They all have eggs in common, but what differentiates these iconic brunch dishes from one another?

By Tadhg Hylier Stevens
February 01, 2021
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If you're not a fan of eggs, then you're in the minority. On average, Americans eat about 300 eggs a year per person, and the quantity of yolks and whites we scramble has been gradually climbing since scientists declared that eggs don't typically drive up cholesterol levels. Eggs are so universal that they appear on our plates boiled, baked, and even stuffed in burritos. And perhaps the meal when they're most likely to show up is brunch: a leisure meal that in recent years has become a sort of ode to the egg and it's endless versatility.

While other preparations like benedicts and scrambles frequently make appearances on brunch menus, three egg-based delights are most likely to be the star offerings: quiches, frittatas and stratas. And despite their luxurious-sounding names, each is relatively easy to whip up at home, even  during a lazy weekend. But what's the real difference between these three favorites? If you're not sure what separates a frittata from a strata, much less a quiche, then we're to help. This guide will help not only help you learn the separation between these three eggy delights, but will also give you some ideas of what to work on this weekend. 

quiche lorraine and strawberries
Credit: Mackenzie Schieck

What's a Quiche?

Quiches, which originate in France, are savory custard tarts served in a crust. If you're looking for quiche in America, then you're likely to find an egg-forward dish baked in a shell using a round pie pan. Technically speaking, however, the most famous quiche doesn't highlight eggs as the star ingredient. Quiche Lorraine, which The New York Times credits as the first quiche to come to America's attention in the 1950s, is made with only four eggs; the rest consists of heavy cream, cheese, and bacon for a delicious (albeit heavy) treat. 

American quiches today don't typically contain such a high ratio of rich ingredients, with many recipes choosing to accent egg tarts with green complementary ingredients such as asparagus, broccoli, or spinach. However, there's nothing stopping you from souping up your quiche with whatever you'd like. Whether you prefer sausage and bacon along with some veggies, or would rather whip up a crab and Swiss quiche, nearly any combination will go fly with this customizable dish. If you'd like, you could even skip the pastry shell in favor of hashbrowns for a crispy and delicious gluten-free finish. 

edited-102742739-cheesy-spinach-ramen-frittata-by-ar-mag

OK, What's a Frittata? 

Because they are usually made with a milk or cream base, frittatas share a lot of textural commonality with quiches. In fact, you could be forgiven for mixing up a crustless quiche with a frittata. The difference between the two, however, lies largely in the preparation rather than the end result. 

In some ways, frittatas are a bit like large, round omelettes. The Italian dish primarily differs from the famous French offering in how its eggs are prepped. For omelettes, egg yolks and whites are typically whisked just until they combine. With frittatas, eggs are beaten thoroughly with milk and cream to create a more custard-like finish. 

The traditional cooking methods used also set quiches, frittatas, and omelettes apart. Quiches are typically baked in the oven; omelettes are cooked-over stovetop heat and folded over (with the center most often left custardy and not quite set). Frittatas, however, are cooked on a stovetop over low heat; the top is then either flipped to complete cooking or, more often, finished off in the oven. Lastly, omelette fillings are typically stirred into the eggs while they're cooking; frittata fillings are mixed into the eggs after they have been whisked with cream, but before they are poured into the pan. 

Often, frittatas are served cold, which makes them a great make-ahead dish for brunches and other occasions. But they're still certainly delicious served warm. And just like quiches, frittatas are versatile enough to keep you busy for weekends to come. 

What About a Strata?

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the strata. And if you're a fan of casseroles, or especially bread puddings, then this is likely to be your favorite. An American invention, the strata is bread pudding turned savory, and it's a perfectly simple dish to throw together for any special breakfast or brunch. 

To make a strata, one simply has to prep a bread of their choice (cubed or sliced) and then layer that with whatever fillings sound best. Bacon, spinach, tomatoes, cheese — as with quiches and frittatas, the possibilities are endless. Then, after you've finished layering your ingredients in a casserole dish, pour an egg and milk mixture over your bread layers, and place in the fridge for an hour or overnight to allow the bread to soak before baking. 

As Grace Elkus points out on The Kitchn, this dish will be even better if you dry out your bread slices a bit so that they can soak up the egg mixture more easily. And depending on how full your pan is, you might need to weigh down the top of the dish after you've covered it with foil. With a couple of cutting boards and a cast-iron in place, you'll be ready to pop your strata into the oven and relax. Feel free to tell the family you spent all morning over the stove; we won't spoil your secret.