Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten Has 1 Easy Hack That Makes Salads Less Boring

Ina Garten has found a way to elevate salad recipes to a more delicious level, with the addition of one easy homemade ingredient. The Barefoot Contessa star has an easy hack for making simple croutons that takes just minutes but really adds something extra special to a salad.

Ina Garten cooks with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show
Ina Garten and Stephen Colbert | Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

Ina Garten has a trick for perfect homemade croutons

Garten demonstrated how she makes perfect croutons in a 2018 Instagram video. She explained in the caption: “Leftover bread in the freezer? Half an uneaten baguette from dinner? Why not turn it into homemade croutons! They’re great on soups, in salads (like my favorite, Panzanella!) and oh, yes, they’re also good to eat hot right out of the pan! Here are my tips on how you can make croutons like a pro.”

“When most people are making croutons, I think what they do is they put the oil and the croutons in the pan at the same time,” Garten explained in the video. “But what pros do, is that they heat up the pan, put in a few tablespoons of olive oil.”

The Barefoot Contessa star’s hack is so easy and the bread cubes take mere minutes to toast. “Make sure the oil is really hot — in a hot pan it gets hot faster — and then put in the croutons,” she said. “And that way croutons get nice and browned, but they don’t absorb the oil so much.”

Garten seasoned the croutons with lots of salt and pepper, sharing, “You want them to have great flavor.”

Ina Garten shared another easy tip for making croutons

While sharing her method for croutons, Garten explained that the technique works for other food as well. “This is actually a great way to make sauteed onions, anything you’re sauteing in a pan,” she explained. “Heat up the oil first, it’ll make such a difference.”

Garten gave the bread a shake to toast it evenly. “You can use on salads and they’re so good,” she said as she popped a hot crouton into her mouth.

A fan asked Garten for advice about making croutons on her Barefoot Contessa “Ask Ina” page and she had the perfect solution. “I am having trouble making the croutons for your Panzanella recipe — the bread keeps burning. I tried lowering the heat on the stove, but should they be cooked in the oven?,” the fan asked.

Garten shared, “If the croutons are burning without browning properly, you might need to add more oil to the pan.”

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Ina Garten adds homemade croutons to her panzanella recipe

Garten demonstrated how to make the panzanella salad recipe in an episode of Barefoot Contessa that focused on portable foods to bring to the beach. “You want something that’s really easy to eat that can be served at room temperature,” she explained.

Garten showed how to toast the bread cubes, noting, “Italians made up this salad to use leftover bread so it’s a great way to use it if it’s a little bit dry, it’s even better — really soaks up the vinaigrette.”

Garten made the easiest garlic vinaigrette, whisking together garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The Barefoot Contessa star then chopped all the vegetables for the salad — cucumber, peppers, red onion, and tomatoes.

“And the longer it sits, the better it tastes,” she noted. “It’s a really casual salad.” Garten put the vegetables in a bowl, then added capers, fresh basil, the croutons, and vinaigrette and tossed everything together.

You can find the full recipe on the Barefoot Contessa website.