One of my favorite ways to change up my go-to recipes is to use bread crumbs—especially panko crumbs—when baking chicken or fish. I include bread crumbs in my vegetable pancakes to add heartiness. I mix them with grated cheese and top the mixture—seasoned with garlic salt and herbs—on tomatoes or fennel or eggplant when I roast them.

Works for me. But I just came across an alternative at the Little Italy Mercato that may prove just as tasty and more healthy: Nut Crumbs. Yeah, perhaps it sounds a little silly but these bread crumb alternatives are delicious.

They a mixture of ground organic nuts—almonds and cashews as the base, thanks to their neutral flavors, plus either pistachios or pecans—along with herbs and spices.

Nut Crumbs comes in four varieties: Original (pistachios, almonds, salt, and pepper), Coconut Curry (cashews, pistachios, almonds, coconut flakes, curry powder, salt, and pepper), Italian (pecans, cashews, almonds, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and garlic powder), and Spicy (pecans, cashews, almonds, almond meal, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and crushed red pepper).

San Diegan Susan Laughlin is the creator and owner of Nut Crumbs, which has been in business for just about four months. The director of student financial services for a private San Diego university, Laughlin is passionate about both business and food.

“An avid foodie and wannabe chef, I’ve always dreamt of being in the culinary industry,” she said.

Laughlin came up with the idea for Nut Crumbs a few years ago after trying to lose weight following the birth of her first son. She took the paleo path and had been cooking with them for years before deciding to turn it into a business this past winter.

“I tried so many variations and settled on my current flavors because I thought they were all delicious and filled a distinct flavor profile in the market,” she said. “The original flavor was my first. I love pistachios and wanted them to be the star of the show as they are so delicious in their own right. You cannot think of "bread crumbs" without Italian, so this was a must have flavor. I am a huge fan of Thai food, so the coconut curry was a natural for that flavor profile. My husband loves all things spicy, so I had to create that flavor for him!”

Laughlin said she uses the paleo, gluten-free Nut Crumbs on just about everything.

“We cook with them several times a week. Our go to is Nut Crumbs encrusted shrimp and chicken or meatballs with Italian Nut Crumbs instead of bread crumbs.”

The nuts are all sourced from Premium Nut, a family-owned company in Chula Vista, while the spices come from Mount Hope Spices out of Cottonwood, Arizona.

A 10-ounce bag of Nut Crumbs costs $14.99. At the Mercato, they also sell two bags for $25. I bought both the original and Coconut Curry and am in love with the possibilities. Surprisingly, they are also low in sodium, cholesterol, and carbs, making them a great “crumb” alternative for those with diabetes.

Along with the Little Italy Mercato, you can also find Nut Crumbs at the Pacific Beach, North Park, and La Jolla Farmers markets, as well as online and at Williams-Sonoma in UTC. In fact, they participate in their Artisans Markets and will be doing a demo at the UTC store on October 7.

Laughlin has posted several recipes on the website. Here’s one for her Shrimp over Pesto Zucchini:

Original Nut Crumbs Encrusted Shrimp Over Pesto Zucchini


  • Original Nut Crumbs
  • Shrimp
  • Zucchini
  • Splash of Almond Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Fresh Basil
  • Pine Nuts
  • Lemon
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. To start this recipe make sure your shrimp are peeled, deveined, and cleaned. Whisk about three eggs and a splash of almond milk together and put your shrimp in the egg mixture. I always add a little dash of salt & pepper to my egg mix, but that's optional.
  2. Dredge the shrimp in Original Nut Crumbs until shrimp are thoroughly coated.
  3. Clean and peel the zucchini and put through the spiralizer. Your result will be gorgeous zucchini noodles!
  4. Get a pot of boiling water going for the "noodles."
  5. In a skillet add a few tablespoons of EVOO and a splash of ghee. Feel free to use an alternative if you have a favorite cooking fat.
  6. While the stove is heating up, grab a food processor and throw in a heaping handful of fresh basil, pine nuts, a few garlic cloves, and the juice of half a lemon. Pour in some EVOO into the blender until you have a thick sauce consistancy. Add salt & pepper. A traditional Pesto sauce has some parmigiana cheese in it as well. Your call!
  7. Start cooking your shrimp in the hot oil. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side and place shrimp on a cooling rack.
  8. Throw the zucchini "noodles" in the boiling water for a few minutes and strain.
  9. Pour the pesto sauce all over the zucchini and toss until all "noodles" are thoroughly coated. You may choose to eat the zucchini "noodles" raw, which is a perfectly yummy option! In that case you might want to heat up the pesto sauce before coating the "noodles."
  10. Place a portion of the zucchini "noodles" in a shallow bowl and top with your perfectly Nut Crumbs encrusted shrimp and chow!
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