Baked French Toast Casserole

updated Nov 17, 2023
christmas
French Toast Casserole Recipe

This make-ahead breakfast bake boasts all the classic cinnamon and vanilla French toast flavors wrapped up into a family-style casserole.

Serves10 to 12

Prep20 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 50 minutes

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french toast casserole in white casserole dish
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

If you’re looking for a sweet breakfast bake to build a tradition around, this French toast casserole is it. Custard-soaked bread is flavored with sweet cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with a nutty crumble topping, and baked until golden and fragrant. The best part of this French toast casserole is that it’s as versatile as you need it to be — you can make it ahead or assemble at the last minute.

After tasting some of the most popular French toast casseroles on the internet, I had a full belly and a lot of opinions about what it takes to make the very best French toast casserole. Here’s how to make the only French toast casserole you’ll ever need.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

What Is the Best Bread for French Toast Casserole?

Many French toast casseroles (including some I’ve written about!) begin with a loaf of rich and eggy brioche or challah bread. While they’re sturdy enough to be cubed or torn to pieces, these breads are too soft to absorb the sweetened custard without falling apart unless they’re dried or toasted first.

Crusty sourdough loaf is the secret to the best French toast casserole. Sourdough bread has a hearty, chewy texture that stands up well to soaking — and doesn’t have to be dried or stale (although if you’ve got day-old bread, use it!) Sourdough bread also has a subtle sour tang, which balances the sweetness of the custard and crumble topping.

If there’s no unsliced sourdough available, make your next choice a hearty Italian or French loaf (although not a baguette!).

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

How to Prepare Bread for French Toast Casserole

There are three options to choose from when preparing a crusty loaf of bread for French toast casserole: tear, cube, or slice.

  • Cubed bread: Pieces remain distinct and separate, tumbling off one another even after a long soak and gentle bake.
  • Sliced bread: Clear visual that this is a baked French toast, but the top half of the bread never fully absorbs the custard, even with an overnight soak.
  • Torn bread: The best way to prepare bread for French toast casserole. Irregularly-shaped pieces have a greater surface area for absorbing the custard and nestle into one another so the interior bakes up rich and tender while the jagged edges brown and crisp.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

Why Is My French Toast Casserole Soggy?

French toast casserole may be soggy if the ratio of custard to bread is off. Commit just three ingredients to memory for the best (and easiest!) French toast casserole:

  • Three cups dairy: Use half-and-half or combine equal parts heavy cream and whole milk. Avoid fat-free milk which won’t lend enough richness.
  • Eight large eggs: Eggs give the casserole its structure for serving.
  • One pound bread: A crusty, 1-pound loaf of sourdough bread will soak up this amount of custard.

What Flavors Are Best for French Toast Casserole?

Once you’ve whisked the dairy and eggs together, sweeten with brown sugar and add spices like vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt for classic French toast flavor. You can also make it your own by swapping in honey, citrus zest, and other sweet spices.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Brett Regot/Kitchn

A Crunchy Crumble Topping Is the Finishing Touch

French toast is all about contrasting textures — soft, custardy bread snuggled beneath a crispy, toasted exterior — and this breakfast bake is no exception. You can bake the casserole as is, bread and custard alone, but to make this the very best make-ahead breakfast, add a sweet and nutty crumble topping.

How to Serve French Toast Casserole

Serve with a drizzle of warm maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar to turn your kitchen into the hottest brunch spot in town.

French Toast Casserole Recipe

This make-ahead breakfast bake boasts all the classic cinnamon and vanilla French toast flavors wrapped up into a family-style casserole.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes to 50 minutes

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 (1-pound) loaf

    unsliced sourdough, Italian, or French (not baguette) bread

  • 8

    large eggs

  • 3 cups

    half-and-half, or 1 1/2 cups each whole milk and heavy cream

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg, divided

  • 2 ounces

    chopped nuts (about 1/2 cup), such as pecans or walnuts

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • Warm maple syrup or powdered sugar, for serving

  • Fresh berries, for serving

Equipment

  • 9x13-inch or 3-quart baking dish

  • Whisk

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Spatula or wooden spoon

  • Plastic wrap

  • Mixing bowls

  • Wire rack

Instructions

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  1. Soften the butter. Place 4 tablespoons unsalted butter on the counter to soften slightly.

  2. Prepare the baking dish. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish or other 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

  3. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces. Tear 1 loaf sourdough bread into bite-sized (1 to 2-inch) chunks. Arrange bread in an even layer in the prepared baking dish.

  4. Make the custard. Whisk 8 large eggs, 3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups whole milk and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream), 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the ground nutmeg together in a large bowl until smooth and combined.

  5. Pour custard over bread and refrigerate. Pour the custard evenly over the bread, then press the bread down slightly into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. Or to bake right away, let sit for 1 hour at room temperature to give the bread time to absorb the custard.

  6. Mix the dry ingredients for the crumble topping. Toss 2 ounces chopped nuts (about 1/2 cup), 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, remaining 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt together in a large bowl.

  7. Add the butter to the crumble topping. Add the softened butter, and pinch and squeeze to incorporate the butter into the mixture until it forms moist, small clumps. Cover the crumble topping with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

  8. Heat the oven to 350°F. When ready to bake, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Take the casserole out of the refrigerator, uncover, and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to take the chill off while the oven heats.

  9. Sprinkle crumble topping over casserole and bake. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the casserole. Bake until the casserole is puffed, golden brown, and set, 45 to 50 minutes.

  10. Cool the casserole. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Top with warm maple syrup or powdered sugar, and fresh berries.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance.

Storage: The casserole is best when served immediately after baking. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.