Cooking croutons in your air fryer is kind of a no-brainer, although I don’t know that we can fairly call it «cooking.» “Aggressively toasting” is probably the most accurate description, though “making” also works. Whichever verb you use to describe the process of turning bread into croutons, you should use the air fryer to do it.
This is especially true now, at least in Portland, which will reach a temperature of 111 ℉ this Sunday. Now is not the time for ovens, but it is the time for salads, and I really like putting bread on my salad.
Air fried croutons are not challenging. You could probably figure out how to make them without my guidance. But I have made a lot of them, and I have some suggestions, some tips, and some best practices.
Go ahead and remove the tray from your air fryer
You don’t need that little tray, and removing it lets you fit more bread in the basket, and it gives you more room to shake the bread around. (If you have a toaster-oven style air fryer, leave everything where it is.) Tear some bread up, and throw it in the basket.
Hamburger buns make the best croutons
Let’s be radically honest here: Most croutons are too painful. Croutons made with crusty bread end up too sharp and too chewy, and I don’t like being challenged while eating a salad. Commercially produced hamburger and hotdog buns are soft and squishy, which results in croutons that are light, crispy, and airy, but still slightly chewy. Next time you have leftovers from a BBQ, leave the bag open to accelerate the staling process, then rip them up into bite-sized pieces and toss them in your air fryer basket. (I’ve also made croutons with fresh buns, and they were still very good.)
Buns are also super easy to portion. One bun (either hot dog or hamburger) makes enough croutons for one person, if that person was really enthusiastic about croutons (or two people if they are just kind of into croutons, but not enthralled with them).
Don’t bother pre-heating your air fryer
Another way to make croutons without turning on your oven is to sauté them in butter or oil until they are browned and crispy, and that works just fine, but it is nowhere near as quick or hands-off as making them in the air fryer.
Instead of heating your air fryer to 400 ℉, and then throwing the bread in the basket, I put the bread into the cold basket, and let them heat along with the air fryer. If I’m only making one bun’s worth of croutons — for a personal salad — they’re done by the time the air fryer comes to temp. If I’m making a couple of bun’s worth of croutons, it only takes another minute or two.
Let’s make some croutons
To make air fried croutons, you will need:
- Stale hamburger or hot dog buns (1 per salad eater)
- Olive oil (1 tablespoon per bun)
- Your favorite salt-containing seasoning blend (I’m into Lawry’s — both their garlic salt and their seasoned salt.)
Open your air fryer and take out the little tray. Tear the buns into bite-sized pieces and throw them into the basket. Drizzle them with half the olive oil, toss by shaking the basket, and repeat with the remainder of the oil. Use your hand to toss if needed and make sure every piece of bread is fairy saturated with oil — you want the bread to change color (to yellow, the color of olive oil).
Season the oiled bread heavily with your seasoning salt. Remember, a crouton should act like an exclamation point in your salad; it’s okay if it’s heavily seasoned and salty. (If your air fryer is the toaster oven kind, do all of this in a bowl.)
Close the basket, set the temperature to 400 ℉, and turn it on. After about a minute, open it up and give it a shake. Then let it finish heating. Once it reaches 400 ℉, open it up and see what you’re dealing with. If your croutons are brown and crispy, dump them out and let them cool. If they are a little pale, cook them for another minute. Then put on them on salads — cool, crisp salads — and eat them.