For Better Pork, Substitute Your Schnitzel Coating With Instant Mashed Potatoes

For the ultimate crunchy-yet-juicy combo, schnitzel is pretty hard to beat. Whether it's a homemade pork Wiener schnitzel, or made with chicken or veal, there's something about flattening the succulent meat before coating it in a crunchy crumb and frying or baking until golden that's all-out irresistible. And while regular breadcrumbs or panko are usually used to make the coating, there's an equally tasty alternative you may not have considered: instant mashed potatoes.

Made from flakes of dehydrated cooked potato, often russet or Yukon Gold varieties, instant mashed potatoes are a surprisingly versatile ingredient in the kitchen; they can be used for so much more than simply whipping up a comforting bowl of speedy spuds. And since creamy mashed potatoes are a traditional accompaniment for pork schnitzel, it makes sense in terms of complementary flavors to add potatoes into the mix for the meat itself.

But what the pantry staple ingredient really brings to the table is texture. When used to coat meat for schnitzel, dried potato flakes are a little-known culinary trick that can help to create an exceptionally crispy result. And as an added bonus for some people, using instant mashed potatoes instead of breadcrumbs makes it a good gluten-free substitute, too.

Add extra ingredients for a flavorful potato coating

The basic method for creating an instant mashed potato coating is the same as when making pork schnitzel with breadcrumbs. The boneless chops or cutlets should be pounded with a meat hammer until they're of an even thickness; around ¼ to ⅛ inch is ideal. Then they should be dredged: Dip the meat into a bowl of seasoned flour, then into a bowl of beaten egg, and then into a bowl of potato flakes. You may need to gently press the crumbs into the meat to help them stick better.

For an extra-tasty coating that also means the crumbs adhere well, Ina Garten skips the egg when dredging chicken, instead preferring to use a mixture of white wine and Dijon mustard. This would be equally delicious when used for pork schnitzel, as the mustard and alcohol add so much flavor. But you could also incorporate extra ingredients into the potato crumb to elevate the taste, too.

Mix the dried flakes with grated Parmesan cheese and a little garlic for a punchy boost of umami-rich flavor to the schnitzel coating. You could add paprika to the instant mashed potatoes to add a deeper color and a sweet and smoky taste, or cayenne for heat. You can also try incorporating fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, or sage for an aromatic finish.

More ways to substitute dried potato flakes for breadcrumbs

Using gluten-free instant mashed potatoes in place of breadcrumbs is great for crunchy coatings on meat or fish, but you can use the substitute in many other dishes, too. Try making the switch in homemade meatballs or meatloaf; the potato flakes make a great binder to help hold everything together and help the meat go further. Not only that, but because of the way they retain moisture, they also help to keep the texture tender, too.

If you like to top casseroles with breadcrumbs before baking, then you could just as easily switch to dried potato flakes to provide a contrasting crunchy topping. Try using them mixed with punchy Parmesan in an upscale tuna casserole recipe, or just to quickly elevate a basic mac and cheese.

Instant mashed potatoes also work just as nicely sprinkled on top of baked vegetable dishes, such as a homemade leek and fontina gratin. Or try them in vegetable burgers or fish cakes where they can help bind the ingredients together and maintain a good shape and structure, keeping the results deliciously moist to boot.