The Ingredient Trick For Way More Flavorful Croutons

Salad topped with croutons
Salad topped with croutons - Timolina/Shutterstock

While there are plenty of options available at the store, croutons are incredibly easy to make from scratch. You can even use stale bread, and all you have to do is toast some cubes in an oven or toaster oven with a bit of cooking oil and maybe a few herbs and spices if you're feeling fancy. This results in croutons with plenty of flavor, but there's actually another ingredient that can amp up the flavor even more: Tomato paste, which many TikTok users speculate is the secret ingredient in the croutons used in upscale Italian-American chain Carbone's famous Caesar salad.

You might assume that the tomato paste would simply add a tomatoey taste to your salad, but tomato paste is a rich source of glutamates, which means it acts as a flavor enhancer and adds an umami boost. Tomato paste also contains natural sugars, so it adds a hint of sweetness to the croutons that can balance out the savory and salty flavors in your salad and ultimately create a more well-rounded taste. Coating croutons in tomato paste also gives them a nice red color, making them visually appealing in a salad.

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Adding Tomato Paste To Croutons

Bowl filled with croutons
Bowl filled with croutons - Viktory Panchenko/Shutterstock

The texture of tomato paste is fairly thick, so you might be wondering how to get all the croutons evenly coated in it. The key is to whisk both oil and tomato paste together until you have a thin enough mixture. You don't need very much tomato paste because it's already very concentrated. Then, you can shake it up with the bread cubes in a plastic storage bag or toss it all together in a bowl.

To get the maximum amount of flavor out of the tomato paste, you want to make sure to add it before you toast the bread. The umami compounds are released when the tomato paste is cooked, and the sugars caramelize in the process, so if you were to add the tomato paste after toasting, you'd be missing out on a lot of flavor.

When you coat the bread cubes in tomato paste before baking, it also forms a protective layer around the bread. Especially if you start with stale bread, this extra layer of moisture helps prevent the bread from becoming tough or rock hard during baking.

Is This Really How Carbone Makes Its Croutons?

Salad from carbone topped with croutons
Salad from carbone topped with croutons - Instagram/majorfoodgroup

The many copycat recipes of Carbone's Caesar alla ZZ salad that have been circulating TikTok say that the color and flavor of the croutons comes from tomato paste, however, this appears to be purely speculation. Carbone's Caesar salad is famously prepared tableside, so you can see many of the ingredients that go into it, but the croutons are already premade.

Because the croutons have a red tinge to them, some have assumed that tomato paste is one of the ingredients. However, one customer who dined at Carbone's Las Vegas location shared in a TikTok that she was told by the waiter that they're made out of hamburger buns deep fried and coated in garlic butter. Another diner commented under a different TikTok that they were told it was sesame brioche bread baked in oil and garlic. The Carbone menu does list "garlic croutons" under the description for Caesar alla ZZ, however, tomato paste is not specified. Whether or not this ingredient is actually present in Carbone's salad, it's safe to say it's still a delicious upgrade to any croutons.

Read the original article on Daily Meal