Golden brown New Orleans bread pudding with a warm drizzle of bourbon sauce over the top is an easy dessert that uses up stale French bread and makes it something incredible.
When my husband first ordered bread pudding off a restaurant dessert menu, I remember being shocked. I didn't know anyone who enjoyed that particular dessert but it has always been one of his favorites.
Then he handed over the fork and I tried a bite. Instantly I understood.
To truly appreciate bread pudding, you need to start with an amazing recipe like this New Orleans bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
The texture, the flavor, the warmth, the sweetness, it all adds up to an incredibly cozy dessert to serve especially during the chilly months of winter.
- Why This is the Best Recipe
- Prep the Bread Cubes
- Prep the Bourbon Vanilla Custard
- Baking Instructions
- Make the Bourbon Sauce
- Sweet Amaretto Creamer
- Salted Caramel Sauce
- Creme Anglaise Vanilla Sauce
- Easy Panettone Bread Pudding
- Make Ahead Tips
- Serving Suggestions
- 20 Easy Mardi Gras Recipes for Family Dinner
- 30 Southern Recipes Everyone Loves
- 20 Kentucky Derby Desserts: The South's Best
- 20 Father's Day Desserts He'll LOVE
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
Why This is the Best Recipe
One of the very best desserts my husband has ever had was the Creole bread pudding with bourbon sauce after our anniversary dinner at Emeril's New Orleans Fish House in Las Vegas during our romantic getaway. He still talks about it 20+ years later.
I think this is the best New Orleans bread pudding recipe because:
- Adapted for Home Cooks: We can't all be Emeril. I've adapted his amazing restaurant-quality recipe for an average home cook to be able to make it in a regular kitchen.
- Perfect Texture: The star of the show is the French bread. My recipe starts with a homemade bread machine French bread that is absolutely worth the time to bake the day before if you can. If not, no worries. You can buy a loaf at your local bakery or grocery store, too.
- Crispy Top: If you've avoided bread pudding because you're worried it will be mushy, you absolutely have to try this recipe first. The thick cubes of bread toast up to a gorgeous golden brown that adds a crispy top texture to the dessert and is perfect for soaking up all that warm bourbon sauce.
Bread pudding is a popular dessert because it uses up so many already-on-hand pantry ingredients. It's an excellent use for stale bread so not a single bit goes to waste.
All you need to make this Creole bread pudding is:
- French Bread: Start with day old bread. I recommend baking my bread machine French bread the day before and just let it sit out on the counter overnight. If you can't (or don't want to) make it homemade, you can absolutely buy a loaf of French bread at the store. Just look for one that is in a loaf or round shape, not the long baguettes since they'll have too much crust-to-center ratio.
- Bourbon: I'm not a bourbon drinker but gosh does it taste amazing in this recipe. I bought a very budget-friendly small bottle just for baking that I keep in my pantry. You could also add it to my pecan pie or pecan pie bars, it won't go to waste.
- Half and Half
- Brown Sugar
- Golden Raisins: I love the gentle sweetness of golden raisins here but you could use regular raisins or even leftover currants if you've recently made my hot cross biscuits.
Prep the Bread Cubes
Slice your French bread into large 1-inch cubes.
I slice the loaf into thick slices, then slice them into "fingers." From there it is easy to cut the cubes.
Set them aside.
Prep the Bourbon Vanilla Custard
In a large mixing bowl that has enough room for all the bread to soak, crack the eggs.
Add the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. Whisk it all together until smooth.
Pour the bourbon and half and half into the egg mixture and whisk them in until smooth.
Add the bread cubes and golden raisins and gently stir it into the custard until all the pieces are coated and wet.
Then gently tamp down on the mixture with the back of your spoon and allow the bread to soak in the custard for at least one hour, up to two hours if you can wait.
You'll want to gently turn the bread once in a while so that all the cubes can soak up the custard evenly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Rub softened butter all around the inside of an 8x11-inch baking dish.
Spoon the soaked bread cubes and golden raisins into the dish and spread into an even layer.
Be careful to not overly pack down the bread but it should be nestled in very tightly.
The top cubes will get nice and toasted brown, so you want the top to be smooth and even as much as possible or you'll have a random bread cube that gets overdone.
Bake the bread pudding for 55 minutes or until the custard has set and the bread is golden brown.
Let it cool for 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.
Make the Bourbon Sauce
While the New Orleans bread pudding is baking, you will have plenty of time to prep the warm bourbon sauce to drizzle over the top.
This dessert sauce is so amazing, I've included a separate post with all the step by step photos and tips you need in case you want to use it for other goodies.
You can read the full instructions and print the separate recipe card if you need it on the bourbon sauce recipe here.
For your convenience, however, you'll find the ingredients and instructions right in this bread pudding recipe card so you can keep it together easily with the bread pudding.
If you don't want to use bourbon in either the bread pudding itself or in the bourbon sauce over the top, there are several delicious alternatives you could make:
Try my panettone bread pudding, it has a lighter and fluffier texture than this bread pudding does and it is one of my favorites.
You could pair either of the bread puddings with my sweet amaretto sauce or a drizzle of salted caramel sauce. This creme anglaise vanilla sauce is a little more work but absolutely worth it for a special occasion.
Make Ahead Tips
Warm bread pudding is best served fresh from the oven but if you want to prep it ahead, you could easily assemble the vanilla bourbon custard and soak the bread cubes in it in a covered dish overnight.
Then, give it a quick stir and pour into your baking dish and bake fresh just before serving.
New Orleans bread pudding is best served warm from the oven with a drizzle of warm bourbon sauce over the top.
I like to sprinkle some powdered sugar for garnish because it highlights that gorgeous toasted golden brown top.
That naturally makes it a great pick for a Kentucky Derby party, too.
However, if I had to pick one special occasion to serve bread pudding for, it just might be Father's Day because this is one of my husband's all-time favorite desserts.
New Orleans Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
For the Bread Pudding:
- 1 (1.5-pound loaf) day-old French bread sliced into cubes, about 4 cups
- 1 tablespoon butter softened
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
For the Kentucky Bourbon Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Whipped cream
- Prepare the bread: You could start the day before by baking my easy homemade French bread in the bread machine or by buying a loaf of French bread (not a baguette, you want more of the center part of the bread than crust) at the grocery store. Let it get a little stale for a day.
Bake the Bread Pudding:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the softened butter around the inside of a 8x11-inch baking dish. Slice the bread into cubes and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and bourbon. Whisk them together until smooth. Add the half and half and whisk it in.
- Add the cubed bread and the golden raisins and gently fold them into the cream. Be careful, you don't want the bread to turn to mush. Just get all the sides coated in cream and then stop.
- Let the bread soak up the custard for 2 hours, giving it a stir once in a while so it soaks up evenly.
- Scrape the bread and custard into the prepared baking pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake for 55 minutes or until the custard is set in the middle. It should cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Prepare the Kentucky Bourbon Sauce:
- While the bread pudding is baking, you can prepare the bourbon sauce.
- Measure the bourbon into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch and whisk it in. Set aside.
- Add the heavy cream, half and half, vanilla, and sugar to a saucepan a whisk them together. Heat the mixture over high heat and continue to whisk for 3 minutes.
- When the cream begins to bubble, add the prepared bourbon mixture. Continue to whisk and cook until the cream fully boils. Immediately remove from the heat and whisk until the sauce is blended and slightly thickened.
- Return the bourbon sauce to the burner over low heat and simmer for one minute. Serve warm.
Assemble and Serve:
- Serve a portion of the warm bread pudding on plate. Drizzle the bourbon sauce over the top. If you want, you could also add a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon to finish it off.
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