This quick and easy pumpkin French toast has all the best autumn flavors! Dunk your favorite pumpkin bread into a quick egg batter with a splash of whiskey and fresh orange juice for a perfect fall brunch. Ready in 20 minutes!
If you’re as pumpkin-obsessed as we are in the fall, our pumpkin bread French toast is about to be your new BFF.
Start by whisking up a quick egg batter with a bit of orange juice, vanilla, and a touch of whiskey. Dunk your pumpkin bread into the batter, cook in a skillet until golden brown, add your favorite toppings, and boom! An ultra-autumnal, ultra-cozy brunch that pairs well with a fresh cup of tea, flannel pajamas, and watching the leaves change colors outside.
Grab some store-bought pumpkin bread to keep things simple, or bake your own with our easy homemade pumpkin bread recipe. Once you have your pumpkin bread, this recipe takes less than 20 minutes (which is pretty much our maximum effort first thing in the morning anyway).
Scroll to the recipe card below for a full ingredients list with exact quantities.
Before you jump in, there are a few things we want to highlight:
- Pumpkin bread. For best results, use pumpkin bread that's a few days old and slightly stale. Drier pumpkin bread will soak up more of our egg mixture, which will yield a richer, more custard-y texture. Slightly stale pumpkin bread will also hold its shape better (as opposed to fresh pumpkin bread, which is more delicate and can fall apart under the weight of the egg batter).
- Eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla. These French toast staples form the base of our creamy, custardy egg batter!
- Half an orange. A few tablespoons of fresh orange juice lend balance to our egg batter; we'll use the orange zest as a topping to add some essential brightness to our finished French toast. You'll need 2 Tablespoons of orange juice for the egg batter: save any extra for another recipe to ensure no fruit goes to waste! Tip: Zest the orange with a microplane first, then juice it.
- Whiskey adds an extra depth of flavor and spice to this pumpkin French toast that makes it taste even more like fall!
Variations and Substitutions
This recipe is quite forgiving: Feel free to riff and customize as you go! A few of our favorite swaps:
- Swap the pumpkin bread for homemade challah, brioche, crusty French bread, or sourdough for more of an all-year-round French toast.
- Make it alcohol-free. Omit the whiskey entirely, or substitute your favorite non-alcoholic whiskey (we like Kentucky 74 and Ritual).
- Spice it up by adding a dash of cinnamon, ground ginger, pumpkin spice, or nutmeg to the egg batter. You can also whisk in a spoonful of pumpkin puree or pumpkin butter for even more fall flavor (similar to our apple butter french toast recipe!)
- Toppings! Add powdered sugar, melted butter, nuts (we love candied pecans or toasted walnuts), cream cheese, honey, or whatever you love! Plus real-deal maple syrup, of course.
Step by Step Instructions
Make the batter. Add eggs, cream, vanilla, fresh orange juice, and whiskey to a shallow bowl with a small pinch of kosher salt (Image 1, above), then whisk them together (2) until you have a smooth mixture (3).
Dip the pumpkin bread into the mixture. Dip bread slices, one or two at a time, into the egg batter (4).
Let the pumpkin bread sit for a few seconds soak up plenty of the egg mixture, then carefully flip and repeat so both sides are evenly coated (Image 5, above). Gently lift each slice of pumpkin bread out of the egg batter, and let any excess drain away before you transfer it to the hot skillet (6).
Pro Tip: Because pumpkin bread can be fairly soft and delicate - especially when using fresh loaves - it's important to be gentle when lifting it in and out of the egg mixture. We recommend using two forks or a large spatula to pull pumpkin bread out of the batter with adequate support on both sides, so that it doesn't break apart.
Heat the skillet. Melt a small knob of butter and a little bit of neutral oil - we used grapeseed oil here - in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (Image 7, above). You don't need very much fat here: A little goes a long way!
Cook until golden. Add the battered pumpkin bread to the hot skillet (Image 8, above). Cook just one or two slices at a time (you don’t want to overcrowd the pan!) Cook for a few minutes, flipping halfway through, until each side is golden brown (9).
Top french toast with plenty of your reserved orange zest, a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and some maple syrup.
How to keep cooked French toast warm: Depending on your skillet, you'll likely need to fry this pumpkin French toast in batches. To keep French toast warm, transfer the cooked slices to an oven-safe plate and keep them in the oven at its lowest setting (between 150°-200° F) while you cook the rest of the pumpkin bread French toast. The plate can get warm: Use oven mitts to move it in and out of the oven!
3 Tricks to Prevent Soggy French Toast
Here are a few tips and tricks for perfectly golden, fluffy, not-too-soggy pumpkin bread French toast:
- Use slightly stale pumpkin bread. Leftover, slightly dried-out bread soaks up this creamy egg batter more easily. This leads to extra soft, fluffy, custard-y French toast! The best thing to do is to buy or make your pumpkin bread a few days before you plan to make brunch. This recipe is also great if you have bread that’s past its prime and needs to be put to good use!
- Cut thick slices. Generous-sized pumpkin bread slices (about an inch thick) can soak up even more of the orange whiskey French toast batter, and they'll hold their shape better. That means more flavor AND a soft and fluffy texture. Dreamy!
- Cook the French toast in butter and a neutral oil. Butter solids burn easily, which can make your French toast taste bitter. To get that rich buttery flavor without burning, add a bit of neutral oil (like grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil) to the pan with the butter. The key is to only use a little bit – too much fat will bog down the pumpkin bread French toast and make it soggy. You don’t need much fat here, especially if you’re using a nonstick pan.
Pro Tip: If you have ghee or clarified butter, you can use that in place of the butter + oil combo for frying! Because the milk solids are removed when making ghee, you don't have to worry about it burning at high temperatures (we love using ghee for pan-frying, like in our homemade pierogi recipe!)
French Toast FAQs
We love using pumpkin bread in this recipe, but you can also use challah, brioche bread, crusty French bread, or sourdough! Whatever bread you use, make sure it's slightly stale: Using stale, leftover bread is always best for fluffy French toast!
First, be sure you're using thick, slightly stale bread slices. Drier bread will soak up the batter more evenly. Second, be sure to use only a tiny bit of butter and oil in the pan – too much fat can absolutely make the French toast soggy! Finally, make sure you give the pan adequate time to heat up before adding your French toast slices. A hot pan gives a crispier, more golden brown exterior!
Totally! Just substitute your favorite store-bought or homemade gluten-free pumpkin bread.
Yes – if you want to make this recipe alcohol-free, you can omit the whiskey or use your favorite non-alcoholic spirit.
Our basic rule of thumb when cooking with alcohol: Use something you like to drink! We tend to reach for a rich, fairly complex bourbon whiskey here: We liked Maker's Mark and Elijah Craig in our recipe testing. You can also pair this French toast with some whiskey maple syrup if you like!
More Cozy Fall Breakfast Ideas
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment and star rating below to let us know how it turned out!Print
This easy French toast uses pumpkin bread as the base, with a rich egg mixture and a pop of color from fresh orange zest!
- ½ orange, zested and juiced (you want lots of zest and about 2 Tablespoons of orange juice: if you have extra juice, save it for another recipe)
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons whiskey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons of a neutral oil (like grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil)
- 6 slices of pumpkin bread
- Powdered Sugar
- Maple Syrup (or whiskey maple syrup!)
- Whisk orange juice, eggs, heavy cream, whiskey, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt together in a shallow dish.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a small knob of butter and a small drizzle of oil to the skillet and let them melt together.
- Place two pieces of pumpkin bread in the egg mixture; flip to ensure each side is thoroughly coated. Tip: Because pumpkin bread is fairly delicate, it can fall apart easily once soaked in the egg mixture. Don't let it soak too long, or it can fall apart!
- Gently lift pumpkin bread out of the egg batter (we like to use two forks or a large spatula here to ensure the bread is well-supported so it doesn't break). Let any extra batter drip away, then place each piece of pumpkin bread in the hot skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through and golden brown. Repeat until all pumpkin bread pieces have been cooked.
- Top French toast with orange zest, powdered sugar, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Serve immediately.
This recipe works best with slightly stale pumpkin bread. For best results, use pumpkin bread that is a few days old and/or let the pumpkin bread dry out uncovered on the counter for a few hours before making this recipe. If you use freshly-baked pumpkin bread, it can be a bit too delicate and will fall apart easily under the weight of the egg mixture.
Additions and Substitutions. Use challah bread, sourdough, or cranberry pecan bread in place of the pumpkin bread here. Add extra toppings (toasted walnuts, candied pecans, shaved almonds, maple frosting, caramel sauce) if you like. Use rum instead of whiskey, or omit the liquor for an alcohol-free version. Add extra seasonings (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, apple butter, etc.) to the egg batter if you'd like more fall spice in this recipe. Swap the heavy cream for half and half if you prefer.
Don't skip the orange zest! This bright, flavorful topping cuts through the sweet, rich flavors in this French toast to make it taste much brighter and more complex.
Which whiskey should I use? Our basic rule of thumb when cooking with alcohol: Use something you like to drink! We tend to reach for a rich, fairly complex bourbon whiskey here: We liked Maker's Mark and Elijah Craig in our recipe testing.
Keywords: brunch, thanksgiving, holiday