Challah French Toast

from 6 votes

Kick up a breakfast classic with an easy, crowd-friendly recipe for Challah French Toast topped with fresh fruit and warm maple syrup. This delicious breakfast recipe takes only about 15 minutes to make.

On a white plate, challah French toast is topped with sliced strawberries and orange segments and is being drizzled with maple syrup.

Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” in our house quite like a homemade brunch enjoyed on a living room floor covered with wrapping paper. And every year, my mom Noni comes up big with a menu of softly scrambled eggs with fresh chives, maple sausage, fruit salad and homemade bagels.

Most years, the designated carb is her famous pancakes, but this year, we’re switching it up and serving my new favorite spin on a breakfast classic: challah French toast!

We’ve covered French toast in countless forms around here, from Easy Cinnamon French Toast Sticks and Stuffed French Toast to Cinnamon French Toast Muffins, Overnight Eggnog French Toast and Overnight Pumpkin French Toast Bake. But now I’m returning to the good ol’ classic custard and buttery bread combo.

Thick-cut slices of challah (or brioche!) are soaked in a vanilla custard mixture that’s given a citrusy kick courtesy of freshly grated orange zest. A few shakes of cinnamon rounds out one seriously stellar flavor profile fit for breakfast or brunch 365 days a year.

The bread is then pan-fried in melted butter until it’s golden brown and slightly crisped on the edges. Then all that’s left to do is pick your toppings of choice, from a simple drizzle of warm maple syrup or a spoonful of fresh fruit to a decadent addition of caramelized bananas or a shower of powdered sugar.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Quick and easy. It takes only about 15 minutes to make.
  • Great use for leftover challah or brioche bread.
  • Crisp on the outside, custardy on the inside.
  • Bright citrus flavor. A bit of orange zest in the custard elevates the flavor of this easy challah French toast.

Ingredients

  • Milk: Use whole milk instead of skim for a richer flavor.
  • Eggs: Combined with the milk, the eggs make the custard base in which the bread is dipped.
  • Vanilla extract: A generous splash of pure vanilla extract gives the custard a rich, warm flavor.
  • Cinnamon: Add ground cinnamon for a hint of spice.
  • Orange zest: Fresh orange zest brightens the flavor.
  • Brown sugar: Light brown sugar adds sweetness to the French toast and helps it caramelize as it cooks.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter serves as the cooking fat to saute the pieces of bread.
  • Challah: This sweet yeasted bread can be found in any well-stocked bakery and makes the most tender, rich French toast.
  • Maple syrup: Drizzle the cooked French toast with real maple syrup. Honey would be delicious, too!

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Kelly’s Tip: Use a fine grater, like a Microplane, to zest the orange. Only remove the colored outer rind, avoiding the thick white pith, which can taste bitter.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Can’t find challah bread? Use brioche instead. A loaf of sweet Hawaiian bread would also work in a pinch.
  • Change up the seasonings. Substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract or try adding baking spice blends like pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice in place of the cinnamon. 
  • Get creative with toppings. This easy challah French toast is delicious just with maple syrup, but for special occasions, dress it up with fresh fruit, chopped nuts (pecans are particularly good!), fruit compote, whipped cream or chocolate chips. 

How to Make This Recipe

You won’t believe how easy it is to make restaurant-quality French toast!

  1. Make the custard. In a shallow dish, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest and light brown sugar.
A shallow dish holds eggs, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar and other ingredients. Next to it is sliced challah bread.
  1. Dip the bread. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dip the slices of bread in the egg mixture, turning over to coat, then place in the pan. 
Two pieces of challah bread sit in a custard mixture in a white rectangular dish.
  1. Cook until golden. Cook the French toast until golden brown on the underside, about two minutes, then flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat as needed with the remaining slices of bread.
Two pieces of challah French toast sizzle in a saute pan.
  1. Top and serve! Top the French toast with maple syrup, fresh fruit, and other desired toppings and serve immediately.

Kelly’s Recipe Tips

  • To mix the cinnamon evenly into the batter, add the cinnamon to the mixing bowl first and whisk it with a little milk to form a wet paste. Then add the eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest, brown sugar and the rest of the milk, whisking until smooth.
  • Stale bread works best. If the challah is a little stale and dried out, it will absorb more of the custard mixture and will have a better texture. You can hasten the drying-out process by slicing the bread and leaving it sitting out on the counter overnight.
  • Keep it warm. If you need to cook the French toast in batches but want to serve it all at once, keep the finished pieces warm for up to 30 minutes by placing them on a baking sheet in a 200˚F oven. 

How to Make Ahead of Time

Challah French toast only takes a few minutes to make but on those busy holiday mornings, every second counts! Here’s how to prep your Challah French toast the night before. Using these steps, you can have breakfast on the table in less than 10 minutes. 

  1. Make the custard. In a bowl with a lid, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest and light brown sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Slice the bread and set it out on the counter to dry out overnight.
  3. In the morning, remove the custard from the refrigerator, whisk to recombine the ingredients and pour into a shallow dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dip the bread in the egg mixture, turn it over to coat, and transfer to the pan.
  4. Cook until golden. Cook the French toast until golden brown on the underside, about two minutes, then flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat as needed with the remaining slices of bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Challah bread?

Typically made in a braided loaf, Challah is a sweet yeasted bread enriched with eggs and oil. It is a traditional food served at many Jewish holidays and Shabbat celebrations.

What can I use in place of Challah?

Any sweet, fluffy bread can be used instead of challah in this French toast recipe. Try brioche or sweet Hawaiian bread. 

How do you dry challah bread for French toast?

Dry, stale bread works best because it will absorb more of the custard mixture. Set out sliced bread on the counter overnight or lay slices directly on the oven rack at the lowest setting for 5 to 10 minutes, until the bread feels slightly dry but is not yet toasted. 

Can Challah French toast be made overnight?

The custard mixture for challah French toast can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight, leaving you to dip the bread and cook it in the morning. If you want a true overnight French toast recipe, try my recipe for overnight French toast bake.

More Sweet Breakfasts

Challah French toast is topped with strawberries and orange segments. Nearby is a dish of strawberries and a glass pitcher of maple syrup.

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Breakfast

Challah French Toast

Add a seasonal spin to a breakfast favorite with this quick and easy recipe for Challah French Toast. 
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.84 from 6 votes
A white plate containing Challah French Toast with syrup being drizzled on top
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Unsalted butter, for cooking
  • 8 (1-inch thick) slices Challah bread
  • Maple syrup, for serving
  • Fresh fruit, for serving (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a large shallow dish, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, orange zest and light brown sugar.  
  • Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted, dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating it on all sides and shaking off any excess, then place it in the pan.
  • Cook the bread until golden, about 2 minutes, then flip it once and cook it an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat the cooking process, adding more butter as needed, with the remaining slices of bread. 
  • Top the French toast with maple syrup and fresh fruit, if desired, and serve immediately.

Kelly’s Notes

  • To mix the cinnamon evenly into the batter, add the cinnamon to the mixing bowl first and whisk it with a little milk to form a wet paste. Then whisk in the rest of the ingredients until smooth.
  • If the challah is a little stale and dried-out, it will absorb more of the custard mixture and will have a better texture. Hasten the drying-out process by slicing the bread and leaving it sitting out on the counter overnight.
  • Keep the cooked pieces warm for up to 30 minutes by placing them on a baking sheet in a 200˚F oven. 
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 311kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 169mg, Sodium: 383mg, Potassium: 261mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 20g, Vitamin A: 335IU, Vitamin C: 0.7mg, Calcium: 187mg, Iron: 2.8mg

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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.


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4.84 from 6 votes

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Comments

  1. 4 stars
    Is there a trick to mixing the cinnamon in? It seems to sit on the surface every time I make this no matter what I try.

    1. Hi Natalie! Here’s a tip: Whisk together the cinnamon with a little milk to form a wet paste. Then add the eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest, light brown sugar and the rest of the milk. Whisk until smooth.

      1. My favorite recipe! I love the orange zest, it puts this French toast over the top, but I leave it out when making it for my family because they don’t care for that flavor. I like to top it with homemade whipped cream and berries and warm real maple syrup….AMAZING!

  2. 5 stars
    made this on a whim one morning with leftover challah. it was a huge hit with kids and adults alike. bookmarking this one- thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this a couple of weeks ago. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since we had french toast. The citrus in it is pleasantly bright! My hubby and I thought it was amazing! I did let the bread sit for about 15 minutes each side so flavors could get in there. Today I’m making it with almond extract instead of vanilla. Yum!

  4. 5 stars
    I just made this and it was delicious. Such a great flavor! This will be my go-to recipe for French toast from now on.