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This simple family friendly french toast recipe includes soaking thick slices of bread in an easy, yet decadent cinnamon-vanilla custard and pan frying the bread in butter until golden brown with crisp edges. No soggy French toast here!
French toast is my seven year old's favorite before-school breakfast. No, seriously! Before school!
We have moved from homeschooling to Montessori school (virtually!) to help him become more independent and get some much needed kid interaction during this whole 'panoramic.'
He absolutely loves helping me make this breakfast, it's kid-friendly to make and eat, he's able to whip it up (and me sizzle them up in the frying pan) in just 8 minutes and spend the rest of the morning watching PBS kids and reading on his tablet before class.
I'm trying to relish these years while he's still small, y'all. Don't mind me.
Origins of French Toast
French toast actually is not French! Researchers have found early versions of French toast recipes from Ancient Rome as far back as 5th century A.D.
The Romans called it Pan Dulcis, which generally translates to 'sweet bread', and they would soak bread in eggs and milk then fry it in butter. Very similar, right?
In the 15th century, pain perdu (lost bread) was invented in France. This is where the modern French toast came from. People would take stale, old bread that would've been discarded otherwise, soaked it in a mixture of eggs and milk, and fried. Pain perdu is considered a dessert, not a breakfast good.
When pain perdu made its way to England in the 16th and 17th centuries, the name 'French Toast' was born. And when it sailed it's way to the U.S., French toast was solidified in the American-English vernacular when it was printed in the Encylcopedia of American Food and Drink in 1871.
Best Bread to use for French Toast
Challah Bread. I absolutely love challah bread for french toast. It's a braided bread that's great for those who have dairy allergies (check out my section on milk substitutes for a dairy free french toast!) because it's enriched with eggs and fat, much like buttery brioche. It's also great for Sunday brunch since challah is often made for Shabbat.
Brioche. Brioche bread is like the fancy ultra luxurious bread to use when making french toast. It's enriched with a ton of milk, butter, and eggs, giving it a fine and tender crumb with a rich, buttery flavor.
Italian or French Bread. I really love using these because they're easily accessible, and they make great french toast especially when stale because they get very dry and thirsty.
Making the Custard
The custard is really the soaking liquid that makes french toast what is it. It's made with eggs, milk or cream, plenty of cinnamon, vanilla extract, and just a little sprinkle of sugar or whatever sweet substitute you want.
Eggs are an important player here. They are a binder that soaks into and coats the bread, which is delicate and sort of breaks down a little when it absorbs the custard, so when you cook the bread, the eggs solidify and add structure. They're also full of proteins and fats, giving richness!
I use whole milk in this recipe, but you can use whatever you have on hand like evaporated milk, heavy cream or half and half, or 2% milk.
Dairy-Free French Toast
If you're lactose-intolerant or just going dairy-free, making french toast with a nut-milk or other milks is a great idea! They're full of proteins and fats, just like regular milk, so they will bring the same richness as milk.
You can also sub whatever neutral-flavored oil you are comfortable with for the butter as well.
How to Make the Best French Toast from Scratch
The best french toast to me is easy, quick to make, and uses nice thick slices of bread. The thickness is important, in my opinion. Two inch bread slices make sure that the custard soaks in just enough for fluffy insides, but won't make it soggy.
Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Nonstick is great because the eggy batter doesn't fare well on anything other than nonstick...except maybe a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet but even then, a frying pan is easier to handle and is easier to wash.
Melt a little butter and while it melts, beat the custard together in a wide, shallow dish. A baking dish is perfect for this
To keep your breakfast warm while frying the bread in batches, place the cooked French toast on a wire rack on a baking sheet so the toast doesn’t end up cooking in the oven. Keep at about 200 degrees F (90 degrees C) and serve warm when ready.
What to Serve with French toast
In my photos you'll see I served the french toast with berries, sliced bananas, maple syrup, and powdered sugar, which is a classic way to serve them up. Here are a few really tasty ideas:
- With warm honey or molasses instead of maple syrup.
- Serve as a sweet side to Steak and Eggs.
- Add some saltiness with bacon, breakfast sausage, or a sunny side up egg.
- Spread some homemade jam, apple butter, or pumpkin butter on for a seasonal touch.
Love breakfast? Check out these recipes:
- Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles with Spicy Honey Butter Sauce
- Croque Madame Sandwiches
- Corned Beef Hash
- Best Belgian Waffles Recipe
- Strawberries and Cream Stuffed French Toast
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- 8 slices of stale bread, each about 2 inches thick
- 4 tbsp butter or oil
- Maple syrup, sliced fruit, and powder sugar, for serving
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cup (375 mL) whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp brown sugar, optional
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- Whisk together in a shallow dish (like a pie plate) eggs, milk, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, kosher salt, and sugar. Make sure to whisk the custard thoroughly so that the egg white is well incorporated.
- On a nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat.Set the bread slices in the mixture cut side down, flipping after 10 seconds and allowing the other side to soak for another 10 seconds.
- Place the soaked bread on the griddle or pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip onto other side and cook for 2-3 minutes as well. Both sides should be golden brown and well toasted.
- Plate your french toast and serve with your favorite sides and toppings.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 351Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 581mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 3gSugar: 14gProtein: 12g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.