At first blush, brunch as we know it—pancakes, eggs Benedict, bacon, and such—are not particularly amenable to a vegan diet. This is a real drag: Some of the best things in life are brunch. And so many of the best things in brunch are egg- and/or dairy-based. This does not, however, include French toast. Yes, your dad made it with whole milk and eggs. You went to a sleepover once where someone’s mom soaked the bread in melted vanilla ice cream. Vegan French toast doesn’t include any of those things, but it does look and smell and taste like the French toast you grew up with, and it comes together just as quickly.
Vegan cooking makes me mindful of those who came before me, the brilliant mad scientists who discovered that chia seeds and flax seeds could moonlight as eggs. We owe them one. The seeds thicken when soaked in a bit of water and when they’re whisked together with a little non-dairy milk, you get something akin to the custardy texture of eggs with milk. You could use chia seeds if you prefer (the ratios are the same as in the recipe below), but I like the convenience and nutty taste of pre-ground flax meal for this.
And once you have your “custard,” the rest is easy. Doctor it with a hit of lemon or orange zest, splash in vanilla extract or rum or bourbon, add a shake or two of cinnamon or—for something savory to eat alongside a ripe avocado and a tangle of sprouts—smoked paprika. Experiment with the milk substitute, too. Oat milk is very creamy and sweet; full-fat coconut milk is about as close as a vegan will get to soaking the bread in melted ice cream. Almond milk is neutral and good for sweet or savory toast. Soak the bread for a few minutes on each side and fry up in either vegan buttery spread or coconut oil, and invite all the vegans you know.
One final note: A classic choice of bread for French toast is challah. It’s rich and sweet and delicious, and only made more delicious by a custard bath and a spell in a hot pan. But challah is made with honey and eggs (and lots of them), and is only suitable for folks who do eat animal byproducts. Make sure the bread you choose to use for this recipe has no dairy, eggs, honey, or other animal-adjacent.
Vegan French Toast
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
4 to 5 slices good bread (say, about a quarter of a baguette)
½ cup nondairy milk of your choice
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (omit if making savory toast)
Pinch kosher salt
Vegan buttery spread or coconut oil, for frying
How to Make It
In a small bowl (or directly in a measuring cup), whisk together the flaxseed and water with a fork and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes while you slice the bread into ½-inch slices and arrange them in a shallow dish or pie plate.
Whisk the nondairy milk, vanilla extract, and salt into the flaxseed mixture, and pour the mixture evenly over the slices of bread. Let the bread soak for about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and soak for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
Heat the buttery spread in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When it begins to bubble and sizzle, lay pieces of soaked bread in and cook for about 2 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Flip and repeat on the opposite side.
Serve hot with more buttery spread, maple syrup, and fresh fruit.
Note: If you’re making French toast for a crowd, heat the oven to 200°F and slide a baking sheet inside just before you begin frying the bread. Keep the finished pieces warm on the tray in the oven while you finish frying.