This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see our affiliate policy.
Learn how to make a panade, a simple paste of milk and bread, which keeps all your ground meat recipes supple and delicious, just the way you want them. Mouthwateringly tender meatballs, meatloaf, and burgers are just one easy culinary trick away.
Chances are that your mom or grandma used some form of a panade to keep their ground meat recipes from taking on the consistency of a roof shingle. They may not have known the technical name for the paste-like mixture of starch and liquid, but that didn’t matter. All they had to know was that the end result was juicy, flavorful, and supremely tender.
How do you make meatballs not dry? A panade. Ground meat—especially lean ground meat— can often turn dry and tough when grilled, baked, or roasted. That’s where a panade comes in and saves the day, or at the very least, dinner.
It’s easy to do. Here’s a handy guide to keep in mind for your next ground beef or turkey recipe!
What is a panade?
At its most basic, a panade (puh-NOD) is a combination of starch and liquid that keeps the protein in the meat from shrinking and tightening during cooking. As the meat cooks, the starch turns into a gel that acts as a type of lubricant between the protein fibers.
All science aside, a panade is most commonly made from milk and bread, blended into a paste and then added to ground meat mixture before cooking.
“Panade” is a French word that translates literally to “bread mash.”
Always follow the recipe in front of you, but here are some general guidelines if you’re winging it.
For meatballs and meatloaf:
- ¼ cup starch : ¼ cup liquid : 1 pound ground meat
For example, if you’re making meatballs, soak ¼ cup breadcrumbs in ¼ cup milk and mix with 1 pound ground beef (you’ll probably be adding 1 egg per pound or two of meat, too).
- 2 tablespoons starch : 2 tablespoons liquid : 1 pound ground meat
Types of starches for panade:
- Bread. Fresh, stale, wheat, day-old. Your meatball won’t mind.
- Breadcrumbs. Homemade breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs.
- Crackers or cracker crumbs.
- Cooked rice. Gluten free panade.
- Cooked potato or potato flakes. Also gluten-free.
Liquids for panade:
- Stock or broth.
You can select the types of liquid and starch you use to best fit the recipe you’re making–or even what you have on hand.
When to use a panade:
- Meatballs. Meatballs made with bread soaked in milk is a classic preparation. Italian meatballs, Swedish Meatballs, you name it. Every one becomes irresistible.
- Meatloaf. The best meatloaf ever, thanks to a buttermilk and bread panade.
- Burgers. A small amount of milk soaked bread in ground beef makes juicy burgers on the grill. (Note: Purists don’t add things like panade to their burgers. It’s meat and salt only)!
How to make a Panade:
My recipe for better-than-IKEA Swedish Meatballs uses heavy cream and bread, but that combo isn’t as common as a bread and milk parade. Therefore, here’s a simple panade recipe that works almost anywhere.
- To start, cut or tear the bread into small pieces (or substitute bread crumbs). Then, mix with an equal part of milk and let sit for a few minutes so the bread can soften and absorb the milk.
- At some point, you can help things along by mashing the bread and milk together with a fork or spoon.
- Once the mixture has formed a soft paste, you’re ready to add it to the ground meat, along with any other spices, flavorings, and binders you choose (such as an egg). Then shape it into loaves, balls, or patties.
Making gluten-free panade:
It’s an easy substitution! Just switch out the bread for gluten-free bread or gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Making Keto panade:
Equal parts crushed pork rinds (or almond flour, or Keto-friendly breadcrumbs) and heavy cream, a low carb meatball lover’s dream come true.
For example, if you’re working with 2 pounds of ground beef to make meatballs, make a panade with ½ cup crushed pork skins and ½ cup heavy cream. Then mix it in and roll up those meatballs.
Bread vs. breadcrumbs:
If all you have are breadcrumbs, here’s an easy formula to figure out how much to use in place of bread.
- 1 (1.4 ounce) slice of bread = ¾ cup of fresh breadcrumbs
- 4 slices of bread = 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Making panade with panko bread crumbs:
Extra crispy panko breadcrumbs are made from crustless loaves of bread, cooked in an electric oven. When you’re making a panade with panko, you may find that they absorb a lot more liquid than you’d expect.
I recommend that you adjust the proportions accordingly, (adding more liquid or fewer breadcrumbs) until the breadcrumbs soften into a paste.
How to Make a Panade
To make a panade for 1 pound of ground meat:
- In a medium bowl, add bread and milk. Let sit for a minute until the milk is absorbed, then mash until smooth (about 1 minute).
- Proceed with the rest of your recipe.
- ¼ cup starch : ¼ cup liquid : 1 pound ground meat
- 2 tbsp starch : 2 tbsp liquid : 1 pound ground meat
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.