We just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary and it caused me to reflect on our early days of marriage, living in Portland in late spring, early summer. I made us breakfast most mornings – just like I do now – and we’d sit and talk with the windows open before getting to the day’s tasks. I discovered early on John isn’t a pancake guy. The thing is, I’m a pancake girl. But our common ground? French toast. Thank goodness.
Since going dairy free I haven’t made french toast as often as I used to, but I do miss it. Our favorite recipe is basic with a little cinnamon and vanilla, then topped with fresh strawberries and maple syrup or honey.
I’m not entirely egg-free (though am growing more suspicious of them by the moment), but I wanted to make a vegan french toast recipe A) to see if it was in fact possible to make french toast without eggs, and B) to come up with my own variation to share with you all, as I know there are already a lot of vegan frenchy recipes out there.
At first I considered “thickening” the batter with a starch (i.e. flour) of some kind, but then I really just wanted to keep it healthy and natural. And so, I went with chia seeds. I ground mine up to make them less visible in the final product (for those eaters of yours who inspect every bite and ask, “What’s in this?” before digging in). But this certainly isn’t a necessary step.
The batter is basic. Non-dairy milk, chia seeds, vanilla, agave, cinnamon. For the bread I went with a rustic wheat, but you could certainly keep this gluten free by using a gluten free wheat bread, such as Udi’s. I’ve had their gluten free bread and am confident it would work swimmingly in this recipe.
The trick to the batter is letting it sit to firm up a bit. Chia seeds typically take 10-15 minutes to activate (longer for pudding), and that’s about how long I let mine rest before dipping the bread in. Go longer for thicker batter, but no too long or it can turn into a pudding (which is not what you want). You’re basically looking for a batter that resembles traditional french toast batter with the egg. Ya dig?
The result? A dreamy, simple, perfectly-sweet french toast that’s completely vegan. So what does it taste like?
Warm from the cinnamon
Tender with a subtle bite
And perfect for adding whatever toppings you prefer
Me? I went with coconut whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a little maple syrup. This would also be lovely with a compote, sliced bananas, peanut or almond butter, or agave. Consider this recipe a basic french toast base, perfect for adding whatever flavors you want to make it your own.
- 1 heaping Tbsp chia seeds (whole or ground into a fine meal so they're undetectable)
- 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup (or sub honey if not vegan)
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4-5 slices bread (I went with a sturdy rustic wheat bread, but also tried it with whole wheat sandwich bread and it worked well both ways)
- Mix all ingredients except the bread in a large, shallow bowl. Place in the fridge to activate for 10-20 minutes.
- Preheat griddle to medium heat (~350 degrees F) and grease with 1 Tbsp vegan butter or coconut oil.
- Dip each slice of bread in the batter for about 20 seconds on each side. If your bread is dry, leave it in a little longer. If you're using sandwich bread, it should only need 25-30 seconds total to soak.
- Place on griddle and cook until golden brown on the underside. Carefully flip and cook until the other side is golden brown as well - 3-4 minutes.
- Top with desired toppings: I went with coconut whipped cream, strawberries and maple syrup.
*Keep this recipe gluten free by using a gluten free bread, such as Udi's.