For many centuries, people from all over the world have been making croutons to upcycle stale bread. This humble food item is a direct Latin translation of “crusta, “ which means the shell or crust of a loaf of bread. The French words “croute” and “croustade” also refer to the croutons we know today.
In the Middle Ages, stale bread was the perfect complement to salads, main entrees, and soups. Some people assumed that croutons first appeared in France and were inspired by baked goods. However, no solid evidence can support these claims about croutons’ exact origin.
Who invented the first croutons?
While the history of croutons goes as far back as the history of bread in the Neolithic Era, it was only in 1511 that it was introduced to the masses by a British doctor named William Forrester. Croutons were commonplace in French households during the Middle Ages when stale bread was customarily soaked in wine, milk, and soup.
Crouton history’s key contributors (and evolution)
- Neolithic peopleThe history of bread
It is believed that croutons were an accidental invention. People in the Neolithic Age used stale bread as makeshift serving bowls for soups and stews.
- The FrenchCrouton’s home country
The French of the Middle Ages is credited as the inventors of croutons. It was one of the many techniques for using stale bread. Instead of throwing them away or feeding them to chickens and pigs, day-old bread was placed on top of soups as it added substance and texture.
- William ForresterIntroducing croutons to the British
A doctor named William Forrester was credited to be the inventor of the modern crouton. In 1511, he suggested the widespread adoption of croutons in the daily diet of the British population. However, the movement was unsuccessful as most British preferred oats as one of their primary sources of carbohydrates.
- Oscar TschirkyCroutons’ American debut
The Swiss-American restaurateur Oscar Tschirky introduced croutons to the American public. He incorporated croutons into his signature salad which was subsequently named after him. An authentic Waldorf salad includes croutons as one of its primary ingredients.
- Rothbury FarmsNational Crouton Day Celebration
Rothbury Farms, a bread manufacturing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced May 13 as National Crouton Day. The brand started the tradition of celebrating National Crouton Day in 2015.
When was the first crouton created?
It is believed that croutons were accidental inventions during the Neolithic Era. Our ancestors used stale bread, known as sops, as a serving dish or makeshift spoon when eating soups and stews. Therefore, crouton was perceived as a practical food item, allowing them to consume their meals without dishware.
A brief history of croutons
While croutons were invented during the Neolithic Age, croutons are considered a French invention. The first formal mention of them was in the 1500s when they were called “croute” or ” “croustade” which means slice in the French dialect. The French also used these small bits as palate cleansers during dinner parties; there’s even a belief they kept bugs from crawling up into your mouth!
It was reported that William Forrester, an Englishman who lived in France for some time, introduced croutons to the British. He created this dish when he noticed how much more flavorful and hearty soups and salads were with the addition of croutons.
In the 1599 cookbook “Le Viandier,” croutons are mentioned as an accompaniment to soup. However, it was not until the 18th century that croutons were seasoned with herbs and spices.
In the late 19th century, Oscar Tschirky, one of the most iconic figures in New York City dining, introduced the many delicious possibilities of croutons in the United States. Besides his inventive culinary creations, which included iconic dishes such as chicken a la king and eggs Benedict, Tschirky introduced another classic food item to the American public: croutons. Originally a French staple, croutons were simply small pieces of bread that had been fried or baked. Tschirky’s version featured cubes of bread tossed with olive oil and spices, then oven-baked until golden brown. The dish was an instant hit with hotel guests and soon found its way onto restaurant menus across the country.
Rothbury Farms, a leading manufacturer of croutons and other salad toppings, has announced the creation of National Crouton Day. The holiday will be celebrated on May 13th, featuring a variety of crouton-centric activities, including crouton tastings, crouton-themed games, and more. In addition, Rothbury Farms encourages crouton lovers to celebrate the holiday by enjoying their favorite salads and sharing photos and recipes on social media using the hashtag #NationalCroutonDay.
The croutons timeline
- Neolithic AgeCroutons were invented shortly after bread
The people from the Neolithic Age are believed to be the first consumers of croutons. As breadmaking during this period was done without leavening agents, the bread was naturally hard and became stale faster. Stale bread was used as sops or makeshift spoons when consuming liquid dishes such as soups and stews.
- 1511The modern croutons were invented
William Forrester invented the modern croutons in 1511. He introduced the use of croutons as a nutritious topping for soups and other liquid dishes to the British.
- 1599Croutons were first introduced in Britain
The entry of croutons into mainstream consciousness was slow. It took more than eight decades for croutons to become a household name in France, Britain, and the rest of Europe.
- 20<sup>th</sup> CenturyCroutons were served to the masses
Oscar Tschirky was credited to have made croutons a popular bread in the United States. He first used croutons as one of the primary ingredients of his now world-famous Waldorf Salad.
Where was the first crouton created?
Based on recorded accounts, croutons first appeared in France. These small pieces of bread were used as soup and salad toppings. The term crouton refers to French bread toasted or fried and then soaked in liquid dishes.
The importance of the first croutons
- How the first croutons came about
In the Middle Ages, people rarely threw away stale bread. Day-old slices of bread were customarily fed to livestock in France. It was considered wasteful to throw away bread as life was hard during Medieval times. Many suggest that the crouton is an innovation rather than an invention.
- Introduction of croutons in soups and salads
Soups and salads in the old days were usually bland as they only contained a few essential ingredients. To make these dishes more filling, people added croutons.
- Seasoned croutons
Seasoned croutons were a product of creativity by the French people. As it became a widespread food item, the people innovated and added herbs and spices to make their dining experience more satisfying.
- Not the healthiest salad topping
While croutons add flavor and texture, they are not the healthiest food topping. Traditional croutons are high in calories and contain high levels of sodium.
Croutons by the numbers
- 500-1500 ADWe can trace the connection between stale bread and soup in the early Middle Ages. The French used soup to soften stale bread, making it more palatable. Adding stale pieces of bread into soups made them thicker, richer, and more flavorful.
- 1596The term crouton first appeared in French print in 1596. As more people included croutons into their daily meals, croutons then started appearing in print as well.
- 186There are 186 calories in a tiny cup of croutons. The calorie breakdown of croutons is as follows: 55% carbs, 35% fat, and 9% protein.
- May 13<sup>th</sup> Rothbury Farms announced May 13th as National Crouton Day. It is a commercial holiday that aims to celebrate the rich history and flavor of croutons.
Five facts about croutons
- Quick energy source
One serving of croutons contains 55% carbohydrates. Due to their compact size, croutons are a preferred energy source for people constantly on the go.
- Most famous crouton dish
French Onion Soup is the most famous dish with croutons as its main ingredient. The sweet and savory soup is topped with croutons, melted cheese, and herbs.
- The first croutons weren’t cubes
The first croutons ever made did not come in cubes. It is believed that stale bread was cut into small irregular shapes before they were added to soups and stews. It was only in the 20th century when Oscar Tschirky added it to salads, cutting croutons into cubes.
- Sourdough breads
According to food experts, the most delicious varieties of croutons are made from French or Italian sourdough bread.
- Gluten-free croutons
Modern culinary innovations have made it possible to make gluten-free croutons. Croutons made without gluten are healthier options for individuals with gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease.
FAQ about croutons
- How can you make croutons?
Only simple preparation is involved in making croutons. The main ingredient is stale bread. First, you can coat stale bread with butter or oil and season it for additional flavor. Then, you can re-bake, toast, or fry it until the desired crispness is achieved.
- Are croutons healthy?
While croutons are delicious when used as toppings for salads and soups or even as a stand-alone snack, studies reveal that croutons lack many essential nutrients. They contain high amounts of fats and sodium. The high-calorie content of croutons comes from processed grains which do not provide any nutritional benefit.
- What are croutons seasoned with?
The most popular seasonings in store-bought croutons include garlic powder, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and butter.
- What is the largest serving of croutons?
The largest serving of croutons on record was the main ingredient in the world’s largest Caesar Salad. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest Caesar Salad prepared in Tijuana, Mexico, contained 68.35 kilograms of croutons.