Make Ahead Breakfast Strata
Hosting friends and family for brunch is one of our favorite forms of entertaining, and this custardy challah breakfast strata keeps things easy! It’s a go-to for special occasions.
Here’s why we love it so much:
- Because of it’s overnight rest in the fridge before baking, it is by nature make-ahead friendly! Which means you can simply pop it in the oven when guests arrive and sip on a hot cup of coffee (or head straight to the Bloody Mary bar!).
- It’s a savory dream come true! While waffles and french toast are the key to many hearts, the savory flavor combination of breakfast sausage, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh sage is cozy, comforting, and familiar at the same time.
- It has a bread-pudding and custard-like texture! The challah bread soaks up the liquid, but the ratios are such that the strata recipe comes out with a bit of a creamy texture. This is aided by white cheddar and parmesan cheese.
So break out the bakeware and add this challah breakfast strata to your weekend brunch menu. It is sure to be loved by all!
Ingredients For Breakfast Strata
- Challah bread: A tender yeast dough enriched with eggs and oil, challah serves as the base to this strata recipe.
- Breakfast sausage: While you can use other forms of sausage, we love that breakfast sausage is heavily seasoned with spices, like sage and thyme. Bacon or ham would be great too!
- Shiitake mushrooms and onion: The shiitakes add a wonderful earthy flavor, while the sautéed onions add sweetness.
- Fresh sage: It’s the combination of fresh sage and mushrooms that give this breakfast strata it’s signature flavor! Don’t have sage? Use rosemary or thyme.
- 8 large eggs, heavy cream, and milk: The liquid that is absorbed by the challah, similar to that of a bread pudding.
- White cheddar cheese and grated Parmesan: The Parmesan cheese adds a nutty flavor, while the white cheddar melts beautifully. Other cheese that melt well: fontina. monterey jack, mozzarella, and even goat cheese is wonderful if you like the tang (which we adore!)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: To season everything.
You’ll also need a medium skillet, a 9×13 casserole dish, and some nonstick oil spray (or butter).
What Is A Strata?
A strata is a dream come true for hosts of Easter brunch, Christmas brunch, or any good ol’ Sunday where you’re welcoming guests into your home. It’s also great if you love breakfast casseroles. Think of it as a savory bread pudding, but a little bit creamier (given the ratios of bread to liquid). They’re infinitely adaptable to whatever vegetables and herbs you’ve got on hand, and are generally loved because of their simplicity.
Tips For The Best Strata
Here’s how to make the best strata:
- Use twice as much bread as liquid. In this recipe, we’re using 8 cups of cubed challah bread and 4 cups total of whisked eggs, heavy cream, and milk.
- Use a lot of cheese! We’re using a total of 1 ½ cups of grated Parmesan cheese and white cheddar, plus a bit more for sprinkling on top, but you can up to 2 cups without it becoming too cheesy.
- A strata benefits from time. By this we mean giving the bread a chance to absorb the liquid. Let the assembled strata sit for at least 1 hour before baking, but overnight is even better.
- Bake it, don’t roast it. To keep that custardy texture, make sure to bake instead of roast. We like to cook strata in an oven preheated to 375F.
- Generously butter or spray the baking dish! This will help to prevent the soaked bread from sticking.
How To Make A Strata
- First, choose a bread! You can use challah, croissants, baguette, sourdough, rye — literally anything except sliced white bread. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
- If you’re using meats or veggies that need to be browned or sautéed, grab a skillet and cook those first. We’re sautéing breakfast sausage, mushrooms, and onions.
- Mix the wet ingredients. Combine eggs, milk, and heavy cream in a large bowl, then whisk. Add any seasonings (Kosher salt, black pepper — you could also spice it up with paprika or cayenne for a kick!)
- Toss it all together, then refrigerate till morning. Combine the cubed bread, the sautéed veggies and meat, along with the egg mixture, then stir well. Grease a baking dish with a few tablespoons of butter, then pour the soaked bread mixture inside, smoothing it out into an even layer. Cover and wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then refrigerate overnight, if possible, to help the liquid absorb.
- Bake and serve! When you wake up, preheat an oven to 375F. Sprinkle with another ounce or so of cheese, then pop the breakfast strata inside and cook for 30 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown and bubbling. The center should still be a bit soft. Ain’t nobody want a strata that’s dried out!
To make ahead and freeze, follow steps 1-4, then seal tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Strata will need to bake an additional 5-10 minutes from frozen.
What To Serve With Breakfast Stratas
Besides coffee, fresh orange juice, and mimosas or Bloody Mary’s? While this is a complete meal in and of itself, it can be nice to have a sweet breakfast recipe on the side for people who prefer that.
- Muffins: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins or Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread Muffins are totally delicious!
- Scones: Coffee Kissed Blueberry Scones or Double Chocolate Scones
- Fresh fruit, granola, or yogurt keeps things simple!
To add even more vegetables into the strata: stir in a bag of sautéed baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard leaves. Throw in a couple cloves of chopped garlic, too! The variations are endless.
Whether it’s Christmas morning or a Sunday brunch in the spring, you’ll love this creamy, fluffy breakfast strata, particularly because it makes hosting breakfast so incredibly simple. We can’t wait for you to try this at home!
If you make this Breakfast Strata recipe, please let us know by leaving a rating and review below!
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More brunch recipes:
- Smashed Eggs On Toast
- Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles
- Cajun Shrimp and Grits
- Breakfast Polenta with Pesto
- Smoked Salmon Breakfast Tacos
- Crab Cake Benedict
- Medium skillet
- Spatula and whisk
- 2 large mixing bowls and 1 small bowl
- 9×13 casserole dish
- Nonstick cooking spray
- Plastic wrap
- 1 loaf challah bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb breakfast sausage thinly sliced into ¼" pieces OR casings removed
- 1 medium sweet onion peeled and cut into half moon slices
- 6 oz shiitake mushrooms stems removed, caps thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp fresh sage finely chopped
- 8 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup white cheddar shredded
- ½ cup Parmesan grated
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Brown the sausage. Heat 2 Tbsp EVOO in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, then cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large mixing bowl, leaving grease in skillet.
- Cook the veggies. While still hot, add the sliced onions and mushrooms. Cook 4-6 minutes, or until beginning to brown and soften, stirring occasionally. If the pan is dry, add 1-2 Tbsp more of olive oil. Stir in 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, then mix well. Pour this into the bowl with the sausage, then add the cubed challah bread on top.
- Mix the wet ingredients. In a separate large bowl, whisk together 8 large eggs, 1 cup of heavy cream, 1 cup of milk, 1 tsp Kosher salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper.
- Mix the cheeses. Place 1 cup shredded white cheddar and ½ cup grated Parmesan in a small bowl. Stir well.
- Stir everything together. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and veggies along with all except for ¼ cup of the cheese, then stir until very well mixed. Reserve remaining cheese.
- Assemble the strata. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray (or with a few tablespoons of unsalted butter). Pour the strata mixture inside, then use a spatula to spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap then refrigerate overnight (or at least ~1 hour).
- Bake the breakfast strata. Preheat oven to 375F. Remove plastic wrap, sprinkle the strata with remaining cheese, then bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown around the edges and the top is bubbling. Serve immediately!
- Strata can be assembled up to 24 hours in advance.
- If making ahead to freeze and baking from frozen, cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.