Make breakfast easy with a simple overnight French toast casserole you can bake in one pan. It's my favorite way to make French toast, especially for a crowd, and it's perfect for the holiday season.
This French toast casserole recipe is a win win for those special times when we don't necessarily feel like going to all the work of making actual French toast. And let me tell you, one of my pet peeves is when the French toast I've already cooked gets cold while waiting on the rest to cook.
A good French toast bake pairs really well with eggs and bacon, or better yet, eggs and sausage. So you don't have to have all sweet for breakfast, but it does add a little sweet treat to breakfast time.
While you can make this overnight French toast without the topping, it won't be nearly as good. The topping is super quick to mix up, and you can just crumble it right onto the casserole before baking.
Why Make This Recipe?
You'll love this cinnamon French toast bake recipe because it…
- Takes 30 minutes to make – While it takes longer to chill and bake, it's super easy and quick to make. And you're not standing in front of the stove making breakfast while everyone else is having fun or off doing their own thing. Instead you can throw it together the night before, then put it in the oven when you're ready to eat.
- Everyone can eat at the same time, and it'll still be warm – While you can keep French toast warm in the oven, while waiting on the rest of it to cook, this is just so much easier because it's all in one pan, all baked at the same time.
- It's delicious – Oh my word, the cinnamon brown sugar topping is my absolute favorite. With a drizzle of maple syrup, a slice of this wonderful casserole is just so mouthwateringly delicious.
- It's budget-friendly – I usually always make this French toast casserole with white bread, just plain old sandwich bread. While it does use quite a few eggs, the rest of the ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or freezer. I'd estimate you can make baked French toast for less than $8, depending on the ingredients you already have on hand.
- Sandwich bread – The main decision you have to make is which bread is best for French toast casserole. And to that I'd answer just good old sandwich bread; I prefer to just use butter bread. Now you can use sourdough, Texas toast, challah bread, French bread, Kings Hawaiian Rolls, brioche, cinnamon swirl bread, crescent rolls, or really any other type of fresh baked bread. Any of them will be delicious.
- Pecans – We use chopped pecans. You can also use walnuts, black walnuts, or almonds if you want.
- Real maple syrup – Be sure to use real maple syrup, not table syrup. There's a distinct difference, and subbing artificial table syrup will change the texture, flavor, and especially the amount of sweetness in your casserole.
How to Make French Toast Casserole
This is a fairly simple French toast casserole with sliced bread. It only takes a few steps to make.
Make the Casserole…
- First cube the bread and place it in a greased 9×13 baking dish, along with the pecans. You can layer the bread cubes and pecans so everything's blended well in the dish.
- Then whisk together the eggs, milk, real maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Pour the egg mixture over the bread and pecans. Make sure all the bread is good and soaked.
At this point, cover and chill the casserole in the fridge for a good 4 to 6 hours or more. Overnight is best.
Make the Topping…
- Then before baking, mix up your topping by combining the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a pastry blender.
- Then just crumble the topping on as best you can. It's a really moist mixture, so it's more like clumps of cinnamon brown sugar.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 350°F for about 25 to 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake it for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
- When you remove it from the oven, let it cool for just a few minutes. Then serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.
Expert Tips and Recipe FAQ's
While this really is best as an overnight French toast casserole, you don't have to chill it. But let me just say, the flavors will be at their best after chilling for at least a few hours. If you're in a hurry, didn't have time to plan ahead, and need to make it now, that's ok. Just mix it up, make sure the bread is moistened well with the egg mixture, add the topping, and bake it.
Yes, you can. Just substitute your favorite gluten-free bread in place of the regular sandwich bread included in the ingredients. Always check all of your other ingredients, as well, to make sure they're really gluten-free.
Of course, you'd want to check all your ingredients, especially the bread. But you can substitute almond milk, or another non-dairy milk, instead of whole milk. You can also use a dairy-free butter substitute in the topping.
There can be multiple reasons for this. There may be too much egg mixture to soak into the bread. It may not have baked long enough. And if you want to prevent soggy French toast casserole altogether, I'd suggest leaving your bread open the night before, so it can dry out just a bit; stale bread soaks up the egg mixture more easily and readily.
Normally, you'll just store any leftovers in the fridge. But if you wish to freeze it, you can. While I recommend covering it well and freezing it after it's already been baked, you can also freeze it before baking (though I'd add the topping later before actually baking it). Keep in mind it'll keep longer in the freezer if it's already been cooked. Just be sure you have plenty of time for it to thaw and re-heat when taking it out of the freezer. Allow time for it to thaw in the fridge before cooking or re-heating.
Alternative Ingredient Ideas from Readers
Readers have given us a lot of creative ideas for ways to really switch up this French toast casserole and add your own touch to this sweet breakfast casserole.
- Try baking it in a bundt pan, inverting it after baking, to make it even prettier.
- Top with a powdered sugar glaze instead of, or in addition to, the brown sugar topping.
- Add raisins or dried cranberries when you add the bread and pecans.
- Add fresh strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
- Speaking of milk, use eggnog in place of milk, especially around the holidays.
- Try adding bacon… Because everything's better with bacon!
MORE FRENCH TOAST RECIPES FOR YOU TO ENJOY
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Easy French Toast Casserole
- Grease a 9"x13" baking dish.
- Cube the bread into small 1-inch cubes, and layer with the pecans in the baking dish.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, real maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Pour the egg mixture over the bread and pecans in the baking dish.
- Cover and chill for a good 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
- When you're ready to bake the casserole, remove it from the fridge, and pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
- Using a pastry blender, mix together the sliced butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
- Crumble or clump the topping over the entire casserole.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 350° F for about 25 to 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake it for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
- Once it's thoroughly cooked through, remove it from the oven and let it cool for just a few minutes.
- Then slice and serve with powdered sugar and maple syrup.