We love a good breakfast recipe. And we really love a good breakfast recipe that you can make ahead of time, especially when you’re hosting guests for an at-home brunch. A strata checks off both of those boxes, with an easy process that starts the prior evening and finishes up in the oven an hour or so before you’re ready to eat. It’s the eggy, bready, fluffy stuff that breakfast dreams are made of, and the perfect choice for feeding a crowd (or just whipping up a breakfast that will leave you with plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week). New to the world of strata? We’re here to guide you through everything that you need to know, including a step-by-step look at how to make a strata and eight of our favorite strata recipes.
Strata Basics: What to Know About This Classic Dish
A strata is a savory egg- and bread-based breakfast casserole. Traditional preparations include sausage strata, ham and cheese strata, and vegetable strata bakes, though the dish is endlessly customizable and can be made with pretty much any mix-in ingredients that you have on hand.
If you’re looking for easy breakfast recipes, strata definitely fits the bill. The entire dish comes together in about 20 minutes, then heads into the fridge to sit overnight until you’re ready to bake and enjoy. Make it once and heat up a piece every morning for a quick, balanced, and protein-rich meal, or impress your guests with strata as part of a holiday breakfast spread. Better yet, add it to your meal repertoire and make it whenever you’re in need of a simple breakfast that will start your entire day off on the right bite.
Why Does Strata Have to Sit Overnight?
Letting your strata sit overnight gives the bread ample time to absorb the egg mixture so that you end up with a souffle-like bake the next morning. If you’re short on time, you can let your strata sit for just an hour or two, though you won’t get quite as airy results.
What is the Difference Between Strata and Frittata?
Both stratas and frittatas are eggy breakfast staples that are a cinch to customize and well suited to serving a crowd. They do differ in some pretty big ways, however.
To start, a strata is made with a base of egg and bread, while a frittata’s base is just egg. Likewise, while a strata gives you a puffy, almost bread pudding-esque bake, a frittata is more like a large and extra fluffy omelet. It could be argued that a frittata is the easier of the two to make, but both of these dishes are suitable for beginner breakfast cooks. If you’re trying to decide which one to go with, choose whatever sounds tastiest to you instead of which one sounds more foolproof.
How to Make a Strata
All strata recipes use the same basic method, with differences coming down to ingredients rather than techniques. Once you familiarize yourself with how to make a strata, you’ll be able to get as creative as you want in the kitchen, making stratas out of whatever sounds good—or whatever you just happen to have in the fridge.
There are four parts to a strata:
- Bread: You can use any type of bread for a strata, but you’ll get the best results using a hearty and crusty variety such as sourdough, ciabatta, challah, brioche, bagels, pretzel bread, or a baguette. A fresh or slightly stale loaf will both work beautifully.
- Eggs: You’ll need eggs to make a strata, and lots of ‘em! Use large eggs for your custard base—the fresher the better.
- Dairy: Whole milk or another full-fat dairy product (such as yogurt, crème fraiche, or heavy cream) is whipped into the eggs of a strata to add moisture and creaminess to your bake. You can use non-dairy milk, too, in a pinch.
- Mix-ins: Here’s where you can really let your creativity shine. Salt and pepper are obviously musts in a strata, but beyond that you have a ton of flexibility in terms of the cheese, veggies, proteins, spices, and aromatics that you use.
To make a strata, you’ll start by browning any veggies or protein that you intend to use in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat. While those are cooking, make your egg mixture by whisking together a dozen large eggs with three cups of whole milk or another dairy product of your choice. Add salt and pepper to the mixture, and whisk thoroughly for at least one to two minutes—you want to introduce a lot of air into the custard base so that your strata comes out nice and fluffy. If you’re going to be adding cheese and other spices to your base, do that now and give the mixture a couple more whisks to combine.
When your veggies and proteins are browned and tender, remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes, then stir into your egg mixture. Tear your loaf of bread into chunks (you’ll need about six cups total, and no need to cut into equal-sized cubes) and fold those into the eggs as well. Pour into a greased 9” x 13” pan and cover with foil, then stick your strata in the fridge to set overnight or at least one hour.
In the morning, preheat your oven to 350℉ and bake your strata uncovered for one hour, adding on five or 10 minutes if it’s not done yet. You’ll know your strata is ready to go when the eggs are fully set and the top is puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes, then enjoy!
Use this strata recipe as your foundation for cooking up any flavor combination you choose, and check out the tasty variations below for ideas.
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8 Strata Recipes for a Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfast
Craving a spinach and cheese strata? What about a super savory Monte Cristo strata? We’re sharing eight of our favorite strata recipes to get you started on your breakfast journey.
1. Sausage Strata
To the skillet: ½ cup diced yellow onion, two cloves of minced garlic, and 16 ounces crumbled breakfast sausage.
To the egg mixture: Three cups shredded cheddar cheese and ¼ cup freshly chopped chives.
2. Ham and Cheese Strata
To the skillet: ½ cup thinly sliced shallot and one pound diced ham.
To the egg mixture: Three cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, one teaspoon dry mustard powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon paprika.
3. Vegetable Strata
To the skillet: One cup shaved Brussels sprouts, one cup sliced cherry tomatoes, two diced bell peppers, ½ cup diced yellow onion, and two cloves of minced garlic.
To the egg mixture: 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 ½ cups shredded parmesan cheese, ¼ cup freshly julienned basil.
4. Spinach and Cheese Strata
To the skillet: ½ cup thinly sliced shallot, two cloves of minced garlic, and 16 ounces of fresh spinach. (If using frozen spinach, thaw first and remove as much moisture as you can before adding to the skillet.)
To the egg mixture: Two cups shredded gruyere cheese, one cup shredded cheddar cheese, and one teaspoon Dijon mustard.
5. Monte Cristo Strata
To the skillet: One pound diced ham.
To the egg mixture: Three cups shredded gruyere or Swiss cheese, two tablespoons freshly chopped tarragon, and two tablespoons stone ground mustard.
6. Spinach and Bacon Strata
To the skillet: ½ cup thinly sliced shallot, one pound diced bacon, and 12 ounces fresh spinach.
To the egg mixture: Two cups shredded mozzarella cheese, one cup shredded asiago cheese, one teaspoon dry mustard powder, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
7. Asparagus and Prosciutto Strata
To the skillet: One pound blanched asparagus cut into 2” long pieces and three sliced scallions.
To the egg mixture: Three ounces of thinly sliced and chopped prosciutto, two cups shredded parmesan cheese, and ½ tablespoon fresh lemon zest.
8. Mushroom, Bacon, and Swiss Strata
To the skillet: Two cups sliced mushrooms, one pound diced bacon, and ½ cup diced yellow onion.
To the egg mixture: Two cups shredded Swiss cheese, one cup shredded gruyere cheese, and one teaspoon dry mustard powder.
What Do You Serve with Strata?
A strata alone already covers a lot of your bases in a balanced breakfast, so you won’t need to serve much on the side. As for what works well, a lightly dressed side salad pairs wonderfully with a strata at brunch, as do sausage or bacon (or their plant-based meat alternatives) if your strata only has veggies and cheese in it. Other serving suggestions include a fresh fruit salad, yogurt and granola parfaits, or, if you really want to indulge, some monkey bread or cinnamon rolls.
If you end up with leftover strata, slice into individual servings and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat, take a serving (or however much you want) and bake at 350℉ for about 15 minutes. If reheating from frozen, allow to thaw in the fridge for several hours before baking, or increase the bake time to 30 minutes.
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