Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
Try making an old-fashioned bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert this holiday season. This comfort food is rich, sweet and has a kick of bourbon in the sauce. It’s a great use of leftover bread and can be prepared the night before!
Bread pudding is a classic dessert worth making for the holidays. It’s so simple to prepare and a crowd please. The custard-soaked bread is tender in the center, but crispy on the outside. The best part though is the brown butter bourbon sauce. It takes this dessert to the next level!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Amazing texture. The rich custard mixture adds moisture while binding the stale bread pieces together. Once baked, the result is a semi-solid consistency with a sweet, golden crust on top.
- Easy to make ahead. Simply prep and assemble the dish, cover and store in the refrigerator the night before you plan to bake it.
- Traditional holiday dessert. The warm, cozy flavors make this a popular dessert to serve during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it’s also a good choice for Mardi Gras or Easter.
- Delicious bourbon sauce. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the recipe. The sauce has a subtle nutty aroma thanks to the brown butter and the bourbon is there to provide a kick of flavor!
- Great use of leftover bread. If you have a loaf of bread that is on its last day, instead of tossing it, use it to make a delicious dessert!
Bread pudding dates back to 17th century England. It was commonly called “poor man’s pudding” because it was a way to make use of leftover bread. The dish gained popularity in the United States, where it is a comfort food in Southern cuisine.
- Brioche: Day-old bread works best. When it’s dry, it soaks up the pudding mixture!
- Milk: For a rich taste, I suggest whole milk, but in a pinch low-fat works too.
- Eggs: Lightly beat the eggs before using. They help bind the bread pieces together when baked.
- Cinnamon and nutmeg: Check that your spices are fresh and not expired for the best taste!
- Bourbon: Use your favorite bourbon to make the sauce.
- Heavy cream: For a rich, creamy sauce, use heavy cream. Half-n-half is a good substitute.
Refer to the recipe card for ingredient details and measurements.
Use different bread. Other options include challah, French or Italian bread. Baguette or ciabatta can also be used, but they have larger crumbs and gaps, which will result in a different texture.
Add some mix-ins. Sprinkle some chopped nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit on top of the bread pieces before adding the pudding mixture. It’s also a popular option to soak raisins in bourbon overnight before adding them to the dish.
Experiment with the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? Try using whiskey, brandy or rum. Alternatively, you can also make a caramel sauce or chocolate ganache instead.
How to Make Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
- Heat milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt over medium heat. Cook until barely simmering. Remove from heat and let mixture cool slightly.
- After the mixture has cooled slightly, add the eggs, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t scramble.
- Pour mixture over bread pieces in a 2-quart baking dish. Let it soak for 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden and jiggly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let it cool slightly while making the bourbon sauce.
- To make the sauce, brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Remove from heat and add bourbon, heavy cream and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour over bread pudding and serve warm.
Cool the pudding mixture slightly before adding the eggs. If the mixture is too hot, then the eggs will scramble. It’s best to constantly stir when adding the eggs to achieve a smooth, yet thick, texture.
Let it soak. One of the most important steps is to let the bread soak up the custard mixture before baking. You can let it rest for up to 12 hours!
Keep an eye on the bread pudding as it bakes, but try not to open the oven. If the top is browning too quickly, add a sheet of aluminum foil on top to prevent it from burning.
Add the sauce right before serving. This allows guests to add more or less according to their taste preferences. It’s also easier to store leftovers without the sauce otherwise the bread pudding would get too soggy.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I suggest storing the sauce in a separate container in the fridge to prevent the pudding from becoming soggy.
Freeze bread pudding without the sauce. Let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 months, then defrost in the refrigerator overnight before bringing to room temperature. The sauce doesn’t keep well in the freezer since alcohol has a lower freezing point. This can affect the texture of the sauce when defrosted.
Reheat at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes until heated through. The bourbon sauce may also be reheated over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Make ahead and assemble the bread pudding. Cover the dish tightly and keep in the refrigerator overnight or up to 12 hours before baking. Sauce can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yes. Cut into pieces and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 250 F until dry, about 10 minutes.
Yes, omit the bourbon and increase the heavy cream to 1/3 cup. I suggest adding 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract too.
Most likely it was not baked long enough. It’s also possible that the bread was not stale or dry enough to soak up all the liquid.
Check out these other recipes that would make a nice addition to the Christmas dessert menu.
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Get the Recipe: Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
- 15 ounces (5 to 6 cups) day-old brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes (see notes)
- 2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (66 g) granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 6 Tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream, or half-n-half
- ¾ cup (150 g) packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) bourbon
- Grease a 2-quart ceramic/stoneware baking dish with butter. Place bread cubes in pan and gently press down to fill any big gaps. I like to turn some of the top pieces up so the crust is seen for contrast.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, butter, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stirring frequently, cook until hot (not boiling) and the butter is melted. The mixture is done when the milk is starting to simmer at the edges. Remove saucepan from the heat and allow mixture to cool slightly.
- Once the mixture cooled a bit, but is still warm, add the eggs. Whisk continuously while adding the eggs so they don’t scramble.
- Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes making sure that all the top pieces are soaked. Push down the cubes so there aren’t any gaps below. Set aside for 45 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. If soaking longer than an hour, cover and store in the refrigerator (see notes).
- Preheat oven to 350℉. Bake the bread pudding for 40 to 45 minutes or until the custard is set, but jiggly in the center, and the top is golden brown. Keep an eye on it while baking. If it's browning too quickly, set a piece of aluminum foil over the top to prevent any burning for the remaining baking time.
- While the bread pudding bakes, make the bourbon sauce. Brown the butter over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. The butter will get foamy. Once the butter has a nutty aroma, remove from the heat.
- Add the brown sugar, bourbon and heavy cream. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat to cool slightly.
- Pour sauce over bread pudding and serve warm.