What is Strata?
Strata refers to a layered breakfast or brunch casserole that has a base of bread, eggs, and cheese. This base is extended to include any number of delicious veggies or proteins such as ham, bacon, or sausage. One key step in the creation of a strata is letting it rest in the refrigerator for a number of hours - most commonly overnight - to allow the bread layer of the casserole to soak up the liquid ingredients before it is baked. This long soak will cause the bread to puff up all nice and fluffy as the strata bakes, resulting in an almost souffle-like texture. To get some tips for eating better, check this list of Top Tips for Eating Healthily by Incorporating Superfood Blends.
Strata is a popular holiday breakfast or brunch recipe, though it's easy enough to be made at any time of the year - especially for weekend meals.
How To Make Strata
Let's take a look at some of the common ingredients in a strata as well as some ways you can customize it to make it your own. In this version, I've made some lighter substitutes for some of the base players in a strata to "healthy it up" a bit. This recipe is not low carb or low cal, to be sure, but because the traditional versions can be super heavy (and delicious, let's not forget that) I wanted to play with a healthy version of a strata to see if I could create one that doesn't sacrifice taste. The verdict: it came out awesome!
Bread: You can use sliced or cubed bread in a strata. A white wheat bread or French bread is a popular choice. I like using sliced bread because it helps the cut servings stay together in pretty little squares when sliced. For this recipe, I used slices of hearty whole wheat and sugar free bread to layer the casserole.
Eggs: The cornerstone ingredient to any strata - a full dozen is used here.
Milk: This is where I lightened things up a bit. Some strata recipes go super rich on the dairy and use half and half (and let's be honest... yum), but you'll see anything from skim to whole milk showing up in ingredient lists. I chose to use unsweetened almond milk based on my consistent success with substituting it into many different recipes, and it worked great here.
Cheese: I mean... you gotta have it. I kept things standard here and chose to use a combination of sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheeses for some good bite. You can substitute with any cheese that you want. This is a great casserole for using up the random bits and shreds of cheeses that accumulate in your fridge. Throw 'em all in there, it'll be great.
Protein: This is another area where I kept things light by using uncured turkey bacon. Some yummy substitutes for protein in strata would be ham, regular bacon, or turkey/regular sausage. All proteins should be cooked before adding to the casserole.
Seasonings: I kept things simple and used only salt, pepper, and a bit of ground mustard. I've seen many different seasonings combinations depending on the other ingredients. When feta cheese is used - Greek seasoning is awesome. I've also seen Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, and even dry ranch seasoning!
Veggies: I love the combo of sautéed onions and garlic in, well, everything, so that's how I started out this strata. Yellow onions are amazing for sauteeing/caramelizing and building flavor to the base of a dish. Alternatively, you can use sauteed chopped shallots or sprinkle in some sliced green onion. Mushrooms are a popular veggie to toss into the saute. I used pimentos for color and for the great zing of flavor they give - especially combined with a sharp cheese. Roasted red pepper would also work. Need some greens? Toss in a handful of baby spinach.
As you can see, the flavor combo possibilities are endless with this style of breakfast casserole!
Can You Make This Ahead of Time?
The strata will need at least 2-3 hours in the refrigerator to allow the bread to soak up the liquid ingredients and let the bread to puff up and create the hallmark texture of a layered breakfast casserole. A 12-hour soak is the most common, which is perfect for prepping in the evening and preparing the strata for breakfast the next morning. However, if you need to make the strata sooner, the unbaked eggs will stay safe to eat for up to 2 days. My "official" recommendation is no longer than 36 hours just to protect the integrity of the other ingredients as well. A 24-hour soak is the longest that I have personally gone.
Is It Freezer Friendly?
This recipe makes a big ol' deep and heavy 9x13 casserole. If you know your family won't eat that much strata at once, you can freeze it! If you want to freeze half of the recipe, split the ingredients between two 8x8 dishes (these inexpensive disposable aluminum pans work great for this). After the strata soaks in the refrigerator, wrap the dish tightly in aluminum foil and then again with plastic wrap. Freeze on a level surface to avoid making a mess. When ready to bake a frozen strata, let it thaw in the refrigerator, and then follow the baking instructions in the recipe. Check on the strata sooner while it's in the oven, as baking time will be reduced just a bit.
Is Strata Only A Breakfast Food?
No way! Strata is wonderful at any time of the day - breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. It's such a versatile and customizable dish - I know you'll love it!Print
Healthy Breakfast Casserole (Strata)
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 8-12 slices, depending on size of servings 1x
Classic strata, an overnight breakfast casserole, gets a healthy facelift with nutritious ingredients and a few lighter substitutes.
1 small yellow onion, chopped small
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp olive oil
12 large eggs
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup uncured turkey bacon, cooked and chopped into pieces
⅓ cup pimentos, drained
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tsp ground mustard
12 ounces sliced whole wheat, sugar free bread (7 or 8 slices)
Heat the olive oil in a stainless skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, moving them around frequently, until fragrant and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, and then remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and milk and whisk until the yolks are broken up. Add both cheeses, bacon, pimentos, salt and pepper (I used more salt than pepper - around 1 ½ tsp). Stir to combine.
Lightly spray a deep 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Make a single layer of bread slices on the bottom of the dish. Pour about half of the egg mixture onto the bread. Top with remaining bread and then cover with remaining egg mixture, being sure all of the bread is submerged. You can tear the bread as needed to fill in the gaps in the baking dish.
Wrap dish tightly in plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, up to 36 hours.
When ready to bake, remove the strata from the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter while the oven is preheating to 350F. When oven is ready, loosely tent the strata with foil and bake on center rack for about 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the center is set (you can check by inserting a butter knife into the center and pulling to the side a little bit to check if the eggs are done). You can also use hot mitts to give the dish a little shake. If the center jiggles too much, it needs a few more minutes.
Feel free to add additional vegetables, such as cooked mushrooms or roasted red peppers. You can also substitute regular cooked bacon, cooked sausage, or ham for the turkey bacon.
I used Kroger's Private Selection brand of whole wheat, sugar free bread (not affiliated, I just think it's a yummy bread) and found it to have the right thickness for this casserole
If you don't have overnight, you can bake the strata after only 2-3 hours in the fridge. You want to give it enough time to soak up much of the wet ingredients. Alternatively, you can let the strata stay in the fridge 24-36 hours before baking. It's a great make-ahead meal!
You can make this recipe in two 8x8 pans instead of one 9x13 pan. Or if you don't want to make so much at one time, cut the ingredients in half and use a single 8x8 pan. The smaller pans will bake a little faster, so check on them more often.
Freezing instructions: Use a disposable 9x13 aluminum pan or two 8x8 aluminum pans. After the strata has soaked in the refrigerator, cover the pan(s) in aluminum foil and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator and then baked as normal.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: healthy breakfast casserole, strata recipe, overnight breakfast casserole
Do you love this recipe and want to be able to find it later? Use the image below to pin to your Pinterest boards, or share with your friends on social media by using the buttons at the top and bottom of this post. Thank you for visiting my blog!
Say Something About This Post: