Southern Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

The holidays aren’t complete without a little Southern Bread Pudding with bourbon sauce. It’s a classic recipe we serve every Christmas and March during Mardi Gras!

It seems very fancy when you’re serving it…our little secret…this simple bread pudding recipe is very easy to make!

You’ll find this decadent dessert on just about every restaurant menu in New Orleans. Some versions are very dense, while others are a little more fluffy. 

This recipe is fluffy, not dense and, if you don’t care for raisins, no problem! Leave ’em out! 

A spoonful of bread pudding with raisings in glass bowl on white doile.
Delicious bread custard pudding with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, nestled in a warm whiskey sauce with raisins.

It all started with remnants of an old fashioned bread pudding recipe we found. My Mother has a handwritten note on the scratch pad says, “delicious- from a Creole restaurant.” 

This was in the early 80’s. Then it lists the ingredients with a few measurements for the cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as heating instructions–vague, to say the least.

We studied that recipe and had many questions: How much bread? What kind of bread? What size pan?

So, we started comparing her “recipe” to others…we found that many required similar ingredients, but in different proportions…some used cream versus whole milk while others used half-n-half.

I knew if we had that many questions, you would, too. So, I’ve tried to address every question in order to make this seemingly difficult recipe a super easy recipe!

Read the Tips below and recipe notes first…

What is bread pudding?

Southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce is a bread-based custard, typically with warm seasonings of cinnamon and nutmeg. It often includes currants (raisins) and is often served with warm liquor-based sauce such as whiskey sauce, bourbon sauce, or a hard sauce (caramel sauce).

The concept is originally from Europe and was considered “poor man’s food”- stale bread, soaked in a seasoned milk and egg mixture then baked in a casserole dish.

The recipe was altered to include warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg (and dried fruit – raising) and escalated to fine dining restaurants in Louisiana, most notably in New Orleans. Now, you’ll find this warm dessert served in just about every restaurant in the state!

Why you’ll love this recipe!

  • Easy dessert- pretty straight-forward; nothing too difficult, but it does require time to soak the bread
  • Flavorful – sweet, but not too sweet
  • Make ahead – you can make the pudding and the sauce in advance; a great time-saver
  • Light and airy – cooking the custard in a hot water bath creates steam, which keeps the dessert light
  • Great texture! -the top is lightly crunchy and the custard is soft, but not mushy
  • This recipe is not hard to make, but it is IMPORTANT you read the tips below, as well as the recipe notes before you begin.

Ingredients 

The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple; in fact, you’ve probably already got these everyday ingredients in your kitchen ready to make Southern Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. 

6 cups of cubed stale white bread, (I use stale French bread), milk, half-n-half, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, butter, sugar and whiskey bourbon (not pictured)

Ingredients labeled on counter top.

If you’ve ever had a chance to have a bowl of Louisiana gumbo or Shrimp Etouffee at Commander’s Palace, then you’ll understand why New Orleans bread pudding is perfect after a rich savory Cajun or Creole meal! The fluffiness and sweetness offsets the rich flavors in the entree and makes for the perfect sweet treat after a delicious meal.

How to make the Southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce

This recipe relies on steam and oven heat to bake it to a nice golden brown. The result is fluffy – and not dense or gooey.

Preheat oven to 350ºF, put top rack in the middle slot of the oven and prepare the pans.

Square glass baking dish in large metal pan.
  • Next, get the bread and custard mixture together; slice bread cubes into 1/2 “inch cubes and set aside
  • In a small bowl, combine half – n – half (or heavy cream), sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and raisins (optional)
  • Add the dry bread and soak bread in milk mixture for one hour; after the bread has soaked for an hour, heat oven to 350°F
Three steps showing how to prepare.

Ingredients for Bourbon Sauce

You’ll need butter, sugar, eggs, a pinch of salt and whiskey or bourbon (or rum, if you prefer). The sauce requires less than a cup bourbon whiskey (3 tablespoons to be exact) but if you’re going to have a little “sip” while you’re waiting for the bread to soak, you might need a little more!

See Recipe Notes in the Recipe Card below for a “no booze” Vanilla sauce

What kind of bourbon whiskey to use

You can make the sauce with any kind of bourbon whiskey – it doesn’t have to be “high-end” or fancy. We use Kentucky Straight Bourbon for this recipe because we like to have a sip while we’re making the whiskey sauce.

If you’re not gonna have a little bit of a “snort” then don’t worry about what kind of bourbon you get. But, if you ARE gonna have a little “snort,” get a good-quality bourbon-something you’d offer to a friend!

Whiskey sauce in pan.

  • Use a double boiler and melt a few tablespoons butter in a small saucepan on low heat; remove from heat and allow to cool about 10-minutes
  • Combine sugar and eggs in separate bowl
  • Gradually add sugar mixture to melted butter off heat – this means, remove the saucepan off the stovetop
  • Once all the sugar mixture has been added to the melted butter, return the saucepan back to the double boiler and continue cooking until most of the sugar is dissolved
  • When sugar is dissolved; remove from heat and allow to cool a bit
  • Add whiskey, stir and drizzle over the warm dessert

Tips for bread pudding

  • Cut the bread into 1/2″ inch cubes
  • Use an 8 x 8″ baking dish (2-quart) for the pudding; you’ll need a larger bowl for the hot-water bath
  • You’ll need about 6 cups of cubed bread; this is equivalent to one skinny French baguette or half a loaf of the bigger French breads usually found in grocery store deli’s
  • Ovens vary, so check the center with a knife after about 40-minutes
  • Place on middle rack in hot-water bath; this helps the custard set-up and keeps the top from getting too crispy

Tips for the bourbon sauce

  • You only need about 3 tablespoons of whiskey for the sauce itself, but if you want to “sneak-a-sip,” you’ll need more:)
  • Be patient when you’re making this classic dessert sauce!
  • The sauce cooks for about 10-minutes on low heat. This is because, if you add the sugar/egg mixture to hot butter, the egg will cook so, you have to work on super-low heat and work in increments.
  • Melt the butter on low in a double-boiler; remove from heat and allow to cool a bit
  • While the butter is off heat, gradually add in the sugar/egg mixture in increments, stirring well between 
  • Once all the sugar/mixture has been added to the slightly warm butter, return the double-boiler sauce pans to the burner on low heat, stirring constantly 
  • Continue stirring the sauce ingredients for about 3-4 minutes on low heat
  • As the sugar begins to dissolve, you can turn the heat up a little-still stirring constantly
  • After about 8-10 minutes, most of the sugar is dissolved; remove from heat and allow to cool before adding the whiskey

Make ahead and reheating

You can make Southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce up to three days in advance. Store baked the pudding in the fridge tightly covered with foil or plastic wrap.

To reheat the pudding, set the oven to 300ºF, cover the dish with foil, and bake 25-minutes, until the center is warm. 

To reheat the sauce, place it in a saucepan on low heat and stir until the sugars are dissolved and the whiskey sauce is smooth and warm.

Bread pudding for large gatherings

  • This ultimate comfort food goes great with just about everything! Serve it on a small plate or in individual ramekins. 
  • If serving for a large group, double the pudding and bourbon sauce recipes. Then bake individual servings oven-proof ramekins. Keep the sauce warm on the side (in a chafing dish) for self-serving. 
  • To keep it warm for longer periods, put the casserole dish or ramekins in a steamer pan with a lid
  • Use a hot-mitt when serving individual ramekins – THEY GET HOT from the steam!
  • Feel free to offer alternative toppings like vanilla ice cream or caramel sauce!

What to make with leftover bread pudding

If you’re lucky enough to have any of this left over, it makes a perfect french toast! Simply beat eggs in a medium bowl, then dip individual slices in the eggs and pop it on the griddle or in a large skillet! Serve with leftover bourbon sauce, vanilla sauce or maple syrup!

Whiskey sauce drizzled over bread pudding in fluted glass bowl.

If you can’t get to The Crescent City, take a few minutes to prepare this Southern bread pudding with bourbon sauce! Your friends and family will love this delicious dessert and it will become a family favorite in no time!

If you make this recipe, please scroll down and leave a rating and comment! I love to hear from you!

Whiskey sauce drizzled over bread pudding in fluted glass bowl

Southern Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

A Louisiana Classic! Homemade bread pudding with a flavorful custard served with warm whiskey bourbon sauce
5 from 11 votes
Print Text Recipe Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French, Irish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Time to soak bread: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
Author: Anecia Hero

Equipment

  • 8" x 8" inch baking pan (2 quart pan)
  • 9 x 13" pan to hold water

Ingredients 

Bread Pudding Ingredients

  • 6 cups dried bread; cut into ½" cubes , cubed; (one long skinny French baguette or 3 7-inch hoagie rolls or 1/2 a loaf of Italian bread)
  • 1 tablespoon butter , to coat baking dish
  • 1 cup half-n-half
  • cups milk , whole (you can use 2%)
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoons ground cinnamon

Bourbon Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey or rum (See recipe notes)

Instructions 

  • Cut bread into cubes (you need about 6 cups of cubed bread total)
    6 cups dried bread; cut into ½" cubes
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, half n half, sugar, eggs, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon and raisins
    1 cup half-n-half, 1½ cups milk, 4 whole large eggs, 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • Pour mixture over bread; coat well; allow to rest for 1 hour (stir occasionally)
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF
  • Lightly butter an 8 x 8" baking pan and place it in a 9 x 13" pan; add water to the 9 x 13" until it the pan is half full
    1 tablespoon butter
  • Pour soaked bread and milk mixture into 8 x 8" greased pan; if you want to add raisins, mix them in now. (See recipe notes about raisins)
  • Place both pans in oven on the middle rack, uncovered; bake 45-60 minutes on 350ºF until center is set (test with knife)
  • While the bread pudding is baking make the sauce; melt one stick of butter in a double boiler on low heat; remove from heat; set aside
    1 stick butter
  • In a bowl, combine sugar and egg
    1 cup sugar, 1 whole egg
  • Gradually add sugar/egg combination to melted butter (off heat), stirring constantly; return pan back to low heat; continue stirring; as sugar begins to dissolve, you can turn the heat up a little; when sugar is dissolved, remove pan from heat and set aside; allow to cool a little before the next step
  • Stir in whiskey; plate bread pudding and drizzle warm sauce over it
    3 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey or rum (See recipe notes)

Notes

Serving/Portions:
This recipe makes a full 8 x 8″ (2 quart) pan of bread pudding; the number of servings depends upon the size spoon you use. I used a standard serving spoon (not a teaspoon) and got anywhere from 12 – 16 servings. 
Pan Size:
  • If you’re making this for a big group, I recommend you double the recipe and bake it in a 9 x 13″ pan.
  • If you use a 9 X 13″ pan, you’re going to need a bigger pan to put the water in…get one of those aluminum pans at the grocery store, but be careful when removing it from the oven–take the 9 x 13″ pan out first; then the aluminum pan with hot water
Bread:
You’ll need 6 cups of cubed bread. This is equivalent to:
  • 3-7″inch hoagies
  • 1 skinny French baguette
  • 1/2 loaf of Italian bread
Make the cubes small–bite size-about 1/2″inch 
Milk/Cream:
This recipe calls for milk (whole) and half-n-half. If you only have 2% milk, use that. If you don’t have half-n-half, use heavy cream in the same proportion as the half-n-half.
Raisins:
If you want to add raisins, mix them into the bread mixture when you pour it into the baking dish. If you don’t want raisins, omit them.
Bourbon Sauce:
 
  • Use a double-boiler to make the sauce
  • Allow the butter to cool slightly off-heat before adding the sugar/egg mixture, otherwise, the eggs will cook
  • Add the sugar/egg mixture in increments, not all at once–stirring constantly
  • Once all the sugar/egg mixture is combined, return the saucepan to the stove on low heat; stir, stir, stir…you’ll begin to see the sugar dissolve
  • Once you see the mixture becoming less grainy, you can turn the heat up a little
  • After mixture is relatively smooth and not too grainy, remove from heat; allow to cool about 10-minutes before adding the whiskey
Don’t want liquor in sauce? No problem! 
If you don’t want liquor in your sauce, just omit it and make a Vanilla sauce by substituting the bourbon for a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • 3-tablespoons of whiskey bourbon or dark rum
  • You can eliminate the booze in the sauce if you like

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 1cupCalories: 687kcalCarbohydrates: 122gProtein: 12gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 827mgPotassium: 296mgFiber: 4gSugar: 53gVitamin A: 385IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 157mgIron: 4mg
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