A croque monsieur is a delicious toasted sandwich made with humble ingredients commonly found in a French pantry. It’s traditionally made with pain de mie (white sandwich bread), ham, cheese, and béchamel. The sandwich is layered with the ingredients then baked in the oven until the edges are crisp, the cheese is melty, and the top is golden-brown in spots. It’s quick and easy to make and a great dish for any time of day.
What Does Croque Monsieur Mean?
The word croque is derived from the French verb croquer, which means “to bite,” and the word monsieur, which means “mister.”
Where Did Croque Monsieur Originate?
This sandwich started showing up on French cafe menus in the early 1900s and first appeared in literature in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time , written in 1918. Since then, this sandwich can be found in cafes, brasseries, and bistros across Paris and Parisian cafes worldwide. Its popularity inspired variations around the world, like the American Monte Cristo and the Portuguese Francesinha. I made a pescatarian version of the sandwich with canned tuna salad instead of ham.
What’s the Difference Between Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur?
A croque madame is a variation of croque monsieur that has a fried or poached egg on top. It is said that the egg represents a woman’s hat.
Croque Monsieur Essentials
- The cheese. Croque monsieur is traditionally made with cheese commonly found in the French pantry. If possible use Gruyère, Emmental, or Comté.
- The bread. Pain de mie is the bread classically used in this recipe but if you can’t find it, another white flour loaf like a pullman loaf, sourdough, or white sandwich bread will work just fine.
- The ham. I was able to find a French-style bistro ham, an unsmoked, fully cooked ham commonly used in French bistros, at my supermarket’s deli counter. If you can’t find it, any sliced unsmoked deli ham will work in this recipe.
- The bechamel. Not all croque monsieurs have bechamel, but I love the richness it adds to the sandwich, so I’ve included it in this version. I infuse the bechamel with a touch of Dijon for a little extra flavor.
How to Serve a Croque Monsieur
Because this sandwich is so rich, it is commonly served with a side salad — that is also my favorite way to enjoy this dish.
A classic French sandwich made with creamy bechamel, Gruyere cheese and sliced ham that toasted until golden brown and melty
For the béchamel:
- 2 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons
- 3/4 cup
whole or 2% milk
- 2 teaspoons
regular or whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon
- 1/8 teaspoon
- 1/8 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
- 8 (1/2-inch thick) slices
pan de mie, country-style sourdough bread, or hearty white sandwich bread
- 6 to 8 ounces
sliced unsmoked ham (about 8 slices)
- 6 ounces
Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF.
Make the bechamel:
Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and whisk until combined, about 1 minute. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in 3/4 cup whole or 2% milk. Bring to a simmer (it will start to thicken up), whisking constantly.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk to combine.
Assemble the sandwiches:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grate 6 ounces Gruyère cheese on the large holes of a box grater(about 2 cups). Place 4 (1/2-inch) thick slices bread on the baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons béchamel on each slice of bread. Divide 6 to 8 ounces sliced ham over the béchamel, bending and folding then as needed to fit. Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the ham.
Close the sandwiches with the remaining 4 bread slices. Spread 2 tablespoons béchamel evenly onto each slice of bread. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake until the edges of the bread are crispy and the tops are starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Heat the oven to broil. Broil until deep golden brown in spots, about 3 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Make ahead: The béchamel can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Rewhisk before using.
Storage: Leftovers can be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat in a toaster oven until warmed all the way through.
Senior Recipe Editor
Amelia is a Filipino-American food and travel writer, food stylist, recipe developer, and video host based in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and worked in kitchens under Jean-Georges Vongerichten at ABC Kitchen and Nougatine at Jean-Georges. She is a former contributing food editor at Bon Appétit Magazine and current Studio Food Editor at thekitchn.com. Her recipes have been published by Food52, Bon Appetit, Washington Post and more.