Panko is a type of flaky breadcrumb. It’s commonly used in Asian cuisine, although it has become more popular and widely available in Western cooking.
What sets it apart from standard breadcrumbs is its texture and the type of bread that’s used. While breadcrumbs can be made using a number of different types of bread, panko is made using white bread. There are two varieties of panko: white panko, which is made from white bread without any crust, and tan panko, which is made from the entire loaf. The bread is processed into large flakes, rather than crumbs, and then dried. Panko has a light, airy, and delicate texture that helps it crisp as it cooks. The texture of panko makes it especially wonderful for fried food because it absorbs less oil than breadcrumbs, keeping food more crisp and crunchy. On its own, panko has little to no flavor. It can be used as a crunchy topping to add texture to baked casseroles, like macaroni and cheese, as a breaded coating for fried foods, or as a binder for meatballs. It’s also commonly used in Japanese cooking.