These 10-Minute Caesar Breadcrumbs Are My Instant Upgrade for Every Meal

Inspired by classic Caesar salad, these breadcrumbs get their savory kick from anchovy paste, grated fresh garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Plus: They take less than 10 minutes to prep and come together in one pan.

Overehead view of caesar bread crumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Plain breadcrumbs are a pantry staple I rely on in my cooking: I coat pork or chicken cutlets with them for extra crispiness, top baked pastas with them for satisfying crunch, and incorporate them into meatloaf to keep it tender. My favorite way to use breadcrumbs, though, is seasoning and toasting them, then using them to garnish simple salads and roasted vegetables. On a busy weeknight—when I want to get dinner on the table fast—seasoned breadcrumbs are often the easiest and quickest way to add extra flavor and crunch to a meal. 

Like croutons, breadcrumbs are a delicious way to minimize food waste and extend the life of your loaf of bread—but if you don’t feel like making your own plain breadcrumbs, you can buy plain breadcrumbs at the grocery store and season them at home instead. (The recipe below works with both homemade and store-bought breadcrumbs.) Because breadcrumbs are so wonderfully versatile, the flavoring possibilities are almost endless: You can incorporate fresh or dried herbs, season them with spices, or toss them with aromatics like garlic, ginger, or shallots.

Overhead veiw of adding lemon zest to breadcrumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Lately, I’ve been channeling my love for Caesar salad via breadcrumbs. On nights when I want the dish but lack the ingredients or energy to make the dressing, I make Caesar breadcrumbs—which take less than 10 minutes to prepare, come together in one pan, and give me the flavors of a Caesar in a crispy, buttery form that's perfect for topping vegetables, pastas, and, yes, even salads. Anchovy paste, grated fresh garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano provide a savory kick, while lemon zest brings a bright freshness. You can also use these crumbs to coat chicken cutlets and to top casseroles—really anywhere you'd use regular breadcrumbs. Not only is the recipe easy, but it's also a snap to double. Keep a batch in your fridge or freezer, and you'll be able to add an umami-packed crunch to your meals whenever you want.

In a medium nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add anchovy paste and grated garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add breadcrumbs and, using a flexible spatula, toss to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon zest and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely before serving or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Overhead view of cooking breadcrumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Small nonstick skillet, flexible spatula

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once completely cooled, the breadcrumbs can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. The breadcrumbs can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Your Salad Is Missing These Homemade Garlic and Herb Croutons

Top your salads and soups with these croutons—or keep them in a bowl and eat them like popcorn.

Overhead view of croutons
Serious Eats / Two Bites

I always know a recipe I'm developing is a success if I see my husband lingering at the kitchen counter sneaking bites when he thinks I’m not looking. (This is especially true if I have already made several different versions of the same dish—the winner is always the one my husband returns to over and over.) In this case, it’s garlic and herb croutons, which I think of as smaller, crispier versions of garlic bread. Croutons are a great way to use up stale bread you may have, and they’re easy to prepare. They bring a savory crunch to salads and soups, and are also delicious on their own as a snack—my husband keeps them in a bowl on his desk and eats them like popcorn.

To add maximum garlic and woodsy herb flavor to the croutons, I use the same method Kenji employs for his best-ever roasted potatoes: I heat the fresh garlic, rosemary, and thyme in olive oil until the garlic just begins to brown, then I strain the solids out and use the infused oil to coat the croutons. You get all the flavor of the aromatics without any risk of them burning during the toasting process, which can give the croutons an unpleasant bitterness. When the croutons are done, I reincorporate the garlic and herbs, tossing to ensure the croutons are evenly coated with the fragrant aromatics. 

As in my recipe for plain croutons, I recommend using a crusty loaf of bread like sourdough, ciabatta, or baguette, which become satisfyingly crisp when turned into croutons. While sandwich bread and brioche are great for other applications, in my tests I found that their subtle sweetness didn't work very well with the savory flavors I wanted in my croutons. But feel free to use whatever you have on hand—with sweeter loaves like brioche or milk bread, you might just have to adjust for seasoning. No matter what kind of bread you use, the croutons will still be delicious, and you may very well find yourself eating them by the handful.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).

Add bread to a large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine olive oil with garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring and shaking pan constantly, until garlic just begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Immediately strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer over large bowl with bread; reserve and set aside garlic and herb mixture.

Four image collage of infusing oil
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Toss bread with oil, salt, and pepper to evenly coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

Tossing bread with oil
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Remove from oven and cool completely at room temperature before serving or storing, about 20 minutes.

Two image collage of tossing breadcrumbs with garlic
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Small saucepan, fine-mesh strainer, rimmed baking sheet

Make-Ahead and Storage

The croutons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

The 25 Best Baking Cookbooks, According to Our Resident Pastry Expert

Our resident pastry expert breaks down her favorite baking cookbooks—ones that serve to teach, inspire, and provide no-fail recipes.

Three cookbooks on a grid background.
Serious Eats / David Hattan

As an avid baker, former pastry cook, and editor at Serious Eats, I am often asked what my favorite baking cookbook is. My response is always the same: It depends on what you’re looking for. Is it sourdough baking, elegant desserts, or one-bowl cookies that pique your interest? 

Below, I’ve gathered a list of what I consider the best baking cookbooks. Some are technique-driven and will help you form a foundational understanding of baking science, while others offer great, minimal-effort recipes. A few of these books, filled with intricate baking projects, make you feel like you’re on the Great British Bake Off. There’s a book for every occasion, and regardless of which you choose, I promise the titles below will inspire you to whisk, whip, and knead.

The Best Books for Baking Technique

Former biochemist Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise is an essential book for anyone who wants to better understand the science of baking. Through more than 200 tried-and-true recipes, Corriher walks readers through common pitfalls, like deflated soufflés, seized chocolate, and broken custard. Like our very own site, Corriher explains why each recipe and solution provided works and breaks down the science in an accessible, enjoyable way. 

At the beginning of my professional culinary career, I devoured all of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s books. (Her most recent book, The Cookie Bible, is also one of my go-to’s.) If I had to pick one RLB book to recommend, though, it would be The Baking Bible, as it’s the broadest of her works. Her recipes are concise, her testing meticulous, and her writing conversational. I feel like I’m baking alongside an old friend. Follow her directions and you’ll find yourself whipping up bakery-worthy layer cakes, cookies, and pies. (If you are a chocolate lover, you can’t go wrong with the Double Damage Oblivion, Beranbaum’s deliciously rich flourless chocolate cake.)

If you have ever embarked on sourdough baking, you have likely heard of Chad Robertson, the baker behind San Francisco’s renowned Tartine Bakery, which is also the name of his book. Writing for Vogue, reporter Oliver Strand described Tartine Bread as “a masterpiece along the lines of a Martin Scorsese tracking shot or a Marcel Proust sentence: It goes on forever, and when you get to the end you realize it shouldn’t be any shorter.” The book is filled with intricate details and instructions on how to develop your own starter and baking practice, and, at times, the recipes can be intimidating. Roberton’s Basic Country Bread runs 38 pages—but follow through, and you’ll find yourself making crusty loaves with incredible flavor.

In pastry chef Nicola Lamb’s newsletter Kitchen Projects, she shares “deep dives” into desserts, where she walks her 53,000 readers through the trial and error that goes into developing a recipe. She takes the same methodical, detailed approach in her book Sift, which she describes as the book she wishes she had when she first started baking. Lamb explains how flour, sugar, eggs, and fat interact in baked goods. It’s a very Serious Eats-y book, and if you want to understand not just how—but why—something happens during baking, Sift is the book for you. (Editor’s note: This book will be released in November 2024, but it’s available for pre-order.)

After reading Tartine Bread, software engineer Maurizio Leo found himself enamored with sourdough baking. Leo started his blog The Perfect Loaf in 2012 and has since inspired readers worldwide to take up sourdough. Every recipe in Leo's book is accompanied by a timeline, which not only helps bakers better understand how long things should take but allows them to plan ahead. The book is a comprehensive and straightforward guide to making great sourdough; readers will find step-by-step photos, QR codes for videos demonstrating key techniques, and answers to many frequently asked questions. His advice and recipes have helped me make many successful loaves, and The Perfect Loaf is the first book I recommend when someone tells me they’d like to become better at baking sourdough bread.

The Perfect Loaf cookbook on a grid background.
Serious Eats / David Hattan

In 2000, King Arthur Baking Company opened their school in Vermont, where they began teaching students key baking techniques. The recipes in this book are the same ones taught at their school, with additional notes and details to educate readers on the hows and whys of baking. “We aim to empower students with the knowledge and confidence to make baking their own,” says the author’s note in the introduction. The book’s recipes range in difficulty; you’ll find simple cookies alongside challenging projects like croissants and macarons.

As with all things Cook’s Illustrated, the recipes within this book are tried-and-true. The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book is educational without being overbearing, and great for those casually interested in learning more about baking. My only criticism is that there aren't weight measures and all the recipes are in volume. Baking requires precision, so it seems silly not to include weights. Still, it’s a comprehensive book with foolproof recipes that I’d be remiss not to include. The tips within—like blooming cocoa powder in hot water to intensify its flavor for chocolate cake—are invaluable and make you a better, smarter baker.

At one of my first restaurant jobs, a baker I worked with recommended this book to me. Written by the founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute, Advanced Bread and Pastry is a textbook for culinary professionals and ideal for those who are interested in a rigorous approach to baking. You’ll find graphs, charts, and illustrations to demonstrate the nitty gritty science and chemistry of baking. In other words: the perfect baking book for the Serious Eats reader.

Diving into bread baking can be overwhelming, but Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast makes it feel intuitive. When I first started making bread, Forkish’s book helped me better understand the science of fermentation and all the jargon it came with, like autolyse and pre-ferments. For novice bread bakers interested in learning the ropes, most of this book’s recipes use instant dried yeast as a leavener, which is easier and faster than sourdough.

Before Melissa Weller became a pastry chef, she was a chemical engineer. Weller approaches her craft with the meticulous precision of her former occupation—which means her recipes are scientifically formulated to work every single time. Weller walks readers through how to set themselves up for success and breaks each recipe into different sections, making tedious projects like croissants, crêpe cakes, and brioche feel doable.

The Good Bake cookbook.
Serious Eats / David Hattan

When I first started my culinary career, I turned to Pfeiffer’s book for a better grasp of pastry and baking basics. Pfeiffer, the co-founder of The French Pastry School in Chicago, educates readers like he does his own students: with plenty of detailed instruction and patience. Throughout the book, you’ll find helpful illustrations demonstrating the proper way to execute a technique, along with key takeaways, notes for frequently asked questions, and how to fix a recipe if it’s gone awry. The Art of French Pastry will coach you through the building blocks of French dessert and pâtisserie, like choux pastry, puff pastry dough, meringues, and buttercreams, and enable you to create your own confections. It’s like getting a French pastry diploma without the big price tag.

Though chocolate and confectionary work doesn’t technically qualify as baking, there’s a lot of great information in this book. It's especially handy if you want a more thorough understanding of how different sugars and fats work, why some are better for certain applications, and how to pick the best one for whatever you’re making. It also is an excellent deep dive into chocolate: its journey from bean to bar and the fundamental techniques for cooking and baking with it. There are plenty of photos and illustrations to demonstrate these techniques, and with the recipes within, you’ll be able to produce the silkiest ganaches for homemade truffles and the shiniest glazes for your cakes.

I realize this is a tome…and an expensive one, at that. But it’s full of history, science, and technique, and it is unlikely you’ll find a more detailed resource on bread. The collection is essential for anyone looking to truly understand the craft of bread baking. There’s not much more to say!

The Best Books for Everyday Baking

Former Serious Eats editor Stella Parks’ recipes and writing on baking science was what turned me into a devoted reader of the site. Her work—both on Serious Eats and in her book BraveTart—has contributed greatly to my understanding of the fundamentals of pastry and baking. In BraveTart, Parks shares recipes for some of America’s most iconic confections, along with their origin stories. “This isn’t a cookbook about making anything fancy,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “It’s about making everything from scratch. Not because you have to, but because it’s fun. Or, at least, it can be, with the right recipes: one that cares about the process as much as the result.” Bake through the book, and soon many of these American desserts—like no-fuss apple pie, yeast-raised potato doughnuts, and homemade Nilla wafers—will become classics in your kitchen, too. 

Benjamina Ebuehi, a former contestant on the Great British Bake Off, understands that good baking doesn’t have to be complicated. A Good Day to Bake is all about baking for pleasure; Ebuehi encourages readers to slow down so they can enjoy the process of creating in the kitchen. Though the recipes are approachable, they don’t skimp on flavor. Fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables—along with pantry staples like spices and teas—star in each recipe. The simple loaves, cakes, and cookies evoke comfort and coziness. I adore Ebuhi’s malted milk crème brûlée and “store-cupboard cake,” which requires just a few pantry staples and gets its deep flavor from cocoa powder and instant espresso. 

Before Mooncakes and Milk Bread came along, I had never considered making Chinese baked goods. Cho’s book shares recipes for many Chinese bakery classics, like fluffy pineapple buns and curry chicken puffs. Cho seamlessly walks readers through culinary and baking techniques, and thanks to her book, I now know how to shape Taiwanese pineapple buns, make mooncakes from scratch (something rarely done even in Asia), and prepare essential components of Chinese desserts like red bean paste. 

The Mooncakes and Milk Bread cookbook on a grid.
Serious Eats / David Hattan

Almost every pastry professional I’ve met has sung the praises of Claudia Fleming, the former pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern. While Fleming’s first book The Last Course (which New York Times reporter Julia Moskin describes as “a cult classic among pastry chefs”) contains fancy-feeling desserts like prosecco sabayon and citrus lace tuiles, Delectable feels more approachable. For example, love its recipes for plum cobbler, rhubarb scones, and almond and walnut brownies. 

Readers will find savory baking recipes, too, like her tomato crostata and Gruyère and onion cocktail biscuits. Fleming’s recipes are a celebration of seasonality, and if you have a bounty of summer produce that you have no plans for, a flip through Delectable will leave you with more than enough ideas to see you through the rest of the season.

Like Claire Saffitz, I am a dessert person. And if you aren’t a dessert person, reading Saffitz’s book will certainly turn you into one. Saffitz recognizes that baking can be intimidating, and her goal is to demystify the craft so readers can bake confidently. Each recipe has a difficulty rating, so you can start from the easiest recipes and work your way up. There are familiar favorites like chocolate chip cookies, as well as classics with a twist—think minty lime bars and rice pudding cake. 

Though most of the recipes are sweet, there are savory ones, too, like her tomato tart with herby feta and caramelized endive galette. Many flourless cakes tend to be rich, but her version—which is dairy-free—is light and melts in your mouth. And if you’re looking for an everyday snacking cake to enjoy with your cup of coffee, look no further than her poppy seed almond cake, which is moist and tender, with an extra zing from an orange juice glaze. 

Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook, named after her bakery of the same name in Boston, is one I have turned to often through the years. The recipes are simple, straightforward, and—I don’t say this lightly—have never failed me. Chang’s tender banana bread, which gets moisture and tang from crème fraiche and a satisfying crunch from toasted, chopped walnuts, is my go-to. And her Best-Ever Chocolate Pudding is, well, the best-ever—really. Flour contains easy, minimal-effort recipes for pastries and desserts I’d like to eat all the time. 

Arabiyya is an excellent resource on Arabic cooking, and though it is not a baking cookbook, it’s worth purchasing just for its section on Levantine bread and pastries. Arabiyya has recipes for sweet and savory items you might find at an Arabic bakery and is a wonderful guide to preparing them at home. I often make her Khobz Arabi (pita or Arab bread) to enjoy with homemade hummus, and Assil’s ka’ak—sesame-crusted bread pouches—are so delicious I’d happily eat them unfilled and without any accompaniments. For dessert, give Assil’s spiced walnut baklava a try; it’s nutty, crisp, and drenched in an orange blossom syrup, and truly one of the most delicious sweets you can make at home.

After I gave birth to my son, I relied on Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Bakes to satisfy my sweet tooth. Arefi promises that “almost every treat can be made in under one hour, in one bowl, and with no fancy ingredients or equipment”—something especially appealing to me as I navigated the immediate postpartum period. There are many recipes on the internet that promise the same, but they are often boring or disappointing. Luckily, Arefi’s baked goods are anything but, and her recipes are fun, creative uses of pantry staples. Malted milk powder gives her malted chocolate cookies extra nuttiness, and a swirl of raspberry jam through peanut butter cake recreates the nostalgic flavors of PB&J sandwiches. All the baked goods are simple enough that you can, as I did, make them with a baby strapped to you. And if you’re a novice beginner, the ease of the recipes will equip you with basic baking techniques like whisking, folding, and glazing, while also boosting your confidence as you succeed, bake after bake. 

Snacking Bakes cookbook on a grid background.
Serious Eats / David Hattan

Reaching for that bag of all-purpose flour is convenient, but Roxanna Jullapat’s Mother Grains will inspire you to try baking with other flours. Jullapat, the baker behind Friends & Family in Los Angeles, makes the case for baking with locally grown and freshly milled grains. Because most of these grains are stone-ground and still contain the germ, bran, and endosperm—parts of the wheat berry that are typically sifted out when producing all-purpose flour—they are more nutritious, too. 

Though there are numerous grains, Jullapat’s book focuses on eight: barley, buckwheat, corn, oat, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat. Mother Grains will help readers develop a greater understanding of and appreciation for these cereals. If you love oatmeal raisin cookies, give her oatmeal date cookies a whirl—the chopped Medjool dates give them a rich caramel-like flavor. And if you’re a chocolate fiend, then the chocolate dynamite cookies with earthy rye and bittersweet chocolate chips are for you.

Beloved for her charm and approachable recipes, Dorie Greenspan is the darling of the baking world. A Dorie cookbook has never failed me; her cocoa-packed world peace cookies from Dorie’s Cookies remain one of my favorite treats. Baking With Dorie is a comprehensive book with both sweet and savory recipes that all have fun twists. Greenspan transforms choux dough—traditionally used for cream puffs, éclairs, and gougères—into cheese sticks, and swirls miso paste and maple syrup into a loaf reminiscent of honey cake. Her flavor-packed banana cake makes for an excellent celebration dessert—and though the cake itself is delicious, it’s the frosting of cookie butter spread, butter, and confectioner sugar that keeps you coming back for more. Despite the complex flavors and textures in Greenspan’s recipes, each is simple to execute and will leave you feeling like an accomplished baker.

Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico is a wonderful introduction to the country’s many regional confections. While My Sweet Mexico is an excellent cookbook, Gerson, the chef and owner of Brooklyn’s popular Fan Fan Doughnuts, also provides a great resource on the culinary history of Mexico, writing about the influences—especially Spanish colonization—on Mexican cooking today. The convent cookies, which get their rich, nutty flavor from ground caramelized almonds, are the ideal pairing for a cup of coffee. And once you make Gerson’s milhojas with mango and coconut, a pastry similar to mille feuille with its flaky puff pastry layers and luscious pastry cream, you’ll find yourself craving it constantly. My favorite recipes, though, may be the frozen treats. On a hot summer day, you just can’t go wrong with the spicy mango ice pops, rich cajeta ice cream, or tart tamarind sorbet.

Erika Council’s Still We Rise is a tribute to Black bakers and chefs who have not been recognized for their contributions to American cuisine. Council, the chef behind Bomb Biscuit Co. in Atlanta, shares recipes for countless biscuits, but the book is a wonderful tribute to Black cooks and a fascinating look at American culinary history. Dotted throughout Still We Rise are stories from her childhood about her grandmothers and nods to the other culinary influences in her life. There is no better cookbook to turn to if you love flaky, tender biscuits—the heavy cream biscuits, which come together in one bowl, are incredibly soft and fluffy.

Why We’re the Experts

  • Genevieve Yam is the culinary editor at Serious Eats. She’s been with the site since 2022. In her free time, you’ll find her chatting to people about produce at the farmers market and burying her nose in cookbooks.
  • Before becoming an editor, she was a cook at Per Se and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
  • She has written stories and tested, edited, and developed recipes for Serious Eats, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, and Food52.

How to Make Shatteringly Crisp Croutons Every Time

Extend the shelf life of your stale bread by turning it into crunchy, snackable croutons. This easy recipe takes just about 30 minutes, and leaves you with delicious salad toppers for days.

Overhead view of croutons
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Many people dread their loaves of bread going stale, but I look forward to it. Rather than dwell on all the toast I could have had, I see it as a window of opportunity to give my bread new life, usually in the form of croutons. Croutons are key to many of my favorite meals, bringing crunch and flavor to my soups and salads.

Side view of crouton
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Though it’s easy to go the store-bought route, homemade croutons are typically more delicious than store-bought ones, and an economical way to repurpose a loaf that’s too stale to enjoy without a little help. With the recipe I'm sharing here, you can make homemade croutons in about 30 minutes and they keep for up to a week—so you’ll extend the life of that stale loaf and have delicious salad and soup toppers for days.

According to Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food, the word “crouton” is derived from the French word “croûte,” which means “crust.” He notes that the term dates back to the 17th century, when it referred to a small piece of bread served with drinks. Croutons also appear under a different name in the 1877 book Cassell’s Household Guide, which contains a recipe for “a la viennet” (bread fried for soup). The recipe instructs cooks to slice bread into half inch–thick pieces, remove the crust, then shape the bread into “the size of a two-shilling piece” for frying in a pan with butter until browned. The method isn’t dissimilar to how many people prepare croutons today. Given how much people still enjoy croutons these days, it’s safe to say that our love for crisp morsels of bread is evergreen.

To figure out how to make the best croutons, I made batches and batches of them, testing different breads, cooking temperatures, and fats. Here are my tips and tricks for making the crunchiest croutons for topping various dishes or eating right out of the pan.

6 Tips for Better Croutons

Use a crusty loaf. For the croutons with craggy edges that become ultra-crisp, I recommend a rustic sourdough loaf, baguette, or ciabatta. The large air pockets in these loaves means there are plenty of nooks and crannies—this extra surface area helps the croutons become very crispy when baked. 

Don’t forget to stir. While I call for cooking the croutons in the oven on a baking sheet, you can't just chuck them in the oven and forget about them. For croutons that are evenly browned, use a spatula or wooden spoon to stir them occasionally, about every five minutes. The croutons arranged around the perimeter of the baking sheet will absorb the brunt of the oven heat, and stirring them prevents some of the croutons from getting darker than the others. 

Stirring croutons
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Bake at 350ºF or 175ºC. For golden-brown croutons, we want to kickstart the Maillard reaction, a series of chemical reactions that occurs when heat transforms protein and sugar molecules, resulting in more complex flavors and aromas. The croutons should brown—not burn—and 350ºF is the Goldilocks temperature for that. Any higher than that, and you may find yourself with little lumps of charcoal. Any lower than that, and you’ll be waiting for an unnecessarily long for the bread to toast.

Skip the butter. In my testing, I found that croutons tossed in melted butter were crunchy, but they weren’t as shatteringly crisp as those tossed in pure fat like olive oil, lard, schmaltz, or bacon fat, since the milk solids and water in butter can cause uneven browning. You can certainly make your croutons with butter if you prefer its sweet, creamy flavor, but you may have to toast your bread for slightly longer—and accept that they simply won't be as brittle as croutons coated in oil.

Side view of pouring oil
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Avoid ceramic and stoneware when baking. These materials are poor conductors of heat, making it more difficult for croutons to crisp. I recommend using an aluminum rimmed baking sheet, which conducts heat well and has enough surface area for the croutons to brown. Its rim will also allow you to stir without fear of knocking croutons onto the hot oven floor.

Season your croutons generously. The only thing worse than a soggy crouton is a bland one. Salt and black pepper go a long way, and highlight the savoriness of the bread. If you’re using sourdough, salt helps to bring out its tangy, fermented flavors and results in a more complex tasting crouton.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).

In a large bowl, toss bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper to evenly coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

Two image collage of tossing breadcrumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Remove croutons from oven and cool completely at room temperature before serving or storing.

Overhead view of croutons on sheet tray
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Variations

Parmesan croutons: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325ºF (175ºC). (This lower temperature than the temp for plain croutons is to prevent the cheese from burning.) In a large bowl, toss bread with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 6 tablespoons (40g) Parmigiano-Reggiano to evenly coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until croutons are golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove croutons from oven and allow to cool completely.

Overhead view of Parmesan croutons
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Rimmed baking sheet

Make-Ahead and Storage

The croutons can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These Easy Overnight Oats Taste Like Dessert for Breakfast

These spectacularly creamy overnight oats take all of five minutes to prep, and are lightly sweetened with maple syrup and vanilla.

Overhead view of overnight oats
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

I love a sweet breakfast. I kick off most mornings with toast slathered in nut butter and jam, a bowl of yogurt and fruit, or, if I’m organized enough, oats I’ve combined with chia seeds, oat milk, vanilla, and maple syrup and soaked overnight. Topped with fruit, such as blueberries and bananas, it's a simple but tasty breakfast. 

Overhead view of overnight oats
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

I started making overnight oats in college, when I needed something quick and nutritious to fuel long days in the library. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different combinations of ingredients, ratios, and toppings. Plenty of trial and error means I’ve had my fair share of bland, watery soaked oats. But I’ve also had spectacularly creamy oats—the recipe for which I’m sharing below—that I’d be thrilled to eat day after day. The recipe below makes two servings, but it's easily doubled or tripled if you want to make more servings for meal-prep or for multiple people. After mixing everything up, you can leave the mixture in one large container, or transfer it to individual jars.

Here’s how to make great overnight oats.

6 Tips for Making the Best Overnight Oats

Use rolled oats. There are many kinds of oats: quick-cooking, rolled, extra-thick, and steel-cut. For overnight oats that you don't plan on cooking (vs. oats you soak overnight before turning into oatmeal the next day), I recommend reaching for rolled oats, which are tender when soaked and just thick enough to lend the uncooked porridge a bit of heft and chew after soaking. I recommend steering clear of quick-cooking oats, which are thinner than regular rolled oats and make for watery or mushy overnight oats. On the opposite spectrum, steel-cut oats, which are hardier than rolled oats, remain quite firm even after a night of soaking. (Steel-cut oats are great for making Scottish-style oatmeal, and soaking them reduces the cooking time.)

Overhead view of overnight oats ingredients
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Use a liquid sweetener. Unless you plan on heating up milk to dissolve granulated, raw, or brown sugar—or whisking sugar vigorously into cold milk in an attempt to dissolve it—I recommend using a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup, honey, or agave syrup. My preferred sweetener is dark amber maple syrup, as it lends a robust flavor with caramel notes.

Add a little vanilla. I prefer vanilla paste, as it gives the oats a more stronger vanilla flavor. Feel free to substitute with vanilla extract or to skip the vanilla entirely.

Don’t forget the salt. Seasoning the overnight oats highlights the natural nuttiness of the grains, while also bringing out vanilla’s floral sweetness and the maple syrup’s notes of brown sugar.

Add a tablespoon of chia seeds. As chia seeds hydrate, they set up and become gelatinous, giving the overnight oats a pudding-like texture that’s more satisfying to eat. It’s not as seedy as chia pudding, but creates thicker overnight oats that feel more substantial than plain oats soaked in milk.

For the creamiest dairy-free oats, use oat milk. You’re more than welcome to use your milk of choice, including cow's milk or a nut milk, but oat milk has consistently produced the creamiest overnight oats for me. As a wise person once said: What grows together goes together, and in this case, it’s oats…and more oats.

In a 1-quart container or medium bowl, whisk together oat milk, maple syrup, vanilla paste or extract (if using), and salt until well combined.

Four image collage of adding ingredients for overnight oats
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Add oats and chia seeds and stir to combine.

Two image collage of adding oats and chia seeds
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Refrigerate until oats have softened and thickened, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Sweeten with additional maple syrup as needed and serve with fresh fruit, if desired.

Overhead view of overnight oats
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Notes

Your choice of dairy or dairy-free milk can be substituted for oat milk. I tested this with regular sweetened oat milk, but if you’d like to cut down on the sugar, you can use unsweetened oat milk. To make gluten-free overnight oats, use gluten-free rolled oats.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The recipe can easily be doubled. Overnight oats can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The Easy British Berry Dessert You’ll Want to Make All Summer

With heaps of whipped cream, ripe berries, and crisp meringues that are just beginning to soften, this easy-to-assemble Eton mess is everything you want in a light summer dessert.

eton mess hero
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

In July 2013, chefs in London created what was supposedly the world’s largest Eton mess, the classic British dessert of berries, whipped cream, and meringue. Assembled and served from an enormous martini glass, the confection weighed a whopping 368 pounds. To serve the dessert to 2,000 hungry passersby, a chef perched on a ladder, scooping out portions of the dessert bit by bit until there was none left. Had I been there, they most likely would have served only one person: me.

Okay, it may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that I could single handedly tackle an Eton mess of that size. But it really is my favorite way to enjoy sweet summer berries. And with heaps of whipped cream, ripe berries (typically strawberries, but some iterations include raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries), and crisp meringues that are just beginning to soften, it’s everything you want in a light summer dessert. It’s easy to assemble, and even easier to eat—and nobody in my husband’s British family can stop at just one serving.

eton mess headnote 1
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

According to food writer Helen Saberi, writing in The Oxford Companion to Sweets, the dessert was first mentioned in historian Arthur Beavan’s 1896 book Marlborough House and Its Occupants. In a chapter detailing “notable balls, fêtes, and garden parties” at the royal residence, he notes that “Eton Mess aux Fraises,” or Eton mess with strawberries, was served at an 1893 garden party that Queen Victoria attended. Many, however, attribute the creation of the dessert to Eton College, the posh boys’ school in Windsor, England. There are iterations of Eton mess throughout the country, and Saberi mentions that a version with bananas—called Lancing mess—is served at Lancing College in Sussex. 

Though strawberries are traditionally used to make the dessert, I’ve seen it served with an assortment of berries. What berries you incorporate and how you assemble the dessert is entirely up to you; some smush everything—the whipped cream, meringues, and berries—together in a bowl, then spoon it into individual bowls to serve. Others carefully layer the components to create a parfait of some sort.

Here, I opt for a combination of raspberries and strawberries; some recipes call for blending the fruit to create a juicier mixture, but I find it much easier—and just as delicious—to quickly macerate the fruit with sugar and a bit of lemon zest. I prefer layering the dessert in individual glasses, but if you’re short on time or simply can’t be bothered, you can assemble the whole thing in a large serving dish. And whether you choose to make your own meringue cookies or use store-bought is entirely up to you; eaten as a whole, it’s likely no one will notice if your meringues weren’t made from scratch. 

eton mess headnote 2
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

Beyond the necessary inclusion of berries, meringue, and whipped cream, there are no hard or fast rules on how to serve Eton mess. The most important thing is that you make it before berry season is over—because while supermarket fruit will suffice, the dessert is the most delicious when made with berries so ripe they look as if they’re about to burst.

In a medium bowl, toss strawberries and raspberries with sugar and lemon zest to evenly coat. Set aside.

eton mess step 1
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

Place meringue cookies in a zip-top bag and, using a rolling pin or a wine bottle, crush until coarsely ground. Set aside.

eton mess step 2
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

In the bowl of a stand mixer or hand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt on medium speed until medium soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.

To Assemble: Cover bottom of each of four 12-ounce glasses with 2 tablespoons of the prepared berries. Top with a layer of whipped cream, followed by crushed meringue cookies. Repeat until glasses are full. (Alternatively, you can assemble Eton Mess in a large serving dish, such as a trifle bowl.)

eton mess step 4
Serious Eats/Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Zip-top bag, rolling pin, stand mixer or hand mixer

Make-Ahead and Storage

How to Make Bakery-Worthy Meringue Cookies

With a little know-how, you can make spectacular meringue cookies that won’t break or weep on you.

Meringue cookies in a bowl.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In every season of the Great British Baking Show, there is almost always a moment when the contestants attempt and fail to make a meringue. Sometimes the egg whites deflate before they've even made it into the oven, and sometimes the baked confections crack and collapse after they've come out of the oven. Though meringues have a reputation for being difficult to pull off—they can go from lofty to flat in a few seconds, ruining any dessert plans you may have had—they’re really just a whipped foam of egg whites, sugar, and an acid like cream of tartar. With a little know-how, you can make spectacular meringue for cookies that won’t break or weep on you.

The Origins of Meringue

As is often the case for classic dishes with a long history, nobody knows for certain where or when meringues were first made. Thanks to old cookbooks like Hannah Woolley's 1670 bookThe Queen-Like Closet, we know that there were many iterations of meringue-like desserts in England by the 17th century, including “snow,” a dessert of cream, egg whites, and rosewater whipped together. The first known recipe for meringue, however, can be found in François Massialot’s 1691 book Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois (The Court and Country Cook in English). It’s possible that “snow” was the precursor to oeufs à la neige (“snow eggs”) or île flottante (floating island), a similar dessert of poached meringues suspended in a pool of crème anglaise, a French vanilla sauce. 

Today, meringues are an essential component of many desserts. Bakers incorporate meringue into batters to make macarons and chiffon cakes, and use it to prepare mousses, buttercreams, and other confections like pavlova. The simplest way to enjoy it, however, may be the meringue cookie: a French meringue that’s piped and baked at a low temperature for several hours until it’s dry and crisp. These cookies can be eaten plain or incorporated into other desserts, such as Eton mess, mini pavlovas, or used to garnish pies, tarts, and ice cream sundaes.

Meringues and lemon slices on a lemon tart.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Types of Meringues: Italian, Swiss, and French

There are three types of meringues: Italian, Swiss, and French. The first two methods are a little more hands-on. To make Italian meringue, you pour a hot sugar syrup (usually 240ºF or 115ºC) into whipping egg whites, which you then continue to beat until fluffy and doubled in volume. Though Swiss meringue doesn’t call for a syrup, it does require whisking egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water until the foam reaches 140ºF (60ºC). Both these methods cook and coagulate the egg white proteins, resulting in a more stable foam. Of the three methods, French meringue may be the most straightforward, as it doesn’t require any syrup or double boilers. You just whisk egg whites with sugar until you reach your desired stiffness: soft, medium, or stiff peaks.

Piped meringues on a baking sheet.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Tips for Making Foolproof Meringues

Use Room Temperature Eggs

Cold eggs may be easier to separate, but room temperature eggs whip up faster. As former Serious Eats contributor Marissa Sertich Velie noted in her Italian meringue recipe, the best temperature for whipping egg whites is about 70ºF (21ºC). Not only do room temperature egg whites foam faster, but they also help dissolve the sugar faster.

For a More stable Meringue, Whisk Slower for Longer

It may seem counterintuitive to whisk on medium speed when you could make a meringue much faster by beating the egg whites on high speed for less time, but the key to a meringue that won’t deflate is to go slower for longer. As I wrote in my chocolate mousse recipe, the bubbles in egg whites become smaller and more stable the longer we whip them. As Hervé This explains in his book Kitchen Mysteries, the process of whipping helps to unfold egg white proteins and connect them with one another, creating a network that protects the tiny bubbles. Whisking for longer also helps to ensure your sugar is properly incorporated, which reduces the risk of weeping.

This may be surprising, but whipping your eggs slower for longer also helps prevent overbeating. Whisk your egg whites too long, and the proteins will bond too tightly, essentially “cooking” the whites. An overbeaten meringue will lose its sheen and become a lumpy, uneven foam, and fail to rise in the oven when baked.

Add Your Sugar Gradually

It may be tempting to start by whisking your egg whites with the sugar, but it’s imperative that you slowly add the sugar once your egg whites have gained some volume. In his book On Food and Cooking, science writer Harold McGee notes that incorporating sugar too early can delay foaming and reduce the meringue’s “ultimate volume and lightness,” which “comes from sugar’s interference with the unfolding and bonding of the proteins.”

Make Friends With Acid

You can make meringue without cream of tartar (which is tartaric acid in powdered form), lemon juice, or vinegar, but acids help to coagulate the egg whites while also preventing the proteins from tightening too much, which can lead to an overbeaten meringue. I have long made meringues without lemon juice or cream of tartar and they’ve turned out just fine. Here, however, I recommend adding half a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the meringue—just to be on the safe side.

Use a Clean Bowl and Beaters

As Serious Eats editorial director Daniel Gritzer found in his testing, a little yolk won’t make or break your meringue. But you should still start with a clean mixing bowl and beaters, as fat can interfere with the egg white proteins bonding and can ruin its ability to form a stable meringue.

Go Low and Slow

If you’re making meringue cookies and aren’t using meringues to make something else, the key to success is to bake them at a low temperature. Cooking them at a lower temperature (200ºF or  93ºC) for longer helps to evenly dry out the meringues and prevents cracking, which can happen when meringues are baked at too high of a temperature. Once the meringues are done, you’ll want to cool them slowly, too; opening the oven too soon can create a drastic temperature change and cause the meringues to shrink too quickly and crack. My solution? Opening the oven door slightly and keeping it ajar with a wooden spoon.

Baked meringues.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Preheat oven to 200ºF (93ºC). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Fit a piping bag with desired piping tip; set aside.

A plastic piping bag with a piping tip on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer and a large bowl, begin whipping egg whites at low speed until whites look wet and frothy, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, add cream of tartar and salt and mix until dissolved, about 10 seconds.

Whisking egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Keeping the mixer at low speed, slowly add 1/4 of the sugar in a steady stream. Increase speed to medium and slowly add remaining sugar. Continue mixing at medium speed until meringue is thick and glossy and holds firm peaks when you lift the whisk, about 10 minutes. (While you could speed the mixer up for a faster meringue, the meringue is more stable when mixed for a longer time at slower speeds, making it less likely to deflate. The exact mixing time will depend on your mixer and other variables, so keep mixing to reach firm peaks even if longer than the estimated 10 minutes.)

Adding sugar to whisking egg whites and a whisk attachment with meringue.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Using a flexible spatula, gently scrape meringue into prepared piping bag. Pipe meringue onto prepared baking sheets.

Piping meringues onto a baking sheet.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Bake meringues until dry, about 2 hours. When meringues are done, turn oven off, and allow meringues to gradually cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Slowly crack oven door open, using a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar. Allow meringue to cool completely, about another 30 minutes.

Two baking sheets of meringues in an oven.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Notes

This recipe can be doubled.

Special Equipment

2 rimmed baking sheets, parchment paper, piping bag, piping tip, stand mixer or hand mixer, flexible spatula

Make-Ahead and Storage

Leftover meringue cookies can be stored  in an airtight container, ideally with a silica packet; for up to 5 days at room temperature but may soften as they sit.

The Essential Upgrade for the Best Banana Pudding

Made with a luscious vanilla pastry cream, ripe bananas, and vanilla wafers, this simple banana pudding is the very best version you can make at home.

Side view of banana pudding
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The week after I gave birth to my son, my sisters kept my kitchen stocked with an assortment of fun snacks and beverages. While our baby slept, I ate my way through New York City without even leaving my bed, chowing on a whole box of sweet, briny uni sushi, pizza slices from my favorite local joint, Mama’s Too, and many other delicious foods. One day, my youngest sister, Alexis, showed up with Magnolia Bakery’s famous banana pudding. Despite having lived in New York for eight years, I had never eaten it. 

The banana pudding was pretty good, but I was, frankly, underwhelmed. Some of the wafers were still bone-dry, the custard didn’t have the hit of vanilla I wanted, and I knew it had the potential to be better. As I ate the last of it, I made a mental note to develop a more delicious version when I returned to work. After many rounds of testing and tasting, my coworkers and I are confident that the recipe below for banana pudding hits all the right texture and flavor notes, and is the very best version you could make at home.

Overhead view of banana pudding
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

There are as many approaches to the dessert as there are opinions on it. Some swear by instant pudding mix, and some, including Dolly Parton, serve it baked with a meringue topping. Some people even go so far as to make their own wafers. Ultimately, the dessert can be as fussy or easy as you want it to be—but my ideal pudding is one that’s made with a luscious pastry cream that’s strong on the vanilla, tastes of ripe bananas, and has chilled long enough so the wafers soften and the flavors meld. Read on for my full banana pudding recipe and tips.

Tips for Making Stellar Banana Pudding

Use Real Vanilla—and Make Your Own Pastry Cream

Many banana pudding recipes call for instant pudding mix, which is a quick and easy option for those who don’t want to make custard from scratch. There are some downsides, though. Most of what’s available in stores tastes like artificial vanilla and, because the mix comes formulated for ease, it’s difficult to adjust its flavor or texture. While instant pudding mix is convenient, it’s not that much harder to make custard from scratch, which allows you to customize it to your liking. 

At the beginning of my banana pudding saga, I wondered if a filling like crème legere, which is equal parts vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream, would be ideal. After experimenting with different ratios of vanilla pastry cream to whipped cream, I found that the pastry cream on its own was the most flavorful. Steeping the milk used in the pastry cream with real vanilla—in this case a vanilla bean split and scraped or a teaspoon or pure vanilla paste—helps to infuse the pastry cream with subtly floral notes that complement the banana’s sweetness. And as with many desserts, a touch of salt helps to highlight all these flavors.

Side view of scooping pastry cream
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In addition to having a better flavor, pastry cream is much silkier than pudding. While some pudding mixes can be stodgy, the pastry cream is simultaneously light and just thick enough to be spoonable and sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the bananas. 

A common pitfall of pastry creams and custards is that they start to weep once they’re made. In this recipe, I’ve avoided that disaster by adequately cooking the pastry cream on the stove and allowing it to bubble for a full minute. This deactivates amylase—an enzyme in egg yolks that dissolves starches and can result in watery sauces—and ensures that the custard for your banana pudding remains rich and silky even after it sits for an extended period of time.

Don’t Shy Away From Store-Bought Nilla Wafers

Mention banana pudding, and chances are someone will bring up Nilla Wafers. Today, the cookie has become such an intrinsic part of banana pudding that it’s rare to come across a recipe that calls for something else. A quick look at the history of the dish, though, tells us that sponge cake was once the norm. While using cake is fine and dandy, what I want is banana pudding—not trifle—complete with wafers and all.

Which brings us to the question: Is it worth making your own wafers for banana pudding? Unlike custard, where there’s a tangible difference between store-bought mix and homemade, the difference between homemade and store-bought cookies, especially when they’re stacked between layers of pastry cream and bananas, is negligible. Unless you want a true baking project where you’re making every single component from scratch, store-bought vanilla wafers work just fine.

Keep the Topping Simple

Listen, I tried topping my banana pudding with meringue and baking it, as well as folding a portion of the pastry cream into whipped cream for a topping. These variations just weren’t for me. I much prefer a cold banana pudding with lightly sweetened soft whipped cream. Sometimes simple is best, and in my tests I found that keeping the whipped cream relatively neutral helps to balance the sweetness of the pastry cream and ripe bananas and adds a pleasant lightness. You could top the banana pudding with crushed up wafers for extra crunch, but the dessert really doesn’t need any garnishing.

Side view of scoop of banana pudding
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Chill the Banana Pudding for at Least Eight Hours

For the best banana pudding, I recommend allowing the assembled dessert (minus the whipped cream topping) to chill for at least eight hours. This gives the vanilla wafers adequate time to soften and allows the flavors to meld, resulting in a more cohesive dessert. If you’re feeling impatient and decide to dig in sooner, you may encounter some dry cookies. A handful of wafers with bananas, pastry cream, and whipped cream is tasty enough but it does not make a banana pudding—the dessert is more than the sum of its parts. Let time do the hard work for you and you’ll end up with what my colleagues—including Megan, our associate editorial director, who’s from the South!—say is the best banana pudding they’ve ever had.

In a 4-quart stainless steel saucepan or pot, combine milk and scraped vanilla bean along with its seeds or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste. Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover to prevent evaporation, and let steep for 30 minutes.

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In a large bowl, set up an ice bath by partially filling it with a combination of cold water and ice. Set aside.

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In a medium heatproof mixing bowl set on top of a dampened towel (this serves as a stable base), stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in egg yolks until mixture is pale yellow, smooth, and fluffy, about 1 minute.

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Uncover infused milk and remove vanilla bean. While whisking continuously, slowly pour milk into egg yolk mixture in a thin stream, until all of it has been added.

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Return mixture to the same pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until pastry cream begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Once it thickens, continue to whisk, pausing every few seconds to check for bubbles, about 1 minute. When it begins to bubble, set a timer and continue whisking for 1 minute. (This step is important to neutralize amylase, a starch-dissolving protein found in egg yolks.)

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Off-heat, whisk in butter until melted and thoroughly combined. Strain pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a heatproof medium bowl. Immediately place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer bowl to prepared ice bath to chill for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

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When ready to assemble banana pudding, whisk pastry cream until smooth. Using a flexible or offset spatula, cover bottom of trifle bowl with about 1 cup pastry cream. Top with a layer of Nilla Wafers. Arrange banana slices on top of cookies. Repeat until you have 4 layers; cover top layer with remaining pastry cream. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate until wafers have softened and the flavors have melded, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. (You may have remaining Nilla Wafers; set aside to garnish, if desired.)

Four image collage of assembling banana pudding
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream, confectioners sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until soft peaks form. (Alternatively, in a medium bowl, whisk cream by hand or using a hand mixer until soft peaks form.)

Overhead view of whipped cream
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Remove plastic wrap from pudding and top with whipped cream. Garnish with crushed Nilla Wafers, if desired. Serve immediately.

Side view of banana pudding being topped iwht whipped cream
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

4-quart saucepan or pot, whisk, fine-mesh sieve, plastic wrap, flexible or offset spatula, stand mixer

Make-Ahead and Storage

The finished banana pudding can be made up to 1 day in advance. To make the banana pudding ahead of time, follow recipe through to step 8, then top dessert with whipped cream when you’re ready to serve. To store leftovers, loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

5-Ingredient British Banoffee Pie

This low-effort dessert with gooey dulce de leche, sliced bananas, and whipped cream is a British classic—and is one I bring to every dinner party.

A slice of banoffee pie.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In 1971, two Brits named Nigel Mackenzie and Ian Dowding came up with the banoffee pie, a popular dessert that apparently counts members of the British royal family among its fans. Its name is a portmanteau of banana and toffee, and with a buttery crust and a gooey dulce de leche filling topped with sliced bananas and whipped cream, the confection has won over the hearts and stomachs of many. According to The Telegraph, Mackenzie and Dowding had been experimenting with an “apparently ‘unreliable’ American recipe” for “Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie,” a dessert the San Francisco pastry shop Blum’s sold from the 1950s to the 1970s. Blum’s pie had a creamy custard filling flavored with instant coffee and melted chocolate, all topped with a lofty crown of whipped cream. 

Though Blum’s dessert contained no fruit, Mackenzie, the owner of the Hungry Monk restaurant in Britain’s East Sussex, was eager to come up with a version that did. Together, Mackenzie and his head chef, Dowding, experimented with various fruits, but none were as inviting as creamy, tropical bananas. “The day we made it with a layer of bananas, I knew we had cracked it,” Dowding wrote in The Guardian in 2006. The dessert quickly became a hit at the restaurant and then in other eateries and homes throughout the United Kingdom. Soon, it had reached other corners of the world, appearing on menus as far as Australia. 

It’s not surprising, since part of the dish’s appeal, especially to home bakers is its ease and approachability and, of course, its deliciousness. I first encountered it at university in Scotland when a friend showed up to a potluck with a freshly made banoffee pie. It soon became my go-to dessert whenever I needed to bring something to a dinner party: As a college student who knew almost nothing about baking, banoffee pie was not only extraordinarily easy to make, but it was affordable, too. It requires nothing more than some butter, a packet of cookies (or biscuits, in British parlance), a can of sweetened condensed milk, several bananas, and a carton of heavy cream—maybe a block of chocolate for shaving on top, if you’re feeling fancy. 

There were many evenings when my flatmates and I, each with a spoon in hand, would crowd around a single banoffee pie as we shed tears over a breakup or giggled over gossip about our professors. I can’t remember who exactly taught me how to make the treat, but I’ve tweaked the recipe to my liking over the years and have made it so many times I now know it by heart. It’s a relatively simple dessert, but putting some extra thought into the crust, filling, and topping can help you make a banoffee pie that will steal the show at every potluck you bring it to. Here are my tips for doing just that.

Banoffee pie on a plate.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Best Banoffee Pie Crust, Reach for a Packet of British Biscuits

Today, many banoffee pie recipes call for a graham cracker crust. I prefer using digestive biscuits, a hearty British cookie, as they have a pleasantly earthy flavor and are slightly less sweet. Some people, Dowding included, abhor the idea of using crushed up cookies to make crust and advocate for using a shortcrust pastry dough instead. Some desserts—like an American-style apple pie that relies on a sturdy dough for its structural integrity—are worth rolling out a proper crust for. But banoffee pie is not one of them.

I don’t believe in taking shortcuts at the expense of flavor, but this is the rare occasion where the easiest method—coating biscuit crumbs with butter—also happens to be the most delicious. You pulverize the cookies in a food processor or place them in a zip-top bag to smash up with a rolling pin, toss the crumbs with salt and melted butter, then press them into a tart pan. Baking the crust briefly helps to set it, while also bringing out its buttery, toasty flavors.

Digestive biscuits in the bowl of a food processor.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For a Creamy, Lusciously Sweet Filling, Simmer Condensed Milk

“Banoffee” may imply that there’s coffee or toffee in the dessert, but the filling involves neither. Rather, it consists of what many mistakenly call a caramel sauce: dulce de leche. “While it looks like caramel, it is, in fact, based on the Maillard browning of dairy rather than the caramelization of sugar,” contributor Nila Jones notes in her recipe for the sauce. “That may sound like a technicality, but it gives dulce de leche a sweet and mellow, toffee- or butterscotch-like flavor without the bitterness associated with caramel (i.e., burned sugar).”

Though you could spend hours stirring a pot of milk and sugar on the stovetop until it reduces and browns, it’s much easier to do as Nila and many other British home cooks do: Make the dulce de leche by simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk until it becomes thick and golden brown. This method also takes several hours, but is more hands-off and produces a filling that’s just as flavorful. The longer you simmer, the thicker and more “set” the dulce de leche will be.

For a thicker, darker filling with deep flavor, I cook the condensed milk for four hours—in my tests, anything shorter than that resulted in a sauce that was too thin, making it difficult to cut and portion the pie. To save time, I often cook three cans at once, as unopened cans can sit at room temperature for up to three months. Once the condensed milk has finished cooking and cooling, I pour it into a bowl and season it generously with salt, which highlights its rich, buttery dairy flavors. 

A word of warning: Simmering condensed milk may be the more “hands-off” method, but it’s still essential to keep an eye on the pot of water to ensure the can is always submerged in boiling water, as the condensed milk can explode and cause burns and injuries. (See the editor’s note for more safety tips.)

Banoffee pie with two slices on plates.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

How Ripe Should Bananas Be for Banoffee Pie?

Because the filling is so sweet, you want bananas that are just ripe and still slightly firm, so choose bananas with light, bright yellow skin with few to no brown spots. Anything riper or softer than that will produce a banoffee pie that’s both difficult to assemble and cloyingly sweet.

Leave Your Whipped Cream Unsweetened

I generally prefer sweetened whipped cream, but keeping the whipped cream plain and unsweetened here helps to balance out the rich filling. The lightness of the whipped cream against the denser but still creamy bananas, the thick dulce de leche, and the crisp crust makes each bite a pleasant contrast of textures and flavors—which is everything I want in a dessert.

Banoffee pie on a blue plate.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Filling: Set a wire or steamer rack inside a 6- to 8-quart pot. Set unopened condensed milk can on its side on the rack, then fill pot with room-temperature water, making sure water level is at least 2 inches above can. (The can must remain fully submerged during the entirety of simmering to prevent it from warping and splitting, which can result in the can rupturing and injuries.)

Set pot over high heat and bring to a simmer (avoid a vigorous boil). Reduce heat to maintain simmer and cook for 4 hours; check pot every 30 minutes to ensure water level stays above can, adding boiling water as necessary to keep can under 2 inches of water.

Remove pot from heat and allow can to cool to room temperature in water, at least 1 hour. Do not attempt to open can while still hot; this can cause pressurized hot dulce de leche to spray dangerously.

When dulce de leche is cool, open can and pour into a medium bowl. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt until well-combined. Set aside.

Whisking dulce de leche in a bowl.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Crust: While dulce de leche is cooking, prepare the crust. Adjust oven rack to center and preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together digestive biscuits until sandy. (Alternatively, place digestive biscuits in a zip-top bag and, using a rolling pin, crush biscuits until sandy.) Using a flexible spatula, transfer biscuit mixture to a medium bowl and stir in salt. Pour melted butter over biscuits, tossing to evenly coat crumbs in butter. Pour crumbs into a 9-inch tart pan and spread into an even layer across bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using your fingers and a flat-bottomed measuring cup, press crumbs firmly to form a compact, even layer. Bake until crust is lightly golden and smells buttery, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Collage of photos depicting crust being made for banoffee pie.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip heavy cream on medium speed until medium-soft peaks form, about 6 minutes. (Alternatively, use your favorite method for whipping cream, such as a whisk or handheld beaters.) 

Bowl of whipped cream.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Pour dulche de leche filling into crust and top with sliced bananas. Using a flexible or offset spatula, cover pie evenly with whipped cream. If garnishing with shaved chocolate, place chocolate bar on a microwave-safe plate and heat until just warm enough to leave a fingerprint, about 10 seconds. Using a Y vegetable peeler, shave sides of chocolate bar over the pie, moving the peeler in an up-and-down motion to create small chocolate curls. Serve immediately.

Assembling banoffee pie.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Food processor, stand mixer

Make-Ahead and Storage

Banoffee pie can be made 1 day in advance through step 6. Whip the  cream and top the pie with it when ready to serve.

Once topped with whipped cream, banoffee pie can be loosely wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

The Unexpected Ingredient That Makes This Peanut–Butter Banana Smoothie Shine

This salty-sweet peanut–butter banana smoothie takes all of five minutes to whizz up and gets extra creaminess from whole milk, nut butter, and frozen bananas.

Banana smoothie in a glass cup with bananas in the background.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Peanut butter and banana are an iconic duo. Whether layered together with bacon and honey in the Elvis sandwich, turned into an ice cream treat, or stirred into oatmeal, it’s a combination that I and many others adore. The two arguably go together even better than classic peanut butter and jelly: The nut butter’s rich creaminess and savory notes complement the fruit’s natural sweetness and tropical flavor, and each bite is delightfully salty-sweet. Peanut butter and bananas typically show up on my slice of toast at 11 p.m. when I need a quick snack before bed, and in the morning, I frequently reach into my stash of frozen bananas to whizz up a quick smoothie with the nutty spread.

You might think a banana smoothie recipe is about as helpful as a PB&J recipe (...nobody asked for it, you know exactly how you like your smoothie, etc.), but there really are a few key ingredients and techniques that can take your smoothie from boring morning filler food to something you actually look forward to.

Tips for the Perfect Peanut Butter–Banana Smoothie

Peel, slice, and freeze your bananas first. While the drink gets creaminess from milk and nut butter, using a frozen banana makes it even thicker and helps keep the drink cold. I’d tell you to use a regular banana if you don’t have any frozen, but the drink is exponentially better when thick and cold, and it’s worth keeping a bag of bananas in your freezer just to make this smoothie—and banana bread, of course. To make it easier for my blender to blitz up the frozen bananas, I peel and slice the bananas before freezing them in a zip-top bag. 

Use whole milk. I opt for whole milk so this smoothie feels more like a milkshake, but you’re more than welcome to use your favorite dairy-free milk instead. Some people incorporate yogurt to make their smoothies creamier, but I found that yogurt gives the smoothie a tartness that doesn’t work well with the banana flavor. The neutral flavors of whole and dairy-free milks such as oat milk, on the other hand, allow the banana and nut butter to shine.

Use natural peanut butter. Crunchy or creamy? It doesn’t matter much here, since it’s all going to be blended until smooth—so use whatever you have on hand. I do, however, recommend using nut butter with no added sugar or salt, as this can make the beverage cloyingly sweet or unpleasantly salty. 

Swap out the peanut butter for another nut butter if you’d like. If peanuts aren’t your thing, other nut butter or seed pastes like almond butter, cashew butter, or tahini are excellent options. Just be sure to look for the natural varieties with no additional sugar or salt, as that can impact the flavor of the smoothie. (If all you have is salted nut butter on hand, just skip the added salt in the smoothie recipe—or season to taste.)

Add some salt. I wouldn’t describe this as a savory shake, but just as you’d season a vanilla pastry cream or a chocolate mousse, using a touch of salt simply helps to bring everything together and highlights the natural flavors of the banana and nut butter.

The end result is a smoothie that’s not quite dessert for breakfast, but it’s so deliciously creamy that it might as well be.

Ingredients for banana smoothie in a blender.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In a blender, combine milk, frozen banana slices, peanut butter, and salt. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 1 minute.

Making banana smoothie in a blender.
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

In a blender, combine milk, frozen banana slices, peanut butter, and salt. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 1 minute.

Notes

Your dairy-free milk of choice can be substituted for whole milk, but the smoothie will be sweeter if you use sweetened dairy-free milk.

Both creamy and crunchy nut butters will work here. Almond butter, cashew butter, and tahini can be substituted for peanut butter. I recommend using natural nut butters with no added sugar or salt, as that will impact the smoothie’s flavor.