This yummy and inexpensive breakfast casserole is a snap to throw together. Assemble strata the night before you plan to serve it for a fuss-free way to entertain. Great for breakfast or brunch, my yummy make-ahead Ham and Swiss Strata is the perfect way to welcome in any weekend. It's also easily scalable, so you can make one for whatever sized gathering you're going for.
I'm sure you've all made your lists and are in the process of checking them twice. Color me jealous if that describes you! But if you are still trying to figure out Christmas breakfast, I've got you covered. This easy and yummy breakfast casserole is something you can throw together the night before and toss in the oven for a lovely, stress free and celebratory way to grub while you open presents.
Table of Contents
- What is a Strata?
- Ingredients You'll Need
- How to Prep Your Ingredients
- How to Assemble This Breakfast Casserole
- How to Bake Strata
- Easy Substitutions to Customize Your Strata
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Need more breakfast and brunch inspiration? Check out these other recipes worth getting out of bed for:
What is a Strata?
Ahhhh, the strata. One of my all-time favorite breakfast items, this cheesy, eggy and carb-y casserole is the stuff of dreams. If you're having trouble wrapping your brain around it, think of strata like a savory breakfast bread pudding. And if you're not a fan of ham and Swiss, you can easily switch out the ingredients to suit your palate.
To my knowledge, strata actually means "layer," which is how the dish is made. Most strata recipes use bread, eggs, milk and cheese. Other ingredients like vegetables or meats can be added as well.
A simple custard mixture of eggs and dairy is poured over the bread, which soaks up all the goodness. The entire casserole is then baked and turns into a heavenly (and easy) sliceable breakfast.
Ingredients You'll Need
Now, while most strata recipes call for regular ol' bread, I took a page out of Marché's book and decided to use croissants instead. The result is a particularly light and fluffy casserole that rivals any other strata I've tried.
You should be able to find croissants at just about any store nowadays - I got mine from Aldi, though Costco's looked particularly delicious. Oh, and don't fret if your croissants are stale! The custard will cover all sins.
TIP: No croissants available? Don't fret! An enriched bread like brioche or challah would make an excellent substitute. Enriched breads are those that have fat and eggs added to them, making their crusts tender and moist. If you just have access to a little bodega, soft burger or hot dog buns would also be an acceptable substitute!
Aside from that, you'll need milk and eggs for the custard, then whatever fillings and flavorings you enjoy. Since I was riffing on a croque madame, I opted for diced ham, Swiss cheese, cayenne, garlic powder and Dijon mustard. Other flavor ideas are listed below under the heading "Easy Substitutions to Customize Your Strata."
How to Prep Your Ingredients
First up, you need to cube your croissants. I sliced mine like a hamburger bun, then made strips and finally cut it into cubes. Aim for roughly even and bite sized pieces for the best results.
Next up, set up your mise en place. That's just a fancy way of saying you have all your ducks (well, ingredients) in a row, measured out and ready to go.
To make the custard, beat together 8 eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add in your milk or half n' half and beat well.
Finally, add in your additional flavorings - in this case, mustard and spices seal the deal. Don't forget to season with some kosher salt and pepper to make all the flavors pop nicely!
Now that you have your ingredients ready, all you have to do is assemble the strata and let it rest before baking.
How to Assemble This Breakfast Casserole
Like I said earlier, strata actually means "layer." To make this Ham and Swiss Strata, you're going to want to layer your ingredients to evenly distribute them. First, place your base layer of croissant (or bread) cubes in the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese, then ham and green onions.
Finally, pour the custard mix over top of everything. Pour slowly and carefully to ensure that the layers remain even.
Since we want the croissants to soak up all the custard mix, use a spoon or spatula to gently press down any pieces that appear dry. It's fine if they poke back up - once they have a little liquid in there, the process should continue during the resting phase.
Your work is basically done! How great is that?!? Cover the assembled strata with a piece of tinfoil and pop it in the refrigerator to rest overnight. This will allow the croissants to soak up all the custardy goodness.
You can kind of see the difference in the pictures above: the one on the left is right after assembly, and the one on the right is after the custard mixture has been absorbed by the croissants. Once the strata has rested, all that is left to do is bake.
How to Bake Strata
Here's the scenario. You just woke up and poured yourself a cup of coffee. The family is hungry, and you're still in the process of waking up. But as the CFO (Chief Food Officer) of the family, breakfast is your charge. Luckily, you were a real smarty pants and assembled this delicious strata last night. All you have to do is switch on the oven.
Once the oven hits 350F, pull your assembled casserole from the fridge and pop it straight in the oven on the middle rack. No need to remove the foil; that'll keep the casserole from browning too quickly.
Bake for about 30 minutes, then pull off the foil and return it to the oven. 30 minutes later, a beautifully golden savory masterpiece will emerge.
Allow the strata to rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve. Easy peasy, right? If you're feeling fancy, you can easily throw a fried egg on top for a little extra color and protein. A dollop of bechamel or mornay wouldn't hurt a bit. But if it's all the same to you, I'm happy digging straight in with a fork. Enjoy!
Easy Substitutions to Customize Your Strata
If Ham and Swiss isn't your dream flavor combo, don't worry! This strata is easily customizable. Keep the ratio of bread, cheese, egg and milk the same, then fiddle with the other components to suit your tastes.
There are a ton of combos out there that would be delicious. Turn to your favorite toasted sandwiches, calzones or pizzas for inspiration. Here's just a few of my favorites:
- Hawaiian: sub in Hawaiian rolls, mozzarella cheese and drained pineapple.
- Supreme: sub cooked sausage and pepperoni, diced and drained tomatoes, sautéed bell peppers and black olives.
- BBQ Chicken: shredded rotisserie chicken and BBQ spice rub, smoked gouda and mozzarella
- Broccoli Cheese: roasted broccoli and cheddar
Seriously, the sky is the limit once you have the base down. Feel free to make your own delicious combinations using any of the following ingredients (or any you can think of that aren't on here!):
- Cheese: Cheddar, Jack, Pepper Jack, Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Goat Cheese, Quesadilla, Mozzarella, Taleggio, Havarti, Blue Cheese, Edam, Muenster, Asiago, Port Salut OR ANY OTHER MELTY CHEESE YOU LIKE!
- Meat (feel free to omit): Bacon, Turkey, Sausage, Chorizo, Chopped Deli Meat, Shredded Chicken, Pepperoni, Vegan Meat Crumbles
- Cooked Vegetables: Roasted Broccoli or Cauliflower; Sautéed Greens (Spinach, Kale, Chard); Caramelized Onions, Shallots, Leeks or Fennel; Sautéed Bell Peppers
- Seasonings: Fresh Herbs; Dried Herbs and Spices; Fresh Green Onions; Fresh Minced Shallots
- Other Ideas: Drained Canned Tomatoes, Roasted Chili Peppers, Sliced Black Olives, Pickled Peppers
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best way to reheat strata?
Aside from it's versatility, another great thing about strata is how durable it is. Make one over the weekend and simply heat and eat all week long.
While you can microwave slices on the go, I recommend using a toaster oven (or entire oven, if you're reheating a lot) to keep the custardy texture in tact.
What should I serve with this breakfast casserole?
You will not hear any complaints from me if you opt to eat this strata as is, no frills attached. If you want it to look pretty on a plate, a simple side salad provides a nice textural contrast and a bit of acidity to round things out.
You can also up the customizability factor by adding fried or scrambled eggs to the top. This also adds some more protein to the mix, making it perfect to serve as brunch which should ostensibly carry you through till dinnertime. I personally love an over medium egg to get the beautifully runny yolk, but you do you.
At the restaurant we would often add a sauce to the top (or underneath) to enhance whatever flavors we were going for. Did you opt for something akin to a pizza? Place your wedge in a little pool of marinara. Did you go for my ham and cheese combo? Add some bechamel to make it more croque-like. Hitting some of those Mexican flavors? Opt for some homemade enchilada sauce or salsa ranchero instead.
Since it's the weekend, you can pair this with coffee, a homemade pumpkin spice latte, creamy hot chocolate or mug of hot tea, or get fancy and make yourself some mimosas, bloody mary's or screwdrivers instead.
Depending on the size of the crew you're trying to feed, other brunch buffet items are natural pairs. Sliced fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, beans, sliced tomatoes, hash browns or home fries all make sense to me. Go on and get after it!
I can't find any croissants - what else can I use?
No croissants? No problem! Simply substitute a soft crusted, enriched bread instead. Brioche or challah would be my top picks, but if those are too high fallutin' for your tastes, simple white sandwich bread, hamburger buns or hot dog buns would do just fine.
Need more breakfast and brunch inspiration? Check out these other recipes worth getting out of bed for:
- Poutine with Sheet Pan Potato Wedges
- Sweet Potato Salmon Cakes
- Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
- Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread
- Instant Pot "Sous Vide" Style Egg Bites
- Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars
- High Protein Banana Blender Pancakes
If you made this yummy Ham and Swiss Strata recipe, please be sure to rate and review it below. I'd love to know how your brunch turned out!
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Make-Ahead Ham and Swiss Strata
- 6 Croissants cubed
- 2 C Swiss Cheese grated
- 2 C Ham cubed
- 2-3 Green Onions sliced, green and white parts both
- 8 Eggs preferably organic and humane certified
- 2 C Milk or half n half
- 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon Butter to dot before baking, optional
- Cube croissants, slice green onions and set up mise en place.
- Beat together 8 eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add in your milk or half n' half and beat well. Add in your additional flavorings - in this case, mustard, spices, kosher salt and pepper.
- First, place your base layer of croissant (or bread) cubes in the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese, then ham and green onions.Finally, pour the custard mix over top of everything. Pour slowly and carefully to ensure that the layers remain even.Use a spoon or spatula to gently press down any pieces that appear dry. It's fine if they poke back up - once they have a little liquid in there, the process should continue during the resting phase.Cover the assembled strata with a piece of tinfoil and pop it in the refrigerator to rest overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Once the oven hits 350F, pull your assembled casserole from the fridge and pop it straight in the oven (keeping the foil top) on the middle rack.Bake for about 30 minutes, then pull off the foil and return it to the oven. Bake for another 30 minutes uncovered, until the internal temperature hits 165F.Allow the strata to rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve. Enjoy!
- No croissants? No problem! Opt for enriched breads like brioche, challah or burger buns instead.
- Rest at least 4 hours prior to baking, and up to overnight.
- For serving, feel free to add a fried egg over the top or a sauce on the bottom (e.g. bechamel) to make things a little fancier. A side salad offers a bit of acidity to cut through the richness, but is not required.
- As long as the bread/croissant, milk, egg and cheese ratio remain the same, you can make this strata in any flavor profile you want. Read the blog post for easy customization ideas!