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Crunchy Herb Croutons with Heirloom Tomatoes

Bet you can’t eat just one. The crunchy herby croutons, that is. Or is it the tomatoes, so ripe, so sweet, so full of late summer freshness? Colorful wedges paired with salty golden crisp in one happy mouthful—this arrangement of crunchy herb croutons + heirloom tomatoes are, for me a least, irresistible.

Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

After you eat just one crispy herby cube of a crouton, you’ll want another, and another. Like the bet in that old potato chip commercial, one is not enough. Leave these crunchy munchies out for snacks and they disappear as soon as you can say peasant bread. I’m going to wager you’ll like these croutons more than potato chips.

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Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

This is real food with a short ingredient list—food your great grandmother would recognize. Begin with a loaf of excellent bread. Cut into small squares, toast in olive oil and butter until golden, adding plenty of chopped fresh herbs, plus salt and pepper. Keep the croutons vegan by using all olive oil, no butter.

Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are the other part of this hard to resist combination. You want tomatoes that have never seen the inside of a refrigerator; warm from the garden if you have them. Choose a couple varieties for color and flavor contrast, like yellow taxi, Brandywine, and green zebras. Try small cherry and grape heirlooms too, their bursting sweetness balances the salty croutons.

There’s one more thing. The heirloom tomatoes and crunchy croutons appreciate a simple vinaigrette that ties all the flavors together, a quick and easy recipe of vinegar, mustard and olive oil.

Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

Homemade, subtly aromatic with fresh herbs, one single herb or a mixture–these are croutons with taste. I first made them with summer savory because a bunch came in our CSA farm share box, but I’ve  toasted the croutons ‘til golden with parsley, rosemary, or fresh sage. With any fresh herb–bet you can’t eat just one.

Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

Idea: Salty herby croutons also pair well with young and tender bitter/sweet greens, like curly mizuna, and escarole’s cousin, frisée, also known as curly endive. Dress the greens with the vinaigrette and let them sit for 15 minutes before tossing with these croutons.

Recipe inspired by the Sage Croutons in The Cook and the Gardener, by Amanda Hesser.

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Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes
Crunchy Herb Croutons + Heirloom Tomatoes

You won’t be able to stop eating these croutons--they are that tasty. You will want to sprinkle them over all kinds of salads, not just tomatoes. Got sun-gold cherry tomatoes? Toss them in a bowl with vinaigrette and croutons—absolutely irresistible! You can prepare the croutons ahead of time—but no snacking! Makes about 3 cups croutons and a scant ½ cup of vinaigrette.

Course: Component, Salad, Salad Dressings, Tomatoes
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keyword: tomatoes, croutons, salad
Servings: 3 cups croutons
Author: Letty Flatt
Ingredients
The croutons:
  • ½ loaf crusty rustic bread , day old or fresh (see note)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or olive oil (see note)
  • 1/4 cup tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs
The vinaigrette:
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
Instructions
The croutons:
  1. Cut the bread into cubes a little bigger than ½-inch square. You should have about 6 cups of bread cubes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325° F. In a large non-stick skillet, over medium flame, heat the olive oil and butter until the butter starts to sizzle. Add the croutons. Stir and cook about 5 minutes, until each crouton is saturated with the oil and butter. Season with salt and a generous grind of black pepper.
  3. Stir in the chopped herbs, and then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the croutons are golden and crisp. They don’t need to be completely crunchy—they will crisp a bit more out of the oven.
The vinaigrette:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, plus salt and pepper to taste. Continue whisking as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
To serve:
  1. Slice tomatoes, as many as you wish, and arrange on plates or platters. Dress the tomatoes sparingly with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with croutons, as many as you wish. If you have cherry tomatoes, cut in half and mix equal parts with croutons. Toss with some of the vinaigrette.

Recipe Notes
  • I prefer whole grain bread.
  • Day old bread is easier to cut.
  • Feel free to substitute olive oil for the butter portion.
  • Those salty oily crouton crumbs left on the baking sheet (about ¼ cup) are delicious sprinkled over sautéed greens or eggs.
  • This recipe makes more croutons and dressing than you need for 4 servings. Hide leftover croutons in a re-sealable plastic bag—they keep 4 or 5 days.

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