Brunch just got a whole lot easier with this tasty, make-ahead bacon, Gruyere and spinach strata. Crusty French bread soaks up a velvety egg custard filled with tender spinach, melted Gruyere and smoky bacon for a guaranteed crowd-pleasing meal. This strata will quickly become your new go-to brunch recipe.
What Is Strata?
I love all kinds of brunch dishes, but strata just might be my favorite, especially if I'm playing hostess. If you've been following along, you already know how much I love make-ahead dishes when I'm entertaining, which is the essence of strata. We take care of business upfront, so when brunch time arrives, we're free to leisurely sip mimosas with good company by our side.
To make strata, we pour a mixture of eggs, heavy cream and whole milk over torn pieces of bread and the fillings of our choosing. I chose bacon, Gruyere and spinach for this particular recipe, but you can always tweak those add-ins to your liking.
We then let the strata sit in the refrigerator for several hours or up to overnight to let the egg custard soak into the bread. Once the strata bakes, it resembles a mix between a savory bread pudding and baked egg casserole -- eggier than a bread pudding but more custardy than a baked egg casserole. As far as I'm concerned, strata is the ultimate love child between the two.
Given the make-ahead convenience of this strata, it's also perfect for the holidays. I love cooking during the holidays, but when Christmas morning arrives, I don't want to fuss around the kitchen too much. That time is reserved for mimosas and watching Christmas movies, so this isn't the time to make a big, elaborate brunch spread. Once again, strata saves the day.
Now that we're familiar with strata, let's get started. We begin by cooking a pound of bacon until it's perfectly crispy. I like doing this in the oven, but if you prefer the stove-top, that's just fine. You do you.
Next, we drain a package of thawed spinach, cook some chopped onions and garlic, and mix them all together with the bacon. Let's set that aside and grate some Gruyere and fresh Parmesan.
We definitely want to use freshly grated Parmesan cheese as opposed to anything that's packaged or comes in a bottle. If the Parmesan isn't freshly grated, it won't melt properly. We'll be left with a grainy texture, so let's not ruin our strata with grainy cheese.
With our add-ins prepped, we start tearing our bread. For this particular recipe, I like to use French bread, but I've also made strata with English muffins and croissants, so just know that you can get creative if you're inclined.
We need eight cups of bread, which is a lot, so I recommend getting two huge loaves. I'm talking about the kind of French bread that's fat and puffy in the middle rather than the long, skinny loaves.
Now we whisk our eggs and add heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and a touch of nutmeg until it becomes one cohesive mixture like so.
And just like that, we're ready to assemble our strata. To do this, we layer a third of the bread, the onion mixture, cheeses and repeat two more times. We pour the egg mixture all over our layered strata, cover and refrigerate.
Before baking, make sure you take out the strata about 30 minutes to an hour before cooking. If you remember from science class, putting a cold dish into a hot oven can cause it to break. I'm sure you don't want to deal with that mess, so we're better off avoiding it. Plus, this step makes for more even cooking.
We bake this bacon, Gruyere and spinach strata for a little over an hour and then let it sit for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven to set.
I know. This part is hard. You have this delicious strata fresh out of the oven but you have to wait? If I can find the patience to give this strata some setting time, I have no doubt you can find it within yourself as well.
*Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock*
OK, now our custard is set, and we can dig in. Wasn't it worth the wait? I already know the answer to that --- absolutely.
How Long Will Strata Last in the Fridge?
If you're serving a small crowd, a full pan of strata is a lot but good news! Strata keeps well in the refrigerator for about three to four days so get ready for some delicious leftovers. Lucky you.
Considering that this strata is the ultimate brunch food, your classic breakfast cocktails, like mimosas and bloody marys, aren't a bad idea. But if you're looking to go a little deeper with your pairing, I love a beer with a strong malt backbone, like a doppelbock, with this strata. That nutty Gruyere is a beautiful partner for those caramel-like malt notes that come with doppelbocks.
If you're in the mood for straight wine, you could turn your mimosa into a simple glass of Champagne. With the custardy base, bacon and Gruyere, those effervescent bubbles will cut through all the fat and leave your palate feeling refreshed. A chardonnay is also a scrumptious option and great match with Gruyere.
The next time you find yourself hosting brunch, I hope you give this bacon, Gruyere and spinach strata a try.
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Bacon, Gruyere and Spinach Strata
- 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan
- Mixing bowl
- Large skillet
- 9 ounces frozen spinach thawed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1 pound bacon cooked and crumbled
- 9 eggs
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 8 cups French bread torn into pieces from 2 large and wide French bread loaves, crust included
- 8 ounces Gruyere shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan freshly grated using the small holes of a box grater
- In a fine-mesh sieve, push out as much water as possible from the thawed spinach. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and cook onion until it softens, about four to five minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the drained spinach and crumbled bacon and set aside.
- Whisk the eggs until well combined in a large bowl and add milk, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer a third of the bread cubes on the bottom of the pan and top with a third of spinach mixture. Finish the layer with a third of the cheeses. Repeat the layers two more times in the same order. Pour the egg mixture all over the strata, distributing the mixture evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably eight hours or up to overnight but at least an hour if in a pinch.
- Thirty minutes to an hour before baking, remove the strata from the refrigerator to promote even cooking and prevent the pan from cracking in a hot oven. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the strata uncovered for one hour and 10 minutes. After baking, allow the strata to stand 10-15 minutes to set the custard before serving. Enjoy!
- Inspired by Epicurious spinach and cheese strata.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Such a fantastic family dinner idea. Looks delicious and so healthy. I will put this recipe on my list to try. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
This strata sounds so good. I am going to try it.
Amanda McGrory-Dixon says
Hope you love it! It’s a favorite for us.
We LOVED it! Such a flavoursome combination of ingredients! And so easy to prepare. Perfect lunch for us, served with a couple of salads!
Claudia Lamascolo says
Wonderful flavors in the and we loved it will make it often perfect for anytime of the day too!