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Filling your meals with nourishing foods that bring you joy can help you live a longer, more fulfilling life. Dietitians agree!

Who else agrees? Chefs and culinary experts—particularly Jess Damuck, the recipe developer, food stylist, and author of Salad Freak and her sparkly new cookbook, Health Nut. Damuck’s recipes are eye candy at its sweetest, but rest assured that the 100 delicious dishes that fill the pages of Health Nut are approachable, adaptable, and endlessly comforting.

One of Damuck’s favorite breakfast recipes in the book? Her orange-scented tahini toast—and after seeing its ooey-gooey layers of challah covered in coconut cream and tahini, we had zero reason to ask why.

The inspiration behind Health Nut’s tahini french toast recipe

When making French toast, the base ingredients your bread loves to sponge up are are eggs, milk or cream, and a hint of spice. Damuck’s toast recipe includes the classic trio—but to kick things up a notch, she adds the fresh flavors of zesty orange, creamy coconut, and nutty tahini. The result is brekkie bliss.

So, how did Damuck dream up this heavenly concoction, otherwise known as a creamy coconut- and orange-infused French toast coated with a generous amount of tahini and honey? According to her, the pristine vibes of the Mediterranean are to blame. “My friend Lonut came to visit me in Los Angeles right after coming back from Greece, where he’d been eating toast slathered with tahini and honey every morning for breakfast. He gifted me some really beautiful, citrusy Greek honey from his time in Greece, and it inspired this recipe,” Damuck says. “[I think of it as] a more decadent version of the dish.”

For what it’s worth, protein-packed tahini and honey are a toast-topping match made in heaven on their own—but Damuck explains that the citrus twist and creamy coconut kick the flavors in this recipe into high gear. “The coconut cream is so rich, and I love the mild tropical flavor it brings to the dish. Then the orange zest is what gives it that bright zing no matter what variety of honey you’re using,” she says.

“The coconut cream is so rich, and I love the mild tropical flavor it brings to the dish. Then the orange zest is what gives it that bright zing no matter what variety of honey you’re using.”
—Jess Damuck, recipe developer, food stylist, author of Health Nut

Damuk’s smart (and toasty) tips for making this recipe

Celebrate the season’s finest

Because this French toast recipe is virtually foolproof, Damuck says that it’s open to interpretation—and food allergies, fruit preferences, and so on. None of your favorite sumo citrus avail at Trader Joe’s this month? All good: Damuck says it’s a great opportunity to improvise and use whatever produce is in season. “I haven’t tried it, but lime zest in replace of orange zest could work well with the coconut. And for summer, I’d recommend using tart berries that are in season,” she says.

Prioritize a long soak-in-custard session

Breakfast time usually means feeding a ravenous crowd. Damuck says one great way to save time—and food waste—is by using stale bread (instead of making challah bread from scratch, as the original recipe suggests). “Using stale bread helps save some time, and you can do any other prep you need to do for the dish—or make yourself a cup of coffee—while it soaks [in the coconut-orange egg mixture],” Damuck says.

Keep in mind, the only way to achieve that pillowy-soft French toast texture is to give the bread ample time to soak up the custardy goodness. A little patience goes a long way, folks.

You can make it vegan-friendly

Finally, want to make this recipe plant-forward? “Just omit the eggs,” Damuck says. “I’ve also heard of people using a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to help the mixture coat the bread and make a nice brown crust, but I haven’t tried that myself.” Let us know how it turns out, will ya?

Orange-scented tahini French toast recipe

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients
1 orange
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (120 ml) canned coconut cream
Big pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
4 slices (1 inch/2.5-cm thick) whole-wheat sesame challah (a Health Nut recipe) or other tenderbread (day-old is best)
1/4 cup (40 g) sesame seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini
4 Tsp honey
Flaky sea salt, for finishing
Oranges, berries, or other fresh fruit (optional), for serving

Prep:

1. In a large shallow bowl or baking dish, whisk together 1/2 cup (120 ml) coconut cream, three large eggs, zest of one orange, one big pinch of cinnamon, and one pinch of salt.

2. Working in batches, add two slices of challah to the egg mixture. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then flip the slices and let them soak for about 15 minutes more. (This may not take as long with day-or-two-old bread.) Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the two tablespoons of olive oil or butter.

Cook:

1. Remove the bread from the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off, and place it in the pan. Meanwhile, add the remaining bread slices to the egg mixture to soak.

2. While the toast in the pan is cooking, sprinkle about one tablespoon of the sesame seeds over each piece to coat the side facing up. Take a little peek under the toast, and when the side facing down is a golden brown, about two minutes, carefully flip the toast and cook for about two to three minutes more. Repeat with the remaining two slices, adding a bit more oil or butter to the pan, if necessary.

Assemble and serve:

Drizzle the toasts with a generous amount of tahini and honey, followed by a good sprinkle of flaky salt. Serve with oranges, berries, or other fresh fruit, if desired.

Reprinted from the new book Health Nut: A Feel-Good Cookbook by Jess Damuck. Text copyright © 2024 by Jess Damuck. Photographs copyright © 2024 by Linda Pugliese. Published by Abrams.

Tahini on your mind? Try this delicious tahini overnights oat recipe next:

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