Bake Croutons In This Ingredient To Give Your Salad An Extra Savory Kick

Croutons are one of those foods that taste better homemade. Thankfully, they're low maintenance, the perfect way to give stale bread a second life, and can be customized to your taste buds' content. And good news — the secret to the best croutons ever might be hiding in your pantry right now. It's that concentrated flavor bomb you find in tubes, jars, and cans. It's even often included on lists of canned foods worth buying. We're talking about tomato paste.

Tomato paste is basically a blend of waterless, seedless, and skinless tomatoes. In other words, it's supercharged tomato flavor. The thick paste is rich and sweet with less acidity than other tomato products. It's also a natural source of umami, a pleasant and savory taste.

Many salads will benefit from the umami richness created with tomato paste croutons. Their flavorful punch stands up well in hearty chopped salads. The concentrated tomato flavor also pairs nicely with creamy, tangy dressing in a classic Caesar salad. And even if your Greek salad recipe doesn't include croutons, it doesn't mean you can't add them. The rich tomato crunch contrasts nicely with the creamy feta cheese. Once you try tomato paste croutons, you may want to add them to every salad you make.

How to make tomato paste croutons

To make tomato paste croutons, choose your bread wisely. You'll need a bread like sourdough that can handle some extra moisture. Cut or tear the bread into bite-sized pieces. Mix 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, a pinch of salt, a hefty dash of oregano, and some red pepper flakes if you like a little spice. Toss your bread pieces in this zesty mixture until they're fully coated.

Spread the coated bread pieces on a baking sheet and slide them into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking time will depend on your bread's freshness and size, so start checking at 10 minutes, though it may take a few minutes longer. Give the future croutons a toss or two partway through to ensure even baking. They're done when they're golden brown and crispy — you'll know because you won't be able to resist tasting one to test!

This approach will lead to delicious croutons, but don't hesitate to experiment — think of croutons as little cubes of creativity. Instead of oregano, try basil, thyme, or a mix of Italian herbs. For a nice garlicky flavor, add minced garlic to the tomato paste mixture. Create a cheesy crust by sprinkling grated Parmesan on the bread pieces before baking. However you customize them, your homemade tomato paste croutons will be great on salads, soups, or as a delicious snack straight off the pan!