Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Thank you to Land O’Lakes® for sponsoring this post!

Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce is a creamy, delicious ending to any holiday meal. Made with simple ingredients, including Land O Lakes® Half & Half, this easy bread pudding recipe is fit for any celebration. Makes 9-12 servings.

Bread pudding in a turquoise baking dish on a striped towel, after baking

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Land O Lakes® Half & Half to make this holiday recipe because I have the best memories of eating bread pudding at celebrations. These memories involve weddings and birthdays, specifically, but I love the idea of serving a bread pudding at the holidays to make the ultimate festive dessert.

What’s a holiday if not a celebration, right?

The bread pudding recipe calls for simple ingredients—bread, Land O Lakes® Half & Half, sugar and a few more that you probably have in your pantry—and when combined, the flavors sing.

The creamy, fluffy bread pudding pairs beautifully with a homemade caramel sauce that’s lick-off-the-spoon divine. And I’ve finally found a caramel making method that works, as I’ve struggled in the past with burning caramel.

So if you’re looking at this bread pudding and shaking your head, thinking you can’t do it, let me tell you this: You, too, can make caramel. Learn from my mistakes, which I share below, and make this beautiful bread pudding for yourself and your people this season.

It’s worth the effort. And it’s utterly perfect.

While entertaining may look different this year, this bread pudding with caramel sauce shines, whether you’re hosting a more traditional holiday gathering or if you’re looking for a lovely dessert for a smaller crowd (and you don’t mind leftovers).

What you’ll need to make this Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

  • 9”x13” deep-sided baking dish
  • Nonstick baking spray
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A glass measuring cup
  • Whisk
  • Rubber spatula
  • Heavy-bottomed saucepan (2 quarts or larger)
  • Silicone pastry brush

In addition to these tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients, too.

  • Brioche bread
  • Eggs
  • Land O Lakes® Half & Half
  • Whole milk
  • Granulated sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

I’m using Land O Lakes® Half & Half in this recipe because it is rich and creamy.

In fact, it only has two ingredients—milk and cream—and the 100% real milk and cream have no preservatives or stabilizers.

I picked up a quart at my local grocery because I used the Land O Lakes ® Half & Half in both the custard and caramel sauce.

If you’ve got leftover Land O Lakes® Half & Half after making this recipe (and you should!), head on over to the Land O’Lakes ® Recipe Page for recipe inspiration!

Diced bread in a turquoise baking dish sits on a gray striped towel in front of a blue glass bowl and a quart of half & half

How do you make Bread Pudding from scratch?

Prepare your bread.

First and foremost, you’re going to cut your bread into 1” squares. I chose to use brioche bread in this bread pudding recipe because its sweet flavor and texture are perfect for pairing with the creamy custard base.

Brioche is a soft bread, so you need to purchase it in advance, open the bag, and let it get stale.

Yes, I know. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s going to ensure your bread doesn’t fall apart as it bakes with the custard.

Pro tip: If you didn’t leave your brioche bread enough time to get stale, cut your bread and toast it in the oven until golden brown. Let it cool completely before you make the bread pudding.

Prepare the ingredients, and make the custard.

First, spray your baking dish with nonstick baking spray, or rub it with butter. This is essential in being able to remove the bread pudding from the pan, so don’t skip this step!

Next, add the stale, cubed bread to your prepared dish. Make sure it’s in an even layer!

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, Land O Lakes® Half & Half, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the custard mixture over the bread. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to press the cubes down. We want to ensure they’re submerged in the custard so they can soak it all up!

Cover the dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Why? So the bread can soak up the custard mixture and become that much more decadent!

bread pudding on white plates and caramel sauce in a jar

Bake the bread pudding.

When the soak is completed, preheat the oven.

Uncover the bread pudding, and transfer to the preheated oven.

Bake until the center is set, about 50-60 minutes. You won’t be able to see any liquid on top of it, either, and it should have puffed while baking. If you’re concerned that it’s not baked through because it’s still a little jiggly, take its temperature. Alton Brown says it should be between 165-170ºF to be considered done. 🙂

A gif of a saucepan showing the steps for making a light caramel sauce
Caramel sauce in a jar sits on marble in front of a turquoise baking dish of Bread Pudding

Make the caramel sauce from scratch.

A note on your saucepan, before we start: You want it to be at least 2 quarts, if not larger, because this caramel sauce is going to bubble up and double or triple in size when we add the Land O Lakes® Half & Half. (How do I know this? Because my 1 ½ quart saucepan overflowed when I was testing this recipe.)

First, measure the sugar into a deep saucepan, and pour the water on top of it. You can stir these ingredients together as you turn on the heat to medium-low.

When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil—and do not stir or touch it. THIS IS IMPORTANT!

If you see sugar crystals stuck to the sides of your pan, use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides. Be very careful, as this boiling sugar is hot, hot, h-o-t.

Boil the sugar for 5-8 minutes, when it starts to turn a light amber color. The sugar will boil and appear to not be doing much for a long while, but when color begins to appear, it will move fast, so please do not walk away from the stovetop.

When the sugar is an amber color, turn off the heat because the sugar will continue cooking after the stovetop is turned off. (This is especially true if you’re using a heavy-bottomed saucepan that holds heat well. Learn from my mistakes in burnt caramel sauce!)

Right after you turn off the heat, slowly pour in the Land O Lakes® Half & Half, stirring vigorously as you do. The caramel will bubble and expand, so be careful as you do this step!

When the bubbling slows down, stir in the butter, vanilla and salt.

Pour the mixture—which should be quite thin—into a jar to cool. Don’t fret about the texture: the caramel will thicken when it cools.

Serve over the sliced bread pudding and enjoy!

Slices of bread pudding on white pottery plates sitting on a gray towel

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

While it’s more time-intensive than a regular ‘ol cake, there’s something special about bread pudding for entertaining. This recipe makes 9-12 servings, depending on the hunger of your guests, so it was basically made for entertaining.

You have two routes you could do for this bread pudding with caramel sauce, so I’ll explain ‘em both:

Bake the bread pudding 1-2 days ahead of time. Store it in the fridge covered when it’s cooled completely. Reheat in a 325˚F oven covered in foil until heated through and delicious.

Or you can make the bread pudding the same day you’re hosting holiday guests. If this is the case…

  • Make a detailed cooking timeline, especially if you plan to serve this bread pudding recipe straight from the oven. Remember: it has to soak for 1-2 hours before you bake it, and it bakes for at least 50 minutes, then it has to cool for 15 or so minutes before you can slice it.
  • Get the bread nice and stale. This means going to the store 2-3 days beforehand and chopping the bread. I like to leave mine out in a bowl that’s covered so little hands can’t grab snacks as they walk by. 😉
  • Make the caramel sauce beforehand. Keep it in the fridge until it’s go time, and reheat in 15-second increments in the microwave until bubbly and delicious. (Be careful to not heat it for too long or it could burn!)

Frequently Asked Questions

My caramel keeps burning. How can I fix this?

I ran into a lot of troubles using the dry caramel method, where you simply put sugar in a pan, heat it, and let it caramelize. For whatever reason, mine would not caramelize evenly, and I’d end up with some granules that hadn’t melted and other ones that were burned.

The wet method, which I detail in the recipe card below, has you add a little water along with the sugar in the saucepan. This way, the sugar dissolves into the water, but the water evaporates as the sugar begins boiling.

To me, this was more manageable.

Stand by the stovetop, watch and when the sugar is a light amber color, pour in the Land O Lakes® Half & Half, butter, vanilla and salt and stir, stir, stir!

I’m intimidated by the caramel sauce. Help?

First, let me say: I see you, and I feel you. I burned the caramel sauce (or botched it) more than enough times for this recipe to make me feel hesitant when I finally did get it right.

If you’re intimidated by making caramel sauce, I suggest you take it slowly. Keep the heat on a lower setting (instead of cranking it up once the sugar has dissolved into the water), and keep a close eye on the sugar as it melts and then begins changing color.

There’s no award in making the fastest caramel sauce, and in my opinion, going slowly is a perfectly acceptable thing to do to get a delicious end result.

The caramel sauce is runny. Should I cook it longer?

The caramel sauce will be runny when it’s hot, and it will thicken as it cools. Please do not add heat to it or cook it for longer, for fear of overcooking or burning it.

Is bread pudding supposed to be gooey?

To an extent, yes! We want it to be decadent and soft and a little gooey inside without the custard mixture being raw or undercooked.

How do you know when bread pudding is done?

It will be set—meaning it won’t be liquidy anymore. Another way to confirm your bread pudding is done baking is to insert a butter knife into the center of it. When you remove it, there shouldn’t be anything sticking to the knife.

Why did my caramel sauce get hard?

Your caramel sauce got hard because you cooked it for too long. :/ There’s not a way to revive this, so you need to remake the caramel sauce.

A cut into piece of bread pudding with caramel sauce on a white plate, surrounded by other slices of the dessert and a jar of caramel sauce

Quick tips for making Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

  • Don’t skip the part where your bread gets stale. It’s essential to the bread pudding, and you should plan to purchase groceries in advance because of it.
  • Don’t skip the bread pudding soak, either. The stale brioche sops up the custard and the flavors meld. It’s worth the 1-2 hours in the fridge… just be sure you don’t let it go for too long!
  • Make sure to purchase a quart of Land O Lakes® Half & Half to make the custard for the bread pudding and the caramel sauce! The 100% real milk and cream adds for rich flavors in this recipe.
  • Give yourself time to make the caramel sauce. The recipe itself seems really simple, in theory, but it’s incredibly easy to mess up. Go slowly and make that beautiful, decadent caramel sauce!
  • If you see sugar crystals sticking to the sides of your saucepan when the sugar is boiling, use a silicone pastry brush dipped in water to brush them away. These crystals could lead to a grainier caramel sauce.
  • The sugar will continue to cook after you remove the pan from the heat, so don’t wait too long to add the Land O Lakes ® Half & Half.
  • The caramel is runny when hot. It’ll thicken up as it cools!

Love celebratory desserts? Don’t miss Upside Down Cranberry Cake, Funfetti Sugar Cookie Bars and Shortbread Brown Butter Cookies.

Other seasonal desserts you might enjoy: Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownie Bars / Mini Apple Spiced Rum Cakes / Cranberry Crumb Bars / Peppermint Brownie Cookies

Searching for more holiday dessert inspiration? Check out my Dessert recipe index.

Bread pudding in a turquoise baking dish on a striped towel, after baking
Yield: 9-12 servings

Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Steeping Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes

Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce is a gooey, delicious ending to any holiday meal. Made with simple ingredients, including Land O’Lakes® Half & Half, this easy bread pudding recipe is fit for any celebration.

Ingredients

Bread Pudding

  • 1 (1lb) loaf brioche bread, cut into 1” cubes
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups Land O Lakes® Half & Half
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½” cubes
  • ¾ cup Land O Lakes® Half & Half
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

Make the Bread Pudding

  1. Spray a 9”x13” baking dish with butter or nonstick baking spray.
  2. Add bread cubes to the prepared dish in an even layer.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, Land O Lakes® Half & Half, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and salt until combined.
  4. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the cubes down to ensure they’re submerged in the liquid.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (This step allows the bread to soak up the custard, so don’t skip it!)
  6. When the soak is completed, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  7. Uncover the bread pudding, and bake until it’s set in the center, about 50-60 minutes. It should be slightly puffed and golden brown, too.

Make the Caramel Sauce

  1. In a deep saucepan (at least 2 qt.—my 1.5 qt. one overflowed when testing this recipe), add the sugar and the water. Heat over medium-low until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
  2. When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil—and do not stir or touch it. If you see sugar crystals stuck to the sides of your pan, use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides. Be very careful, as this boiling sugar is hot.
  3. Boil for 5-8 minutes, until the sugar turns a light amber color. (Please note that when the sugar begins to change color, it happens quickly. Do not walk away from the stovetop. Also, be aware that the sugar will continue to cook after the heat is turned off, so working quickly with the additional ingredients is important.)
  4. Turn off the heat, and immediately pour in the Land O Lakes® Half & Half slowly, stirring it constantly. It will bubble vigorously, so please be careful!
  5. Next, stir in the butter, vanilla and salt.
  6. Pour the mixture into a jar to cool (it will thicken as it cools, so don’t fret it if seems thin), and then serve over the bread pudding!

Notes

Caramel tips and tricks

  • Give yourself time! Meaning—don’t rush. The caramel sauce can take you as little as 15 minutes, but it can take upwards of 30 if you’re keeping the heat lower. (And if you keep the heat lower, that’s totally OK!)
  • If you see sugar crystals sticking to the sides of your saucepan when the sugar is boiling, use a silicone pastry brush dipped in water to brush them away. These crystals could lead to a grainier caramel sauce.
  • The sugar will continue to cook after you remove the saucepan from the heat. Keep this in mind, and don’t wait too long to add the Land O Lakes® Half & Half.
  • Don’t be discouraged if it’s runny. It’ll thicken up as it cools!
  • Reheat it in the microwave for 15-20 second increments until warm, if making it in advance. You don’t want to overcook it by heating it for too long!

Easy entertaining tips and tricks:

If you’re planning to serve this bread pudding to guests at the holidays, you have two options.

Option 1: Bake the bread pudding 1-2 days ahead of time. Store it in the fridge covered when it’s cooled completely. Reheat in a 325˚F oven covered in foil until heated through and delicious.

Option 2: Make the bread pudding the same day you’re hosting guests. If this is the case…

  • Make a detailed cooking timeline beforehand, especially if you plan to serve this bread pudding straight from the oven. Remember: it has to soak for 1-2 hours before you bake it, and it bakes for at least 50 minutes, then it has to cool for 15 or so minutes before you can slice it.
  • Get the bread nice and stale. This means going to the store 2-3 days beforehand and chopping the bread. I leave mine out in a bowl that’s covered with a kitchen towel.
  • Make the caramel sauce beforehand. Keep it in the fridge until it’s go time, and reheat in 15-second increments in the microwave until bubbly and delicious. (Be careful to not heat it for too long or it could burn!)

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

9 servings

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 180mgSodium: 325mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 0gSugar: 57gProtein: 9g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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