Why wait until the next time you visit your favorite brunch spot to enjoy French toast? Here's everything you need to know about making it at home.

By Tiffany Stevens
Updated September 10, 2020
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Few breakfast treats are more visually and literally satisfying to a sweet tooth than a well-made plate of French toast. The sugary dish is a perfect vehicle for both seasonal and traditional toppings, and can serve as the show-stopping centerpiece for those who aim to serve up the fanciest brunch in town. Despite all the praise that French toast deservedly receives for its flavor and seemingly fancy appearance, the dish is actually surprisingly easy to make. In fact, if you have young minds at home who are interested in learning to cook, French toast can serve as a perfect entry point to creating simple but stunning meals. Since all that’s required to make French stove is a cooking surface, a pan and the ability to flip bread that’s been soaked in milk and eggs, it’s a pretty good option for anyone who wants to up their cooking skills without breaking much of a sweat.

In the past, you might have reserved French toast as a special order at your favorite diner or brunch spot. But once you learn to make it at home, you’ll realize that there’s no need to limit this dish to only the occasional meal out. And once you get comfortable with the base recipe, you can start experimenting with a number of stunning French toast variations. Whether you prefer simple brioche with powdered sugar or pound cake with fresh blueberry compote, our French toast guide can ensure that you have the best breakfast possible.

Step One: Choose Your Bread

To get started on this breakfast dish, you’ll first want to decide what kind of bread component you want to use for your French toast. Classic French toast generally uses brioche, although French baguettes and Italian loaves can be used as well. Texas toast, another popular option, is a particularly good choice for fluffy, American diner-style French toast, and sliced Challah makes for arguably the most luxurious French toast you’ve ever eaten. Even pound cake can be used to create a decadent French toast. Really, any sliceable bread-like entity can be used for French toast as long as it’s both absorbent and structurally sound enough to be soaked in a liquid without falling completely apart. That’s why, if you buy or make an unsliced loaf, you’ll want to cut the slices thick. It’s also why you’ll want to look for thick slices if you’re using a pre-sliced loaf.

If you decide to go with homemade bread, try making the dish a day or two after the bread has been baked. Slightly older/stale bread will generally have slightly heartier texture, and will hold together better in the final dish.

Step Two: Make Your Dip

Now that your bread is picked out and prepped, it’s time to make up the liquid mixture that each slice will be dipped in. Generally speaking, this mixture will be composed of milk, eggs, vanilla extract and cinnamon that have been beaten until combined. Dairy-free cooks can make their own adjustments by using plant milk and an egg substitute. If you’d rather, you can also use silken tofu along with plant milk to make a vegan French toast dip that tastes close to the real thing.

The dipping stage is also a great time to add a little more to your French toast. After soaking your toast in the egg mixture, you could dip the toast in a second substance to provide an interesting coating. For example, you could try crushing up your favorite cereal and dipping your toast in it after it’s absorbed some of the egg mixture, as seen in the Cornflake Crunch or Crunchy Granola French Toast variations above. You can also infuse your dipping mixture with a favorite flavor, such as amaretto, to give the finished dish an interesting twist.

Step Three: Decide On Your Cooking Method

Once you’ve dipped and coated your French toast slices, you’re ready to cook them. Most French toast can be finished off in the frying pan. By adding one or two slices at a time and flipping occasionally, you can ensure each slice comes out golden and delicious. Other methods can be used to complete a French toast dish, however. For example, if you want to ensure the French toast stays warm, you could always lay each piece in an oven dish after lightly frying it and then put the dish in a preheated oven while you finish making the meal. You can also complete French toast in the waffle iron for a unique and extra-crispy take on the breakfast food. Whatever method you try, make sure to keep an eye on your toast, as the custard mixture soaked into the toast generally doesn’t take long to cook.

Step Four: Select Your Toppings

With your French toast cooked and plated, you’re ready to give it a final touch. Of course, you could just serve your toast with powdered sugar or syrup, but really any topping can become a delicious addition to the meal. Streusel topping, for example, can be delicious when sprinkled on top of French toast; toasted nuts and berries can also make a special topping. If you’d like, you could even create a topping bar for your family with options like fresh fruit, jam, whipped cream, chocolate chips, syrup, granola and more. After all, personalization is part of the fun of home cooking, so don’t be afraid to make it your own.

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland; Food Styling: Anna Theoktisto

Additional French Toast Styles

How to Stuff Your French Toast

French toast already seems fancy in its simplest form, but if you’re looking to step it up a notch, take a swing at making stuffed toast. For this variation, a couple of different methods can be used. The first, and more complicated, involves cutting a hole in each slice near the crust of the bread so that a thicker filling can be placed in the pocket before the toast is dipped and fried. That method definitely works well for some presentations. But there’s a simpler way to make easy stuffed toast, and it simply involves putting the filling between two slices of bread. That way, the slices can be dipped and fried together to create a simple, but effective, stuffed French toast slab.

As for what to stuff your toast with, the options are essentially limitless. Fruit, jam, chocolate and sweet cheeses like mascarpone and cream cheese are all fantastic options, as are nut butters and Nutella. Try experimenting to find out which stuffed toast variation works best for you.

How to Make a French Toast Sandwich

After you master the two-slice method for making stuffed toast, then you’re ready to move on to French toast-style sandwiches. These are exactly what they sound like: sandwiches dipped in a French toast mixture and fried up to create something greater than the sum of their parts. While we think that almost any sandwich can benefit from this method, we suggest starting with the French toast PB&J, as it is an approachable blend of sandwich classic and breakfast delicacy. The Croque-Monsieur French toast can also make for a fun, and filling, family-friendly culinary activity.

How to Make a French Toast Casserole

If the idea of slicing, dipping and frying sounds too draining for a morning activity, there’s no reason to cross French toast off of your breakfast lineup. Given that soaking up a liquid mixture is the bread’s primary job, French toast is suited perfectly to the casserole treatment. That means you can slice up and arrange your bread in a casserole dish, cover it with your liquid mixture and any toppings, and then just bake it in the morning. The final product may not be servable in individual bread slices, but it will taste amazing.

How to Make French Toast to Go

If you’re looking for a slightly more portable way to enjoy your French toast, try cubing your bread before frying it to create French toast bites. You can also cut your bread into long strips to create French toast sticks, or, if you’re feeling creative, cook your French toast cubes in the oven until crispy to make French toast croutons that can be sprinkled onto another food, like a smoothie bowl, cereal yogurt. You can also, of course, just eat them straight off the oven pan; we wouldn’t blame you.