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Storage and Shelf Life of Croutons + 5 DIY Croutons Recipes

RusticWise_StorageAndShelfLifeOfCroutons

Crunchy and savory, croutons add texture and flavor to your salad, soup, stew, or stuffing. Or maybe you like to snack on croutons all on their own. If you have a package of croutons that’s sitting in your pantry, you may wonder about the proper storage and shelf life of croutons. Like other packaged, shelf-stable foods, croutons are still safe to consume past their best-by date.

The word crouton is derived from the French word croûte, which means crust. While most of us are familiar with small, cube-sized croutons, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Let’s take a look at how to properly store croutons to extend shelf life.

Proper storage and shelf life of croutons

The shelf life of croutons really depends on how it’s stored.

Here are recommended food storage guidelines for croutons.

Type of CroutonsStorage at Room TemperatureStorage in freezerStorage in fridge
Store-bought6 months (once opened)Not recommendedNot recommended
Homemade with cheese2-3 daysUp to 1 year (best used within 6 weeks)Up to 5 days
Homemade without cheeseUp to 2 weeksUp to 1 year (best used within 6 weeks)Up to 2 weeks
Unsplash-StorageAndShelfLifeOfCroutons
Credit: The Creative Exchange / Unsplash

How to properly store croutons

Like other dried foods, croutons are best stored in a dry, dark, cool place in an airtight container. Transfer your store-bought croutons into an air-tight storage container for best results. For long-term storage, glass, ceramic, and food-safe metal containers with a tight-fitting lid work well. 

Your pantry is usually a good place to keep your croutons. A dark cupboard will also work so long as it’s away from the heat of the stove, oven, or dishwasher.

Most people keep croutons at room temperature. However, homemade croutons can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Any longer than this, and they’ll turn into a soggy mess.

As croutons need to stay dry, too much humidity can drastically shorten the shelf life of croutons and cause them to mold. When your humidity levels are at 60 percent or higher, you run the risk of moldy croutons (not to mention spoilage of other types of bread and cracker products). 

Can you freeze homemade croutons?

Surprisingly, homemade croutons freeze well. Since they are already dry, just toss them into a Ziploc bag, squeeze out excess air, and seal tightly. They defrost quickly. While it’s not necessary, you may like to re-toast them in the oven for 3-5 minutes before using. 

It’s not recommended freezing store-bought croutons.

Is it safe to eat croutons past the best-by date?

Croutons are a shelf-stable food. According to the USDA, like other shelf-stable foods including rice, pasta, herbs and spices, and canned goods, that best-by date on your package of croutons is just an estimate by the manufacturer of the timeframe for best quality, or optimal freshness.

Tip: If that best-by date has come and gone, your croutons should still be safe to eat. They just might not be as fresh or flavorful.

How can you tell croutons have gone bad?

With food products such as crackers and bread, your first sign of stale food is often the smell. Your nose knows. Stale croutons and bread products have a noticeably altered odor.

Look for any signs of moisture, mold, or damage to the packaging to determine if it’s safe to eat. If anything looks or smells funky, it’s time to throw out those old croutons.

Are croutons actually stale bread?

It’s funny. Croutons are ubiquitous, yet many of us don’t know how they’re actually made. Croutons are an ingenious way to prevent food wastage by using slightly stale bread.

Erm, so, yes, croutons are often made of stale bread. (Perhaps there are some manufacturers or home bakers who use fresh bread?). More accurately, they are toasted stale bread. 

Which leads us to the next question—is stale bread safe to eat?

Yes, stale bread is still safe to eat (so long as there is no mold). If your morning toast was a bit stale, don’t worry, you shouldn’t get sick. 

Moisture levels influence your bread’s shelf life. Too much or too little moisture turns your bread stale. So keep your bread in an airtight package, and away from light and heat.

A tip on buying store-bought croutons

If you’re a fan of store-bought croutons, Dr. Gourmet has a few tips on selecting croutons that are longer-lasting and better tasting.

The key is to look at the croutons’ fat content. This has nothing to do with your waistline, it has more to do with flavor. Apparently, croutons with higher fat content tend to taste stale more quickly.

Look at the fat content per serving. Dr. Gourmet suggests buying croutons with less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams.

Roundup of 5 homemade croutons recipes

While store-bought croutons will do in a pinch, nothing beats homemade food. Looking to make your own batch of delicious homemade croutons? Here’s a roundup of DIY croutons recipes. Bon appétit!

How to Make Homemade Croutons 
With just bread, olive oil, and your choice of seasonings, you’ll have tasty homemade croutons (via Gimme Some Oven).

How To Make Croutons for Soups & Salads
This recipe calls for a sprinkle of Parmesan—yum! (via The Kitchn).

Homemade Coconut Curry Croutons
Here’s a twist on croutons. Add shredded coconut and curry for a fresh spin (via Tablespoon).

Homemade Croutons
If you’re a garlic-lover, you’ll love this recipe for homemade croutons (via Two Peas & Their Pod). 

Spicy Croutons
Add some heat to your croutons with dried chili (via All Recipes).

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  1. Virginia State Extension, Food Storage Guidelines For Consumers (PUBLICATION 348-960), https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/foodstorage-documents/Virginia348-960_pdf.pdf. Accessed November 2020. 
  2. Butler, Carol. “Can Croutons Go Bad?“, Leaf.TV. Accessed November 2020.
  3. USDA, Shelf-Stable Food Safety, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/shelf-stable-food-safety/. Accessed November 2020.
  4. SheKnows, The truth about stale food and whether it can make you sick, https://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/1114897/is-stale-food-safe/. Accessed November 2020.
  5. Dr. Gourmet, Ingredient Information About Store-Bought Croutons, https://www.drgourmet.com/ingredients/croutons-storebought.shtml. Accessed November 2020.

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