New Orleans Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

This bread pudding is absolutely phenomenal; toasted French bread cubes are soaked in a custard mixture spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and spiked with bourbon. The mixture is layered with bourbon-soaked raisins, baked, then drizzled with a bourbon cream sauce. This classic southern dessert is perfect for Christmas, Mardi Gras, or any special occasion.

Two plates of bread pudding.

I fell in love with bread pudding years ago when my husband and I went to a cozy little Italian restaurant to ring in the New Year the very first year we were dating. We were served dessert right at midnight (which now, over 10 years later, astonishes me because I can’t even fathom being up and OUT at that hour, let alone eating a meal, HA! Oh, the seasons of life…); he ordered a chocolate bread pudding, and I… can’t remember what I ordered.

He gave me a taste of his and he could tell I was totally enamored with it, so he offered to trade me desserts. I have been infatuated with all things bread pudding ever since. This is the first one that I made myself and it remains my all-time favorite version!

Bread cubes, custard, and raisins for bread pudding.

Stale Bread + Custard + Lots of Flavors!

If you’ve ever wondered how bread pudding is made, the formula is quite simple >> take stale (or intentionally dried) leftover bread and combine it with a custard mixture that usually includes milk or cream, eggs, and sugar. Elevate it to another level by adding more flavor in the way of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and liquor like bourbon, whiskey or rum, then bake it all together and wait for the magic to happen.

Bread pudding has the consistency of the middle of a huge stack of French toast – that custard-soaked, soft middle that is drenched with custard-y flavor in each and every bite. Plus, bread pudding gives you all of those wonderful crunchy edges, which is a phenomenal texture contrast to the center, and probably my favorite part ;-)

Side by side photos of bread pudding in the pan before and after baking.

Dry Bread is Key!

Don’t be tempted to use fresh bread or skip the toasting step in this recipe. If you do so, the bread will fall apart, disintegrate, and/or turn to mush in the custard mixture; using stale or dried bread allows it to soak up the custard mixture and retain its shape, which gives the dessert both a sturdy body and an ultra-creamy texture.

Note that if you assemble the bread pudding ahead of time (see success tips, below), the longer that it sits before baking, the softer and more custard-like the interior will be.

An overhead shot of a plate of bread pudding.

Bread Pudding Success Tips

A few quick tips on substitutions, alternatives, and make-ahead instructions:

  • While a French baguette is preferred for this recipe, you can use another type of bread if you’d like, but do not use pre-sliced bread – you want to be able to get nice big chunks.
  • If you do not care for raisins, they can be omitted or substituted with another dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries. You can also add chopped nuts or chocolate chips!
  • The bourbon can be substituted with another liquor if you’d like to switch up the flavor. Some ideas would be whiskey, rum, Kahlua, amaretto, etc.
  • The bourbon can also be omitted entirely if necessary. You can plump the raisins in water and replace the remaining bourbon in the recipe with milk or cream.
  • Make-Ahead Instructions: You can prepare the bread pudding through step #5 (before baking), cover and refrigerator for up to 1 day before baking. The bourbon sauce can also be prepared up to 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator, then reheated before serving. Alternatively, you can bake the bread pudding, cool, cover, and refrigerator for up to 2 days, then reheat in the oven, covered at 350 degrees before serving.
  • Freezing Instructions: The bread pudding can be baked, cooled completely, refrigerated for at least 2 hours, then frozen. To freeze, cover the pan tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350-degree oven, covered, until warmed through, about 15 minutes.

A plate of bread pudding half-eaten.

More Pudding Recipes!

New Orleans Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Servings 10 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 1 hour 15 minutes
Resting time 45 minutes
Total 2 hours 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Michelle

This bread pudding starts with toasted French bread cubes soaked in a bourbon-spiked custard, then layered with bourbon-soaked raisins, baked, and drizzled with a bourbon cream sauce. This classic southern dessert is perfect for Christmas, Mardi Gras, or any special occasion.

Ingredients:

For the Bread Pudding:

  • 1
    18 to 20-inch
    French baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces
    ((10 cups))
  • 1
    cup
    raisins
  • ¾
    cup
    bourbon
    (divided)
  • 8
    egg yolks
  • cups
    light brown sugar
  • 3
    cups
    heavy cream
  • 1
    cup
    whole milk
  • 1
    tablespoon
    vanilla extract
  • teaspoons
    ground cinnamon
    (divided)
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    ground nutmeg
  • ¼
    teaspoon
    salt
  • 3
    tablespoons
    granulated sugar
  • 6
    tablespoons
    unsalted butter
    (cubed and chilled)

For the Bourbon Sauce:

  • ¼
    cup
    bourbon
    (divided)
  • teaspoons
    cornstarch
  • ¾
    cup
    heavy cream
  • 2
    tablespoons
    sugar
  • Pinch
    salt
  • 2
    teaspoons
    unsalted butter
    (cut into small pieces)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  2. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through and rotating the baking sheet front to back. Let bread cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile, heat raisins and ½ cup bourbon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bourbon begins to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the mixture, placing the bourbon and raisins in separate bowls.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, brown sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk in in the remaining ¼ cup bourbon plus the bourbon used to plump the raisins. Toss in the toasted bread until evenly coated. Let the mixture sit until the bread begins to absorb custard, about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. If the majority of the bread is still hard when squeezed, soak for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Pour half the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with half the raisins. Repeat with the remaining bread mixture and raisins. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mix the granulated sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Using your fingers, pinch 6 tablespoons butter into the sugar mixture until the crumbs are the size of small peas. Remove the foil from pudding, sprinkle with the butter mixture, and bake, uncovered, until the custard is just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and bake until the top of the pudding forms a golden crust, about 2 minutes.
  7. Let the pudding cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes (or up to 2 hours). Serve alone or with Bourbon Sauce (I strongly recommend the bourbon sauce).
  8. Make the Bourbon Sauce: In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of bourbon until well combined.

  9. Using a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.
  10. Take the pan off the heat, and stir in salt, butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Drizzle warm sauce over bread pudding. Leftover bread pudding can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a 350-degree oven covered with foil.

Recipe Notes:

  • While a French baguette is preferred for this recipe, you can use another type of bread if you'd like.
  • If you do not care for raisins, they can be omitted or substituted with another dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • The bourbon can be substituted with another liquor if you'd like to switch up the flavor. Some ideas would be whiskey, rum, Kahlua, amaretto, etc. 
  • The bourbon can also be omitted entirely if necessary. You can plump the raisins in water and replace the remaining bourbon in the recipe with milk or cream.
  • Make-Ahead Instructions: You can prepare the bread pudding through step #5 (before baking), cover and refrigerator for up to 1 day before baking. The bourbon sauce can also be prepared up to 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator, then reheated before serving. Alternatively, you can bake the bread pudding, cool, cover and refrigerator for up to 2 days, then reheat in the oven, covered at 350 degrees before serving.
  • Freezing Instructions: The bread pudding can be baked, cooled completely, refrigerated for at least 2 hours, then frozen. To freeze, cover the pan tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350-degree oven, covered, until warmed through, about 15 minutes.
(Recipe adapted from Ezra Pound Cake)

Nutrition:

Calories: 690kcal
Fat: 45g
Saturated fat: 27g
Cholesterol: 301mg
Sodium: 125mg
Potassium: 278mg
Carbohydrates: 55g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 40g
Protein: 5g
Vitamin A: 1794%
Vitamin C: 1%
Calcium: 141%
Iron: 1%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Update Notes: Originally published in 2012, this recipe has been updated with more in-depth descriptions, new photos, and clearer instructions.

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]