16 Ingredients That Will Boost Your French Toast

French toast is a beloved breakfast food for many. Its sweet flavor, compatibility with various toppings, and distinct custardy texture make it a perfect fit for family breakfasts and special occasions. But if you've been using the same old recipe, you're likely missing out on a wealth of ingredients that can really elevate your French toast to a new level. 

Although the easiest way to spruce up your French toast is to try a topping that differs from the standard maple syrup, powdered sugar, and whipped butter combo, we're investigating more of the complex ways to fundamentally alter the flavor of the dish. Some of the suggestions we've gathered are admittedly a bit "out there" and indeed unconventional, but they're bound to make you think about the breakfast classic in a new way. We've also included quick single-ingredient swaps that will make your French toast experience easier and keep your guests returning for "just another slice." 

Ice cream

Wait, aren't we talking about breakfast? Although a scoop (or two) of ice cream may be your favorite way to unwind on the couch at the end of the night, it's also the ingredient that will take your French toast to a whole new level in the morning. In an Instagram post, legendary chef Jacques Pépin notes that since French toast is usually made with eggs and cream, substituting this combo with melted ice cream (which is comprised of identical ingredients)  isn't that radical of an idea. 

The sweetness of the ice cream (vanilla is preferred) means you won't need to supplement your recipe with any additional sweeteners or extracts. However, you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to the melted ice cream to bring another layer of flavor. It's important to use full-fat ice cream for this hack because it will prevent the bread from burning and ensure the dish maintains its signature creamy consistency. 

Vanilla beans

Most home cooks have access to vanilla extract in their pantry, but an easy way to take your French toast a step further is to use the actual bean in your recipe. It's a game-changing ingredient swap for French toast because it adds a more intense vanilla flavor. For every teaspoon of vanilla extract, substitute with the scrapings from half a vanilla bean pod. Add this ingredient directly to your custard mixture before you soak your bread.

An alternative to vanilla pods is vanilla powder which is made from ground and cured vanilla pods. If you're going this route, try to purchase pure vanilla powder which doesn't contain any added ingredients like cornstarch. You can also opt for vanilla paste, a combination of fresh vanilla pod scrapings and vanilla extract. If you use any of these products, you'll notice a more robust vanilla flavor than using the extract (made from submerging the pods in alcohol), plus those tiny flecks of vanilla on your French toast are a nice visual touch. 

Irish whiskey

Adding alcohol is a quick and boozy way to amp up this breakfast favorite. The Irish whiskey trick to really wake up your French toast involves incorporating a couple of splashes of liqueur into your French toast custard. Since Irish whiskey is typically aged in the same barrels used to make bourbon, you'll get the same classic undertones of oak, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey —all of which vibe well with the flavor of French toast. 

Adding booze to your French toast won't cause you to feel tipsy because the cooking process evaporates most of the alcohol and just leaves behind the flavor. However, it is possible to go overkill on the alcohol and make your French toast more bitter than sweet, so we recommend being conservative and only adding a few tablespoons of booze to your custard mixture. Complement the flavors of your upgraded French toast with ingredients like citrus peel, fresh berries, or candied pecans. 

Savory bread

French toast is great sweet, so why mess with a perfect thing? Savory French toast might just become your new favorite breakfast, though, after you try this simple swap. Instead of using neutral or sweet bread, such as standard sandwich bread or panettone, utilize a savory slice of garlic ciabatta, olive loaf, or rosemary-infused bread. From there, you can substitute your standard sweet batter ingredients with spices and herbs like garlic salt, oregano, and chives. As long as you still use the egg and milk, your breakfast should have the same consistency as if you used more traditional ingredients.

There's no proper French toast without toppings, either. You can add a quick drizzle of high-quality infused olive oil, balsamic, or even a homemade avocado spread. Finish your plate with a helping of crunchy sea salt and serve to your hungry brunch guests. This savory meal can complement an array of other morning staples like eggs and breakfast meats.


If you're the person anxiously awaiting the arrival of pumpkin-spiced lattes when it's still the dog days of summer, you'll like this French toast hack. Not only does pumpkin French toast have a festive fall twist, but it's also made with a ton of warming spices that give off the same vibe as a cozy blanket and an autumnal candle on a cold day. 

You'll need to add pumpkin puree (the store-bought canned variety is the easiest option) and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon straight into the batter with the eggs and the milk. Soak the bread for at least 30 seconds to ensure that all of that pumpkin-y goodness gets infused into each slice. Then, cook your French toast as normal and top it with traditional toppings, or keep the seasonal spirit alive with candied pecans or roasted pumpkin seeds. Not only is this French toast variation delicious, but it also is full of vitamin A, thanks to the pumpkin. 


Eggnog is, if anything, divisive. You either love the taste of the thick, creamy, nutmeg-flavored holiday beverage, or you despise it. But if you're a fan of everything eggnog, try adding it to your French toast recipe. Use the beverage instead of cream for an eggnog French toast casserole to serve on Christmas morning. Simply cube up a loaf of brioche bread, extra nutmeg, eggs, eggnog, and vanilla in a baking dish and let the mixture sit for at least four hours. Then, add a pecan and brown sugar streusel and bake until golden. 

If you are looking for less time-intensive eggnog-infused French toast, simply swap the liquid for the cream or milk in a standard favorite French toast recipe. You can even add a splash of booze such as rum or bourbon. This recipe variation is festive enough to serve during the holidays or afterward when you need to use up the rest of the bottle. 


Honey is the sweetener Alton Brown uses for his French toast. The celebrity chef also abstains from adding additional spices to his recipe; he keeps it simple with just eggs, half-and-half, salt, and sweet honey. Brown cooks the slices in butter for the best flavor and transfers the pieces to a baking sheet to keep them warm and toasty before serving. 

One of the benefits of using honey rather than granulated sugar for your French toast is that it tends to burn less quickly though the downside to the swap is it won't result in a crispy, caramelized exterior. Honey does, however, offer a more robust than sugar; different varieties like clover or wildflower honey will produce slightly more organic or floral notes than plain. If you serve French toast with a drizzle of honey, only add the topping right before you eat it to prevent your bread from getting too soggy. 

Vanilla extract

Although it's a bit of a plain Jane move, adding vanilla extract to your French toast batter accomplishes two things: it provides a mild essence of the bean and a hint of alcohol that brings out the sweetness of your other ingredients. French pain perdu, for example, uses vanilla extract as a critical ingredient that makes the batter more custard-like. 

If you're adding vanilla extract to your French toast, you need to be sure it's real vanilla extract rather than artificial vanilla. It's worth spending more for pure vanilla extract because it's made with actual pods — not synthetic ingredients like wood pulp and petroleum. You'll also only need to add a splash to your French toast batter, meaning that you can save the rest of the pricey liquid for making a delicious batch of cookies or another baking favorite. It's also important to refrain from adding extra extract to your recipe because it may impart an unwelcomed alcoholic bitterness to your breakfast. 

Heavy cream or half-and-half

What purpose does dairy serve in French toast? The reason milk is so important when making French toast is that the sugar (lactose), fat, and protein all work together to produce the Maillard reaction. When the milk is heated, it develops some caramel notes and distinct aromas that make French toast unique. The ingredient also helps prevent the eggs from solidifying and turning the French toast as rubbery as a tire. 

Add a higher-fat dairy product, such as half-and-half or heavy cream, to your batter to make your batter more creamy. The flavor of these products is much more unctuous and buttery — and it will definitely make a difference in your breakfast. One of the tips you need for the absolute best French toast with this swap is to add slightly less cream than milk to account for the higher fat content. More recipes require about 1 cup of milk for every three eggs. 

Bacon grease

Chef John Currence from the Big Bad Breakfast group's tip for the absolute best French toast is to cook the bread in bacon grease. It's his favorite way to make French toast for his 10-year-old daughter — and not have to clean one more pan when it's time for dishes. Currence first cooks the bacon in the skillet before removing some (not all) of the bacon grease and frying up his battered French toast. "You'll get some of the bacon flavor and pick up some of those caramelized bacon bits," he tells Tasting Table. You can utilize this hack with a cast iron pan, griddle, or traditional fry pan.

You can also add more bacon flavor to your French toast bake by adding pieces of cooked, crumbled bacon to the topping with brown sugar, butter, and pecans. The meat imparts a hickory flavor to the French toast. Top it with a drizzle of real maple syrup, and you have a crowd-pleasing breakfast. 

Parmesan cheese

Your first inclination might be to question adding salty cheese to a sweet morning staple. But, after you add a bit of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, you'll see why this is Rachael Ray's secret to delicious savory French toast. The celebrity chef starts by cutting up thick slices of Italian bread and making her custard. She uses staple ingredients like cream and eggs, but also some freshly grated Parmesan. Ray finishes her seasoning with some granulated sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. After cooking the French toast, she devises a simple yet elegant topping of honey, balsamic-vinegar-dipped strawberries, and a few fresh basil leaves. 

Why does this recipe work exactly? Well, according to Ray, it's a BLD (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) meal, meaning that you can eat it whenever you see fit. The sharpness of the cheese adds a subtle salty element to the toast that helps contrast the sweetness and rounds out the flavors. 

Chopped almonds

Wolfgang Puck is known for his outrageous flavors, so it's no surprise that the chef and restauranter would have some tips for home cooks when it comes to a classic breakfast dish. The unlikely ingredient Puck uses for French toast provides a little bit of crunchy and nutty flavor to his recipe. Puck starts his recipe out with thick slices of challah bread and the standard custard base. But before he transfers the toast to the griddle, he flips the bread in chopped almonds on both sides. "That way, you get a little extra flavor," he explains in a TikTok video. 

The chef finishes his special French toast with a homemade berry compote, which he notes brings a little bit of acidity to the recipe, and a dollop of crème fraîche. But, he advises that home cooks get creative with their other favorite toppings, including maple syrup or whipped cream. 


When it comes down to cooking your French toast, you'll find a lot of variations in what people grease the pan or the griddle with. Some stick with a neutral oil or cooking spray, but it's obvious that the best option is in your butter drawer. You shouldn't skip the butter for French toast because it adds as distinct, diner-style flavor to your French toast. Neutral oils simply can't compete. 

The primary reason why people will abstain from using butter on their French toast, besides health reasons, is because butter tends to scorch faster and can impart a burnt taste to your French toast if it is cooked for too long. If you keep your heat low and keep an eye on your bread, you likely won't have to worry about this problem. However, if you want to be extra careful, use a mixture of neutral oil, such as canola and vegetable oil, in addition to a few pats of butter. 


If you're indecisive and can't decide on a single food for breakfast (which we totally understand), consider bringing cereal and French toast together. The best method to hybridize these breakfast food icons is to bake your French toast instead of cooking it in a skillet or on a griddle. This will allow the cereal to stick to the custard and crisp up. Break up the cereal into consistently-sized pieces, and be sure to use a slice of bread that is not too thick, but also not too thin. 

There are a wide variety of breakfast cereals that you can add to your French toast. Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch are natural fits, though we advise skipping Lucky Charms due to the marshmallow bits (as perfect as they are). Be sure to let your crust shine and avoid drowning out your toast in soggy ingredients like maple syrup or honey — we can assure you that the cereal is sweet enough!

Milk bread

If you ask what the best type of bread for French toast is, you're likely going to get a myriad of answers. Although you can use stale, crusty Italian bread or a mediocre slice of Wonder Bread, we suggest choosing something with a plush texture that feels like you're eating a cloud: shokupan, or Japanese milk bread. 

Milk bread French toast is guaranteed to be a new French toast recipe in your rotation. The bread is soaked in the custard for 30 seconds on each side before being placed into a pan or griddle until golden brown. The bread's texture remains soft and plush even if it's cooked until crispy. It's a meshing of textures that will surely make your tastebuds sing. You likely won't come across a loaf in your standard grocery store (at least in the U.S.), so we recommend taking a trip to your local Asian market to find it.


Panettone is a unique Italian Christmas bread filled with dried fruits, almonds, and citrus. Its texture is plush and buttery like brioche, which makes it the perfect bread for slicing and using for a French toast recipe during the holiday season. 

The key to making the perfect panettone French toast recipe is to slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Since the bread is incredibly dense, it is important not to slice any wider than this margin because it won't soak up the custard and develop the traditional French toast texture as it cooks. Dip the slices into your traditional batter mix, with a hint of added vanilla extract and sugar, and cook on a griddle or stovetop until lightly browned on both sides. We recommend topping this recipe with a dollop of homemade orange cream, made with orange zest, to complement the flavors in the bread. You can also add chopped nuts or dried fruit to the top of the stack for a unique textural pairing.