With a rich and creamy béchamel sauce, shaved ham, nutty Gruyère, Dijon mustard, and herbes de Provence, this croque monsieur is a French-style upgrade that delivers melty cheese on the inside AND outside of the sandwich.
I like to think of croque monsieur as grilled cheese’s cousin who lived in France for a year and came back a changed and sophisticated woman. So, how is a croque monsieur different than a grilled cheese sandwich? First, the sandwich is baked on a baking sheet not grilled in a pan. Second, a creamy bechamel sauce is slathered on the inside of the bread and topped with Gruyere and piles of shaved ham. I spike my bechamel with Dijon and whole grain mustards, just like how they’re made at Buvette—the NYC French bistro that inspired this recipe.
The layers don’t stop there. Not only does bechamel go on the inside of the sandwich but it’s also spooned on top. We finish with more Gruyere and a sprinkling of herbes de Provence. The creamy melted cheesy deliciousness on the inside AND outside of the sandwich is what I call trés bien.
What’s In Croque Monsieur
This classic French sandwich doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
For the Béchamel Cream Sauce:
- Bay leaves
- Cold milk—it’s the secret for a smooth sauce that won’t lump
- Whole grain mustard
- Dijon mustard
- Nutmeg—Use freshly grated nutmeg for the best flavor. If using ground nutmeg, use ¼ teaspoon
- Kosher salt
For the Sandwich:
- Country-style French bread (cut 1 ½-inch slices from a really good quality loaf)
- Ham (use shaved off-the-bone ham from the deli dept)
- Gruyère cheese—or try Comté cheese, a melty white alternative that’s a little less expensive
- Herbes de Provence—a mixture of French herbs usually consisting of lavender, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano
How to Make Croque Monsieur
Croque monsieurs are an easy sandwich to make, and they come together quickly. Here’s how to make them:
Make the béchamel sauce. Get the master recipe for my béchamel sauce here. Béchamel is a French-style white cream sauce made from butter and flour and cooked into a roux, with milk added to thicken it into a lush, silky cream sauce—check out my master recipe here. Cook equal parts butter and flour cooked for a few minutes to lose its floury taste with milk added in. Whole or 2% milk fat works best. To avoid clumps, make sure the milk is very cold and add the milk into the roux, whisking swiftly as you do. (The consistency of the sauce should fall between alfredo sauce and pudding.) Remove from heat and whisk in the mustards, nutmeg, and salt.
PRO TIP : Bèchamel can be made a couple of days in advance. Store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap placed directly on top.
Assemble the Sandwiches
- Arrange the bread slices and generously spread each slice of bread with béchamel. Divide the sauce evenly among the eight slices—roughly two generous tablespoons per slice of bread.
- Top four of the slices of bread with half of the Gruyére and generous piles of ham (divide among the four slices).
- Top the ham with a little more Gruyére. This acts as the glue to hold the top slice of bread to the ham.
- Place the other four slices of bread on top of the ham with the béchamel sauce side up. Add the rest of the Gruyére to the top of the sandwich and sprinkle with the herbes de Provence.
- Broil the sandwich until the béchamel and cheese mixture is golden and bubbly.
What’s the Difference Between Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur
A croque madame is the exact same sandwich as a croque monsieur, with one difference: a runny fried egg on top.
What Does Croque Monsieur Taste Like
Croque monsieurs taste like a grown-up, French version of grilled cheese, and are more indulgent and filling with the addition of béchamel and ham. They’re also rich and fragrant due to the Dijon mustard and herbes de Provence.
What Cheese is Traditionally Used in a Croque Monsieur
Croque monsieur is usually made with Gruyère. However, a less expensive cheese like Comté or Emmental cheese works well too.
What to Serve with Croque Monsieur
This is definitely a more indulgent sandwich and lends itself perfectly to a date night. Serve it with a simply dressed salad with my favorite Dijon vinaigrette or matchstick-cut apples, and always with cornichons and Dijon mustard for dipping. Because they come together quickly, croque monsieurs are great for brunch.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo, and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ¾ tablespoon whole-grain mustard
- ¾ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the sandwiches
- 1 Country-style French bread boule , cut into eight ½-inch thick slices
- ½ pound deli ham , shaved or sliced thin
- 1 ½ cups grated Gruyere
- 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- First, make the bèchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and stir together until combined. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes golden and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth, then cook, whisking occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. (The consistency of the sauce should be akin to the consistency of alfredo sauce.) Remove from heat and whisk in the mustards, nutmeg, and salt. The bèchamel can be made a couple of days in advance, stored in the refrigerator (just cover the top directly with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form).
- Arrange the bread slices and spread one side of each with béchamel (divide the sauce evenly among the 8 slices). Top 4 of the slices of bread with half of the Gruyére and some slices of ham (divide among each). Then, top each with the remaining slices of bread (with the béchamel side up), the remainder of the Gruyére, and the herbes de Provence. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Then place under the broiler (on low), for about 1 minute. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing in half and serving.
- If using ground nutmeg, use ¼ teaspoon instead of ½ teaspoon
- If you want to add even more flavor to your bèchamel sauce, shallots are a tasty addition. If adding, mince ¼ cup of shallot and add to the roux mixture after you’ve cooked it for 4-5 minutes. Stir and cook until the shallots soften and release moisture; about 3 minutes.
- The bèchamel sauce can be made a couple of days in advance, and stored in the refrigerator (just cover the top directly with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form).
- You can assemble these sandwiches (unbaked) a day in advance. Cover them with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator.
More French Dishes to Master
- Coq au Vin
- Beef Bourguignon
- Easy Quiche Lorraine
- THE BEST Nicoise Salad
- Sweet and Savory Crepes
- Blender Hollandaise Sauce
- The Best French Onion Soup
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