A Croque Monsieur Sandwich is a hot ham and cheese sandwich done with a French flair! Ham, cheese and a smear of Dijon mustard on sliced sour dough bread is smothered with a Béchamel sauce and toasted in the oven until it's oozing – it’s the ultimate hot ham and cheese sandwich.
Croque Monsieur (pronounced krowk muh·syur) looks a lot like a grilled cheese sandwich, but of course the French take this to a new level by adding flavors and textures that elevate this humble sandwich – all without needing to know complex cooking techniques and methods. You can find this iconic sandwich on almost every Parisian restaurant brunch or lunch menu. For me, having a Croque Monsieur sandwich served alongside a simple salad lunch while sitting on the patio of a favorite Paris bistro is simply devine or as the French say – “tout simplement divin”!
To turn a humble sandwich of ham and cheese into the ultimate French sandwich we will start by adding the flavors of a nutty and sweet Emmenthal cheese, tangy Dijon mustard, and then smother it in a creamy béchamel sauce -all while keeping the preparation simple.
I like to serve this sandwich with a salad tossed in our favorite shallot vinaigrette or a roasted beet salad. The sandwich takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and toasts to perfection in another 10. So simple and quick it makes a perfect weeknight dinner (or brunch) for two!
What you'll need
Let’s quickly chat about some of the key ingredients and tools you will need.
Croque Monsieur Sandwich:
- Sourdough bread – The French are known for their bread, so if possible, pick up a nice French sourdough for this sandwich. Of course, if sour dough is not your thing, any crusty country style bread will work beautifully.
- Unsalted butter – while the top slice of bread is smothered in béchamel sauce, we want the bottom slice to achieve a crispy golden brown while toasting in the oven. Our solution is to brush the bottom slice with butter and place the buttered side down on the baking sheet!
- Dijon mustard – this adds a tangy and sharp flavor that compliments the nutty and sweet cheeses.
- Emmenthal, Gouda or Monterey Jack cheese or use a mixture of all three! The classic Croque Monsieur is made with Emmenthal cheese. Emmenthal offers a delightful combination of nuttiness and sweetness. Emmenthal can be hard to find, Gruyere makes a good substitute.
- Ham or prosciutto. Try and purchase quality sandwich meat, like a smoked ham. And, ask the deli person to thinly slice it!
- Unsalted butter
- All-pourpose flour
- Half-and-half – for the characteristic richness of this sauce we will use half-and-half. Whole milk also works well.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Nutmeg – Freshly grated nutmeg will add just the right amount of flavor. Grating your own nutmeg using a micro plane zester will deliver maximum nutmeg flavor. In a pinch you can use ground nutmeg.
It is surprising how just a pinch of fresh herbs really add flavor. For this recipe use fresh thyme and fresh chives.
Note: See recipe card for quantities.
I find it difficult to make grilled sandwiches for two on the stove top. Instead, we will use the oven to toast the sandwiches – giving you flexibility to make 2 or more sandwiches that are ready to serve at the same time.
Here is the equipment I grab when making this recipe:
- Parchment Paper makes clean up a snap! I like to use the unbleached and chlorine free parchment paper. Look on the box to make sure your parchment paper can be placed in a 400 degree oven.
- Baking sheet - The Nordic Ware Half Sheet is my go-to baking sheet.
- A Fish spatula is defined by the shape and thickness of its head, which is narrow, rectangular, and very thin, with a slightly offset upturn that cradles foods and increases the spatulas agility. (The angling of the head makes it easy to get it between the fish meat and the skin making it easy to remove the skin before plating.)
- Small sauce pan – I really like using this 1.5 quart All-Clad saucepan as it provides even heat, and is perfect to make the béchamel sauce.
How to make this recipe
Alright, got your ingredients and tools ready? While, making Croque Monsieur from scratch has a few more steps than slapping cheese and ham between two pieces of bread – it is so worth it and may inspire you to plan a trip to Paris.
Making Bechamel sauce
It’s harder to say bechamel with that perfect French accent than it is to make – it’s really no big deal. The best part is you can make the sauce one day in advance. Make sure you place plastic over the top of the cooled sauce and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
- First, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk in the flour until combined, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add half-and-half, whisking thoroughly to prevent lumps. Cook until thickened and smooth since we want this to be a spreadable because it is going to be used in place of butter on the top slice of bread.
- Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Let cool.
Assemble the Croque Monsieur
While the top slice of bread is smothered in béchamel sauce, we want the bottom slice to achieve a crispy golden brown while toasting in the oven.
Our solution is to brush 1 side of 2 slices of bread with melted butter. Now place the buttered side down on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet
Spread each slice of bread on the baking sheet lightly with mustard.
Using half the cheese, sprinkle over the mustard.
Top each of the slices of cheese-covered bread with ham and cover each evenly with more grated cheese. Make sure to reserve 2 Tablespoons cheese for sprinkling the top.
Lay on the remaining 2 bread slices and press down gently. Spread each top slice with béchamel. Don’t skimp on the bechamel, I like to add enough so it is almost dripping off the edges, about 3 or 4 Table spoons.
Finally, sprinkle with reserved cheese.
Bake until browned and bubbling on top and you see the cheese in the middle is melty and oozing out. Now it’s time to eat! Often the sandwich is served cut in half diagonally or vertically. Don’t forget the garnish! Sprinkle with thyme and chives.
If you are not a fan of crusts, go ahead and cut off the crusts. You can also cut into bite-size pieces. Enjoy!
What is the difference between a Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame?
Both are hot ham and cheese sandwiches but a croque madame is topped with a fried egg! The French word “croque” is based on the verb “croquer”, which means to bite or to crunch. The names croque monsieur and croque madame translate to “mister” and “mistress” crunch.
Want to make a Croque Madame sandwich? Simply follow this Croque Monsieur recipe, then fry eggs (one for each sandwich, sunny-side up) in a skillet while the sandwiches toast in the oven. Right before serving, place an egg on top of each sandwich – and that’s how you make it a Croque Madame!
I am still curious why the addition of a fried egg won the name to describe that sandwich as Croque Madame. Any guesses? Let me know in the comments.
Tips to make this recipe
Want to know the secret to making a Croque Monsier Sandwich? Here are some of my best tips that I’ve learned making this recipe again and again.
- Good Quality Ham and Cheese. The classic Croque Monsieur uses Emmental cheese. Emmental offers a delightful combination of nuttiness and sweetness. Its taste is often described as rich, buttery, and slightly fruity. If you are not a fan of Emmental, gouda or Monterey Jack or a mixture of all three are good options. Don’t skimp on the ham, make sure to buy the best quality ham you find at the deli, a smoked ham is nice option – have the deli counter slice it really thin!
- Make the béchamel ahead of time. The béchamel can be made one day in advance to cut down on prep. Make it as instructed in the recipe card below, allow it to cool. Place plastic wrap directly onto cooled surface and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
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Looking for other sandwich recipes for two like this? Try these:
While it’s thought of as a brunch/breakfast, Croque Monsieur is typically served as lunch in France with a side of fries and simple salad. But at home I will skip the fries and serve this ultimate hot ham and cheese sandwich with soup, here are a few of my favorites:
Croque Monsieur Sandwich - ultimate hot ham and cheese!
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- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg use freshly grated for maximum flavor or in a pinch use ground nutmeg
Croque Monsieur Sandwich
- 4 slices sourdough bread or any crusty bread
- 1 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- Dijon mustard
- 4 ounces Emmenthal Gouda or Monterey Jack cheese or a mixture (about 1 ⅓ cups), grated
- 4 ounces deli ham or prosciutto
- ½ cup béchamel sauce ,spreadable
- Pinch fresh thyme ,chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives ,snipped
Make the Bechamel Sauce
- First, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until combined, stirring constantly. Slowly add half-and-half, whisking thoroughly to prevent lumps. Cook 5 minutes until thickened and smooth, we want this to be spreadable as it is going to be used in place of butter on the top slice of bread.
- Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Let cool.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Brush 1 side of 2 slices of bread with melted butter. Place 2 slices of bread, buttered side down, on prepared sheet. Now spread them lightly with mustard.
- Sprinkle each slice of bread with half the grated cheese. Top each of the slices of cheese-covered bread with ham and cover each evenly with more grated cheese, reserving 2 Tablespoons cheese for the top.
- Place remaining 2 bread slices on top and press down gently. Spread béchamel on the top slice, about 3 or 4 Tablespoons. Sprinkle reserved cheese over béchamel.
- Bake sandwiches until golden brown on top, about 8 - 10 minutes. Cut in half diagonally or vertically to make smaller sandwiches. Sprinkle with thyme and chives and serve immediately.
• Make the béchamel ahead of time. The béchamel can be made one day in advance to cut down on prep. Cool and place plastic wrap directly onto surface, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
• To Serve: If you are not a fan of crusts, go ahead and cut off the crusts. You can also cut into bite-size pieces.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.