French toast is a great choice for an indulgent brunch or a decadent breakfast. Soaking bread in an egg and sugar mixture and then frying it is a relatively quick way of conjuring up a delicious breakfast.
Many French toast recipes call for cinnamon. For many, cinnamon is part of the traditional flavor profile of this family favorite.
However, sometimes putting cinnamon in your French toast is just not possible. Maybe you ran out of the spice, or someone in your family is allergic.
Even without cinnamon, you can create delicious French toast recipes. Here are a few suggestions for creating sophisticated flavor profiles even without cinnamon.
Why Do People Put Cinnamon in French Toast?
Before you can understand how to make French toast without cinnamon, you need to understand the role that cinnamon plays in the recipe.
Classic French toast is made by beating eggs, milk, sugar, and spices together to form a custard. Then, slices of slightly stale bread are dipped in the eggy mixture and fried.
Chefs add cinnamon to the egg custard mixture in which they dip the bread. Others sprinkle cinnamon over the top of French toast for decoration and a bit of flavor.
The good news is that cinnamon is not crucial to French toast’s structure in the way that eggs or bread is, so you can easily skip it altogether. However, it does add a sophisticated kick to the dish that might otherwise just taste like bread and sugar.
While you can just skip adding cinnamon altogether to your French toast, that might make your dish taste bland. To add a bit of complexity to your French toast, replace the cinnamon with another spice.
Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract gives French toast sweetness and a rich vanilla aroma. It is such a useful flavor tool, so you do not want to go with the least expensive possible bottle when shopping for vanilla extract.
Here is a guide to the best vanilla extract brands that will make your French toast taste like sweet vanilla beans instead of artificial flavorings.
Nutmeg: Nutmeg is a common substitute for cinnamon because they both come in powdered forms and have similar flavor profiles, but nutmeg is far less pungent. That is why many nutritionists recommend it for people allergic to cinnamon.
You can also use mace, which is made from the nutmeg plant as well.
Cloves and ginger: A spice blend of cloves and ginger is a great way to mimic the flavor of cinnamon without adding the spice itself. Cloves add an earthy richness to your dish while ginger lightens it with its acidity.
Spice blends: Do you want to add cinnamon, but your pantry ran out? Check if you have sweet spice blends such as pumpkin pie spice. Most of these contain cinnamon as well and can add a fun, seasonal variation to your French toast.
Cardamom: Cardamom is an unusual substitute for cinnamon, but it works. It is used in the Norwegian version of French toast, Arme Riddere.
Wine: Okay, wine is not a spice. But you can soak your French toast in wine before dipping it in custard for an adult, boozy twist on the traditional breakfast dish. This variation is common in many southern European countries such as Spain.
Some people prefer to use cinnamon as a topping instead of adding it to the egg custard mixture when making French toast. If you don’t have cinnamon on hand, you can still add a tasty, decorative topping.
Powdered Sugar: Powdered sugar is the closest topping to cinnamon in terms of texture. Sprinkle a dusting on top of French toast for an extra sweet kick.
Whipped cream: You’ll forget all about cinnamon once you add a cloud of whipped cream to the top of your French toast. Buy some in a can, or make your own with heavy cream, sugar, and plenty of elbow grease.
Maple syrup: A drizzle of maple syrup is another traditional topping for French toast. Don’t have it on hand? Use honey instead.
Fruit: If you want to add a little healthy touch to your French toast, chop up some fruit and arrange it on top. Try strawberries, blueberries, melon, or whatever is in season.
Stuffed French Toast Variations
One way to add flavor to French toast if you don’t have any spices on hand is to stuff it. This creates a French toast sandwich where two slices of eggy bread are held together with a filling of your choice.
You have plenty of options when creating stuffed French toast, and you’re only really limited by your creativity. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Hong Kong French toast: In the Hong Kong variation on French toast, you stuff the bread before frying it. Put two slices of bread together with a spread of peanut butter, jam, or a spread of your choice, then dip it in an egg mixture and fry it.
Cream Cheese: Cream cheese adds a bit of savory acidity to French toast that might otherwise be cloyingly sweet.
Mix softened cream cheese with powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla extract, then spread it across your fried French toast. You can even add some fresh fruit.
Fruit: You can combine your fruit with another stuffing, such as cream cheese or peanut butter, or just let it speak for itself. Add some seasonal berries, cut up some apples or bananas, or even soak some raisins in rum for a boozy kick.
Nuts: Nuts are a great way to add some texture (and healthy protein) to your French toast. Add chopped-up pecans, walnuts, or your other favorite nuts to your spread of cream cheese or other stuffing of choice.
Savory French Toast
If you can’t or don’t want to include cinnamon in your French toast, then you can switch to a savory variation that doesn’t need the spice at all.
Savory French toast, sometimes called eggy bread, is just bread dipped in an egg custard without any sugar or sweet spices added. You can serve it alongside other savory breakfast staples, such as bacon and eggs, or on its own.
While brioche or Texas toast is the best kind of bread for traditional French toast, you can experiment with different loaves for savory French toast. You can try thinner slices because the thinness lends itself better to savory mixes, or even mix it up with crusty whole-wheat bread.
Here are a few serving suggestions for savory French toast.
Add Parmesan: Parmesan is not just a delicious addition to pasta and risotto dishes. Add some grated parmesan to your savory French toast egg mixture for a salty, pungent pop of flavor.
Herbs: You can add herbs to your egg mixture for savory French toast or chop them up and add them as a flavorful garnish on top. You can try adding dry mustard, garlic, thyme, oregano, or any herb of your choice.
Add Global Spice: If you’re not limited to cinnamon, you can use any spice that you want from anywhere in the world. Add an Indian twist to your breakfast with some garam masala, or chop up some jalapenos for a fiery Mexican toast.
Top Your Savory Toast: Savory French toast or eggy bread is the perfect vehicle for whatever other treats you want to add to your breakfast. Fry an egg, mash up an avocado, or prepare some tomatoes and mushrooms for a variation on the English breakfast.
Who Needs Cinnamon?
While cinnamon is a delicious addition to many French toast recipes, it is possible to have a delicious breakfast, brunch, or even dinner (hey, we don’t judge) without it. After all, cinnamon is in French toast recipes just to add some flavor and is not crucial to the structure or cooking of the dish.
If you don’t have any cinnamon on hand, you can still add flavor to your French toast with another spice, vanilla extract, or even wine. Some spices, such as nutmeg and cloves, mimic the flavor of cinnamon but are friendlier for people with allergies or sensitivities.
You can also add flavor by changing up the way that you serve your French toast. Top it with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or fresh fruit. You can also stuff the French toast with cream cheese, fruit, or take international inspiration and make Hong Kong French toast.
Finally, you can avoid the cinnamon conundrum altogether by going for a savory flavor profile instead of sweet. Instead of adding sugar or cinnamon to your eggy mixture, add parmesan, herbs, or savory spices. You can serve savory French toast along with eggs, sausage, avocado, or other breakfast favorites.
French toast is a versatile dish that lends itself easily to experimentation and creativity. Play around with different spices and flavors in your kitchen until you find a flavor combination that suits you.
Add unique ingredients such as fruits and nuts to change up the texture. In the end, you might barely notice the cinnamon is missing!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.