A Croque Monsieur is the French equivalent of grilled ham and cheese, just elevated to something truly special. Good all year long, these gourmet ham and cheese sandwiches are rich, deeply satisfying, and exactly what we crave on blustery days.
Most of us grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches made with American cheese or Velveeta and loved them as children. But as we grew up and our palates evolved, the cheeses weren’t as good as we remembered. We craved something more, but often weren’t sure what that was.
If we had grown up in France instead of America, we would have asked for Croque Monsieur sandwiches. Comforting, satisfying, and incredibly rich, these simple ham and cheese sandwiches make the perfect lunch or dinner.
One thing that really sets this apart from ordinary ham and cheese sandwiches is the cheesy bechamel sauce that you pour over the top and then broil until bubbling and melted. Talk about decadent! The French really do have the best food.
The blending of the creamy, smooth bechamel sauce and grated Gruyere is brilliant. The natural bite of the cheese is mellowed by the lush sauce and the two together are incredible. If you cannot find Gruyere, any Swiss-style cheese will work.
When the cheeses melt in the sauce, it gets quite stringy. If it is too thick, whisk in small amounts of milk (no need to warm it) until it is smooth. You want it fairly thick so it will stay on the sandwiches when you spread it over the tops.
Why do I have you cut off the crusts? You don’t have to, it is a matter of personal choice. But when the sandwiches are served with the cheese sauce ladled over the top, they can get pretty messy and are much easier to eat them with a fork and knife. A simple grilled ham and cheese is more often eaten by hand and benefits from the support the crusts give the sandwiches.
In America a Croque Monsieur is often served without the cheese sauce, as a simple grilled ham and cheese sandwich. If you are feeling extra decadent or in need of extra protein, turn this into a Croque Madame by adding a fried egg on the top, with the egg yolk melting into the cheese sauce. You are welcome to serve it any way you want, but for the most authentic French experience, definitely try it with the sauce over the top. C’est magnifique!
This is part of Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast ~ make sure you check out everyone’s interpretations of grilled cheese sandwiches below. You will be thrilled at the variety and creativity of these wonderful writers!
Have a fantastic weekend ~ see you next week for Chocolate Monday! 🙂
Key Ingredients for Croque Monsieur Sandwiches:
- Milk, butter, flour or gluten-free flour, salt and pepper, and nutmeg
- Grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese
- French or gluten-free sandwich bread
- Dijon mustard, thin ham slices
- Parsley for garnish
Do you have a favorite mustard to use in this sandwich?
Yes, I do. One of the last brands still being made in the city of Dijon in the Burgundy region of France. Edmond Fallot mustards are all wonderful, each flavor perfect for different applications. You can use any one that you like, but plain Dijon mustard is the classic.
Pre-grated cheeses may be convenient but they are not the best choice for sauces. The additives they are dusted with to help keep the strands from sticking together during packaging also prevent them from melting smoothly. Buy blocks of cheese and shred it yourself for the best sauces.
How to make Croque Monsieur Sandwiches:
- Make the cheesy bechamel sauce
- Toast the bread slices
- Brush the toast with Dijon mustard, add ham slices and shredded Gruyere cheese
- Top the sandwiches with another slice of bread, ladle the sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining Gruyere; bake to warm the ham then broil the sandwiches until bubbly and lightly browned
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately
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You will see that I recommend replacing the all-purpose flour with either sorghum or a GF flour blend. You can use the sorghum 1:1, but the blends contain starches. You won’t need as much for thickening. In addition to reducing the amount of the flour, you may need to add a little more milk. Remember that the sauce will thicken as it stands – you want it thick enough to smear over the top slices of bread.
- 2 cups milk, plus more if needed
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour, sorghum flour, or 2 tbsp Gluten-Free Flour blend *
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black or white pepper
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 4 cups freshly grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 16 slices French or gluten-free sandwich bread
- Dijon mustard, preferably Edmond Fallot brand
- 8 oz thin ham slices, such packaged sandwich meats (gluten-free)
- Parsley, for garnishing
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Make the Cheese Sauce: Place the milk in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup and warm to just below a simmer.
- Place the saucepan over low heat and add the butter. When the butter is fully melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the raw flour aroma is gone and the mixture begins to smell slightly nutty. Whisking vigorously, slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Get the sauce as thick as you want now because you cannot boil it once the cheese is added.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the grated Gruyere, and all the Parmesan. Set aside.
Toast the Bread: Cut the crusts off the bread slices and toast until browned on both sides either in a toaster or in the oven.
Assemble and Cook the Sandwiches: Lightly brush half the bread slices with mustard on one side, place a slice of ham on top of the mustard, and evenly sprinkle with 1-3/4 cups (half of the remaining) Gruyere. Top each with another piece of toasted bread to make 8 sandwiches.
- Ladle the cheese sauce over the top of each sandwich, sprinkle with the remaining grated Gruyere, and slide the baking sheet back in the oven. Bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes to warm the ham. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and beginning to brown.
- Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot.
* Gluten-free flour blends contain starches that are more efficient thickeners than plain flours. You may not need as much if you are using a GF
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 495Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 1230mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 33g
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This recipe is part of Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast. See the links below for inspiration and great recipes and check out our Pinterest page for even more!
- The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Croque Monsieur Sandwiches
- In Jennie’s Kitchen: Homemade Pizza Pockets
- Food for 7 Stages of Life: Best Caramelized Mushroom and Pineapple Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Dishing With Divya: Egg and Mushroom Cheese Sandwich
- The Cultural Dish: Croque Monsieur and Madame
- Weelicious: Grilled Cheese Pickle Panini
- Swing Eats: Mind-Blowing Grilled Cheese: Sriracha Ketchup, Kettle Potato Chips, Pickles, Sharp Cheddar (gluten-free)
- Red or Green: Cheddar, Peppadew & Basil Panini
- Napa Farmhouse 1885: Inside/Outside Grilled Cheese with Bacon, Avocado & Sundried Tomatoes
- Taste with the Eyes: Grilled Halloumi Cheese Salad, Savory Meyer Lemon Whipped Cream
- Creative Culinary: Inside Out Grilled Cheese with Tomato
- The Mom 100: Fork in the Road: Great Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Daily*Dishin: Grilled Cheese Italian Style: Pepperoni and Parmesan Crust
- FN Dish: 6 Gooey Grilled Cheeses You Can’t Live Without
This post was first shared in Feb 2015. The article was updated in 2020.