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Home » Breakfast » Ham and Cheese Strata (Croque Monsieur Casserole)

Ham and Cheese Strata (Croque Monsieur Casserole)

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Ham and cheese strata is a delicious breakfast casserole made with cheese and a savory egg mixture that soaks into bread. It bakes the next morning for a dreamy, savory bread pudding breakfast with bits of meaty ham and Gruyere cheese throughout.

This Croque Monsieur casserole has all the flavors of the traditional French breakfast sandwich, but is instead served as a strata with so much goodness, you’ll be looking forward to dig in the next morning!

A spatula lifting a serving of ham and cheese strata from the casserole dish.

Our ham and cheese strata recipe is ideal for the holiday season, not only because it’s a decadent dish that can easily serve several, but it’s the perfect make ahead casserole, too!

Prepare it in advance and then refrigerate it overnight to let the liquid absorb into the bread. Wake up on Christmas morning and pop it in the oven for a no-fuss way to get breakfast going without breaking a sweat. 

We love a layered breakfast casserole and this one is somewhat like our Asparagus Ham and Gouda Strata and Salmon Asparagus Strata.

The great thing about this recipe? It’s not just one of those holiday meals to make once a year- it’s perfect for brunches or even a lazy weekend breakfast no matter the season. 

Why This Strata Recipe Works

Inspired by the delicious flavors of Croque Monsieur, this overnight breakfast casserole is the perfect way to feed a small crowd for a special occasion.

A savory egg custard soaks into bread pieces and is layered with salty cured pork and shredded Gruyere and delicious seasonings like nutmeg, fresh thyme and smoky paprika. 

Our cheese and ham breakfast strata is:

  • Rich, savory and packed with the same flavors of a traditional Croque Monsieur. 
  • An elevated breakfast or brunch that works for any special gathering. 
  • Easy to prepare in advance and enjoy the next morning. 
  • The classic combination of ham and cheese makes this recipe a reliable favorite for the whole family.

A serving of ham and cheese strata on a plate with a dinner fork. Fresh grapes on the plate behind the serving.

Gathering the Ingredients

Simple ingredients like eggs, milk and bread do wonders when combined in this Croque Monsieur casserole! Here’s a look at what you will need:

  • Bread. Layers of bread pieces in the casserole create a soft and flavorful base that soaks up the milk mixture. Use stale bread (or dry it out in the oven first) and choose a firm, rustic bread like Pugliese or Italian sourdough bread.
  • Cream cheese. This adds a rich creaminess and cheesy flavor to the filling.
  • Large eggs. You’ll need almost a dozen eggs to make the filling, which helps everything bind together. 
  • Dijon mustard. A little bit of Dijon gives the casserole a subtle mustard flavor.
  • Shallot and garlic. Two ingredients that make this Croque Monsieur casserole deliciously savory!
  • Seasonings. Our recipe calls for a mixture of sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, freshly grated nutmeg and smoked paprika. 
  • Heavy cream and whole milkThe combination of both cream and milk add a richness to the casserole that can’t be beat. 
  • Shredded Gruyere. This type of cheese melts beautifully and has a creamy, complex flavor. 
  • Fresh thyme leaves. Adds a light, herbal and earthy flavor to the dish. 
  • Cooked ham. You will need pre-cooked ham for this recipe. It’s a great way to use up any leftover ham from the holidays, but you can also purchase some from the store and chop it into cubes. 
  • Chopped chives or parsley for garnish. For an extra pop of flavor and color when serving. 

Ingredients needed to make a ham and cheese strata.

Recipe Highlights for our Cheese and Ham Breakfast Strata

 There isn’t a whole lot of work involved with this easy make-ahead breakfast casserole! It’s a great option if you’re looking for a quick holiday breakfast that you can have ready to bake first thing in the morning. 

Here’s a look at the steps required but be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to view the printable recipe card which includes all of the ingredient amounts and full details. 

  1. Tear the bread and dry it out in the oven. You can skip this step if you have stale bread.
  2. Blend the egg custard in a bowl.
  3. Layer the bread and egg custard with the ham and cheese in a casserole dish.
  4. Finish layering the cheese strata then let it soak overnight before baking.

Recipe Variations

Brioche Strata Breakfast:

Elevate the strata by using buttery brioche bread, adding a luxurious texture and slight sweetness. Add some fresh herbs and bacon to create a savory yet indulgent breakfast treat.

Smoked Ham and Swiss Strata:

Swap out the Gruyere for Swiss cheese, which melts beautifully and offers a nutty flavor. Add sun dried tomatoes, and a handful of spinach to the ham and cheese mixture. 

Croissant Overnight Breakfast Casserole

Use flaky, buttery croissants torn into chunks instead of regular bread. Mix in a bit of aged cheddar cheese for a complex flavor.

Pro Tips for Overnight Ham, Egg and Cheese Strata

  • Stale bread is best for this recipe as it will absorb the custard easily.  If the bread is fresh with excess moisture it should be dried out in the oven before using. 
  • Pressing the ingredients down with a spatula will help saturate the bread with the custard.  
  • Do not forget to coat the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the top of the casserole.  
  • If the strata tests ‘done’ and you want a deeper brown on top, switch the oven heat to ‘broil’ and watch it closely until the color is achieved.
  • Store any leftover strata breakfast in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. 
A dinner fork with a bite of the serving of ham and cheese strata.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does strata mean in food? 

“Strata” refers to a breakfast casserole made with layers of an egg custard mixture, bread and other flavor ingredients. You can make countless variations of strata, but they all usually share a common element: layers of bread soaked in an egg mixture overnight. 

Does a strata have to sit overnight? 

Yes, a strata needs time to rest to allow the bread pieces to soak up the liquid. Similar to how French toast develops a soft texture, this step creates a flavorful breakfast casserole that’s soft and tender. 

What’s the difference between a breakfast casserole and a strata?

A strata is a type of breakfast casserole. While breakfast casseroles can contain any sort of breakfast ingredient- from a sweet French toast bake to Baked Oats to a savory breakfast casserole – strata specifically refers to the layers of bread that soak up a custard mixture, usually overnight. 

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Close up photo of a spatula lifting a serving of ham and cheese strata from the casserole dish.

Ham and Cheese Strata (Croque Monsieur Casserole)

Yield: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 10 hours

This breakfast Ham and Cheese Strata (Croque Monsieur) is prepared in advance, refrigerated overnight to allow the liquid to absorb into the bread then baked the following day.  It is perfect for a holiday brunch or lazy day breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1-¼ pounds of bread, about 7 cups
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 10 whole eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (12 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound cooked ham, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon smoky paprika
  • Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 225°F. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with oil-spray and reserve.
  2. Tear the bread into bite size chunks and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a single layer.  Transfer to the oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  (Note: This step is to remove the moisture from fresh bread. If your bread is stale, skip this step). When the bread has dried out, transfer to a work surface and allow to cool.
  3. Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, blending with the cream cheese.  Add the Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, salt pepper, cayenne and the nutmeg beating until smooth.
  4. Reduce the machine speed to low and slowly add the cream and milk, mixing for 1 minute until well combined. 
  5. In a large bowl, combine the shredded cheese and the thyme leaves. 

To Assemble the Strata: 

  1. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Add ½ of the bread chunks, ½ of the ham cubes and ⅓ of the cheese mixture. 
  2. Pour ½ of the egg mixture over the ingredients and press down lightly with a spatula. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients pressing down lightly with the spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining ⅓ of the cheese then dust the surface with paprika.
  3. Coat a large piece of aluminum foil with non-stick oil spray and cover the casserole dish. Transfer to the refrigerator overnight.  

To Bake the Strata:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and transfer the casserole dish to the center of the oven. Bake covered for 50 minutes then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes until the center is set and a food thermometer reads 160°F in the center.  
  2. Transfer from the oven, let rest 10 minutes and garnish with chives or parsley before serving.

Notes

  • Stale bread is best for this recipe as it will absorb the custard easily.  If the bread is fresh with excess moisture it should be dried out in the oven before using. 
  • Choose a firm, rustic bread such as Pugliese or Italian sourdough. 
  • Remove the crusts from the bread for better absorption.
  • Another option to measuring the bread chunks is to pile enough bread chunks into your baking dish to fill the dish ¾ full.  Then remove the bread until ready to assemble the recipe.
  • Pressing the ingredients down with a spatula will help saturate the bread with the custard.  
  • Do not forget to coat the foil with non-stick oil to keep it from baking/sticking to the top of the casserole.  
  • Use a reliable food thermometer to check for doneness. 
  • If the breakfast strata tests 'done' and you want a deeper brown on top, switch the oven heat to 'broil' and watch it closely until the color is achieved.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 612Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 331mgSodium: 1176mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 33g

Nutrition information is a guideline only. It is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Pat Nyswonger

Pat is a wife, mom of four adult children, and grandmother to seventeen beautiful children. She is a self-taught home cook and loves creating delicious meals for her family and friends. Her kitchen is the hub of activity in her home, and she loves to entertain.

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