What is Panko?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Panko is the Japanese word for “bread crumbs.” They are the Japanese version of bread crumbs, and they tend to be lighter, crispier, and crunchier than Western bread crumbs. They are excellent for breadings, and make an excellent filler in things like crab cakes. Many Asian specialty stores carry panko, and it is also available in some conventional grocery stores, especially those in urban areas.

Panko can be used to give crab cakes a light crispy coating.
Panko can be used to give crab cakes a light crispy coating.

Several things set panko aside from regular bread crumbs. The first thing is the coarse grind, which creates bread crumbs which are more like flakes than crumbs. The flakes have a large surface area, which absorbs seasoning well. They tend to stay crispy longer than regular bread crumbs, and they also absorb less grease.

In Asian cuisine, panko are often used to create a lacy outer layer of breading. The flaky structure ensures that the crumbs do not compress, but instead form a layer of airy breading on the exterior of fried foods. Grease drains readily from foods dredged in panko, making the resulting food taste less heavy and oily than it might otherwise. Seafood, in particular, fares very well with this coating.

The flake like structure also makes these crumbs a great choice for a crispy topping on casseroles, lasagnas, and similar foods. The panko can be lightly sprinkled on top, along with melted butter. As it roasts in the oven, the crumbs will become crispy and richly flavorful from the butter and the seasonings in the food. Baked foods can also be tossed in panko for a crunchy outer layer which helps them retain moisture.

There are two forms: white panko is made from crustless bread, while tan panko is made with the entire loaf. Both types are usually sold plain, and they can in fact be rather bland. However, the crumbs absorb flavor readily, making them an extremely versatile ingredient. Some companies also make seasoned versions with popular Asian spices.

When a recipe calls for bread crumbs, panko crumbs can be substituted for a more light, airy feel. Just like regular bread crumbs, they can be mixed into things like quiche and seafood cakes as a filler, but the crumbs do not make these foods dense and heavy, as regular bread crumbs often do. Breadcrumbs can be used to replace panko in recipes which call for the ingredient, but be prepared for a heavier end result. Cracker meal can sometimes be used as a substitute as well.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Anon206210: True, oats do not contain gluten. However, those of us with celiac, or gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy who must maintain a strict gluten free diet must not eat oats unless they are certified gluten free.

Oats that are not certified gluten free are processed in the same facilities as wheat, barley, spelt, and other gluten grains, thus the oats are contained with gluten.

I'm a celiac and I became very ill from eating steel cut oats that were not certified gluten free. I love oats and eat them almost daily, but I only eat certified gluten free oats now that I know about the cross contamination.


Linedancegal: Oats do not contain gluten.


can Panko bread crumbs be frozen?


Whole Foods is suppose to have gluten-free Panko crumbs.


Panko is corn free. It is made with wheat flour.


is panko corn free? Thank you.


But do the bread crumbs have gluten too? I think I might be allergic to it.


Woe is me! I'm allergic to wheat and rice, so it looks like no panko for me.


"You need to see a Doctor!" what a thing to say. If the poster asking the gluten question knows that she has celiac disease, then she has seen a doctor. One doesn't need to make a doctor's appointment to find out if a certain food is gluten-free or not. That's ridiculous. Especially if your doctor isn't familiar with non-western foods.


If you want gluten free, don't risk eating this or any thing crispy. Stick to rice, steamed fish and some fresh pears.


Traditional Japanese Panko is made with bleached or unbleached wheat flour and not whole wheat. For those that want to make it at home it is very difficult because the traditional process of cooking the bread is not with heat but electric current. This process creates a crust-less bread loaf with small air pockets. When this type of bread is ground it creates sliver shape crumbs, which is the preferred shape vs a hard round crumb if you were to grind standard bread.


Panko is made with wheat flour but is it 100 percent whole wheat? If not it is enriched or unbleached therefore same as white flour. Does anybody know the answer?


"Can anyone tell me if panko is gluten-free."

Are you serious! you need to consult a doctor regarding your disease.


Since Panko can be either wheat or rice based, can one make their own?


yes, panko does contain gluten..you can get gluten free panko at wholefoods.


Panko is made with Wheat flour and has gluten. Gluten is required because Panko is made from yeast risen bread, and gluten allows the bread to rise correctly. Also if you want good panko purchase it from a Japanese Grocery store or from a foodservice manufacture that sells Panko to restaurant chefs. There is a big difference in quality. The panko I have purchased in regular grocery stores is small, hard and not very good.


I have used panko that was made from rice flour; however, lately I have only been able to find it made from wheat flour. Rice flour panko may be available in Asian markets but I haven't had a chance to look for it.


Having been a chef for many years panko is made of rice flour and therefore gluten free.


Panko is not gluten free if panko is a product of wheat. Even if the flour is white which is from wheat, gluten is present.


panko is a wheat product.


How much Panko equals a slice of white bread?


I think panko bread crumbs are made with wheat, therefore NOT gluten free.


Can anyone tell me if panko is gluten-free? I have celiac disease, and cannot eat anything containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley or oats). Thanks!

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