Other than the creamy bits inside and caramelized cheesy corners, the best part of any casserole is the super crunchy golden brown crust on top. Sadly, too often what should be a toasty, buttery topping is akin to dry sand. That’s because regular breadcrumbs, the kind you buy in a can, seem to be stale before you even open them.

Enter Panko. These Japanese breadcrumbs have a mega-crispy texture before you even toast them. The creamy texture of most casseroles is just begging for a little contrast, and by pre-toasting the Panko with a little butter and some seasonings, you can ensure that you have a perfectly golden-brown crust without having to worry about the casserole underneath drying out.

Golden Panko Breadcrumb Topping

(Makes enough for 1 casserole)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet (or a saucepan in a pinch — you’ll just have to stir more).

2. Add the panko breadcrumbs and seasonings. Stir to coat all the crumbs with melted butter.

3. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are a very light golden color and have a toasted flavor.

4. When your casserole is done cooking, cover the top with your toasted panko breadcrumbs. Set the casserole under the broiler and broil, watching very carefully, until the crumbs are a deep golden brown, being careful not to let them burn. This should take just a couple of minutes.

5. Enjoy! Any leftover toasted breadcrumbs can be kept in an airtight container in the freezer. To reheat: Broil for a minute or two just before sprinkling on top of casseroles (or even pasta!).

Notes: If you want to make extras for sprinkling on top of pasta, adding to meatballs and meatloaves, or breading chicken tenders and tofu, just double the recipe and store the extras in the freezer.

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(Recipe and photos via Justina Huddleston / Brit + Co)