Delicious Twists That Will Upgrade Your French Toast

French toast is a delicious breakfast treat that is relatively simple to make. Bread takes a quick dip in a milk and egg bath, is slapped into a sizzling pan for a couple of minutes, and doused in copious amounts of butter and syrup to produce a consistently yummy way to wake up. While it's hard to argue that this combination of bread with its eggy, buttery exterior and meltingly soft interior isn't perfect as is, the truth is that egg-lathered bread and syrup can get a little tedious at times.

If you're still making French toast with its original boring bread and a simple eggy bath, get ready to upgrade. With just a few changes to technique or a delicious topping combination, your standard French toast plate can become the hero of the early morning hours. There's no need for any exotic ingredients or culinary expertise either — most upgrades can be made with pantry staples and very little practice. Here are 15 twists to turn your breakfast into something special.

Swap out the bread

If you do nothing else, mix up your bread game and get more creative. There's no need to stick with stale white bread as your toppings conveyance when a multitude of artisanal choices await you. Even a simple, classic French toast recipe is elevated by a bread swap.

A popular choice is challah, sliced thick and soaked for a longer time. This substantial bread makes for a heartier dish that also works as an overnight casserole or stuffed French toast. Brioche is another strong contender when you want something thicker. If you prefer or need a gluten-free option, you can still get in on the French toast breakfast action. Many gluten-free breads work well in French toast; be mindful of the soaking times, as some brands don't hold up well to long periods immersed in liquid. If you like a more thoroughly soaked bread, consider toasting your gluten-free bread before soaking.

Stuffed French toast

If you've never had stuffed French toast, you're missing one of life's great pleasures. Bread is sliced thick and stuffed with a creamy, mascarpone filling, then fried in butter. Traditional maple syrup can be used as a topping, or melt equal parts apricot jam and orange juice for a sweet, sour, sharp flavor that cuts through the bread and the mascarpone filling's richness.

Start by slicing bread into inch-thick slices. Use a knife to create a slit in the top of the bread, then stuff it with filling. Use cream cheese, ricotta, or mascarpone mixed with a scant bit of sugar and a dash of vanilla extract; add fresh fruit if you like, or some citrus zest. Soak in eggs beaten with cream and sprinkled with cinnamon, then fry as usual.

If you like the idea of stuffed French toast but aren't big on sweet breakfasts, try pork chop-stuffed French toast. Instead of using a sweet and creamy filling, slide a cooked chop into the bread and fry as usual. Serve with tangy barbecue sauce or reach for maple syrup; both options provide a beautiful sweet-savory contrast that's an instant upgrade.

Nutella banana French toast

It is not hyperbolic to say that Nutella banana French toast is life-changing. Picture this: smooth and creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread slathered on slices of banana nestled between two slices of toast, dipped in a milky batter and fried to golden perfection before being topped with maple syrup or a thick coat of sifted powdered sugar. It's a confection masquerading as breakfast, the final product made greater by the sum of its already-perfect parts.

To make this heavenly breakfast concoction, whisk a little all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour) into the milk and egg batter before dredging your Nutella and banana sandwich through. This old trick is the key to making impossibly fluffy French toast. Flour thickens the liquid, allowing it to cling more evenly to your French toast. It's especially helpful if you're making a sandwich, as it creates a seal to keep all of the delicious filling inside.

Cinnamon roll French toast

If making French toast out of a cinnamon roll (or cinnamon swirl bread) is a crime, it's a victimless one that everyone should perpetrate. Sure, you could take the easy route and simply purchase cinnamon bread that is pre-sliced, following standard directions for French toast (maybe tarting it up a bit by toasting the bread before you batter it). But why stop there? Cinnamon rolls have a stretchy, brioche-like texture that works incredibly well as French toast.

To make cinnamon roll French toast, you can start with pre-made cinnamon rolls or whip up a batch of your own. This method works best with day-old cinnamon rolls, so make a double batch one morning, and save the rest for the next day's breakfast. Slice cinnamon rolls horizontally into slices; the number of slices depends on the height of the cinnamon rolls, but you can go as thick or thin as you like. Batter and fry as usual, then put together a cream cheese glaze as frosting by thinning cream cheese with a little milk, and stirring in some vanilla extract and powdered sugar until just sweetened. Serve with a bit of lemon zest to make the whole dish pop.

French toast casserole

Overnight French toast makes creating a beautiful family-style breakfast a snap. This is a simple casserole with many variations that comes together quickly the night before and languishes in the fridge for at least eight hours before baking. It's like bread pudding prancing around as breakfast.

Start by greasing a casserole dish; any size works, and it just depends on the number of people you are feeding. Prepare your favorite French toast batter; add a splash of Irish whiskey if you're serving adults in the morning and want a luxurious boost of flavor. Use good quality bread that's a little stale — challah and brioche are perfect — or toast sandwich bread to give it a fighting chance in the fridge. Dip each slice of bread in the batter and either shingle or layer your bread in the casserole dish. Shingles cook more evenly, and layers make for a sturdier finished dish. When the casserole dish is packed full, pour the remaining batter over your French toast, wrap tightly, and place in the fridge.

When you're ready for breakfast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the plastic wrap. At this point, you can top your casserole with chopped nuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes before uncovering and baking an additional 10 to 20 minutes until the edges are browned and the custard is set.

S'mores French toast

This is another variation on a delicious French toast sandwich; it's a fried breakfast version that slightly resembles a grilled cheese, only if the grilled cheese was coated in a creamy batter and filled with gooey marshmallows, crushed graham crackers, and mini chocolate chips. It's the sandwich grilled cheese wants to be when it grows up.

The beauty of s'mores is in their combination of flavors and textures. The crispy graham cracker crumbs play well with the stretchy, sticky marshmallow and the luscious chocolate. Use any kind of chocolate you like — bittersweet chocolate cuts the sweetness of this slightly, and even though it doesn't melt quite as well as milk chocolate, that's masked by the other elements. A traditional French toast batter works here, and you can also just scatter graham cracker crumbs, mini chips, and mini marshmallows over regular French toast.

There's no need to serve s'mores French toast with syrup. A light dusting of powdered sugar is perfect, and fresh strawberries or blackberries complement the richness of this dish. A dollop of unsweetened Greek yogurt provides a tart palate cleanser.

Savory French toast

Who says French toast has to be sweet? After all, the basis of this breakfast, toast, is often featured in a variety of savory dishes (think ham sandwiches and the ubiquitous club sandwich). For savory breakfast fans who feel alienated by the focus on sugary elements in French toast, there's no need to hit the sweet side of the street when you want this classic for breakfast.

Start by modifying what you dip your toast in. Skip sugar and vanilla in your French toast batter, adding instead herbs, salt, and pepper. Choose any combination of herbs that you like; thyme and oregano are solid breakfast choices, and you could even add garlic and onion powder to bump up the umami flavor. Drag thick slices of bread through the custard and fry as usual. Instead of a sweet drip of maple syrup or sugared cooked fruit, top your savory French toast with a perfectly cooked dippy egg. This provides the perfect sauce when you slice into your breakfast. Don't forget to finish off with chopped fresh chives and parsley for an herbaceous touch, and some shaved or grated parmesan will be right at home. Pass the freshly cracked black pepper, too.

Churro French toast

The story of French toast travels across the globe from ancient Rome until it eventually lands in the Americas, but not before it makes a stop in Spain. Spanish-style French toast — torrijas — uses thick-cut bread dipped in egg and crusted with a cinnamon sugar coating that crunches when you bite into it. People in the U.S. might be more familiar with a Mexican treat that uses the same coating: churros.

No matter whether it's batter deep-fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar at a fair (churros) or battered bread with a flourish of that same spicy-sweet mix, this churros-style French toast is an easy upgrade that occurs at the table. There's no need to change the batter or the bread; simply prepare the French toast as usual and serve it with a bowl of cinnamon sugar. Eaters can add as much as they like. Be mindful of your cinnamon sugar ratio, as too much cinnamon will be unpleasant. Stick with a one-to-three ratio for the best flavor.

Pumpkin spice French toast

Let's face it: Most pumpkin spice dishes have nothing to do with pumpkin and everything to do with that unique flavor combination of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Not so when it comes to pumpkin spice French toast, though. This recipe actually includes pumpkin puree in the batter, boosting not only the flavor profile but also the nutritional content.

Add ½ cup of pumpkin puree and 1 or 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice to your regular French toast batter. If you aren't sure of the flavor, dip half a piece of bread in the batter and fry it up to taste, then adjust the spices if needed. Pumpkin puree may thicken the batter, so add a splash or two of milk to thin it. Fry up as usual and serve with maple syrup, melted butter, and powdered sugar. If you want an extra spicy flavor, simmer whole cinnamon sticks in maple syrup and skip the powdered sugar.

Coconut French toast

Coconut brings a nutty tropical flair to the breakfast table, and there are a couple of ways to incorporate coconut into French toast. Some people love to sprinkle coconut flakes on their finished toast, but why not go one further? Coconut milk works just as well in French toast batter, with a flavor all its own that elevates the usual humdrum breakfast. Simply swap coconut milk for dairy milk in your batter mixture. Fry the bread and serve as usual for a delicious, if subtle, upgrade.

For additional flavor and texture, use coconut milk in the batter, then dip the battered bread into a dredge of shredded dried coconut. Unsweetened shredded coconut is best for the purest coconut flavor. Fry in butter until golden brown and serve with grilled pineapple and yogurt mousse, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pecans. You can even sprinkle with more toasted coconut. Use your air fryer to toast fresh coconut in minutes.

Almond-crusted French toast

Almond-crusted French toast is a breakfast upgrade you didn't know you were missing, but once you have it, you'll likely never go back. A handful of slivered almonds spread on regular French toast provides crunch to an otherwise soft dish, but coating battered bread with sweet almond flour before frying adds not only flavor but also a much more interesting textural contrast.

Start with regular French toast batter, or substitute almond milk for dairy milk (it's all about layering flavor). Dredge your battered bread in almond flour that has been seasoned with a pinch of salt, maybe some nutmeg or cinnamon, and a scant teaspoon of sugar. Fry the bread in butter until crispy and serve with syrup or whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Vanilla Greek yogurt is delicious here, too, as is a drizzle of honey. The crunchy exterior gives way to the custard-like interior that melts in your mouth.

Peaches and cream French toast

Peaches and cream French toast is an overnight breakfast that also works well for dessert. Bread is cut into thirds and layered tightly in a greased baking pan, then covered with a rich egg and cream custard. Top with canned sliced peaches that have been drained, then cover the whole dish in plastic wrap and chill it for at least eight hours (or overnight).

When you're ready for breakfast, remove the baking dish from the fridge and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle the dish with ½ cup of heavy cream and bake until the custard is set, the peaches are caramelized, and the exposed bread begins to brown. This dish does not require any syrup and makes its own sauce of peach juice and cream.

If you don't want to get that fancy but still want the flavors of peaches and cream, there's an easier way. Top regular French toast with caramelized peaches and a dollop of whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream if you want to truly indulge).

Crème brûlée French toast

The best part of crème brûlée is the crispy, burnt sugar topping that shatters when tapped with a spoon. The silky custard underneath is a sweet, smooth contrast to the shards of bitter sugar that are its crowning glory, and you can mirror that experience with crème brûlée French toast.

In order to get the best result, use slightly thicker bread that is soaked in the milk and egg custard until it is absorbed into the center of the bread. Fry in butter until the edges are crisp and the center of the bread is creamy and soft. Remove the bread from the pan and sprinkle a thick layer of white sugar evenly across the top, then use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar. Keep your distance at first and wait for the sugar to start bubbling; it will continue to cook even when you remove the heat, but it will burn if you linger in one spot. If you're serving a crowd, you can also do this with your oven's broiler. Once all of the French toast is fried, lay it flat on a baking sheet, top it with sugar, and set the sheet under your oven broiler until the sugar is melted and crisp.

Red velvet French toast

If we're being honest, it's important to note that red velvet cake is really just a chocolate cake colored intensely red, either with food coloring or with the traditional process of adding vinegar to the batter. Yet it's an impressive and beautiful presentation, perfect for a themed breakfast or a special brunch.

To get the beautiful red coloring and delicious cocoa flavor, add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and some extra sugar to the French toast batter. Drip in food coloring a few drops at a time until you achieve your desired color. In this case, it's also good to fry a test piece to make sure the flavor and color are what you want. Fry up as usual and serve with powdered sugar.

If you really want something special, serve red velvet stuffed French toast. Make a slot in each inch-thick slice of brioche or challah, and stuff them with vanilla-flavored and lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese. Dredge the toast in red velvet batter, fry it, and serve with fluffy clouds of fresh whipped cream and berries.

Air fryer French toast sticks

Is there anything the air fryer can't do? Probably not. For the best hassle-free French toast, skip the stove and head straight to your air fryer. To make breakfast even more special (and easy for the youngest diners to handle on their own), fry up some French toast sticks. Air fryers are especially effective if you need to make large batches for hungry diners and fast.

Every air fryer has its own particular quirks, but the basic method is the same for all of them. Preheat your appliance to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and brush the rack with the oil of your choice (or remove the rack and apply baking spray before reinserting it). Cut a sturdy bread into 1-inch sticks and dredge through the French toast batter of your choice. Fry until crispy — about six minutes total, with a flip halfway through the cooking time. Serve with warmed syrup for dipping.