Your future self (and all of your future brunch guests) just wrote to thank you for this Overnight French Toast!
Pillowy soft slices of bread soaked in a cinnamon-, maple-, and vanilla-spiked egg mixture, showered in cinnamon-sugar fairy dust, then baked until it’s lightly golden on top and custardy underneath, this large-scale version of classic French toast is ideal for a crowd.
Though, if you want to make overnight French toast for two instead, I promise you and whoever is lucky enough to share it with you won’t mind the additional servings in the least!
If you love classic French toast but loathe standing at the stove flipping individual slices (especially if a crowd of hungry houseguests is lurking nearby watching your every move), overnight French toast is for you.
Overnight French toast is very similar in flavor to a classic stovetop French toast, but instead of individually soaking the bread slices in the egg/milk mixture, then frying them on the stove, you layer the bread into a casserole dish, pour the egg/milk mixture over the top and refrigerate it overnight.
As the casserole rests, the bread absorbs the custard. The next morning, all you have to do is pop the French toast into the oven, sit back, and wait as your kitchen fills with the tantalizing scents of fresh bread and warm cinnamon.
Overnight French Toast is every bit as heavenly as it sounds, especially once you top it with a drizzle of maple syrup!
(Or my preferred combo of maple syrup, banana slices, and peanut butter. Try this at some point, please).
Overnight French Toast—A Make-Ahead Breakfast for a Hassle-Free Morning
A passionate believer in make-ahead breakfast recipes, especially when I am entertaining, overnight French toast casseroles like this one are not new to me. In the past, I’ve tempted you with versions like Blueberry French Toast Casserole and Peach French Toast. I’ve also enjoyed a nice make-ahead egg casserole like this Vegetarian Breakfast Casserole.
Until today, however, I had not yet shared an ever-reliable, always-satisfying recipe for a simple, classic Overnight French Toast.
This overnight French Toast tastes like the classic French toast I remember my dad making for my sisters and me when we were little girls. It’s simple and comforting, and I’ll never grow weary of starting my morning with a big ol’ slice.
A Healthy Take on Overnight French Toast
As with all of my breakfast recipes, I used a few tricks to make this a healthy Overnight French Toast:
- Whole Grains. One of the easiest (and best!) ways to make any recipe better for you is to swap white grains for a whole-grain counterpart. Whole grains add extra nutrients, protein, and fiber, without adding a second to your prep time.
While you can make Overnight French Toast with challah, brioche, or a baguette, growing up, my dad always used regular sandwich bread, which is what I selected for this.
Whole wheat sandwich bread is soft, fluffy, and mild in flavor, and it defies the negative stereotypes often associated with whole-grain bread. It’s also much easier to find 100% whole wheat options for sandwich breads (versus more artisan-style loaves) at a regular grocery store.
In addition to whole grains, I also used two more tricks to keep this French toast on the lighter side:
- Evaporated Milk. Milk that has had some of the liquid cooked away, evaporated milk is thicker and creamier. It makes the custard taste rich without the need for heavy cream.
- Pure Maple Syrup. I sweetened the custard with maple syrup instead of extra sugar. I love the extra richness it adds.
Tips for the Best Overnight French Toast
A few simple steps will ensure your Overnight French Toast comes out perfectly crisp on top and tender inside every time.
- Start with dry bread. Dry bread is primed for soaking up that creamy custard. You can either leave it out overnight or do what I do and toast it in the oven.
- Lightly press the bread into the custard to make sure it absorbs evenly. Don’t stress if the bread is a bit drier on the top. The golden crust is a part of the experience.
- Make it (look) fancy. To make the Overnight French Toast look fancy, I sliced the bread diagonally, then fanned it in the pan. There’s no right or wrong way to do this (follow your heart), and this recipe is so easy, even the littlest bakers can help you cook it.
- Let the pan come to room temperature prior to baking. I like to pull it out of the refrigerator when I first wake up. This makes the casserole bake more evenly, and your pan won’t crack due to a sudden change in temperature.
Overnight French Toast Flavor Twists
Use this simple Overnight French Toast as your starting point, then feel free to mix it up!
- Berry Overnight French Toast. Scatter fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries, or raspberries (or all three!) over the top either just before or immediately after baking.
- Citrusy French Toast. Up the amount of lemon or orange zest.
- Pecan Overnight French Toast. Prior to baking, scatter chopped raw pecans over the top of the French toast.
- Overnight French Toast with Cream Cheese. Prior to pouring the custard over the top of the arranged bread slices, dot the bread with 6 ounces of cubed reduced-fat cream cheese. Pour the custard mixture over the top, then refrigerate and bake as directed.
Freezer and Make-Ahead Tips
- Freeze cooked French Toast Casserole for up to three months. Remove it from the freezer the day before you want to serve it and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the pan with foil, then reheat at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until warmed through.
Need French Toast Fast?
While I prefer to make this Overnight French Toast a night in advance and spend my pre-breakfast hours sipping coffee (or an Apple Cider Champagne Cocktail) and prepping a pan of Baked Bacon to serve alongside it, you can skip the overnight soak if needed.
- Follow the recipe as directed. Allow the bread to rest in the custard for at least 15 minutes.
- Press the bread slices lightly into the custard a few times while it rests, then bake as directed.
Overnight French Toast
For the Overnight French Toast:
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon divided
- 16 slices 100% whole wheat bread 1 (16-ounce) loaf
- 1 (12-ounce) can fat-free evaporated milk for a dairy-free option, swap light coconut milk
- 1 cup 2% milk or whole milk for a dairy-free option, swap full-fat coconut milk
- 6 large eggs
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 small lemon or ½ orange
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pure maple syrup
- Fresh berries
- Greek yogurt
- Powdered sugar
- Peanut butter
- Whatever you like!
- The night before: Place the racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on two large baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until it is very lightly toasted and feels dry to the touch on top but is not yet turning brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, switching the pans’ positions on the upper and lower racks halfway through. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half diagonally (this is easiest while the slices are still warm). Let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. In a large bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, milk, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon or orange zest, salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.
- Fan the bread slices into the pan, arranging them however you like. Check out the photos above for inspiration, or make the arrangement your own.
- Pour the custard mixture evenly over the top of the bread. Lightly press down the slices, sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mixture, and cover the pan with foil. Let sit for 15 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to bake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (If you’ve been refrigerating the French toast, remove it from the refrigerator now and let it come to room temperature.) Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until the bread is puffed and golden and no liquid seeps out of the toasts when lightly pressed, about 10 additional minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes. Slice into squares and serve hot, with any and all of your favorite toppings.
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