This Pumpkin French Toast Casserole is the perfect make-ahead breakfast or brunch recipe! Assemble and refrigerate overnight (or, bake right away) for a fuss-free and impressive festive fall breakfast recipe that’s perfect all season long or for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. Torn bread is soaked in a pumpkin-based custard with warming spices and is topped with a pecan streusel crumble, then baked.
Similar to bread pudding or a strata, French toast casserole has a base of bread (preferably stale), smothered in a custard, and baked until firm.
This Pumpkin French toast casserole is packed with warming spices from pumpkin pie spice mix, and has pumpkin puree mixed into the custard. Topped with a sweet and crunchy pecan streusel, this decadent breakfast will be a family favorite!
Once you make a French toast casserole, you may never go back to make French toast the traditional way. It’s super convenient to assemble this all in one dish and bake at your convenience, rather than standing over a hot skillet making individual pieces of French toast.
It’s PERFECT if you’re hosting company and need a good breakfast or brunch recipe for a crowd.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Bread – I used brioche. You should try to make sure the bread is stale/dried out. Any kind of bread will do – crusty no knead bread, French bread, sourdough, Texas toast, Challah, etc. But different kinds will yield different results, as they have different flavors and textures.
- Half and Half – You can use whole milk if you prefer, or a mix of whole milk and heavy cream. I recommend a milk with fat in it, but in a pinch you can use a low- or no-fat milk, or a plant-based alternative such as soy or almond milk for a dairy free version.
- Pumpkin puree – the canned stuff is great for this. Make sure it’s not pumpkin pie filling – just plain pumpkin puree!
- Pecans – walnuts, or other nuts such as sliced or slivered almonds, or chopped hazelnuts, or a mix, would work too. Or for a nut-free version, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds may be used, or the nuts omitted.
- Brown sugar – white sugar can be used instead, or a mix of the two.
- Pumpkin pie spice mix – I used a homemade pumpkin pie spice mix, but you can easily find it pre-mixed at the store.
- Butter – use ghee in a pinch for a dairy-free version. Cooking spray can be used to grease the pan as an alternative.
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour – this is for the streusel topping
How to make Pumpkin French Toast Casserole
- First, butter your baking dish and add cubed stale bread to it. I dried my bread on a baking sheet covered with a towel overnight.
- Mix up the custard – eggs, half and half, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice mix.
- Pour the custard on the bread in the baking dish. Press the bread down into it a bit so every piece gets coated in it. Then, refrigerate until you are ready to bake (at least 1 hour, or a max of 24 hours).
- Make the streusel topping by mixing chopped pecans, flour, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice mix. Then, add cold butter and crumble everything together using a fork, pastry cutter, or your hands. It should be crumbly. You can refrigerate this as well until you’re ready to bake.
- When you’re ready to bake, sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the casserole. Then, bake until the custard sets! Then allow to cool for a few minutes, slice, and serve. I like topping it with powdered sugar, dried cranberries, and maple syrup.
How to dry out bread
If you don’t have already dried out, stale, or day-old bread handy, you can easily transform fresh bread into dried bread perfect for this recipe. It’s important to use stale bread for this recipe, as fresh will likely result in a soggy casserole.
- Overnight method: Cube (or tear) the bread into pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover with a towel. Allow to sit overnight- the bread should be fairly dry in the morning. Alternatively, you can place the cubes in a brown paper bag.
- Quick method: Place the cubed bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in your oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until it’s just starting to toast (but not brown). Let it cool for a bit then proceed with the recipe.
If you really, REALLY don’t have time to dry out the bread, you may be able to get away with using fresh bread if it’s a crusty loaf to begin with. I don’t recommend letting the casserole sit for too long if you use fresh bread- bake it after it’s sat in the custard for about an hour max.
Here’s an easy recipe for homemade no knead crusty bread made in a Dutch oven!
How to store and reheat
This Pumpkin French Toast Casserole is best fresh, after it’s cooled off for 5-10 minutes after baking.
But you can also keep leftovers in the baking dish, and reheat in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You can also pop slices in the microwave to warm up.
Keep the leftover casserole in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze individual slices for up to 3 months in an airtight bag. You can grab a slice from the freezer and defrost it overnight in the fridge or pop it in the microwave to warm up for a quick and easy breakfast!
Other pumpkin recipes
This recipe uses about a half a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree. Here are some ways you can use the rest of that can up and more pumpkin recipe inspiration!
- Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes
- Pumpkin Chili
- Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bread
- Pumpkin Fettuccini Alfredo
- Spiced Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Cranberries
- Pumpkin Pudding from Scratch
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Pumpkin French Toast Casserole
For the Casserole:
For the Streusel Topping:
Optional toppings for serving:
- dried cranberries, powdered sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream, extra nuts, or other favorite French toast toppings
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish with the melted butter (1 tablespoon).
- Add the cubed bread to the baking dish and spread out evenly.
- In a large mixing bowl, make the custard. Whisk together the eggs (6), half and half (2 cups), pumpkin puree (1 cup), brown sugar (1/2 cup), vanilla extract (1 tablespoon), and pumpkin pie spice (1 tablespoon).
- Pour the custard evenly over the cubed bread in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or a maximum of 24 hours (the longer it sits, the softer the texture will be).
- In a small bowl, mix the streusel topping. Combine the chopped pecans (1/2 cup), all-purpose flour (1/4 cup), brown sugar (1/4 cup), and pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon). Add the cold, cut up butter (3 tablespoons) and use a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands to blend the mixture together and break up the butter, forming a crumbly texture. (If making ahead, this can also be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated separately).
- When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Just before baking, sprinkle the streusel topping over the casserole evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, or until the casserole is no longer jiggly if you shake it a bit. If it's browning too much, you can tent it with foil.
- Allow the casserole to cool for 5-10 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces (4×3). Top with dried cranberries, powdered sugar, maple syrup, extra nuts, whipped cream… or anything else you love serving French toast with!
- Almost any bread can be used in this recipe, but the results will vary. I used brioche. Stale, slightly dry bread is recommended, but fresh bread can be used when cooking right away without an overnight refrigeration. Softer bread, like challah, brioche, and Texas toast, will absorb more custard and result in a softer texture (and may be a bit soggy if it’s not dried out enough). Firmer, crusty bread, like sourdough or french bread, will hold their shape a bit more and the thick crust will result in a more firm and crunchy texture throughout. Sourdough has a tangy taste that balances well with the sweetness of the casserole, and challah and brioche are a bit sweeter to start with. If you choose a pre-sliced bread, opt for thick-cut.
- To dry out fresh bread, you can leave it out overnight, in a paper bag or spread on a baking sheet covered with a towel (but not in a plastic bag or container, as those will keep the moisture in). For a faster method, you can cube or tear fresh bread and bake on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until it’s just starting to toast, but not brown. Let it cool and then proceed with the recipe.
- Instead of half and half, you can use whole milk, or a mixture of whole milk and heavy cream. Ideally, use a milk with fat in it, but to lighten up the recipe or make it dairy free you can use low or non-fat milk or a plant-based milk alternative.
- Almost any kind of nut can be used here. Chopped or sliced/slivered almonds would work well, hazelnuts, or a mix. Or, for a nut-free version, use pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or just leave them out!