Bread pudding for breakfast? Don’t mind if we do. French Toast Casserole is a sharable treat that’s perfect for cozy weekends in with the family or gatherings with your brunch bunch. A perfectly crispy crust hides a tender, gooey interior of sweetly spiced custard-soaked bread with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple.
Though I have previously, officially endorsed breakfast for dinner, I’d like to take this moment to apologize for something I should have done much sooner this year – endorse dessert for breakfast.
Now, before you get all “aren’t you supposed to be a little more mindful about ‘healthy’ food?” on me, let me state for the record that this is not an op-ed praising chocolate cake for breakfast. Nor is it, as one of my friends requested, a recipe for a bucket of edible cookie dough she could, and I quote, “start working on around 5am…and then just transition into lunchtime.”
This French Toast Casserole is really just bread pudding; and bread pudding is by far the most rational dessert-to-breakfast transition possible because technically, isn’t all bread pudding really just a giant vat of, well, French toast? And when’s the last time you rationally got to dig into a giant vat of anything you love?! In fact, I’m pret-ty sure “casserole” is francais for “delicious vat.” (Shh…don’t ruin the joke.)
I’ve seen breakfast casserole recipes for everything from Eggs Benedict to eggy, breakfast-y spins on the Monte Cristo Sandwich (now there’s a throwback). People are making single giant sheetpan pancakes and tiny little freezable omelet muffins, dozens at a time. Whether you’re feeding a crowd, or feeding yourself for a week (or a day – no judgement), “bulk breakfasts” have been popping up all over the place with good cause – they’re simple, succulent, and sharable.
This particular breakfast bread pudding has been perfected from an old family recipe and is easily one of the top 5 things people ask me to make and bring to gatherings from work potlucks to baby showers to holiday dinners to be served as – you guessed it – dessert.
Bread Options for French Toast Casserole
I tend to stick with something sweet and soft, like brioche or challah.
For a more substantial casserole, reach for sourdough, French bread, or ciabatta. (This will yield a thicker, denser casserole and land somewhere closer to a traditional bread pudding.)
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- Do take the time to dry out the brioche or challah bread so that it can properly soak up the custard.
- Cut or tear the bread into large, 2″ pieces – you’re not making stuffing.
- Give it time to soak, especially if you use a denser bread like sourdough or ciabatta. 15 minutes is the bare minimum, but an overnight soak is perfection.
Can I Make French Toast Casserole Ahead of Time?
Yes – and encouraged to do so! Prepare the evening before you intend to bake, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. This has become our official Christmas morning breakfast tradition, and given the chaos of the early hours of 12/25 with small children, make-ahead is the only way to go.
Make It Your Way
- Add half cup of pecans or walnuts on top. Toast ’em first!
- Mix fresh blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries into the bread before adding the custard.
- Make it dairy free: choose a creamy dairy free milk like oat milk or cashew milk in place of the milk and heavy cream for the custard. Be sure to use challah (which is typically made dairy free) or French or sourdough bread.
More Breakfast Recipes for a Crowd
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes
- Sweet Potato Hash with Bacon and Apples
- Gluten Free Eggs Benedict Casserole
- Cinnamon Apple Bread Pudding
- White Bean Eggs in Purgatory
Did you make this French Toast Casserole? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- 1 loaf brioche or challah bread, diced to 1″ cubes
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tsp softened butter, or cooking spray
- 2 c whole milk
- 1 c heavy cream
- ½ c maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Butter a 9" x 13" casserole dish with the softened butter or lightly coat with cooking spray.
- Dice or tear the bread into 2" cubes and then spread the cubes onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Transfer the bread cubes to the oven to dry out, stirring once halfway through. The cubes are finished when they are firm and dry, but not toasted – about 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and spread the cubes into the prepared casserole dish.
- While the bread is drying out, prepare the custard. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour the custard over the bread cubes. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, gently press down on the bread to ensure each one gets coated with the custard.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and transfer to the fridge. Chill for at least 15 minutes, and up to overnight.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Transfer the foil covered casserole dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the bread pudding is golden brown on top and puffed. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes; it will deflate.
- Dust with powdered sugar, and serve warm, drizzled with additional maple syrup. The cooked casserole will keep in the fridge, covered, for an additional 2 days.