Craving the texture of breaded chicken but have zero breadcrumbs on the premises? One smart fix, straight ahead.
Photo: Getty Images
| Credit: Getty Images

When so many people have dietary restrictions—whether it’s gluten-free, paleo, carb-free or vegetarian—the home cook feels good when he’s able to change up his game in a snap. It feels hospitable and generous to be able to accommodate a vegan friend by making a coconut milk–based curry, or a veggie friend by ensuring that half your homemade pizza is pepperoni-free.

Among my go-to recipes is Melissa Clark’s mustardy sheet pan chicken from The New York Times. It’s extremely flexible—if you’re out of thyme, you can use fresh chives or tarragon or no herbs at all—and produces crisp-skinned chicken pieces in a mustardy, garlicky butter shellacked in breadcrumbs. A few weeks ago, I’d run out of homemade breadcrumbs, didn’t want to run out to buy panko, and was frantically googling a fix when I landed on this smart Bon Appétit article. Chips, cereal, pretzels, nut flours, and even cornflakes could be breadcrumb substitutes? Genius.

So when a friend stopped by for dinner a week ago and said he couldn’t eat complex carbohydrates, I had the nut flour fix tucked up my sleeve. I threw a handful of dry-roasted salted peanuts in a high-powered blender with a tablespoon of sesame seeds, milling them until they turned into a powder. The caveat with using nut flours (as this article cautioned) is that they burn more easily than breadcrumbs, so I turned down the oven a bit to 400 from the recipe’s 425 (and could have turned it down even more to avoid blackened bits, but those don’t bother me too much).

Peanut-and-sesame encrusted chicken turns out to be as delicious as you’d think—salty and nutty, with an umami boom and a hit of extra protein. These are classic Thai flavors, so next time I think I’ll experiment with putting lime zest in the butter that goes on the chicken, too, or maybe serving a cilantro sauce alongside. Regardless, I’m grateful now that it’s summer to have an easy, shelf-stable breadcrumb substitute for days when I don’t have any kicking around.

Important note: If a guest has celiac disease, be very careful about what you cook for them. Some peanuts are manufactured in buildings where gluten is present, so talk to friends about how to best accommodate any dietary restrictions safely. Often those guests will have done a ton of their own homework on the topic!

Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.