How to Make Bread Pudding from Scratch
Grab that leftover loaf you’re not excited to finish and prepare for kitchen alchemy, as nearly wasted bread transforms into an easy, cozy dessert. We’ve got the tips and a fab, foolproof recipe to make bread pudding at home.
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Bread pudding, though it never stops being delicious, falls in and out of fashion as economies rise and fall and inflation makes chefs think twice about tossing that last bit of crusty bread. But bread pudding remains popular even in the face of anxious carb counting because few desserts have offered such sweet and simple comfort through the ages.
As long as there has been bread, which dates back at least 7,000 years in human history, cooks have been clever in softening and sweetening its stale form so nothing goes to waste. During Medieval times, a hollowed out loaf of bread served as a container for sweet dishes, which was likely the start of bread pudding as we enjoy it today; both English peasants and early American pilgrims carefully saved scraps of bread for later use. In the Caribbean and as far south as Argentina, versions of budin de pan (bread pudding) appears today to end many fine meals.
But the West cannot claim the best bread pudding recipes for itself; in Egypt they serve Om Ali (mother of Ali), made with bread, cream, almonds, and raisins. In India the Moghul dessert, Shahi tukra (palace bread), is prepared with bread fried in ghee, then dipped in a syrup of rosewater and saffron, and coated with a creamy sauce and almonds. Wherever your kitchen may be, when you prepare bread pudding you partake in our shared culinary history of sweetly saving — and savoring — the humble crust of bread. Wouldn't it be nice if all desserts were so straightforward and satisfying.
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Tips and tricks for the best bread pudding
Master bread pudding (it's not that hard!) with these smart suggestions.
Cut vs. ripped bread: What’s the right way to do it?
Whether or not to cube, slice into rectangles, or tear the day-old bread with your bare hands like a beast, is up to you. There are two factors: First, what aesthetic matters? Ripping the bread into roughly same-size hunks delivers a rustic look that can be appealing. If the meal begins with a hearty stew, big salad, or slippery pasta dish, you may want to keep the relaxed vibe going with a more casual-looking dessert. However, if the meal calls for a more structured, orderly vibe — you’re serving beautiful filets of fish, or careful rounds of eggplant — the beauty of careful angles, or graceful curves of a loaf of challah bread arranged prettily in a baking dish may be your Platonic ideal.
The second factor to consider is the form of kitchen therapy you need that day: Do you feel sad, angry, or disappointed? Tearing a loaf of bread into pieces can be a healthy way of releasing frustration or sorrow. On the other hand, slicing precisely perfect cubes or rectangles of bread can be soothing, deliver a sense of control in an uncertain world, or be the perfect place to express any obsessive tendencies you may have. The choice is yours, and the end result will be delicious either way.
Do I have to use stale bread?
While a stale loaf was the original ingredient to inspire bread pudding, and is still a great way to use up leftover bread (why not save money and get climatarian cred by keeping food out of landfills?), toasted bread is more effective at soaking up custard to deliver a smooth-as-silk texture. In fact, it has a lot in common with French toast — that milky egg mixture is happiest when absorbed into dry bread. But don’t feel limited to traditional loaves of bread as the carbohydrate on display: Even day-old donuts can transform into amazing bread pudding.
Should I use whole eggs or only the yolks?
It’s ok to use a whole egg in bread pudding, but using just the yolks in the cream or milk mixture ensures a rich custard and avoids a potential scrambled egg flavor. Maximize your food budget and save those whites for an omelet the next morning instead.
How to get that perfectly crispy top on bread pudding
Reserve a cup or two of bread cubes from the custard mixture. After pouring the custard-bread mixture into a prepared baking dish, scatter the reserved bread cubes across the top. Brush them with melted butter, then sprinkle with a few tablespoons of light brown sugar. Bake according to the recipe for a sweet and crunchy top.
How to store bread pudding
Simply cover the baking dish with foil, or transfer to an airtight container, and find a spot in the fridge. It should last about five days (if you’re lucky).
How to reheat bread pudding
Step away from that microwave! Put serving-size squares on a greased baking sheet in a 450°F oven for about 7 to 8 minutes to heat through. Leave them uncovered to ensure a crispy top! And fun fact: Bread pudding is also excellent served at room temperature.
5 easy steps to make bread pudding
This carbo-tastic classic is a food hug for your belly.
Step 1: Raisins get lit
Plump up those naturally sweet dried fruits with a splash of bourbon in a small bowl before you prepare the rest of the bread pudding recipe. (Feel free to skip this step if you’re cooking for kids or not a fan of raisins.) But do preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the middle.
Step 2: Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes
Channel your Thanksgiving stuffing skills and grab your biggest bread knife to turn a loaf of day-old challah (let it sit out the night before to dry out) into small cubes. The same skills you use to dice an onion apply here: Slice the loaf lengthwise into 1-inch strips, then as evenly as possible in 1-inch layers parallel to the cutting board. Finally, keeping loaf shape intact, slice horizontally to create cubes. Set aside in a bowl.
Extra credit: If you have the time, spread cubes evenly on two baking sheets and pop in the oven to toast, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: Prepare the custard
In a very large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs (feel free to separate them and only use the yolks for a silkier texture), half-and-half, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in optional raisins and then gently fold in bread cubes, turning carefully with a large spatula until bread has soaked up most of the custard mixture.
Step 4: Get oven-ready
Grease a baking dish large enough to hold the pudding (a 9-inch square or 9x13-inch casserole dish), then pour the bread-custard mixture in. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of light brown sugar on top if you’d like, then cover with foil.
Step 5: Bake it!
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes, then gently remove foil. Continue baking for about 15 minutes, or until the top is a glorious golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Get the recipe: Classic Bread Pudding
Give the best bread pudding recipe a try, and get your forks ready!
This traditional bread pudding recipe comes together easily and is a cozy treat, fragrant with vanilla and cinnamon. Eggy challah and (optional) raisins soaked in bourbon gild the lily in this superb dessert.
More easy bread pudding recipes
This versatile dessert can incorporate a variety of dried or fresh fruits, warming spices, citrus zest, and even a few savory elements. Have fun with toppings, too — from whipped cream, to caramel sauce and a sprinkling of toasted pecans. Use the following recipes as inspiration to create your own bread pudding recipes — and tag us @yummly on your social media posts!
French bread has its crust removed and is torn into pieces in this quick and easy bread pudding recipe. Brown sugar lends an earthy sweetness, and the butterscotch sauce uses a handful of ingredients (add a pinch of salt for good measure) to make a simple yet luscious topping while the pudding bakes.
Bread and bananas a bit past their prime never had it so good as they do in this easy bread pudding recipe. The humble ingredients are elevated by chocolate chips, brown sugar, and cinnamon to become a sweet treat that’ll have everyone asking for seconds.
This traditional bread pudding is served in Mexico as part of a Lenten meal, and calls for some interesting ingredients: piloncillo, a Mexican brown sugar that retains more of the molasses than its American counterpart (though you can substitute dark brown sugar in a pinch), and queso Oaxaca, from the region that invented mole, that’s much like a string cheese that’s been wound into a ball. Tear it into small pieces to add a complex savory note that complements the dark cinnamon sweetness.
A quick homemade chocolate sauce bathes toasted and torn cinnamon-raisin bread in this decadent dessert that comes together in a snap. This is rustic, homemade baking at its chocolatey finest. And it’s a dream with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
Day-old brioche brings a depth of flavor to this bread pudding recipe while simultaneously lightening the texture. Fresh apple matchsticks dance in the ramekins with a lush caramel bourbon vanilla bread pudding sauce; the result is sure to impress!
This bread pudding recipe offers the most complex flavor profile of the recipes here: Cinnamon is enhanced by nutmeg and allspice (a favorite in Jamaican cuisine), and raisins are complemented by cherries, fresh or maraschino. Feel free to use a dark spiced rum in place of the Amaretto for the luscious sauce.
This old-fashioned bread pudding recipe only requires about 20 minutes of prep time; feel free to substitute any dried fruit for the raisins, and opt for butter instead of margarine. The four-ingredient sauce gets notes of dark wood from the bourbon and comes together in a snap.
Leftover holiday panettone gets a new life in this gloriously sweet yet tart bread pudding, made easily by using purchased lemon curd down the middle of this fragrant, citrusy dessert.
The raisin-cinnamon swirl provides much of the flavor in this very easy bread pudding that’s versatile enough to be served after dinner or at breakfast. Start the day with sausage, a square of bread pudding, and real maple syrup if you have it on hand.
More cozy dessert recipes
Check out these delicious Yummly stories for more sweet treats you can easily make at home.