Breakfast for a crowd has never been easier thanks to this incredibly easy to assemble, ham and cheese with bread, make-ahead overnight breakfast casserole that some may call a soufflé or a strata, but I just call delicious.
Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole Recipe
My family isn’t steeped too deeply in legendary traditions. As kids, we didn’t go to the same summer vacation spot year after year nor did we play the perennial party games at the annual family reunion.
But we did always gather together on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that’s why it’s my favorite time of the year. Memories of grandmas and grandpa, all the aunts and uncles and cousins too, together to eat, share, arm wrestle—and beat—my boy cousins and watch TBS’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon.
Each and every Christmas morning of of my 29 ‘plus’ years, I’ve had this ham and egg casserole we assemble the night before and then bake on Christmas morn in all of its gooey, cheesy, ground ham glory.
And this Christmas breakfast casserole is special, because this overnight breakfast casserole never makes another appearance at any other time of the year than on Christmas morning. We simply don’t ever want it to lose its special shining sparkle.
Ham Cheese and Bread Breakfast Casserole
My mom originally found the recipe in the Ogden Junior League Cookbook under the section “Beautiful Brunches”—a rag tag binder copy of recipes that I still have—and would make it only on Christmas morning, for all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to covet and savor.
Once the family arrived, slipping off snow shoes and swapping stories of what Santa brought, we’d pull the bubbling egg and cheese casseroles from the oven, and serve buffet style with blueberry muffins and Angela’s Frosty Cranberry Mold, and the occasional serving of my Mom’s famous fudge.
Now that us kids have all gotten older, and are having kids of our own, we’ve all dispersed and no longer get together as a group on Christmas morning. But now, 45 years later, the tradition still lives on, with my sister, cousins and extended family and now even friends and readers sharing this make-ahead breakfast casserole with their own families.
What’s in This Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole?
This is such an easy breakfast casserole recipe. Here’s what my family uses in our Christmas breakfast casserole every year:
- White bread
- Medium cheddar cheese
- Dry mustard
- Fresh parsley
Check out the video below to see how I make this overnight breakfast casserole.
How to Make Christmas Breakfast Casserole
First, you’ll need to butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Next, comes the precision of layering the ingredients. Now, I’ve done this so many different ways, and then when it doesn’t turn out as good as my mom’s she always asks why I’m messing with perfection? So because her way tastes the best, here is her layering strategy:
Tear the bread into small-ish pieces of about 1 inch or so, and layer like puzzle pieces in the bottom of the pan. Then, I’ll sometimes go straight to layering all of the ham and then all of the cheese, or sometimes I’ll do half of the cheese and then all of the ham and then the rest of the cheese and then top it with rest of the bread pieces. It’s just depending on my mood, and all tastes delicious either way.
Don’t pack the bread pieces too tightly together or the egg won’t have anywhere to run and seep into the bread pieces. Plus, I’ve found showing off a few shaggy edges on top make for a much prettier presentation. You may have to press down a bit to get it all to fit, just fit the bread snugly against the edges of the casserole dish and you’ll be set.
Once the ham, cheese, and bread is all packed into the casserole dish, whisk together the milk, dry mustard, eggs, and parsley in a measuring cup. Pour the egg mixture over the casserole.
Cover the make-ahead breakfast casserole with foil and bake the next morning until golden brown.
Do I Bake Breakfast Casserole With or Without Foil?
Each and every year I can never remember whether to bake the casserole with the foil on or off. It’s the one thing I always forget to write down :)
You’ll see in the video above I baked it with the foil on but after baking it a few more times again, the final word is to bake the casserole WITHOUT the foil. But, if the top begins to brown too much to your liking, loosely tent a piece of foil over it to shield from the direct heat.
Can I Make This Recipe Vegetarian?
I’ve only made this overnight breakfast casserole recipe with ham, so I’m not sure how omitting the ham would affect the texture and flavor of the dish. If you’re looking for a vegetarian strata recipe, check out my Mediterranean Egg Bake Strata instead.
Tips for the Best Overnight Breakfast Casserole
While this make-ahead breakfast casserole recipe is so incredibly basic in method and ingredients, after 45 years of making it, there are definitely a few secrets we’ve learned along the way.
First, like most any strata, you’ll want to set aside time to prepare this casserole the night before you bake it so the egg mixture is absorbed into the bread, and nooks and crannies of the layers of ham and cheese. We toss the filled casserole in the fridge to rest overnight, ready to be popped in the oven the next morning as we lounge in our PJs and take turns opening presents.
Next, be sure to use a ham that hasn’t had extra water added to it. You’ll know if it has if the first ingredient is water in the list. My mom turned me onto the Hormel Cure 81 hams. They’re one of the few hams that doesn’t have extra water added in and it’s the one I use every year. You’ll want to grind the ham in the food processor or ask your butcher to grind it for you. Ground ham, rather than chopped or diced, is the key to the flavors all melding together.
The final secret comes when it’s time to mix in the mustard. You don’t want to dump the dry mustard into the whole egg and milk mixture or it will never mix in smoothly. Instead, add 1/4 cup or so of the egg and milk mixture to a different small bowl and mix the mustard in it first, then add to the larger amount. No chunks of mustard to surprise you here.
More Christmas Breakfast Recipes to Try
- Baked Orange French Toast with Almond Crumble
- Coconut Waffles with Pomegranate Syrup
- Banana and Chocolate Chip Baked French Toast
- Easy Quiche Lorraine
- Pull-Apart Cinnamon Pecan Rolls
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Ham and Cheese Overnight Breakfast Casserole
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 24 ounce loaf sliced white bread
- 2 pounds no-water added ham finely ground in a food processor or by your butcher
- 1 pound medium cheddar cheese grated
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- Prepare a 9x13-inch pan with softened butter. Tear the bread slices into 1-inch pieces of bread and cover the bottom of the pan with half of the loaf, fitting the pieces tightly together like puzzle pieces.
- There are two ways you can do the next layering step: Layer the ground ham over the bread and then top with the cheese. Tear the rest of the bread slices into pieces and nestle them together over the ground ham but don't pack too tightly, but just so they fit together.
- In a 1 quart measuring cup, whisk the eggs and milk until smooth. In a small bowl, take 1 tablespoon of the egg and milk mixture and use a fork to mix the dry mustard into it until smooth. Add the mustard mixture into the quart measuring cup and mix well so that all of the mustard is incorporated. Add the chopped parsley and whisk.
- Starting at one end of the casserole, slowly pour the egg mixture over the the bread, evenly distributing the wet ingredients and making sure to get into the edges too. Cover with non-stick aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the foil and bake at 325° F for 50-60 minutes or until the eggs are set and bubbling. If the bread starts looking too brown, loosely tent the foil over the top of the casserole and continue to cook until the egg is set. Remove the casseroled from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.
- Be sure to check how the casserole is cooking at the 50 minute mark to see if it is browning too much. If so, tent a piece of aluminum foil over the top so it continues to cook but is shielded from the direct heat.
- Makes a 9x13-inch casserole pan.
- Allow time for casserole to sit in refrigerator overnight
More Egg Recipes You’ll Love
- Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches
- Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Frittata
- Healthy Homemade Egg McMuffin
- Bacon, Broccoli, & Potato Frittata
- Deep-Dish Spinach, Bacon, & Leek Quiche
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