The simplicity of toast makes it an ideal vehicle for culinary creativity. No matter your flavour and ingredient preferences, you can stack your fave foods on some perfectly-browned bread, and the slice's warmth, the crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside texture, and the gentle char from the toaster will take your toppings of choice to the next level of deliciousness.
If you're getting a bit tired of traditional toast toppings like jam, peanut butter, and every millennial's favourite pick (avocado, obviously), we've got you covered with 13 chef-designed options that expertly straddle the line between "super fancy and gourmet" and "totally doable, even in a simple apartment kitchen."
A hard sheep's-milk cheese native to Spain, Manchego has a mellow flavour with just a hint of tartness. It's often paired with fruit preserves, but if you wanna go in a different direction with your selection of sweets, Chef Jose Mendoza of Pechanga Resort Casino's Lobby Bar and Grill in Temecula, California recommends topping your toast with warmed Manchego and chocolate chips.
According to Mendoza, the cheese "tastes a little sweet and is very savoury with a buttery texture," and when it's slightly melted, the chocolate chips can sink right in and create a luxurious blend of tastes and textures.
Broccoli's "little brother"- aka broccolini - shares plenty of flavours with its sibling, but presents them in a milder and sweeter way. For Executive Chef Amber Lancaster of Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago, broccolini's subtle, earthy taste plays beautifully off of toasted bread.
"Broccolini is my new favourite toast topping. I was seeking an alternative to avocados and ended up loving the smoky flavour you get after charring the broccolini. I recently added a Calabrian Toast to Sable Kitchen & Bar's brunch menu that features goat cheese mixed with a little bit of honey and lemon, [topped with] charred broccolini and pine nut salsa. It's delicious!" Lancaster told INSIDER.
When most of us think of "caviar," we also think of champagne, oysters, and super-luxe living. However, sturgeon roe doesn't need a highfalutin' presentation in order to shine. Just ask executive chef - and "Top Chef" alum - Fabio Viviani of Siena Tavern in Chicago, who likes to spread cream cheese on his toast, slide a soft fried egg on top, and finish it off with a sprinkling of fresh caviar.
The protein of the egg and cream cheese makes the toast a filling breakfast, and the delicate caviar gives your morning repast an upscale twist.
One of the hottest brunch tables in Los Angeles can be found (or, more accurately, probably can't be found, as they're in constant demand) at Sqirl, a breakfast-and-lunch-only café whose chic environs and fresh, inventive California cuisine make regular appearances on Instagram feeds.
Chef and owner Jessica Koslow has plenty of well-honed opinions about brunch classics like toast, and her favourite topping is a simple but incredibly flavourful one: tahini and honey. A spread of nutty tahini and a drizzle of local honey on a golden-brown slice of bread ... yeah, that's a hard combination to beat.
Sometimes, when it comes to toast, there's no need to gild the lily. The classic toppings are classic for a reason, and if you make a particular effort to source the highest-quality ingredients possible, you'll end up with a dish every bit as satisfying (maybe even more) as an avant-garde foodie take.
At least, that's the philosophy of chef/owner Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia. Vernick prefers country-style sourdough as the base of his toast, and his favourite topping combo includes French-style butter, extra virgin olive oil (he especially enjoys his bread brushed with EVOO before toasting it on a grill pan until it has a pleasant level of char), and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Simple, yet perfect.
Looking for a non-dairy toast condiment that's easy to dress up, but also tastes fantastic on its own? Follow Root & Bone chef/owner (and "Top Chef" alum) Janine Booth's advice and make yourself some cashew cream cheese.
"It's simply made from soaking cashews overnight, blended with nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and seasoning. You can put it on anything and it tastes amazing! ... spread it on sprouted grain toast topped with cannellini beans, heirloom tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It's full of nutrition, loaded with plant-based protein, good fats, and slow releasing carbohydrates," Booth told INSIDER.
Hailing from Spain and also popular in Portugal, Iberian ham (or jamón ibérico) counts among the most elite charcuterie items out there. It's rich, porky, and luxurious ... and it'll definitely class up your simple slices of toasted bread.
Geoffrey Zakarian, chef/partner of Point Royal at the Diplomat Beach Resort and star of "Chopped" and "The Kitchen," said he prefers "fresh ricotta and some nice Iberian ham sliced very thin with drizzled olive oil and fresh herbs on toast."
A common technique in Indian cooking, adding savoury spices to yogurt results in a bold and enticing spread with the perfect blend of tang, heat, and flavour complexity.
Nicole Rucker, chef/owner of Fiona in Los Angeles, uses spiced yogurt to build "Dahi Toast - a riff on a traditional Indian home dish. A slice of our country loaf gets toasted in butter, then covered with spiced yogurt and adorned with fried curry leaves and spices."
Vegemite, an Australian yeast spread made from veggies, is a pretty divisive ingredient outside of its homeland. It has its ardent fans, but also an equal number of detractors. Its strong flavours offer this Down Under toast spread a lot of personality, and if you're feeling experimental, Vegemite can totally transform even the most basic avocado toast.
When we asked executive chef Brent Hudson of NYC's Hole in the Wall for his favourite toast toppings, the native Australian answered with "avocado, tomato, and Vegemite. It sounds crazy, I know, but think about it. You have the delicious creamy avocado, the sweet and acidic tomato, and the perfect salty balance of Vegemite."
Inspired by his homeland of Lebanon, executive chef Tarik Fallous of Au Za'atar in NYC likes to spread his toast with labne, a tangy cheese made from yogurt.
He then adds za'atar seasoning (an herb blend including spices like sumac, thyme, and oregano), fresh mint, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. "It's healthy, fresh, and good for any time of the day," Fallous raved.
If you're a homesick Texan, you're probably eager to learn about different ways to re-purpose your home state's most prised cuisine: barbecue. According to executive chef Jacob Verstegen of LH Rooftop in Chicago, toast makes a wonderful platform for savoury smoked beef.
"My favourite thing to put on toast is smoked brisket and tomatoes. In the past, I made a tomato jam and a light mustard sauce and sliced brisket very thinly to layer on the toast. It's great for breakfast or while drinking," Verstegen told INSIDER.
Figs and goat cheese is a fundamental pairing and a constant fixture on cheese boards. It's easy to understand why; the sweetness of the figs and the subtle tang of the goat cheese complement each other beautifully. Chef Ryan Butler of Butler in Brooklyn likes this pairing on toasted sourdough with a sprinkling of thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
"I like the balance of flavours here. You have acidity in the balsamic, the creaminess of the goat cheese, the sweetness of the figs - and the thyme rounds it out with a kick of fresh herbs. I love food that works on all of your palette. And there's also a nice contrast between the warm sourdough and cool toppings," Butler explained.
Boursin is a soft, herb-infused cows milk cheese from Normandy with something of an outdated and stodgy reputation. But with a little creativity, it becomes a creative and craveable toast topping.
"Queer Eye" food impresario and Village Den restaurateur Antoni Porowski designed a Boursin flavour combo he calls "A Place Beyond the Pines," featuring fresh cherries coated in maple syrup, toasted pine nuts, and a healthy spread of Boursin on toasted baguette.
"This creamy, sweet & savoury recipe is meant to be used to elevate a piece of toast, and it's one of [my] favourite ways to spruce up a classic!" Porowski told INSIDER.
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