Make breakfast simple with an easy French toast casserole baked in one pan. You can make it ahead overnight or the same day. Topped with a cinnamon brown sugar topping, it's the best recipe to make breakfast or brunch for a crowd!
This easy 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 traditional 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 near 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 perfect for Sunday morning or a special occasion, like Christmas morning. It makes a great everyday breakfast or holiday breakfast. It's always a hit and a great option for Mother's Day too, because it's pretty easy for kids to make, with a little guidance from Dad or a trusted adult.
- It's delicious – I've been told this delicious French toast casserole is much like a bread pudding. 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.
Ingredients and Substitutions Notes
Just gather up a few simple ingredients to get started…
- Sandwich bread – The main decision you have to make is which bread is the best bread for French toast casserole. And to that I'd answer the best type of bread is just a good old loaf of sandwich bread; in fact, I prefer to just use butter bread. Now you can use a loaf of whole wheat bread, sourdough bread, Texas toast, challah bread, crusty French bread, Italian bread, Kings Hawaiian Rolls, brioche bread, cinnamon swirl bread, crescent rolls, or really any other type of fresh baked bread. Any of them will be delicious. But a good French toast bake with white bread is just as good, in my opinion.
- Pecans – We use chopped pecans. You can also use walnuts, black walnuts, or almonds if you want.
- Large Eggs
- Whole Milk – You can use 2% milk or skim milk, but I recommend using whole milk, or a mixture of whole milk with half-and-half for an even creamier texture. If you need to make it dairy-free, substitute almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or oat milk instead.
- Pure 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.
- Vanilla Extract – This is going to add a cozy flavor to the casserole.
- Sea Salt – I prefer to use Redmond Fine Sea Salt.
- Spices – You'll need ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Of course, if you want a bit more fall flavor to your casserole, you can also substitute pumpkin pie spice.
- Topping – The topping is, in my opinion, the best part about this overnight breakfast casserole, and it includes butter, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon. Again, if you need to make it dairy-free, you can substitute vegan butter.
How to Make Easy 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 cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes and place it in a greased 9×13 baking dish, along with the chopped pecans. You can layer the bread cubes and pecans so everything's blended well in the dish. Tip: You can cut the bread into cubes using a knife or a pastry cutter.
- Then in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pure maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, to make a sort of custard mixture.
- Pour the egg milk mixture over the bread and pecans. Make sure all the bread is good and soaked.
At this point, cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap, and chill the casserole in the fridge for a good 4 to 6 hours or more, just to let everything soak into the bread really well. Overnight is best.
Make the Topping…
- Then before baking the next morning or the next day, mix up your topping by combining the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a pastry blender.
- Then just crumble the topping on the top of the casserole 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, 'til it's golden brown.
- When you remove it from the oven, let it cool for just a few minutes. Then serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.
You'll especially enjoy a slice with your morning cup of coffee or hot tea. It also pairs well with fresh fruit.
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. But if you have time, just cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and chill in the fridge overnight.
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, coconut milk, soy milk, oat 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, crusty bread, or day-old 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 in the microwave or oven.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge; they should keep for 2-3 days.
Alternative Ingredients 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.
- Use part heavy cream, part whole milk for an extra rich casserole.
- Try adding bacon… Because everything's better with bacon!
More Breakfast and Brunch Recipes for You to Enjoy
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Easy French Toast Casserole
- Grease a 9"x13" baking dish.
- Cut the bread into small 1-inch cubes, and layer with the chopped pecans in the baking dish.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pure maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, to make a sort of custard mixture.
- Pour the egg milk 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 on the top of the 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, 'til it's golden brown.
- 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.