If only there were another word for croutons that didn't evoke the over-spiced, over-garlic'd, miniature bricks that come in stiff little packages for $5.99 at the grocery store... Crisps? Toasty bread bits? Delicious bites of awesome? Whatever the name, throw away your impression of the prepackaged lumps and start thinking fresh. One of the most satisfying ways to take a soup or salad to the next level is a homemade crouton.
Maybe you're thinking croutons are just for French onion soup. Sure, this hearty favorite might be the mother of all crouton-ed soups, but homemade croutons can complement any simpler soup brilliantly. Plus, any leftovers pair fabulously with salad or as a snack. In my house, half of the really good croutons don't even make it to the soup, and are instead eaten warm off the oven tray like potato chips.
Croutons can come small and bite size, or larger, like a small toast. They're an excellent way to use stale bread in the house, and almost any type of bread works from leftover bagels to baguettes to wonderbread.
For a step by step guide to making great croutons, see our cooking lesson:
→ How To Make Croutons for Soups & Salads
Ready to top anything and everything with crisped bread? Here are six great pairings of classic soups and complementary croutons:
(Image: Dana Velden)