Traditional or Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast

The first time I made this baked strawberry rhubarb french toast, I made it with eggs and cow’s milk. Then I made it again, but vegan. And I think if I served them side-by-side, with the exact same ingredients otherwise, people might not be able to tell which is which.

Brunch at my place this weekend, bring mimosa ingredients to cleanse your palate between bites of my french toast taste-off. That’s how the pro taste-testers do it, right?

Traditional or Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake. This is a great recipe for company, because you can make most of it the night before, then just pop it in the oven!

This strawberry rhubarb french toast is perfect for when you have guests you want to feed, but you’re not up for a lot of thinking first thing in the morning. Before I’ve had my coffee, I can juuuust manage to pre-heat an oven and stick a casserole dish in it. That means you have to plan ahead, though, and basically make the whole dish the night before. You can even make the crumble topping and rhubarb compote ahead of time, too, then just put everything together in the morning, and now everyone thinks you’ve been awake since dawn, toiling away to make them breakfast.

Those fools! If only they knew how easy they are to trick! *Cue mad cackling*
Traditional or Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake. This is a great recipe for company, because you can make most of it the night before, then just pop it in the oven!
Traditional or Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake. This is a great recipe for company, because you can make most of it the night before, then just pop it in the oven!
I kind of struggled with how to title this recipe. How do you refer to a non-vegan recipe in a neutral way? I ruled out “Regular or Vegan,” “Vegan or Non-Vegan,” “Normal or Vegan,” and “Omnivorous or Vegan,” either because they were too clumsy, or because they implied that vegan is abnormal. So I went with “traditional,” which I thought was a pretty good compromise, though I guess “conventional” would work, too. Regardless of what you call it, the point is that you can make it either way. I like to give people options.

The bread is another place where you have options. If you use gluten-free bread (and gluten-free flour for the topping), you can make the whole dish gluten-free. I recommend using a nice bakery bread, like French, sourdough, or Italian bread, but I tried it with challah bread for the non-vegan version, and that was excellent. It’s actually a great way to use up slightly stale bread. That’s probably why French toast was invented, wasn’t it?

Also, if you have any leftover rhubarb compote, it’s delicious mixed into yogurt with granola. I bet it would be killer on ice cream.

Traditional or Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake. This is a great recipe for company, because you can make most of it the night before, then just pop it in the oven!

The vegan and regular versions of this recipe differ only in the type of milk, the nutritional yeast and flax seeds I substituted for the eggs, and the butter, but it was simpler just to post both versions separately below. No one is counting words, so why not?

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake

For the casserole:
2 cups unsweetened almond milk, divided
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
10-12 slices bakery bread (about 18 oz)
1 cup sliced strawberries, plus additional for garnish

For the crumble:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled, old fashioned oats
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp Earth Balance spread

For the compote:
3 1/2 cups 1/4-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2/3 cup sugar
Juice from 1 to 2 lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the almond milk, along with the ground flax seeds, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, until well combined.
Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Dip each slice of bread into the milk mixture so that both sides are coated, then place the slices into the casserole dish, overlapping them so that they fit into the dish. If there’s remaining milk mixture, pour it evenly over the bread slices. Sprinkle the sliced strawberries evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk over the casserole, to give it extra moisture.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats and sugar. Add in the Earth balance and mix with your hands until crumbly.
Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the casserole and bake until the casserole begins to bubble up, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Once cooked, broil the casserole on high for 2-3 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden brown and crunchy. Watch it closely because the crumbs can burn very quickly.

Either the night before, or while the casserole cooks, combine all of the ingredients for the rhubarb sauce in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Taste, and add more sugar if desired. (I like to leave mine pretty tart, and then sweeten the final dish with maple syrup if necessary.)

Serve french toast slices with warm rhubarb sauce on top, plus fresh sliced strawberries and maple syrup, if desired.

Traditional Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast Bake

For the casserole:
2 cups milk, divided
4 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
10-12 slices bakery bread (about 18 oz)
1 cup sliced strawberries, plus additional for garnish

For the crumble:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled, old fashioned oats
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp butter

For the compote:
3 1/2 cups 1/4-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2/3 cup sugar
Juice from 1 to 2 lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the milk, along with the eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, until well combined.

Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Dip each slice of bread into the milk mixture so that both sides are coated, then place the slices into the casserole dish, overlapping them so that they fit into the dish. If there’s remaining milk mixture, pour it evenly over the bread slices. Sprinkle the sliced strawberries evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to overnight.
The next day, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of milk over the casserole, to give it extra moisture.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats and sugar. Add in the butter, and mix with your hands until crumbly.
Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the casserole and bake until the casserole begins to bubble up, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Once cooked, broil the casserole on high for 2-3 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden brown and crunchy. Watch it closely because the crumbs can burn very quickly.

Either the night before, or while the casserole cooks, combine all of the ingredients for the rhubarb sauce in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Taste, and add more sugar if desired. (I like to leave mine pretty tart, and then sweeten the final dish with maple syrup if necessary.)

Serve french toast slices with warm rhubarb sauce on top, plus fresh sliced strawberries and maple syrup, if desired.