Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb traditionally used as a coating for deep-fried foods such as tonkatsu. The biggest difference between panko and standard breadcrumbs is that panko is made from bread without crusts, says Pam Becker, media representative for Progresso, which makes both types.

Panko’s crustless white bread is coarsely ground into airy, large flakes that give fried foods a light, crunchy coating. The flakes tend to stay crispier longer than standard breadcrumbs because they don’t absorb as much grease.

Although predominantly used in Asian cuisine, panko has been gaining popularity in Western dishes. It can be used as an excellent topping for eggplant Parmesan, as an addition to a classic mac and cheese recipe, or as a binding agent for veggie burgers.

If you’re gluten-free, try using crushed Rice Chex as a panko substitute!

Here are three dishes that highlight the extra-crisp power of panko:

Baked Asparagus Fries

Fresh asparagus spears floured, then dipped in egg, then rolled in panko. Baked, they turn crispy and tender, a healthy fries alternative. Get our Baked Asparagus Fries recipe.

Tempura-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Diced sweet potatoes are roasted with mirin, sugar, and vinegar, then finished with a crispy coating of toasted panko. It’s sweet, satisfying, and surprising. Get our Tempura-Glazed Sweet Potatoes recipe.

Japanese Chicken Katsu with Curry Sauce

This pounded-thin and fried-crisp chicken cutlet drenched in warmly spiced Japanese curry sauce is perfect over white rice to soak up all that flavor. Get our Chicken Katsu recipe.