This baked apple cider French toast combines some of the fall season’s favorite flavors: apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and apple cider. Dip slices of crusty bread in a cider-infused custard, and then top with spiced apples cooked in a brown sugar sauce. Serve this delicious dish with maple syrup or salted caramel for an extra flavorful start to a crisp autumn morning.
Today I’m sharing quite the indulgent breakfast… or should I just call it “dessert masquerading as breakfast”? It’s the apple version of my pumpkin French toast casserole, and certainly a special treat if you’re entertaining guests, or if you just went apple picking. Pick up some apple cider while you’re at the farm market!
Here’s Why You’ll Love It:
- Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, just like apple pie
- Loaded with extra brown sugared-apples
- Prep it the night before and bake it in the morning
- Easier to prepare than regular French toast… no individual slices to cook!
- Satisfies those sweet fall flavor cravings and feeds a crowd
- A wonderful way to use fresh apple cider… have you tried my apple cider sangria yet?
Let’s jump right in.
Best Bread to Use for Baked Apple Cider French Toast
Tip #1: Start with a quality loaf. Bread is the main ingredient in any baked French toast casserole, so don’t skimp here. Flimsy sliced sandwich bread won’t do the casserole any favors because it’s unable to soak up excess moisture from the custard—the entire dish will taste flat, soggy, and wet. And it definitely wouldn’t stand up to the apple topping! I recommend using sturdy, flavorful bread such as challah, French bread, sourdough, brioche, homemade artisan bread, or even this cinnamon swirl bread. Challah is my #1 recommendation and you can usually find it in the bakery section of the grocery store.
Tip #2: Let it get stale. When you have the quality bread you need, let it sit out for a few hours to get a little stale. As with breakfast casserole, French toast is best when the bread is somewhat stale. Cut the loaf into thick slices, then let it sit out uncovered for a few hours or up to 1 day. The less moisture in the bread, the more apple cider custard it can soak up!
Tip #3: Try this shortcut: If you don’t have time to let the bread sit out and get stale, you can lightly toast the slices in the oven at 300°F for about 10 minutes. I do this a lot… so forgetful!
While I love this baked apple cider French toast with thick bread slices lined up vertically in the baking dish, you can slice the bread into cubes if you’d prefer, like we do for this cream cheese French toast casserole.
Here’s Everything Else You Need:
After you have your slightly stale slices of quality bread, whisk together the egg custard.
- Eggs: You need 6 large eggs.
- Apple Cider: Apple cider is fresh, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple juice, and it’s deeply flavorful. Don’t mistake this ingredient for alcoholic, carbonated cider, or for apple cider vinegar—that is not a mistake you want to make! If you have extra apple cider, make apple cider chicken next!
- Milk: I use whole milk in this recipe, but you can use lower-fat or nondairy milk if necessary. Half-and-half or heavy cream would make for a richer, creamier custard, but I find it makes the apple French toast casserole too heavy.
- Brown Sugar: With its higher molasses content, brown sugar is the best choice for sweetening this apple cider French toast.
- Orange Zest: A little hint of citrus brightens up all the deep apple spice flavors in this French toast casserole. I tested the recipe with and without orange zest, and taste testers agreed that the hint of fresh citrus really brought out the apple cider flavor.
- Vanilla Extract, Spices, & Salt: The flavor-enhancers no apple baked good should be without. (By the way, if you love apple cinnamon goodness, and you’re up for a baking project, try my apple cinnamon babka sometime!)
Now turn your attention to the apples; the remaining ingredients you see above are used next.
Briefly Cook the Apples
Peel and slice 4 medium-size apples using a peeler (that’s an affiliate link to the one I use and love!). Not sure which apples are best? See my Best Apples for Baking page. I usually use 2 tart Granny Smith apples and 2 sweet Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples here.
A quick turn on the stove bathes the spiced apple slices in a rich, buttery apple cider sauce that caramelizes the apples as they cook. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the apples are crisp-tender, and the sauce has slightly thickened (and smells incredible). Take the skillet off heat, and stir in the pecans.
Warning: At this point, you may forget all about the French toast you were making and want to just eat the apples with a spoon. Try to stay focused. I know it’s hard!!
Dip the slices of bread in the egg custard. I usually do this before I cook the apples.
And arrange in a greased casserole dish.
Spoon the apple/pecan mixture over the soaked bread slices. I like to press some of the apple slices down in between the bread slices. Pour the remaining brown sugar sauce over the top of everything.
Try a crumb topping: This would also be amazing with the crumb topping from this pumpkin French toast casserole. Feel free to add it if you want to level up your baked French toast game!
At this point, you can cover the apple cider French toast and refrigerate it overnight, or for at least 3 hours so the bread can soak and the flavors can infuse. After that, it’s time to bake:
You can, but you’ll lose some flavor. Apple cider is fresh, unfiltered, and typically unpasteurized, so it’s more like the raw, purer version of juiced apples. Apple juice has had the pulp and sediment filtered out, and is pasteurized to extend its shelf life. If you can’t find fresh apple cider, you can make homemade apple cider in a slow cooker.
When it comes to baking with apples, it’s best to use apples with a firm, crisp texture, so they don’t bake down into mush. I love varieties like Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Fuji, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Jazz apples. Steer clear of softer, mealier apple varieties like McIntosh and Red Delicious. If the apple has a crisp, juicy crunch when you bite into it, that’s likely a good one for baking!
Serving Apple Cider French Toast
Drizzle the top of the warm baked apple cider French toast (either the whole thing, or individual servings) with maple syrup or salted caramel before serving, and/or sprinkle with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. For a side dish, this is a wonderful French toast casserole to serve with fresh fruit and something you can cook on the stove like bacon or sausage.
Start this baked apple cider French toast casserole ahead of time so you can wake up and bake a deliciously spiced fall breakfast or brunch! Be sure to use apple cider, the nonalcoholic beverage, and not apple cider vinegar.
- 1 (12–14-ounce) loaf French bread, sourdough bread, or challah*
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup (240ml) apple cider
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 56g) unsalted butter
- 4 medium apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices (about 4 cups/500g)*
- 1/4 cup (60ml) apple cider
- 1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (90g) pecan halves
- for serving: confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, and/or salted caramel sauce
- Slice the bread into 1-inch-wide slices. Let the sliced bread sit out uncovered for a few hours or up to 1 day. (If you don’t have enough time, see recipe Note below for a shortcut.)
- Grease a 9×13-inch (or any 3.5–4-quart) baking dish, or spray with nonstick spray. The pictured red pan is this one, but either a metal or glass pan works just as well.
- In a medium bowl preferably with a pour spout, whisk the eggs, apple cider, milk, brown sugar, orange zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt together until combined. Set aside.
- Dip each slice of bread in the egg custard mixture, soaking both sides. Place in the prepared baking dish, lining the slices up next to each other. Pour any remaining custard over the top. Set aside.
- Cook the apples: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, apple cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples have slightly softened. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans.
- Spoon the apple mixture over the top of the bread slices, and pour any remaining sauce from the skillet over the top of everything.
- Cover the casserole tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. This gives the bread a chance to soak up the custard and is a key step in this recipe.
- Remove casserole from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Bake casserole uncovered for 20 minutes, and then cover with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 25–35 minutes or until center appears set and is no longer runny. The total time this casserole takes is 45–55 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Casserole deflates slightly as it cools. Feel free to sift a dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top, and/or drizzle maple syrup or salted caramel sauce on entire casserole or on individual servings.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare the French toast casserole through step 6 up to 1 day in advance before baking. Cover tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake it. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature while your oven preheats. You can freeze leftover baked and cooled casserole for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat to your liking in the microwave, or cover and bake in a 300°F (149°C) oven until warm throughout, at least 20 minutes.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Vegetable Peeler | 9×13-inch Baking Dish (or any 3.5–4-quart baking dish such as this one) | Glass Mixing Bowl or Bowl with Pour Spout| Whisk | Sieve
- Bread: Crusty, somewhat stale bread is best for French toast casseroles. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to let the bread sit out as instructed in step 1, lay the bread slices on baking sheets in a single layer and bake in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 10 minutes.
- Apple Cider: Make sure you’re using apple cider the (nonalcoholic, non-carbonated) drink, not apple cider vinegar. You can use apple juice instead if cider if you must, but you’ll lose some flavor. Learn how to make a homemade apple cider beverage in a slow cooker.
- Milk: Whole milk is best because it produces a rich casserole that isn’t too heavy. You can use lower-fat or nondairy milks in a pinch. Half-and-half works, too. I found heavy cream too heavy and rich for this casserole.
- Nut Free: You can leave out the pecans if desired.
Keywords: apple cider french toast