A croquette is a small patty made from meat, potatoes, or vegetables. These ingredients are mixed together, then coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried to create a golden, crunchy outer shell. While the croquette can serve as both a snack and a full meal, it's most widely prized for its portability, which makes it a popular convenience food. The name croquette is likely derived from the French verb croquer, which means to crunch.
Many people mistakenly believe that this food originated in France, but it can actually be traced back all the way to the early Roman empire. The Romans used a pastry-like coating around meat or vegetables to create a dish known as rissoles. This recipe spread throughout Europe over time, and by the early 18th century, the French were the first to use breadcrumbs in place of the traditional pastry coating. The first written record of the croquette in the United States came in a late 19th century cookbook. Croquettes remain popular in various forms throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
The croquette may contain a wide variety of ingredients mixed together, or may consist of just one basic filling. Minced or chopped beef, pork and chicken are among the most popular fillers, followed by sausage and fish. Mashed or chopped potatoes also feature heavily, as do peas, cabbage, and other vegetables. Some croquette recipes call for cheese and various spices, while others are mild. Cheaper or lower quality croquettes often contain binders or fillers such as breading or cheap vegetables.
This dish is often influenced by regional preferences and traditions. In the United Kingdom, the croquette is strictly a potato dish, and is rarely made with meat. People in the United States enjoy deep-fried fish or crab cakes, as well as salmon patties. In South America, croquettes often contain minced chicken or fish, while Europeans focus on beef- and sausage-filled varieties. In Asian nations, the croquette typically contains vegetables and potatoes, with very little meat.
When served as a snack, croquettes often come with a special dipping sauce or mustard. They may be used as an appetizer, or sold at street fairs and in bars. In some countries, the croquette is served alongside soup or another side to form a complete meal. It can also be stuffed into a piece of bread to form a simple sandwich, or topped with tomato sauce to form a stew-like dish.