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Toad in the Hole

Like many other British dishes, Toad in the Hole is a product of hard economic times and the Brits’ attitude of “make do with what you have.” It’s made with a handful of basic pantry staples: eggs, milk, flour, sausage, and a few herbs (the ones that grow well in temperate climates). And yet it looks and tastes substantial and is very filling.

Don’t confuse this with the American “toad in the hole,” which is essentially a piece of toast with a hole cut in the center for a cooked egg.

This is a very “thyme forward” recipe, but the thyme blends well with the egg batter and the sausage.

Serves 4-6 people. Preparation time: about 45 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. thyme, either fresh chopped or dried
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • 1 lb. uncooked sausage links (any kind will do)
  • 2 3-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs for 45-60 seconds until they run smoothly off your fork or whisk. Add the milk, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix thoroughly. We’re doing the classic approach of mixing the wet ingredients together, then adding the dry ingredients.

Add the flour and stir until smooth. Set the batter aside. Make sure to scrape the bowl well to break up any hidden pockets of dry flour.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a 1-inch cast-iron skillet. Add the sausage links and rosemary sprigs. Cook Brown both sides of the sausage, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. You don’t have to cook the sausages all the way through; they will get plenty more cooking time in the oven. But we’re trying to brown the outsides to generate some extra flavor. Cooking the rosemary is essentially just flavoring the oil, which will get absorbed into the egg batter while it’s baking.

Remove and discard the rosemary, and arrange the sausage links in the skillet so that they aren’t touching each other. Pour the batter into the skillet, re-adjust the sausages if they slid around, and move the skillet to the oven.

Bake until the edges are brown and the batter in the center has set solidly, about 25 minutes. Don’t open the oven door for the first 20 minutes, or it will deflate. After 20 minutes, if the rising batter has pushed the sausages up and out, you can quickly reach into the oven with a wooden spoon or a spatula and gently push them back in.

Remove from oven. Serve immediately.

Tips and suggestions:

  • If the batter isn’t rising enough, try heating to milk to somewhere between room temperature and about 120 degrees F. Also make sure that the skillet is thoroughly pre-heated (cooking the sausages first in the same skillet usually accomplishes this).
  • You can optionally garnish it with chopped chives just before serving.
  • Traditional toad in the hole uses pork sausage, but in the classic British spirit of “making do,” use whatever you’ve got. I’ve made it with chicken and turkey sausage, and even “Gimme Lean” vegetarian sausage, and it comes out just fine. You can also try spicy sausage; it will go just fine with the egg batter, though you might want to vary the amount of thyme in case the spaces conflict. Try not to use pre-cooked sausage, though; it will be overcooked by the time the batter has set.
  • You can eat toad in the hole on its own, but it’s also great with a basic gravy. That makes it a great next-day meal after a big roast dinner where you might have leftover gravy, or you can whip up a simple one on your own with some aromatic vegetables, soup stock, and a bit of corn starch. Pro tip: try to match the meat in the sausage with the kind of stock in the gravy.

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