These Crouton Ingredient Swaps Will Take Your Salad To The Next Level

Salad connoisseurs everywhere have a love/hate relationship with croutons. While they often provide a tasty, satisfying crunch and add texture, they're not known as the healthiest ingredient around. And, chances are, if you're eating a salad, you're looking to be healthy. 

While there are a number of health reasons that may deter salad-eaters from croutons, those with sodium sensitivity should be especially careful. After all, they are usually high in salt and contain seasonings that may also have increased sodium levels. Those with celiac's disease, gluten sensitivities, and those who are allergic to wheat should also steer clear of traditional bread croutons to avoid getting sick (via Very Well Fit). Aside from croutons being unhealthy, some salad-lovers simply don't care for the tough, and sometimes stale, texture of the topping. Luckily, if you're looking to spice up your salad without croutons, there are plenty of items that can be used as substitutes.

Instead of croutons, try these veggies

Wasabi peas are one topping that can provide that gratifying crunch and add a kick of spice to your salad. SFGate defines wasabi peas as green peas that have been roasted and coated with a combination of starch, sugar, oil, and wasabi, the last of which is a form of Japanese horseradish. According to Heathline, wasabi has many potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties and anti-cancer properties. And, as Better Me shared, peas are just as good for you with high fiber, a low calorie count, and tons of vitamins and minerals.

Lifehacker suggests consumers try topping their salads with potato chips or french fries for an extra salty kick. But for a healthier option, and more flavorful option, you can substitute veggie chips. You can buy them — they come in a variety of shapes and flavors, including zucchini and beet — or make them yourself.

Sprinkle some fruit in lieu of croutons

Throw some seasoned chickpeas into your salad. Cooking Light suggests tossing them in a blend of salt, paprika, cumin, and black pepper, and popping them into the oven at 400 F for 15 minutes for a rewarding crunch perfect to balance the overall texture of your salad.

Next up are kale chips. Thought these were just a hipster fad? Think again. While consuming baked kale isn't quite as nutritious as raw kale (via Livestrong), any form of kale is a good alternative to carbohydrate-packed croutons. Healthline counts kale among the most nutrient-dense foods on the globe. Drizzle them with a little olive oil or mix with cheese before putting them in the oven for a touch of added flavor.

Dried fruit can also be a great salad topper. Foodbeast recommends cranberries, raisins, craisins, and cherries. But other options include blueberries, figs, apricots, and even bananas. Healthline says dried fruit is extremely good for you as it contains just as many nutrients as fresh fruit and 3.5 times the amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Tasty and healthy? Sounds like a win-win.

Add popcorn to emulate the texture of croutons

Another alternative to carbohydrate-packed croutons is nuts. Sprinkle a small handful of pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or any other nut of your choosing onto your salad for a surefire delicious way to add a healthy serving of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. To maximize the health benefits of nuts, eat them raw (via WebMD).

Spoon University suggests adding popcorn to your salad in lieu of croutons, claiming it will add both texture and flavor, especially if you opt for a light butter or kettle corn option. You can also make cheesy popcorn "croutons" to add a little extra tastiness to your salad.

Healthline also points out that pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats, magnesium, and zinc, which are all essential in keeping our bodies up and moving. They are also high in antioxidants and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Seasoning them with a little salt and roasting them on a sheet pan will leave you with an enjoyable alternative to croutons.