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Prepare a delicious, low-effort breakfast for a crowd with a French toast casserole. It’s custardy inside, crisp along the edges, and sweet with hints of cinnamon, lemon zest, and vanilla. You can even prepare it the night before to bake in the morning!
As much as I love French toast, the process requires a lot of hovering and hands-on effort and isn’t great for feeding a crowd (you can only fit a couple of slices in a skillet at once). For a version that’s such low effort you can prepare it the night before, with no hovering, and is still UTTERLY delicious and satisfying, try this easy French toast casserole.
This baked French toast recipe is everything you love about the traditional version but baked in a single pan. It requires only 8 simple ingredients and a few minutes of preparation and can even be adapted in several ways with extras like chocolate chips or berries. It’s perfect for a weekend treat, impressive brunch, and during the holidays.
French Toast Casserole Ingredients
- French bread: I prefer day-old Brioche or Challah for a super creamy French toast bake if baking immediately, or French baguette/sourdough for overnight French toast. Use gluten-free bread if required.
- Butter: It’s best to use unsalted butter, though a tiny pinch of salt in it can help to enhance the overall flavor.
- Sugar: Brown sugar creates a wonderful caramel-like flavor. Use a more raw/unrefined sugar option, though, if preferred – like turbinado, demerara, or coconut sugar.
- Milk: Use whole milk for the creamiest egg custard.
- Eggs: Eggs help to make the custardy texture.
- Vanilla extract: Use pure, natural vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Cinnamon: A little cinnamon is the perfect addition to any French toast recipe. Add a dash of nutmeg for a more warming flavor.
- Lemon zest: While not technically necessary, a small amount of lemon zest is perfect for making French toast that doesn’t taste “eggy” while adding a subtle citrus brightness I love. Orange zest will taste great, too.
What Type of bread is Best for French Toast Casserole?
For the best French toast casserole, use day-old bread so it isn’t too soft and prevents sogginess. It’s best to use bread with a dense crumb, like brioche (fluffy and sweet) or challah (less sweet but otherwise similar).
A French baguette or sourdough bread (which is slightly sour) also works well, especially for an overnight version, as they take longer to soak, and their firm crust provides more texture to the French toast bake.
Did you know it’s possible to use leftover simple glazed doughnut rings OR torn-up slightly stale croissants to make this recipe?
How to Make French Toast Casserole
Prepare the Baking Dish
First, preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC and butter a 13×9-inch baking pan (using separate butter or a small amount of the melted butter from the next step), then set it aside.
Then melt the butter, stir in the brown sugar, and pour it into the baking pan, ensuring it’s evenly spread. This creates a delicious caramel-like base.
Keep a tablespoon of the sugar on one side to use later on.
Cut and Layer the Bread
Leaving the crusts on, use a serrated knife to cut the bread into 1-inch cubes (or tear it apart by hand – though the pieces will be uneven).
Then, spread the bread cubes over the butter-sugar mixture.
Prepare the Egg Mixture
First, zest the lemon. Then, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon until thoroughly mixed.
Be careful to whisk it into a smooth mixture, ensuring there aren’t any noticeable bits of egg white.
Pour the egg custard mixture over the bread evenly, ensuring the pieces are well-saturated. Then, sprinkle over the reserved sugar.
Bake the Casserole
Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle is fully cooked.
If required, broil the casserole for a few minutes at the end to brown the top more.
Then, finally, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for just a few minutes before slicing/spooning into bowls, optionally sprinkling with powdered sugar, and enjoying!
What to Serve with French Toast Casserole
You can serve this brioche French toast casserole just like you would regular French toast:
- A dollop of yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream,
- A fruity compote/sauce,
- Southern fried apples,
- A drizzle of maple syrup, Agave, or Caramel sauce,
- A simple glaze icing (for more of a dessert treat),
- Blueberry or chocolate syrup,
- Another sprinkle of cinnamon,
- Fresh fruit – fresh berries, banana, apple, etc.,
- A sprinkle of chopped nuts – walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds.
This breakfast casserole also pairs well with brunchtime favorites, like bacon, sausage, eggs, fruit salad, etc.
Adapt this recipe to an “overnight French toast casserole” by assembling it up to the point of baking. Then cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight. Remove it from the fridge 20-30 minutes before baking; otherwise, you’ll have to increase the baking time.
Once baked, allow the French toast bake to cool and then transfer any leftovers to an airtight container (or several) to store in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To make it even easier, bake the casserole directly in a freezer-safe baking dish (like a foil pan).
Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before reheating in the oven (uncovered) for about 30 minutes at 350ºF/175ºC.
My preferred method is to pop it back in the oven at 350ºF/175ºC until heated through (10-15 minutes).
Alternatively, use a microwave (covered with a damp paper towel), though the casserole will be much softer.
You may have used too much egg mixture or too much milk with the egg. Using soft bread for an overnight casserole may also produce results softer than your liking.
More Breakfast Recipes
If you try this baked French toast casserole recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Easy French Toast Casserole
- Casserole dish 9.5×6.5 inches
- 12.5 oz French loaf Brioche, challah, French baguette, or sourdough work best
- 2 cups milk whole milk
- 4.5 oz brown sugar 1/2 cup; or raw sugar like turbinado, demerara (or even coconut sugar)
- 2.5 oz butter 1/3 cup – unsalted
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract use natural for the best flavor
- 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon powder
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from 1 lemon; or use orange zest
- powdered sugar optional for topping
- syrup optional for topping
Prepare the baking dish
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC and butter a 13×9-inch baking pan (using separate butter or a small amount of the melted butter from the next step), then set it aside.
- Melt the butter, stir in the brown sugar, and pour it into the baking pan, ensuring it’s evenly spread. This creates a delicious caramel-like base.Keep a tablespoon of the sugar on one side to use later on.
Cut and layer the bread
- Leaving the crusts on, use a serrated knife to cut the bread into 1-inch cubes (or tear it apart by hand – though the pieces will be uneven).
- Spread the bread cubes over the butter-sugar mixture.
Prepare the egg mixture
- Zest the lemon. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon until thoroughly mixed.Be careful to whisk it into a smooth mixture, ensuring there are no noticeable bits of egg white.
- Pour the egg custard mixture over the bread evenly, ensuring the pieces are well-saturated. Sprinkle over the reserved sugar.
Bake the casserole
- Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the middle is fully cooked.If required, broil the casserole for a few minutes at the end to brown the top more.
- Finally, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for just a few minutes before slicing/spooning into bowls, optionally sprinkling with powdered sugar, and enjoying!
- Mix the egg thoroughly: So there aren’t any obvious bits of egg white left in the mixture to make it taste more “eggy.”
- For a super custardy casserole: Replace some (or all) of the egg whites with more egg yolks.
- Immediate vs. overnight French toast casserole: The first works best with softer bread like brioche/Challah, as Sourdough and French baguette require longer to soak up the egg custard (thus, it can turn out a little dry/hard if baked immediately).
- Fruit: I particularly like sprinkling in a handful of blueberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries, or thinly sliced apples – tossing them with the bread.
- Dried fruit: Sprinkle in raisins, sultanas, cranberries, dates, etc.
- Chocolate: Chocolate chips or chunks make a more dessert-like treat.
- More cinnamon: For a more pronounced cinnamon flavor, mix some into the butter-sugar caramel and/or sprinkle more over the top.
- Alcohol: Add a splash (a few Tbsps) of Amaretto or Grand Marnier to the custard.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.