Coconut Lime French Toast

by Ginny on July 10, 2011

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Oh this is so good. We love this Coconut Lime French Toast and it never fails to delight and surprise our guests.  The inspiration came from a long ago breakfast at Seattle’s Coastal Kitchen, where they regularly rotate the menu based on the cuisine of a certain country or region. We happened to dine at Coastal Kitchen during their foray into Thai-inspired flavors and I’m so glad we did because Kaffir Lime French Toast was one of the breakfast specials. Hubs and I both ordered it, loved it, never forgot it, and set out on a mission to incorporate it into our at-home breakfast repertoire. Ever since, we’ve tested numerous versions of our own Coconut Lime French Toast, and I do believe we’ve gotten it down.

I should tell you here that  I’ve found some inspiration to revisit this recipe lately. Allow me to introduce you to my recently-acquired muse: 

April, our Kaffir Lime Tree

Meet April, our beloved Kaffir lime tree. Last fall I stopped into my friend Jenny’s floral studio downtown, where she had just received a shipment of small citrus trees. Among them: Kaffir lime. I jumped for joy, and took one home immediately. We put her in a sunny window where she endured a looooong Montana winter, and then come April (hence, her name) she began one of the most impressive growth spurts we’ve ever witnessed in a house plant. Her one spindly stalk with a few dusty looking leaves sprouted half a dozen branches, each of which appeared to grow inches a day. Bright green and glossy new leaves unfurled as she welcomed spring throughout the month, and then the growth quickly tapered off and she settled in for a lazy summer in the window, at least three times the size she was when I brought her home. Just this week, I’ve noticed even more new shoots, i.e. more leaves and more flavor coming our way!  

Kaffir Lime leaves, big and small. See the little baby shoot?


Kaffir lime is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine, adding the most intoxicating and beautiful lime aroma you could ever imagine. You may have noticed the julienned leaves floating in the broth of your favorite Thai curry, or Tom Kha soup. If you live in an urban area or have a fabulous grocer, you may have seen them for sale in the produce section. I’ve even found them at Safeway, hanging with those little plastic boxes of fresh herbs. If you ever do see them, BUY THEM! They freeze well and will be handy when inspiration strikes. Side note: they lose flavor when dried, so this storage method is not reccommended.

Ok, back to the French Toast. There are a few key details that cannot be tinkered with.

First, use a good Parisienne-style baguette– you know, the kind with a sturdy crust and crumb. Starchy, squishy French bread can’t hold up to the moisture of the custard and makes a gummy french toast. The tang of a sourdough baguette is especially nice here, and what I most highly recommend in the recipe. It complements the lime perfume in just the right way, but a plain baguette is wonderful too.

Next, fry your french toast in hot oil, NOT butter. I am in 100% agreement with Molly at Orangette on this matter. Use a flavorless oil like canola, and get it good and hot before adding the toast to the pan. You also want the oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan. No need to deep fry, but don’t be shy with the oil. Why? Because the combination of a crisp outer crust with the warm, custardy interior is simply the ultimate in French Toast, and well-worth the calories. Butter, on the other hand, absorbs into the bread, resulting in a heavy and dense piece of French toast that is probably more fattening than the oil-crisped version anyway. Butter also burns at high temperatures, which can mean that every batch you put in your pan requires a wipe-out of the over-browned butter, and a new pat. Just use oil. Trust me.

Also, use LITE coconut milk in this recipe. Regular, full-fat coconut milk contains more of the thick, dense, coconut cream, and less of the coconut water. Lite coconut milk has a higher ratio of the coconut water and less of the coconut cream, which is important because you want the custard to be liquid enough to absorb into the bread. Full-fat coconut milk simply makes too thick of a custard, and I found during testing that even a long soak in this otherwise beautiful custard, didn’t permeate the bread all the way through.

Finally, please don’t pass on this recipe simply because you don’t have your own “April”, or fear you’ll never find Kaffir lime leaves in your small town grocery store. You can easily and successfully substitute regular lime zest for Kaffir Lime Leaves.

1 teaspoon lime zest = 2 Kaffir lime leaves

You put the lime in the coconut and eat em both up! Whatever form of lime you use, the addition of coconut is a flavor combination that will add tropical pizazz and big smiles to your Sunday Breakfast table. Enjoy!

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Recipe : Coconut Lime French Toast

I like to serve this french toast with freshly sliced banana and hot maple syrup. To get the most lime-infused bang for your buck, it’s best to make the custard the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator while the lime leaves (or zest) penetrate the custard with lime essence. If you need to make and eat this NOW, that’s cool–  I’ve offered some shortcut options below.


  • 1 Parisienne Baguette with a sturdy crumb (sourdough or regular are both great here)
  • 1 [14 ounce] can LITE coconut milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 Kaffir lime leaves, torn into pieces OR substitute 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • Canola or other flavorless oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting  

1. The night before: In a blender combine coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, salt, and lime leaves or zest. Blend on high speed until lime leaves are finely chopped, about 1 minute. Pour custard into a pie dish or other flat-bottomed baking dish, and refrigerate overnight. See shortcut options below*.  

2. Slice the baguette diagonally into 3/4-inch thick slices. Add as many slices as will fit to the custard and let soak at least 1 minute (and up to 10), flipping to coat evenly.

3. In a large [12-inch] skillet, add enough oil to completely coat the bottom of pan, about 3 to 5 tablespoons. Heat oil over medium-high to high heat, until hot and shimmery (but not smoking), and a drop of the custard immediately sizzles when added. Add soaked bread and fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown and crisp. Use tongs to remove french toast from pan and blot on a paper-towel lined plate. You can hold the french toast in a warm oven until it’s all cooked, or serve immediately.

4. Put a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar in a fine mesh strainer and shake over toast to garnish.

Serves 4

Short-cut Options: For a “morning-of” shortcut, blend the coconut milk with the lime leaves (or zest), and microwave or bring to a simmer on the stove top. Let the lime steep in the hot coconut milk, 15 to 30 minutes. Once the mixture has cooled to luke warm, add the remaining ingredients. One final option, for a lazy-man’s coconut lime french toast, skip either of those lime-infusing steps, and make your custard and fry the french toast immediately– It’s still good; you just won’t taste as much lime flavor in the finished result.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious July 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

You are on a wonderful lime roll here! This sounds like a fantastic breakfast…worth waking up for!


Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks July 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I’m a Thai food fan and, although I’m partial to savory breakfasts, the coconut in this “French” toast has me intrigued. Thanks for tweaking out a recipe for us.


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