This overnight French toast bake recipe has a sweet and salty pecan praline topping with a splash of bourbon. It is the perfect make ahead Easter brunch recipe or Christmas morning breakfast.
Do you give up something for Lent? Most people give up chocolate or soda for Lent but this year my husband chose to abandon his beloved bourbon for 40 days.
While I was meal planning for Easter Sunday, I thought it would be absolutely hysterical to include bourbon as part of his breakfast so that he could literally break his Lenten fast first thing on Easter morning.
Since a little nip of bourbon in a cup would be frowned upon at the family table, slipping some into the French toast bake was just the right way to go!
We were just a few bites into our breakfast when Tim asked me if I was going to share this recipe on the site. I told him I'd likely make it again another time to take pictures.
He stopped mid-bite and said:
"The light is perfect now, there's still half a pan. You need to take the picture Right Now so you can share it."
If that isn't high praise for the recipe, I don't know what is!
However, if you're looking for classic French toast you make fresh in the morning, this fluffy French toast is the best.
I love how simple the ingredients are for an overnight French toast casserole. It is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for a special occasion.
- Half & Half
- Bread (see more information below on which loaf to use)
And for our favorite Bourbon Pecan French Toast flavor variation, you'll need:
- Brown Sugar
- Light Corn Syrup
- Chopped Pecans
Which Bread to Use
The best bread to use for any French toast recipe is a light egg bread like challah. You can find this Jewish braided egg bread at many grocery stores, or you could plan ahead and make a loaf really easily the day before with my bread machine challah recipe.
If you can't find challah bread, a Hawaiian bread loaf also works wonderfully.
Does Overnight French Toast Get Soggy?
This was my kids' first concern about overnight French toast bake. They are used to my griddled French toast that is crispy on both sides.
When they saw me assembling the French toast casserole the night before and pouring the eggs and milk all over it, they worried that it would all turn to mush by morning.
If you use good quality bread that is sliced into thicker half-inch slices, this French toast bake does not get soggy.
I used one and half loaves of challah bread from Trader Joe's and sliced them myself. (Are you a Trader Joe's fan, too? Be sure to check out some of our favorite Trader Joe's products here.)
The bottom of the casserole becomes soft and fluffy while the top has plenty of crunch from the pecans and praline topping.
Substitutions for the Bourbon
When you're baking for a family with kids, a huge concern can be about adding bourbon to the French toast bake. There is just 4 tbsp in the entire casserole and another 2 tablespoon in the praline topping.
The flavor of the bourbon definitely comes through, but the alcohol cooks off in the oven.
The praline topping is slightly boiled before pouring it over the top which also reduces the alcohol. BUT if you have an allergy or someone who is especially sensitive to alcohol, I would definitely skip adding it altogether.
You can simply skip adding the bourbon or you can replace it with 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract or whatever other liqueur your family might prefer.
I actually think Grand Marnier would be amazing here, too.
Make Ahead Tips & Baking Instructions
I was concerned about putting the French toast bake directly into the oven cold from the fridge.
I was very relieved to discover that it still bakes nice and evenly even when baked directly from the cold fridge.
The center got piping hot and the pecans didn't burn on the top.
This makes it a fantastic holiday breakfast because you can just pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you're ready to eat.
Overnight French Toast Bake with Pecan Praline
For the French Toast
- 5 eggs
- 1 ⅓ cup half and half
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 tablespoon bourbon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ pound thickly cut ½-inch challah bread slices
For the Praline Topping:
- 1 stick of butter 8 tbsp
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoon bourbon
- ½ cup chopped pecans
The night before you want to serve this French toast:
- Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
- Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, bourbon, and salt in a large bowl. Make sure the eggs are well incorporated into the mixture.
- Dip each slice of challah bread into the egg mixture. Let the excess liquid drain off and lay it into the casserole dish at a slightly up-right angle. You are not trying to lay them flat in the dish, they should overlap up against each other slightly.
- Keep adding slices to the dish until the bottom is completely covered with bread. You may have to readjust some of the slices to make sure there aren't any big holes in the casserole. Pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over the top of the bread slices. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge overnight.
The morning you want to serve your French toast bake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with an oven rack positioned in the center of the oven. Set the casserole on the counter while you prepare the praline topping.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and bourbon and whisk them in until smooth. Bring the mixture to a slight simmer. When the praline starts to bubble, add the pecans and stir them in to heat through for 30 seconds. Spoon the topping evenly over the casserole and then cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake the French toast for 25 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the casserole is slightly bubbling and the top is golden brown. Be careful that the pecans don't burn, it can happen quickly at the end.
- Let the French toast bake cool for 10 minutes before serving. This will help the praline to firm up a little and prevent hot boiling sugar burns when you gobble it up.
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14 Flavor Variations
A sweet overnight French toast bake, or even a bread pudding, is the perfect holiday breakfast since you can make it ahead of time.
Whether you're celebrating Valentine's, Easter brunch, Mother's Day, Back to School, or Christmas breakfast, you'll find a fun seasonal baked French toast recipe here:
- Blueberry cream cheese French toast bake: Yum!! I love the idea of mixing fruit. Get the recipe here.
- Overnight vanilla French toast casserole: Sweet and simple for the kids. Get the recipe here.
- Cranberry orange French toast: This would be fun for Christmas. Get the recipe here.
- Cinnamon apple French toast: How fun for fall! Get the recipe here.
- Eggnog French toast: a smart way to use up a new dairy! Get the recipe here.
- Pumpkin cream cheese French toast casserole: Brilliant. I need this now. Get the recipe here.
- Bananas Foster French toast casserole: I can see how this would be good even though I'm not a fan of bananas. LOL! You can get the recipe here.
- Savory overnight French toast: If you like to mix it up, this is a fun twist. Get the recipe here.
- Bailey's Irish Cream French toast casserole: Woah, fun for St. Patty's! Get the recipe here.
- Cinnamon roll overnight French toast: My kids would love this. Get the recipe here.
- Peaches and Cream French toast casserole: My southern girl heart is singing. YUM. Get the recipe here.
- Creme Brule French Toast: What?? Amazeballs. Get the recipe here.
- Lemon Berry French toast: My list wouldn't be complete without lemon. Get the recipe here.
- Strawberry French toast: Another springtime favorite. Get the recipe here.