I have a go-to for sweet bread puddings – it’s the one in my cookbook, Romancing the Stove. But I also love savory bread puddings, like this spinach and cheese bread pudding. They’re like a shortcut to getting a vegetable and a starch into your diet without having to make two separate recipes. And they’re hearty enough to make a full, vegetarian meal as well as a great side dish you can serve one alongside a simple grilled fish or meat.
I’ve been making this spinach recipe for years. I love that it features both spinach and artichoke in a simple but filling vegetarian dish. It’s based on an old recipe of Emeril Lagasse. Only my version of this bread pudding is a much more healthy than the original. It reminds me a little big of a spinach bread dip in flavor. I think maybe it’s the addition of artichoke that gives it this effect.
How to make a healthy bread pudding
Most savory bread puddings involve white bread and a lot of butter. Not so with my recipe! After multiple attempts, I found the right balance of decadence and health.
The big trick is to use whole wheat bread cubes. You can make this a whole wheat bread pudding by using only whole grain bread or you can make it the way I wrote it in the recipe, which is half whole wheat, half ciabatta. The important thing is to make sure the bread is a little bit stale.
Why do you use stale bread for bread pudding?
You don’t actually have to use stale bread for bread pudding. Originally, stale bread was used in bread pudding for little more than a reason to keep that bread from going to waste. However most bread pudding recipes were developed to incorporate this drier ingredient, (including mine). So if you use fresh bread, the pudding tends to turn out mushy.
If you like the mushy texture, great! However I like a little more substance. You make the decision. At least you now know why bread puddings call for old bread. But if you ask me, bread puddings are the best old bread recipes!
Healthy bread pudding ingredients
Of course, whole wheat isn’t the only thing that makes this a healthy bread pudding recipe. There are several healthy ingredients in this spinach bread pudding. For starters, there’s the garlic. Garlic not only makes everything tastier but it has some powerful health benefits including aphrodisiac. It’s especially good for men’s sexual health.
Artichokes, including the artichoke hearts used in this recipe, are linked with heart health. Which means they’re also a good food for men. And cheese, eggs and rosemary are all noted aphrodisiac foods. But you might be surprised to learn that rosemary appears to have some benefits for your brain. It may, in fact, help you improve your memory!
Savory Spinach and Cheese Bread Pudding
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb spinach washed and roughly chopped
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 clove garilc finely chopped
- pinch salt and black pepper
- 1 8½-ounce cans quartered artichoke hearts, quartered
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups soy milk
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 6 cups cubed 1-inch day-old whole wheat bread (I used half rosemary ciabatta and half whole grain)
- 5 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary finely chopped (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once cool, squeeze as much water from spinach as possible then roughly chop and reserve.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown and tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Add the artichokes and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and reserve.
- Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the soy milk and lemon juice.
- Stir in the bread, spinach, artichoke mixture, 2 tbsp Parmesan and (optional) rosemary and stir to combine.
- Let the bread rest in the custard for 30 minutes.
- Pour the bread pudding mixture into the prepared dish.
- Sprinkle remaining 3 tbsp Parmesan over the top and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Bake until firm in the center and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Serve warm.
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