Bread crumbs are a tasty topping to many casserole dishes, but it's not your only option. Traditionally, store bought bread crumbs are made with bread, seasonings and an array of other ingredients, including preservatives. Sprinkling the top of your casseroles with almond meal instead contributes a slightly buttery flavor. Substituting almond meal for bread crumbs not only eliminates questionable ingredients, it also eliminates gluten and adds nutrition such as protein, fiber, calcium, potassium and antioxidants, to your meal.
Topping With Almond
Sprinkle almond meal for your topping as you would bread crumbs. Season the almond meal either before or after you have topped your dish, if you would like additional flavor. Use Italian seasonings, basil, oregano, black pepper, sea salt, cayenne pepper or chili powder. Toss almond meal with melted butter, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil for extra flavor, or spray olive or coconut oil over the top to reduce the calories but keep the taste.
Nuts and Bolts
Almond meal is sometimes confused with almond flour, or the two terms are used interchangeably. However, while both products come from almonds, there is a difference in their consistency and process. Almond meal is coarsely ground almonds that are unblanched, with the outer skin left on. Almond flour is finely ground almonds that are blanched and have had the skin removed prior to grinding.
Homemade Almond Meal
Purchase almond meal from the store or make it yourself at home. Buy almond meal in small packages; it will go a long way when using it for replacement bread crumbs. Place whole almonds in a clean coffee grinder, high speed blender or food processor, to make it yourself. Pulse the almonds until they become coarsely ground: a mix between flour and bits of almond. Store the fresh almond meal in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Be sure they are dry before grinding or you may end up with almond butter instead. Freeze the almonds, after they are dry, but before grinding to help create a crumbly product; this also helps to keep the almonds from becoming butter. If you pulse for too long and end up with almond flour instead of almond meal, this can be substituted for bread crumbs in the same way. Sprout your whole almonds by soaking them the night before to make them easier to digest.