Our Guide to the Make-Ahead Brunch

updated May 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

As I was planning my Mother’s Day brunch a few weeks ago, I looked back through our tips and advice for making brunch ahead of time and discovered that we have written quite a lot on this topic over the years. What can I say — most of us aren’t morning people! When making brunch, we like to get a head start.

In case you’re planning your own Mother’s Day or graduation brunch, let me share some of our make-ahead advice with you, distilled into a few tips and recipe recommendations.

The Best Brunch Dishes to Make Ahead

The first thing to think about is what you can easily make ahead. Once your fridge or freezer has brunch ready to go, all you have left to do is roll out of bed, heat up the oven, and let it do its work while you shower and put on the coffee.

  • Breakfast casseroles made with potatoes and eggs can be prepared up until baking then refrigerated overnight and baked in the morning. Expect a refrigerated breakfast casserole to take some extra time to bake.
  • Quiche can also be made ahead. You can bake it the day before then eat it cold or warmed in the oven before serving. You can even freeze quiche; just let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Sweet breakfast strata, like savory breakfast casseroles, can also be prepared the night before and baked in the morning.
  • Sweet breakfast rolls are probably my favorite thing, though, to make ahead. To make lemon or cinnamon rolls ahead, make the dough, assemble the rolls, then put them in the refrigerator. In the morning they will need to rise for about an hour, and then bake. I like to also make any glaze ahead of time so it’s all ready to go.
  • Fruit salad can also be made the night before. Cut up pineapple, grapes, mango, or other fruit and toss with a little lemon juice. Keep it well-covered in the refrigerator so it doesn’t dry out, and don’t add any bananas until the last minute!
  • Cake, quick bread, or muffins are also just fine baked the night before and warmed up in the morning.
  • Coffee concentrate is a surprisingly delicious and easy way to serve coffee to a crowd. Just add hot water and serve. Anjali showed us how to do this here.
(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

What to Make in the Morning

A few things are best left to the morning, though.

  • Green salad: If you want to serve a green salad with brunch, best to make it in the morning so it doesn’t wilt (you can make the dressing ahead, though!).
  • Coffee: Unless you’re using the aforementioned coffee concentrate, make coffee just as your guests arrive so it’s piping hot.
  • Anything fried or sautéed: Want to do pancakes? Waffles? Omelets? Save it for the morning. For my Mother’s Day brunch, I saved my sautéed asparagus dish until last; I knew it would taste best if I cooked the asparagus and dressed the vegetables just before we ate.

Advice for a Make-Ahead Brunch

  • Make a prep list. We’ve said this many times in past party posts: When you’re in the thick of planning and cooking, write down everything you need to remember in the morning. I go so far as to write down just when the rolls need to go in the oven, at what temperature, and how long they should bake. Be kind to your future self; make it easy.
  • There’s no shame in buying (part) of your breakfast! If you need one or two more side dishes, pick up a store-bought coffee cake or pie, or some yogurt. Yogurt drizzled with honey and topped with blueberries is an essentially work-free treat.
  • Set the table the night before. This is good advice for any stress-free party, but I especially like to do this for brunch. I always assume I’m going to wake up later than I mean to!
  • Don’t forget to chill the bubbly! If you’re making mimosas or another drink, don’t forget to have everything chilled and ready to go.

A Sample Make-Ahead Brunch Menu

Here’s a menu for a hearty and indulgent make-ahead brunch, with instructions for how to make it ahead.

There you go! Nothing to do in the morning except bake the rolls and the casserole and sit back with a Bellini.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

More Brunch Menus & Recipes

Want some more ideas? Here are more make-ahead brunch recipes from past parties and menus. (Don’t miss the monkey bread.)

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

More Brunch Advice