Orange Zest French Toast

I took a break from making sourdough and decided to make loaves of this Portuguese sweet bread for our sandwiches this week. As the bread baked in the oven, citrus aromas filled the house, and I dreamed of orange zest French toast.

If you believe wikipedia, the first reference to French toast appeared in the 1st century. Not surprisingly, French toast exists across the world with a variety of other names (e.g. pain perdu, eggy bread). But the “French” in French toast doesn’t refer to the country of France. According to legend, the term French toast arose from a chef named Joseph French who was better at cooking than punctuation. The things you learn.

The key ingredients to this French toast are, of course, the bread, sliced thickly (~1/2 inch), and the orange.

a dish of three slices of bread soaking up the orange zest French toast mixture
a loaf of sweet Portuguese bread with several slices and a bread knife on a cutting board

FAQs about this orange zest French toast recipe

What is the best bread to use for making orange zest French toast?

This Portuguese sweet bread French toast was delicious, but this French toast would also work well with another enriched bread like brioche or this orange raisin challah.

Is there an orange zest substitute?

Yes, if you don’t have oranges, you could zest another citrus fruit, like lemon or grapefruit. Or, if you have orange juice, use about 1/4 cup in the mixture to make orange juice French toast.

I don’t have half-and-half in the house. Can I make this with milk?

Yes, you can sub anything from milk to heavy cream for the half-and-half. The richness of the mixture will vary accordingly.

Can I substitute almond milk or other milk for the dairy?


I just made a loaf of bread. Can I still make French toast?

Slightly stale bread soaks up the mixture best, but you can make French toast with freshly baked bread. Just toast the slices very slightly to dry it out.

I am having guests for brunch. Can I increase this recipe?

Yes, you can scale up as desired. You will want to keep the French toast slices warm in a 200 degree oven so they are still warm when you serve.

Can French toast be frozen?

Yes. You can keep French toast in the refrigerator for a day or two. Or, if you want to freeze it, lay it on a baking sheet in a single layer in the freezer. Once it has frozen (about 8-12 hours), you can put it into a freezer bag. Reheat in an oven or toaster oven.

a plate with two slices of orange zest French toast

Orange zest French toast

Servings 5 slices
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • 5 slices day old bread (e.g. Portuguese sweet bread, challah, or brioche)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 small orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • butter or neutral vegetable oil (e.g. canola) for frying


  • Slice the bread into slices at least one-half inch thick.
    5 slices day old bread (e.g. Portuguese sweet bread, challah, or brioche)
  • Combine the ingredients for the mixture (eggs, half-and-half, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla, and salt) in a large measuring cup (e.g. 4 cup) or small bowl.
    4 eggs, 1/2 cup half and half, 1 small orange, zested and juiced, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 pinch salt
  • Heat a griddle or cast iron pan over medium low.
  • Use a shallow baking dish just large enough to accomodate the number of bread slices you want to fry at one time (i.e. if your griddle can accomodate three slices in a single layer, use a baking dish that fits three slices soaking at once). Put the bread in the dish and pour half of the mixture over it to soak.
  • Add butter or oil to your griddle/pain. When that is bubbling, carefully remove a slice of bread, letting the excess French toast mixture drain back into the baking dish, and place it on your griddle. Repeat with all of the slices and then add additional slices to your mixture.
    butter or neutral vegetable oil (e.g. canola) for frying
  • Fry the French toast until the first side has browned (about 3-5 minutes). Then flip it over with a large spatula and brown the second side (2-3 minutes). This time will vary depending on the thickness of your bread and how much mixture it has soaked up. It should be fluffy and not wet inside at all.
  • Serve warm with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and/or jam.

What’s next?

If you make this orange zest French toast, please comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Browse the uglyducklingbakery breakfast archives for other tasty treats like these nutella waffles or oatmeal blackberry muffins.

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a plate of orange zest French toast cut up and covered in syrup

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