Gluten free diets are becoming increasingly popular, even for those who do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. When preparing gluten free recipes, a common challenge is finding a suitable replacement for bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs provide a light, crunchy coating for fried foods, so naturally the question arises – are there gluten free panko bread crumbs available?
The short answer is yes, there are several brands of gluten free panko bread crumbs on the market. They provide the same delicate, crispy texture as regular panko without containing any wheat or gluten. There are a few key things to know when selecting and using gluten free panko bread crumbs in your cooking.
What Are Panko Bread Crumbs?
Panko bread crumbs are a variety of dry bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy, flaky coating for fried foods like tempura. The name “panko” comes from the Japanese words “pan” for bread and “ko” meaning powder or flaky particles.
Panko crumbs are made from bread without crusts, resulting in a light, airy texture. The bread is baked by electrical current instead of direct flame, helping the panko maintain a light, crispy structure without absorbing much oil or moisture when fried.
Traditional panko is made from wheat bread. The gluten protein in wheat contributes to the crispiness and ability of the panko to form a crunchy coating on foods. Gluten free panko provides a similar texture using other grains and starches instead of wheat.
Are Panko Bread Crumbs Usually Gluten Free?
No, traditional panko bread crumbs contain gluten since they are made from wheat bread. Wheat contains gluten proteins which contribute to the unique crunchy, flaky properties of panko.
People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten to prevent adverse health effects. Consuming traditional panko would cause issues for people with these conditions.
Those on a gluten free diet by choice would also want to avoid regular panko and opt for a gluten free variety instead to eliminate gluten from their meals.
What Are Gluten Free Panko Made Of?
There are a few different ingredients used to make gluten free panko bread crumbs:
- Rice: Rice flour or finely ground rice create the flaky texture and act as a binding agent. Rice doesn’t contain gluten.
- Tapioca flour: Tapioca starch provides crispness and mimics the lightness of wheat-based panko.
- Potato starch: Added for additional crispness and binding.
- Cornstarch: Helps replicate the airy texture of panko without the gluten.
Other possible ingredients are sorghum flour, millet flour, and legume flours like chickpea or lentil flour. The combinations vary by brand, but rice tends to make up the bulk of gluten free panko.
Where Can You Find Gluten Free Panko Bread Crumbs?
Gluten free panko has become more widely available as the demand for gluten free specialty products increases. Here are some of the places you can find it:
- Grocery stores: Check the baking aisle, cereal/grains section, or specialty diet area for gluten free panko. Larger stores tend to carry it.
- Health food stores: Stores focused on natural and specialty diets like Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Earth Fare have gluten free panko.
- Online retailers: Amazon, gluten free specialty sites like Thrive Market, and stores like Walmart and Target all sell gluten free panko online.
- Asian grocery stores: Since panko is used in Asian cuisine, check Asian markets for gluten free varieties.
Some of the major brands of gluten free panko include Kikkoman, Ian’s, Aleia’s, and Namaste. Just check the packaging to confirm the panko is certified gluten free.
How to Substitute Gluten Free Panko in Recipes
Gluten free panko can be used in any recipe that calls for regular panko bread crumbs. The substitution is one-to-one – use the same measured amount of gluten free panko to replace wheat panko.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of panko, use 1 cup of gluten free panko. No adjustments or additional ingredients are needed. The texture and crispiness will be very similar using this simple direct substitution.
A few tips for cooking with gluten free panko:
- Use it as a coating for frying foods like shrimp, chicken, or tofu. Dredge foods in egg or milk, then press into the panko.
- Spray oil on foods before coating to help the panko adhere.
- Saute in butter or oil over medium heat until the panko is golden brown and crispy.
- Combine panko with grated Parmesan or herbs for extra flavor.
Gluten free panko works wonderfully as a crunchy topping on casseroles too. Overall, no changes are needed – just swap in the gluten free panko anytime a recipe calls for regular panko bread crumbs.
Nutrition Comparison of Gluten Free vs Regular Panko
From a nutritional standpoint, gluten free and regular panko are fairly similar. Here is a nutrition comparison of 1/4 cup serving of each:
|Nutrient||Gluten Free Panko||Regular Panko|
As you can see, the nutritional values are nearly identical. The main differences are:
- Gluten free panko is slightly higher in carbs
- Regular panko contains more fiber and protein due to the wheat
However, the differences are very small. So you can use gluten free panko without really changing the nutrition of recipes.
Cost Difference of Gluten Free vs Regular Panko
One downside of specialty gluten free products is they often come with a higher price tag. This is true of gluten free panko – it tends to cost $1-3 more per package compared to regular panko.
Here are some average prices for name brand panko:
- Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs (wheat) – $2.50 for 8 oz
- Ian’s Panko Breadcrumbs (gluten free) – $5.99 for 8 oz
- Progresso Panko Bread Crumbs (wheat) – $2.89 for 8 oz
- Aleia’s Gluten Free Panko Bread Crumbs – $4.99 for 7 oz
The gluten free options range from about $3-6 more per pound than regular panko. The extra cost is because specialty gluten free flours and starches are pricier compared to buying regular wheat flour.
Gluten free panko is more expensive, but the difference may be worth it if you require a gluten free diet or simply want to avoid gluten. The texture is very similar to regular panko so you are still getting that light crunch.
Homemade Gluten Free Panko
While gluten free panko can be purchased pre-made, you can also make it easily at home. This allows you to control the ingredients and avoid additives or preservatives.
Here is a simple homemade gluten free panko recipe:
- 3 cups rice flour
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a bowl, whisk together the rice flour, potato starch, garlic powder and salt.
- Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet in a thin layer.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then toss/stir and bake another 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Let cool completely then transfer to a food processor and pulse into breadcrumbs.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
The ratios can be adjusted based on personal preference. Brown rice flour, tapioca starch, or almond flour also work well in gluten free panko. This makes for an easy swap at a fraction of the cost of store-bought.
Are There Any Downsides to Using Gluten Free Panko?
There aren’t really any downsides to using gluten free panko compared to regular panko. Some potential considerations include:
- Higher cost – Gluten free specialty products tend to be more expensive
- Less protein – Gluten free panko has slightly less protein due to no wheat
- Different taste – The flavor may be milder
- Texture varies by brand – Some brands are crispier than others
However, when using panko mainly for the crisp texture in coatings and toppings, these differences are negligible. Most brands of gluten free panko mimic regular panko quite well in terms of crunchiness and flavor.
Gluten free panko can also be used in the same amounts called for in recipes without adjustments. So for most purposes, there are no real downsides to choosing gluten free over regular wheat-based panko crumbs.
Those following a gluten free diet can still enjoy the light, crispy texture of panko bread crumbs. There are several good gluten free panko options available made from rice flour, tapioca starch, and other gluten free flours.
While more expensive than regular panko, gluten free varieties provide nearly the same nutritional value and crunchy texture. They can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio when panko is called for in recipes.
With greater demand for gluten free specialty products, availability and options for gluten free panko are increasing. Check major grocery stores, health food markets, online retailers, and Asian grocers for gluten free panko from brands like Kikkoman, Ian’s, Aleia’s, and Namaste.
Or make your own gluten free panko easily at home with rice flour and potato starch for a fraction of the cost. Either way, those avoiding gluten don’t have to miss out on the delights of light, crispy panko bread crumbs.