Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

A Master Recipe


Who else loves quick, healthy, flexible breakfast ideas? Here's my master recipe for an oh-so-easy make-ahead breakfast casserole that flies together in 15 minutes. Unlike many breakfast casseroles, it's packed with protein. (Eggs! Hash browns! Salsa! A little cheese! But no bread!) Yes, it's Weight Watchers friendly and low-carb! Options for on-the-go portable breakfast-casserole muffins and individual ramekins.

Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole, a master recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Start with eggs, frozen hash browns, salsa and cheese, then adapt as you like, incl on-the-go muffins and individual ramekins.

Whole Food, Simply Prepared. An Approachable, Homestyle Casserole, Fresh & Flexible. Hearty & Filling. Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Budget Friendly. How to Feed a Crowd. Easy DIY. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian. Naturally Gluten Free.

A "Discovery": Frozen Hash Brown Potatoes

How a "whole foods" cook comes to accept the convenience and affordability of frozen hash brown potatoes. Have you accepted similar convenience foods? What works in your home?


The first time I reached into the grocery-store freezer for frozen hash brown potatoes, discordant bells clamored, if only in my head.

Frozen hash-brown potatoes? Not Alanna! Clang! Crash! Bang!

But let's back up a few months, shall we, to learn how I came to discover frozen hash browns?

It started last fall when we drove from St. Louis to Texas with my dad to visit my sister and her family. To break up the long trip, we spent the first night with my dad's cousin and his wife in southwest Missouri. For breakfast, Mardellya popped a casserole into the oven and an hour later, breakfast was on the table, hot and hearty and more egg-y than the usual cheese-y and bread-y breakfast casseroles. I had to have her recipe!

Deciphering the Ingredient List

For the record, this is NOT a sponsored post. Ore Ida has no idea who I am, this is just the brand of frozen hash-browns my local grocery store carries.


First though, back home I checked the ingredient list on a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, expectingly, frankly, a long list of unspellable, unpronounceable, indeterminable ingredients. At first, I was buoyed to find a short ingredient list. Then reality set in.


INGREDIENT LIST, ORE IDA FROZEN HASH BROWN POTATOES

  • POTATOES. Okay, so far, so good!

  • DEXTROSE Uh oh. What's dextrose, anyway? I had to look it up. According to LiveStrong, dextrose is a form of glucose, our bodies' primary fuel. It is widely used in the processed-food industry to promote browning and in the U.S., anyway is usually produced from corn. (Remember how Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (affiliate link) talked about food-product companies have insinuated corn into soooo many of their processed food products? Case in point. Potatoes too, it seems.)

  • DISODIUM HYDROGEN PYROPHOSPHATE. Double Triple uh oh. This one was harder to investigate since it goes by different names including Disodium Pyrophosphate and Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate. (Ack, who else's eyes are crossing? This stuff is so impenetrable. Some times I wonder, is it on purpose?) Anyway, whatever the name, it's a salt that leavens cake mixes and self-rising flours. In potato products, it's used to prevent oxidation, that is, to prevent the potato pieces from turning brown.

  • GREAT IRONY Yes, irony belongs on the ingredient list. That's because the first additive "promotes" browning and the second one "prevents" browning. Isn't that a double negative, putting us right back where we started, just plain potatoes? Harumph.
A pan of Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole, a master recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Start with eggs, frozen hash browns, salsa and cheese, then adapt as you like, incl on-the-go muffins and individual ramekins.

This Whole Food Cook Struggles

Now many good cooks take processed foods in stride.

But I have been a "whole food" cook my entire life, even before it was the "cool". It's why until now I've never once bought frozen hash brown potatoes! (Now you better understand why all those bells were going off!)

But here's what I've concluded, what's right for me, for the people I love.

My rationale says that a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes may not be a "whole food" but it's as close as a convenience food can get. Affordability matters too: a 30-ounce bag of hash brown potatoes costs about $3, and honestly, price makes a difference.

We all make choices in life. I love my grandmother's Tomato Soup Vegetable Salad and my mother persuaded me there's a time and place for a cake mix, รก la Southern Belle Lemon Layer Cake. I made room for both in my life and my Recipe Box.

So I have decided that frozen hash brown potatoes are okay – not ideal, but okay – especially if it means that I can get hot breakfast instead of cold cereal into a man flying off to court early-mornings.

Life. It's full of trade-offs and compromises. This is one I can live with.

But whew. THAT WAS HARD.

But Once Decided?

Once decided, I've been a woman on a mission! Would you believe that in four months, I've made this Breakfast Casserole twelve times? I wanted to figure out what really works, what doesn't, what's worthwhile, what's not.

Excellent News! Every casserole has been different. Every one has been greeted with enthusiasm, the morning of and warmed up later. I wanted to own – OWN – this Breakfast Casserole.

Call it a master recipe, call it a concept recipe but the base recipe is excellent all by itself, you won't go wrong. But then, adapt away, based on what's on hand and what appeals and your own family likes!

A square of Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole, a master recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Start with eggs, frozen hash browns, salsa and cheese, then adapt as you like, incl on-the-go muffins and individual ramekins.

Hash Brown Product Updates

  • CASCADIAN FARM Thanks to a reader who reports that Cascadian Farm, a General Mills Company, sells hash browns that are 100% potatoes! Check the Location Guide for stores near you. Here in my hometown of St. Louis, it looks like all the major groceries plus Target and Whole Foods carry Cascadian products. Whole Foods seems to carry a root vegetable version, potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. I'm stocking up!
  • TRADER JOE'S Trader Joe's hash browns have been upgraded, they're now just potatoes and dextrose! Good news, if you're shopping especially for this recipe, every single ingredient may be found at Trader Joe's.
  • OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS? Please do chime in!
  • (current 2023)

What's In Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.


  • THE BOTTOM POTATO LAYER Just still-frozen hash browns, grated cheese and seasonings.
  • THE EGG MIXTURE Just eggs, whole milk, mustard, salt and pepper.
  • THE MIDDLE LAYER The middle layer is optional but it's really fun to play here. My favorite choice here is frozen spinach that's been thawed, squeezed dry and seasoned.
  • THE TOP LAYER Just salsa and more grated cheese.

Here's What's NOT In This Recipe

Sometimes, what's left out of a recipe is just as important as what's put in. That's definitely the case here.


  • BREAD, BREAD & MORE BREAD So many breakfast casseroles use bread for bulk. These are called "stratas" or "bread puddings" and are indeed, delicious, but also so bread-y and usually very very cheese-y. (For the record, all that bread isn't needed. Just check out Asparagus Whole Wheat Bread Pudding and Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar.)
  • CHEESE, CHEESE & MORE CHEESE So many breakfast casseroles are just way too rich. Here, cheese is used in moderation yet the result is just wonderful.
Collage of Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole, a master recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Serve it three ways, squares, on-the-go muffins or individual ramekins.

Three Ways to Bake Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole is so flexible!

  • An 8x8 casserole — this is the easiest, just cut into squares, for a 9x13 or 7x10 casserole, double the recipe
  • Individual Muffins — extra-handy for an on-the-go portable breakfast
  • Individual Ramekins — a little more elegant, also good for portion-size control

How to Make Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in just four easy steps. You can definitely do this!


  • MIX THE FIRST LAYER, this is the potato layer, a mix of frozen hashed browns, garlic and onion powder, some grated cheese.
  • MIX THE EGG MIXTURE, just eggs, milk, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour this over the potato layer, making sure all the potatoes are submerged.
  • DECIDE ON THE MIDDLE LAYER What've you got? This is a great way to change up this casserole every single time.
  • TOP OFF THE CASSEROLE with salsa and grated cheese. Don't be tempted to pile on the cheese, more is just too much both in appearance and taste.
  • BAKE right away or refrigerate up to 12 hours later. This makes it perfect to assemble in the evening and serve for breakfast the next morning.

What Makes This Recipe Special

Why would anyone go to the trouble of making this Breakfast Casserole from scratch? Here are a few reasons. Why do you make it? Let me know in the comments!


  • So flexible, so adaptable, so delicious!
  • Uses potatoes instead of bread, but still, less than an ounce of potatoes per serving
  • Uses cheese for richness but not piles of it, just five ounces for 6 generous servings
  • Uses eggs for protein and structure, more than one per serving
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

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How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If an Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Easy Make-Ahead Breakfast Casserole, a master recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. Start with eggs, frozen hash browns, salsa and cheese, then adapt as you like, incl on-the-go muffins and individual ramekins.



MASTER RECIPE:
EASY MAKE-AHEAD BREAKFAST CASSEROLE with
HASH BROWNS & EGGS

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Optional fridge time: up to 12 hours
Oven time: 1 hour
Makes a 8x8 pan for 6 generous servings or 9 smaller ones
Double recipe for a 9x13 or 7x10 casserole
    POTATO BASE
  • 7-8 ounces (200g-225g) frozen hash brown potatoes (no need to thaw)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces grated cheese
    EGG MIXTURE
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (122g) whole milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste
    OPTIONAL MIDDLE LAYER, see ALANNA's TIPS
    SALSA & CHEESE LAYER
  • 7 ounces mild chunky salsa
  • 1 ounce grated cheese

Spray a 8x8 baking pan. If baking right away, heat oven to 350F/180C.

POTATO BASE In a bowl, mix all ingredients, breaking apart the potato pieces. Spread evenly across the pan.

EGG MIXTURE In the same bowl, whisk the eggs until no signs of yolk or white are visible. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Pour over the Potato Base, covering the entire base; if needed, use the back of a spoon to press the Potato Base to evenly distribute the Egg Mixture.

OPTIONAL MIDDLE LAYER See ALANNA's TIPS, below.

SALSA & CHEESE LAYER Gently spread salsa atop the Potato Base-Egg Mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

TO BAKE RIGHT AWAY Bake for 60 minutes uncovered until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Let rest for 5 - 10 minutes before slicing.

TO HOLD If needed for late-risers or late-arrivals, cover the fully cooked casserole with foil and hold in a 180F/80C oven for up to 90 minutes.

TO BAKE LATER Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 12 hours. In the morning, set the oven to 350F, there's no need to preheat. Uncover the casserole and bake for 60 minutes plus the amount of preheat time that remains. Let rest for 5 - 10 minutes before slicing.

TO REHEAT Individual squares reheat beautifully in the microwave and "hold together" for someone eating breakfast on the run.

ALANNA'S TIPS
OVERALL For a 9x13 pan or even a 7x10 pan, double the ingredients. Be sure to season every layer. Make this once or twice, you'll never need a recipe again! And your house will smell so good when the Casserole is almost done! A recent batch, baked straight-away, took almost 75 minutes to finish baking, the first time I remember that happening.

BREAKFAST CASSEROLE MUFFINS The base recipe (no extras, no middle layer) fills six regular-size muffin cups, just bake for 30 minutes. I've also baked the casserole in individual ramekins, the baking time will vary with the size of the ramekins, start with 30 minutes, then check for doneness.

POTATO BASE The Ore Ida frozen hash brown potatoes bag contains 30 ounces of potatoes, enough for four casseroles, that's also just a little over an ounce of potatoes per serving, good for carb watchers. It's important to season the potatoes well, mixing the Potato Base in a bowl really helps distribute the seasoning. Cheese helps bind the potatoes and egg into something soft but more sliceable; I like the taste of four ounces but two ounces works too. I've been using grated cheddar, mostly, but some ricotta or goat cheese makes for good bursts of creaminess. I often add other foods to the base, leftover cooked meat, bacon or ham, fresh corn, leftover roasted vegetables, chopped olives, etc. For every four ounces of extras added to the Potato Base, add another egg. I once tried using about 1/3 grated raw sweet potato for added color and nutrition but unfortunately, even grated, the sweet potatoes didn't really cook.

EGG MIXTURE The basic formula is one egg per serving plus another egg. But more eggs won't hurt, it's a good way to use up extra egg yolks or egg whites. Whole milk works better than low-fat milks, making it more "egg casserole". The mustard helps the casserole brown. (Harumph. Maybe the food companies should use mustard instead of food additives.) Go easy on the pepper, here, it tends to get "stuck" atop the potatoes, not nice.

OPTIONAL MIDDLE LAYER I'm especially fond of spinach below the Salsa & Cheese layer. I start with 8 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed hard, seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder plus a little salt and pepper. Once, I added sautéed mushrooms too, another time leftover artichoke dip. So good!

SALSA & CHEESE LAYER A touch of tomato-y acid really helps bring it all together. I've been buying the house-brand of a mild chunky salsa from my local (St. Louis) Schnucks grocer, perfect. Just a touch of cheese is needed on the top, a thick layer is unappealing in appearance and taste.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2014/03/easy-make-ahead-breakfast-casserole.html .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Base Recipe Only (so no Middle Layer), 6 generous servings, Per Serving: 231 Calories; 13g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 273mg Cholesterol; 509mg Sodium; 11g Carb; 1g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 15g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 7 & blue 5 & purple 4 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = scant half-serving (6g protein).

More Make-Ahead Breakfast & Brunch Ideas

more
~ breakfast & brunch recipes ~
Easy Green Chile Egg Casserole ♥ KitchenParade.com. No bread! Just eggs, green chiles, bits of cheese and a surprising ingredient, cottage cheese. Vegetarian. Low Carb. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly!

Light Tomato Basil Quiche Recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com, a make-ahead, healthy, vegetarian and light quiche recipe.

Shakshuka (Eggs Nested in Summer Vegetables) ♥ KitchenParade.com, a traditional North African and Israeli dish, just peppers and tomatoes slowly simmered, then 'nested' to cook whole eggs.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ egg recipes (main dishes) ~
~ cheese recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2014, 2019 & 2023 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. Anonymous3/19/2014

    Looks delicious! I miss eating eggs. My 4 year old is deathly allergic, so haven't enjoyed them in a while.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The thing to remember is the hash brown potatoes are partially cooked. You would need to pre-cook any raw additions such as the sweet potatoes you mention. I make a potato-crusted quiche that toes the line between "quiche" and "breakfast casserole"...the potatoes are grated, squeezed to remove liquid, tossed with olive oil and seasoning, and baked for 20 minutes before the rest of the ingredients are added. They need that head start to be done at the same time as the eggs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. DownHomeDieting ~ Oh dear, no eggs? I’d miss them too. But we do what we have to, right?

    Ash ~ You are so right about cooking, especially the sweet potatoes. In fact, as many times as I’ve made this, every time my notes say, “Try giving the potatoes a head start.” But honestly? I didn’t want to give up the convenience of just throwing it all together and being done with it. I cook so much, it’s a luxury to mix-and-forget it. And yet, still honestly? Next time I need to give the potatoes a head start. :-)))) Thanks for writing …

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous3/27/2014

    Great recipe, thanks! You might want to consider Cascadian Farms brand frozen potatoes - the only ingredient in their hash browns is potatoes :)
    - Christina

    ReplyDelete
  5. Christina ~ so glad you liked it! Thanks so much for the tip about Cascadian Farms, that would stop all this mental grappling! PS I just did a thorough web search to find out where to find Cascadian Farms products and found nothing but since it is owned by General Mills, can likely be found in many major stores.

    ReplyDelete

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna