a few reasons why:

Breadcrumbs Are Low in Calories

At only 100-120 calories per 1/4 cup serving, breadcrumbs are considered a low-calorie food.

The small amount used to coat foods adds very minimal calories. A thin coating of 1-2 tablespoons breadcrumbs increases the calorie count by just 30-60 calories.

This is a negligible amount of calories that won’t significantly impact your daily intake or lead to weight gain.

It Depends How They Are Used

Breadcrumbs only provide small amounts of carbs, fat and protein on their own. How fattening they are depends on how you use them:

  • Minimally processed chicken breast baked with a light coating of breadcrumbs is a lean, protein-packed meal.
  • Deep-fried chicken tenders overloaded with breadcrumbs become high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats, and may contribute to weight gain.

It’s the type of food and cooking method, not the breadcrumbs themselves, that determine the calories. Breadcrumbs can be used both in healthy recipes and less healthy fried foods.

Breadcrumbs Don’t Drastically Increase Portion Sizes

Some ingredients like pasta, rice or baked goods can increase the calorie density and overall portion size of a meal.

But a small sprinkling of breadcrumbs doesn’t significantly increase the volume of food. They simply add a crunchy breaded coating without providing large amounts of carbs, fat or calories.

So breadcrumbs themselves do not promote overeating or lead to weight gain. Again, it’s how you use them that matters.

They Help Provide Fullness

Interestingly, breadcrumbs may support weight management because they add volume, texture and absorb moisture. This helps food remain in the stomach longer, leaving you feeling full and satisfied.

Studies show that foods with a crunchy texture also require more chewing, which promotes fullness compared to soft, mushy foods.

So while they aren’t incredibly high in fiber or protein, breadcrumbs do provide some advantages that support feeling full after eating.

They Can Be Part of a Balanced Diet

At around 100 calories with 20 grams of carbs per serving, breadcrumbs can fit into a balanced diet:

  • A thin coating adds a negligible amount of carbs and calories.
  • Using whole grain breadcrumbs provides more fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • When combined with lean protein and vegetables, they make a well-rounded, nutritious meal.
  • They can be accounted for as part of your daily carb intake.

As with any food, it’s important to pay attention to portion sizes. But when used properly, breadcrumbs don’t promote weight gain and can be part of a healthy diet.

Healthiest Ways to Use Breadcrumbs

Here are some healthy and nutritious ways to include breadcrumbs in your diet:

1. Baked Chicken or Fish

Chicken and fish tend to be very lean sources of protein. Baking them with a light coating of breadcrumbs adds crunch and flavor with minimal added calories or carbs.

For the healthiest options, choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts or fillets of white fish like cod or tilapia. Coat with egg, spread a thin layer of breadcrumbs and bake.

2. Turkey Meatballs and Meatloaf

Ground turkey is another lean protein that partners well with breadcrumbs. Add some breadcrumbs to your turkey meatball or meatloaf recipe for moisture and texture.

Aim for at least 90% lean turkey meat and mix with a couple tablespoons of whole wheat breadcrumbs per pound of meat. Season and bake for a delicious, protein-packed meal.

3. Whole Grain Casseroles

Casseroles are an excellent way to sneak in extra vegetables. Make a casserole based on whole grains, beans, veggies and lean protein. Top with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake until browned.

Try a whole wheat macaroni and cheese casserole with broccoli or a quinoa veggie casserole. The breadcrumbs add nice crunch and texture.

4. Healthy Homemade Crunchy Toppings

Make your own seasoned breadcrumb mixture to sprinkle on soups, salads, vegetables, pasta and more.

Mix together plain breadcrumbs with spices like garlic powder, paprika, oregano and black pepper. Store in a jar for a quick flavor booster anytime.

5. Whole Grain Breadcrumb Coating for Veggies

Coat vegetables in a mixture of egg and whole wheat breadcrumbs, then bake until crispy. Try zucchini slices, cauliflower florets, sweet potato wedges or eggplant cutlets prepared this way.

The breadcrumbs really jazz up the flavors and textures of veggies. Serve as a side dish or appetizer.

Are There Any Downsides to Breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs don’t come with many downsides, but here are a couple things to keep in mind:

1. May Contain Additives

Store-bought white breadcrumbs are made from refined white bread. During processing, food manufacturers sometimes add preservatives or other additives to prolong shelf life.

To avoid additives, check the ingredients and opt for additive-free breadcrumbs, or better yet, make your own.

2. Usually Made from Refined Flour

Plain breadcrumbs provide very little nutritional value. They are typically made from refined grains, so they lack the fiber, protein and nutrients that whole grain products offer.

For better nutrition, use whole wheat panko crumbs or prepare your own breadcrumbs from 100% whole grain bread.

3. Can Contribute to Excess Carbs

Breadcrumbs are higher in carbs than other crunchy coating options like ground nuts or seeds. People on very low-carb diets may want to limit breadcrumbs.

If watching your carb intake, you can reduce the amount of breadcrumbs, skip breading foods altogether, or replace breadcrumbs with almond flour or flax meal in some recipes.

4. Risk of Acrylamide Formation

When starchy foods like breadcrumbs are cooked at high temperatures, a harmful chemical called acrylamide can form. This happens primarily with frying, roasting or baking at temperatures above 120°C or 250°F.

To reduce acrylamide, avoid burnt or charred breadcrumb coatings and don’t breadcrumb-coat foods that will be deep-fried or air-fried at high heat.


Breadcrumbs are a versatile ingredient that can be part of a healthy diet when used properly. A small amount of breadcrumbs adds a crispy, textured coating and minimal calories or carbs to dishes.

For the most nutrition, choose whole grain breadcrumbs or make your own from whole wheat, rye or seeded bread varieties. Use a light coating on lean proteins and vegetables, and avoid frying breadcrumbed foods.

Carefully prepared, breadcrumbs enhance the flavor, texture and nutrition of all kinds of delicious recipes without sabotaging your healthy eating goals. So don’t feel guilty about enjoying some crunchy, breaded foods when breadcrumbs are used in moderation.

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