Let me start off by throwing this out there; I like panko. I’ve been using panko breadcrumbs for years, and I’ll continue to do so until grocery stores everywhere decide they aren’t going to sell it anymore. So now that I’ve said what needed to be said, I can share with you something that’s actually relevant.

So what is panko you might be asking yourself? And how is it different than regular breadcrumbs?

Well actually, Panko is a type of breadcrumbs. It’s just that “breadcrumbs” is a very broad term, and there are multiple kinds of breadcrumbs.

There are however, some important differences between Panko and what we know to be “regular breadcrumbs”.

When I say “regular breadcrumbs” I’m referring to something similar to anything you could make at home that involves toasting bread (you can use many different kinds) in the oven and then breaking it up with a rolling pin or even tossing the dried bread into a food processor for a few pulses. You can then give it a quick dash of seasoning if you wish and throw it in a container to be used when needed.

What separates these two staple products, is their texture and the process by which they’re made. Real panko is made from a special type of white bread that has no crusts. This crustless bread is coarsely ground into large, airy flakes – as opposed to crumbs –  and then dried.

Because panko is lighter and has a flakier consistency than regular breadcrumbs, it’s great for fried foods. Panko also stays crispier for longer because it absorbs less oil. This means foods breaded with panko won’t come out as heavy as they would with regular breadcrumbs.

The word “panko” comes from Japanese, and it’s used as a light breading in their cuisine. In fact, it’s used in Asian cuisine in general, but has definitely been growing in popularity in Western dishes.

Apart from being used as a breading for deep frying, panko can also be used to thicken up soups and sauces. As with flour or cornstarch with water, panko will thicken sauces by absorbing water and adding a bit of texture. But it goes particularly well as a topping on baked pasta dishes such as classic macaroni and cheese, and virtually any casserole.