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10 Best Things to Serve for Brunch, Experts Say

Serve these chef-approved dishes for a more memorable event.

Brunch is about so much more than the meal itself—it's a chance to slow down and enjoy the company of your favorite people. The pace—usually relaxed and leisurely—sets a luxurious tone. Of course, having a bevy of fun drinks doesn't hurt either. But there's another reason this meal is so beloved: the endless brunch menu ideas. Almost anything goes, since you can draw from both breakfast and lunch menus, and creatively combine sweet and savory dishes.

"Brunch is a wonderful way to celebrate good company and food," says Nate Molina, executive chef for The Genesee Store in Taylorsville, California. "Though there are many wonderful dishes you can offer your guests, for me the real winners are simple to make but make your guests feel like you have been prepping and cooking for days."

Ready to get cooking? These are the best 10 brunch menu ideas, according to chefs.

RELATED: 10 Best Brunch Cocktails to Make at Home.

Chilaquiles with fried eggs

Chilaquiles with fried egg, chicken and spicy green sauce

When you're brainstorming brunch menu ideas, you should always take into consideration how much time will be spent in the kitchen. If a dish requires you to miss all the fun by serving as a short-order cook, you should avoid it in favor of something simpler.

"My favorite dish that is rewarding in taste yet low in effort is a green salsa chilaquiles with fried eggs," says Rafael Mayoral, chef at Hotel Zoe's Pescatore Trattoria in San Francisco. "You can easily make it for a large crowd, and the flavor only gets better with time."

"The key to this dish is the sauce; make sure to use roasted dried chilis instead of chilis like fresh serranos for a deeper depth of flavor," he shares. "And if you're looking to make it extra special, any sort of pork on top is a must, like carnitas, chorizo, or my favorite, fried pork belly."

Fresh seafood on ice

Fresh seafood platter with lobster, mussels and oysters

If you're looking to impress while cutting out the cooking process entirely, chef Olivier Rousselle, who works with The Godfrey Hotel Hollywood's ALK (About Last Knife) in Hollywood, California, recommends opting for fresh seafood on ice.

"Fresh seafood lends itself perfectly for brunch because it is so fresh and crisp," he says. "I enjoy cold shrimp, langoustines, sea urchin, clams, stone crab claws, and briny oysters. Get your favorite selection on shaved ice with lemons, tartare sauce, rye bread, and a Baratte butter. A nice dry white wine like Muscadet or a brut champagne will compliment for a memorable brunch."

Reed Adelson, owner of Virginia's in New York City, adds that this offering goes off the beaten path, which will help to make a lasting impression. "I always want to have oysters or shrimp cocktail on my table at brunch. I think everybody always thinks of eggs and French toast but I think that oysters are really a nice way to start the afternoon. Salty and so decadent—they're a must!" he says.

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Shrimp and grits

Homemade shrimp and grits with pork and cheddar

Chef de cuisine Donnie Forehand from Cambria Hotel Austin Downtown's Limestone Rooftop says there's another great seafood option that plays up the comfort while minimizing your efforts: Shrimp and grits.

"One dish that I will always be tempted to order if I see it on a brunch menu is shrimp and grits. Grits are a great starch that carries flavor really well. Shrimp are also very good at taking on whatever flavor that you throw at them," he says.

Dutch baby

Dutch baby pancake with berries and icing sugar in a pan

Molina says that one of his favorite brunch menu items is called a Dutch Baby.

"Very popular in the Pacific Northwest region, this dish is reminiscent of a crepe and a Swedish pancake," the chef tells Best Life. "A simple batter is poured into a preheated and buttered cast-iron pan and cooked in a very hot oven for about 10 minutes. The Dutch Baby puffs up very dramatically while cooking and gets a wonderfully crisp and golden fringe."

"We commonly cut the Dutch Baby into wedges, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on it, and serve with fresh berries and warm maple syrup," he adds.

Pancakes with ice cream

Pancakes serves with chocolate sauce and ice cream

Pancakes couldn't be easier to make, and most people have a nostalgic association with the breakfast confection. Mayoral recommends keeping your pancake recipe simple and traditional but playing around with unexpected toppings.

"I prefer mine with bananas, and instead of butter or syrup as your toppings, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's your own little brunch ice cream cake," he says.

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Classic French toast

French toasts with strawberry and powdered sugar for breakfast on a wooden table
iStock / Veselova Elena

Forehand also recommends a simple French toast, which tends to evoke similarly sweet memories. "French toast was always my older sister's favorite dish when we were growing up," he says, noting that family connections to the dish are common.

"While it can be very simple to make, if you take the time to bake your own bread and soak it in freshly made custard, sear all sides on the griddle, and finish cooking in the oven, you are going to create a food memory for someone that they're not going to soon forget," he adds.

Don't have the time to bake your own bread? Toast up a bakery-bought brioche bun before letting it soak in your custard.


Shakshuka dish with fried eggs with chorizo and vegetables in frying pan

One popular brunch trend in restaurants is to serve Shakshuka, a rich dish that's common across the Middle East and North Africa.

"Shakshuka is a dish that has gained in popularity in recent years," says Forehand. "It is a chunky stew of roasted peppers, tomatoes, and onions with eggs and feta cheese baked on top. The combination of the salty feta with the stewed veggies and the egg [is] one that someone could easily put their personal spin on."

Molina agrees that Shakshuka makes for an ideal brunch menu addition. "Though there are plenty of opinions as to the origins of the Shakshuka, all who taste it agree that it is delicious and deceptively easy to prepare," he tells Best Life.

"Consisting of a rich and somewhat spicy tomato based sauce that is gently heated in a pan. Using a ladle or a large spoon, we create small depressions in the thick tomato sauce and crack fresh eggs into the depressions," he shares. "Sprinkle with a little Maldon salt and fresh cracked pepper. The Shakshuka is then placed in a hot oven and baked until the eggs are cooked through. We commonly serve this with a warm French baguette."


Okonomiyaki japanese street food

Molina says that one of his "all-time favorite savory dishes" to serve for brunch is Okonomiyaki, a highly adaptable flour pancake that's ranked among Japan's most famous street foods.

"The two most common reigns are from the Osaka and Hiroshima regions. We prefer the Osaka as it is a little easier to make and reminiscent of a savory pancake filled with a variety of finely chopped vegetables and sometimes meat," he explains.

"I like this dish as it is a great way to utilize those two carrots sitting in the refrigerator drawer or perhaps that chunk of cabbage left over from a slaw or the two or three shrimp left over from the previous evening's meal. We serve this with good-quality Tamari or soy sauce instead of sweet syrup," he says.

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A fruit-forward salad

Salad with pears

Adding a dish that pairs sweet and savory can go a long way in unifying your menu. One way to do this is with a fruit-forward salad. Forehand recommends balancing your flavors, textures, and colors, effectively engaging all the senses at once. This will also help to offset any heavier brunch dishes by adding some light and nutritious fare.

Short rib Benedict

A closeup view of a plate of short ribs eggs Benedict.
The Image Party / Shutterstock

Finally, Daniel Wright, executive chef of Great Jones Distilling Co. in New York City, recommends a decadent twist on a tried-and-true brunch staple.

"Everyone knows a classic eggs Benedict, but at Great Jones Distilling Co. we take traditional brunch offerings to the next level with our short rib Benedict. Made with poached eggs, a warm cheddar biscuit, and topped with a decadent Great Jones Four Grain Hollandaise, this dish is a true standout," he says.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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