This New Orleans-inspired recipe for bananas foster French toast is a decadent twist on breakfast. Your taste buds will be delighted with custardy slices of brioche topped with caramelized bananas.
Table of Contents
- Bread selection
- Stale bread works best
- To make the custard
- Soak the bread in the custard
- Pan selection
- Pan-fry the bread
- Keep the toast warm after frying
- Alcohol selection
- Make the caramel sauce
- Saute the bananas
- Add the rum
- Flambéing the bananas with rum
- Optional toppings
- Serve this with
- Bananas Foster French Toast Recipe
This recipe is a special dish to make for Mardi Gras or when you want to make breakfast more exciting. I’ve taken my classic French toast recipe, but instead of reaching for a bottle of maple syrup, this time, I use a homemade caramel sauce. The topping is inspired by the iconic bananas foster dessert.
The flambéd sweet treat is famous at Brennen’s restaurant in New Orleans. The process is straightforward and fast. It starts with making a basic caramel sauce, adding big fresh banana pieces, and finishing by infusing liquor. You’ll be scooping generous amounts on top of your toast.
Thick slices of brioche or challah bread are perfect for soaking up the custard. They both have a lightly sweetened egg dough, which gives them a golden hue. They also have a denser crumb compared to white bread. The bread slices should be about ⅔ to ¾-inch thick to support the heavy custard. Up to 1-inch also works for heartier pieces, but you may need to make a larger batch of the custard.
Stale bread works best
The beauty of this dish is that it transforms dry, stale pieces of bread into a delicious new meal. The recipe is ideal for using leftover loaves. Once the moisture evaporates from the crumb, it can then soak up more custard instead of becoming mushy when soaked.
The loaves at the store stay soft due to special preservatives and sugar added to help retain moisture. To remedy this, you can batch dry the bread in the oven or by placing individual slices in the toaster before using.
To make the custard
To make a flavorful custard that infuses into each slice I use 1 cup of whole milk to 2 large eggs, and 2 egg yolks. This ratio adds a super-rich texture that will set nicely, and doesn’t become rubbery from too many egg whites. You can also use half-and-half or heavy cream for a creamier, more dense custard.
A little bit of brown sugar adds a molasses flavor, plus cinnamon and nutmeg for baked notes as the bread cooks in the hot pan.
Soak the bread in the custard
Soak the bread for about 15 to 20 seconds per side. It should look saturated, but not so that it becomes fragile and hard to pick up with a spatula. As the bread sits on the sheet pan, waiting to be cooked, the liquid will move more towards the center.
I find a nonstick pan works the best for cooking. Since there are eggs in the custard mixture, it prevents sticking and makes it easier to maneuver and flip each piece. A cast iron skillet also works. Don’t move the bread around as you want a crust to form in the hot pan so it doesn’t get stuck.
Pan-fry the bread
I use butter as the frying fat. The milk solids lightly toast, creating a wonderful browned butter with butterscotch flavor on the bread. Wipe the pan clean and use fresh butter between batches to prevent a burnt taste. I cook on medium-low heat, two slices at a time. This process sets the custard and develops a golden brown surface.
If you overcrowd the pan, the bread will steam and not be as crisp. Cooking takes about 3 to 4 minutes per side. To set the custard, the internal temperature should be about 175ºF (79ºC).
Keep the toast warm after frying
When frying multiple batches of toast, keep the slices warm in an oven set at 200ºF (93ºC). I recommend placing them on top of a wire rack set inside a sheet pan. This setup allows the air to circulate so that the pieces stay crisp. Otherwise, if you place them directly in a sheet pan or baking dish, they’ll have a softer texture. Don’t leave them in the oven beyond 1 hour, or it will get too dry.
Traditionally, there are two types of alcohol in bananas foster; a sweet banana liqueur and rum. If finding the liqueur is challenging, you can omit it or use 1 teaspoon of banana extract or Grand Marnier for a citrusy taste.
I like to use dark rum for a more vanilla, oaky taste. Spiced rum has a more intense taste, while white rum will give a more clean boozy flavor. If desired, you can omit the alcohol for a more traditional caramel sauce.
Make the caramel sauce
The process starts by melting butter and dark brown sugar until a syrup forms. Then a generous amount of cinnamon is added for intense baked aromas. Lastly, the banana liqueur cooks until hot and bubbly to flavor the sauce mixture. The consistency will thicken as the bananas cook.
Saute the bananas
For the best results, use ripe but firm bananas. They are ready when they have a sweet aroma, and the skin is yellow with some brown speckles. Slice them into ½-inch thick pieces to ensure that they hold their shape after cooking. Let the bananas simmer in the sauce for about 2 minutes. You want them coated in the thickened caramel but not to become mushy.
Add the rum
Add the rum with the heat off after sauteing the bananas, then simmer briefly until most of the alcohol smell cooks off, about 20 seconds. This step adds a hint of boozy taste but is not overpowering. This process is also a friendly alternative for those who don’t feel comfortable flambéing the bananas like the traditional method. However, if you want to give that a try, read on.
Flambéing the bananas with rum
This step is entirely optional. You wait to add the rum until after the bananas carmelize. Make sure to turn the heat off, then add the alcohol to the middle of the pan. Raise the heat to medium, cooking for about 5 seconds to get the alcohol to vaporize.
Use a long-reach lighter, about 1-inch above the pan, moving around until the pan ignites and you can see a flame. The fire will burn out after about 15 seconds. If you don’t see a flame, the alcohol likely vaporized before it could ignite. No worries, the sauce will still taste good.
Once the sauce is ready, pour it over the pieces of French toast that are warm in the oven. For texture, sprinkle on your favorite crunchy nuts like pecans or walnuts.
Serve this with
- Homemade whipped cream
- A big scoop of vanilla ice cream
- Bread pudding
- Eggs Benedict
- Scrambled Eggs
Not all of the alcohol will burn off. About 75 to 85% of the alcohol in the banana liqueur and rum will evaporate from the flambé process, less if the sauce just simmers in the pan.
Try Bourbon whiskey or Anejo tequila as a substitute for the rum. If you don’t want to add alcohol, add 1 teaspoon of rum extract
Other fruity liqueurs work well. For a citrus taste, use a syrupy Grand Marnier or use Cointreau for a more clean taste. Coconut liquor also pairs well. For a non-alcoholic substitute, use 1 teaspoon of banana extract.
Yes, however, I would saute the bananas with heavy whipping cream to make the sauce less thick. Add 1/2 cup after cooking the butter and sugar. The rum in bananas foster adds flavor and creates the fiery, flambé effect that impresses guests.
How to dry fresh bread
If you only have very soft, fresh bread available, dry it out before using it. The goal is to get the bread to hold its shape when dipping and soak up as much flavorful liquid as possible. Place the slices in the oven at 300ºF (149ºC), for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until the surface is crisp but not browned. You can also add individual slices to a toaster, heated on the lowest setting.
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Bananas Foster French Toast
- 8 slices brioche or challah bread, about ¾” thick
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, golden or dark
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 bananas, ripe but firm, about 7″ long
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
- 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, golden or dark
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ tablespoons banana liqueur
- ¼ cup dark rum
- ½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position and the temperature to 200ºF (93ºC).
- Make the Custard – In a large shallow bowl, thoroughly whisk together the milk, eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Dip the Bread – Soak bread slices for 15 to 20 seconds on each side. Use a spatula to transfer to a baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle more cinnamon on top.
- Cook the Toast – Heat a 12-inch nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Melt ½ tablespoon of butter until it bubbles. Add two pieces of bread at a time. Cook until the first side is golden brown, dry to the touch, and lightly crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Wipe out the pan and add fresh butter. Repeat the process with the remaining dipped bread.
- Keep the Toast Warm – Transfer the cooked bread to a wire rack set in the sheet pan. Place inside the oven after frying each batch. Do not leave them in the oven for longer than 1 hour, or it may become too dry.
- Prepare the Bananas – Slice the bananas on a bias, into ½-inch thick pieces. This should yield about 2 cups.
- Make the Caramel Sauce – In a large skillet, add the sliced butter. Turn the heat to medium, tilting the pan as needed. Once melted, add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the Banana Liqueur – Slowly add the banana liqueur, stir to combine. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be bubbly.
- Caramelize the Bananas – Add the sliced bananas to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low. Use a spoon to occasionally drizzle some of the sauce on top, cook for 60 seconds. Turn the bananas over, and cook until they soften but do not become mushy, about 30 to 60 seconds.
- Add the Rum – Turn off the heat and carefully add the rum to the middle of the pan. Turn the heat to medium and cook the bananas, gently stirring, until most of the alcohol smell is gone, about 15 to 20 seconds. The sauce should glaze the fruit. Turn off the heat. Alternatively, Flambé the Rum – Turn off the heat and carefully add the rum to the middle of the pan. Immediately turn the heat back to medium until the sauce's edges are bubbly, about 3 to 5 seconds. Working quickly, carefully place a long-reach lighter about 1-inch above the sauce on the side of the pan. Move the flame as needed to ignite. Once the flames appear, gently shake the pan until the fire subsides, about 15 to 20 seconds. If desired, sprinkle cinnamon over the flames. It may show some tiny sparks.
- To Serve – Remove the French toast from the oven and transfer it to serving plates. Spoon some of the bananas and sauce on top or serve on the side. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
- Serving Size: 1 bread slice and topping
- Toast bread if not stale: Place the bread on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Toast until dry to the touch but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side—alternatively, dehydrate slices in a toaster on the lowest setting.
- Omitting Alcohol: After cooking the butter and sugar, turn heat to low and stir in 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cook for 15 seconds. Do not skip the cream, it’s needed to make the sauce pourable. For flavor, you can add 1 banana extract and 1 teaspoon of rum extract.
- For a Creamier Sauce: At the very end of cooking the caramelized bananas, turn off the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.
- Storing: French toast can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for 1 month. The sauce is best enjoyed the same day.
- Reheating: Microwave in 15-second intervals until warm. Alternatively, toast until the bread is warm and the surface is crisp.
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