This Breadcrumb Swap Brought Crunch Back into My Low-Carb Life

published May 18, 2021
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Credit: Beth Lipton

Onion rings, eggplant Parm, mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets — I really love crunchy foods. But I eat Paleo, so I avoid grains, and I tend to go low-carb, so breadcrumbs are out. Although I’ve made some decent breaded foods with almond flour, it’s just not the same as the crunch you get from panko.

So I may have done a happy dance when I discovered pork panko. It’s just what it sounds like: Breadcrumbs made out of crushed pork rinds. If you’re gluten-free or off grains or watching your carbs or trying to up your protein, these things are a game-changer. 

I’ve found two brands so far that I love: Bacon’s Heir and 4505. The Bacon’s Heir panko is a bit more neutrally flavored and the crumbs are finer, so they’re really versatile for breading just about anything. But the 4505 ones, which are more coarse and a bit porkier, have their place, too — they’re really good in applications where you want that extra bit of texture, such as in crab cakes. I also recently tossed a handful into some chocolate chip nut butter balls, and that was pure sweet-salty, chewy-crunchy heaven. No matter which brand you choose (or if you end up like me and stock both), you can use pork panko anywhere that calls for regular panko — just be aware that it tends to be saltier than traditional panko, so season accordingly.

One must-try: Mix pork panko with shredded cheese and an egg and cook in your waffle iron to make a magical item called a “paffle,” which works as a fantastic brunch item on its own, as a delicious base for an open-faced sandwich (especially good for a tuna melt, BLT or a burger), or even as a pizza crust.