Kitchn Love Letters

I Am Going to Cook Nigella Lawson’s Parmesan French Toast Forever and Ever, It’s That Good

published May 7, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Rochelle Bilow

There are few cooks and influencers I’ll follow unquestioningly. Ina Garten is one of them; Martha Stewart is another. But my North Star of cooking, the chef whose opinions and recipes I most eagerly consume, is Nigella Lawson. Nigella is a pleasure-forward cook who puts flavor and the joy of eating above all. I’ve loved every recipe of hers I’ve ever made. So when I stumbled across a hidden gem from her 2017 cookbook, At My Table, I knew I had to try it — especially because it was highly unconventional. I’m talking about Parmesan French toast.

If your first reaction is to recoil, I understand: French toast is usually super sweet. Most recipes call for a sugary custard, and get doused in maple syrup at the table. But to enjoy Nigella’s version, you’ll need to rethink this classic. First, there’s no sugar — not even a quarter teaspoon of it. The technique for cooking French toast, however, remains the same. And that’s where the magic lies.

How to Make Nigella Lawson’s Parmesan French Toast

True to Nigella’s form, this is a simple, unfussy recipe. It requires just a few ingredients, and most of them are pantry staples. You’ll begin by using a shallow, wide bowl to mix a custard made from a beaten egg, whole milk, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, paprika, and grated Parmesan cheese. After that, place a couple slices of bread into the bowl and let sit for 2 minutes on each side. Heat a skillet over medium-high, add a mix of butter and olive oil, then fry up that French toast. Nigella includes a helpful visual cue to know when it’s ready: Look for “patches of rich golden brown on the surface.” Serve garnished with parsley and chopped spring onions. Nigella’s recipe is meant to serve one or two, but you could easily double or triple it.

Get the recipe: Parmesan French Toast from Nigella Lawson

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

My Honest Review of Parmesan French Toast

Oh. My. Gosh. I’ve never played favorites with recipes before, but this one is going in the “cook forever and ever” file. First, Parmesan French toast is absurdly delicious. The cheese forms a delicate crust on the exterior of the bread, so if you’re a fan of crispy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle stuff, you’ll love this. It also smelled heavenly while cooking; it’s the sort of dish that makes you do a happy dance at the stove. (Or, at least, that was my reaction.) 

But the best part about Parmesan French toast is how utterly simple it is: I’d be remiss not to praise Nigella for creating a truly “quick and easy” comfort food recipe. This comes together in under 10 minutes, and you really don’t need anything special to make it. If you’re not a fan of Worcestershire, or don’t have any on hand, I bet you could substitute miso or soy sauce; anything with a salty note, really.

Tips for Making Parmesan French Toast

If I’ve sold you on Parm French toast, read on for a few crucial tips. If I haven’t yet sold you, go back and look at the picture of those crispy cheesy bits around the edges of the bread. Okay, here’s what you need to know before you start cooking.

  1. Use crusty bread. I was surprised to see that Nigella specifically calls for a sourdough-style bread. Or “anything with a bit of bite to it,” as she explains in the recipe. Typically, I make French toast with soft breads, like challah or brioche. But after cooking this recipe (twice!) per Nigella’s instructions, I realize that a harder bread is crucial. Its sturdier structure helps it soak up all of the custardy goodness without falling to pieces. I used a sharp dinner knife, rather than a butter knife, to slice it at the table — it cut through the crusts easily. Nigella doesn’t specify how thick to cut the slices when making the recipe, but I’d err on the fatter side. If you go with anything thinner than a quarter-inch, the toast will fall apart after its custard soak.
  2. Get the good Parm. This is definitely not the place for shaker-can Parmesan cheese. If you can, buy a wedge of real Parm and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese is a bit drier than the freshly grated stuff, as the oils dry up as it sits. This matters, because for the best crust on your French toast, you’ll need a rich, oily dusting of Parm. (Think of it like a frico.)
  3. And grate it on a Microplane. Equally important is the texture of your cheese. Using a Microplane zester or the smallest side of your box grater will result in light and “fluffy” cheese — this is what you want! The lighter it is, the more seamlessly it will dissolve into the custard. 
  4. Serve it with a green salad. This is a rich and hearty dish, in case the egg, whole milk, butter, olive oil, and cheese didn’t clue you in. It’s super satisfying, but I found that I liked it even better when I served a simple green salad on the side. I used baby kale and fresh basil for a little bitterness and a little sweetness. The dressing was just a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Contrasting these flavors makes this indulgent snack feel more like a meal. A glass of crisp, acidic white wine will seal the deal.