croque monsieur on cutting board

A croque monsieur is a classic French sandwich that is basically a cross between a ham and cheese and a grilled cheese. Basically, it’s a grilled cheese with ham, only with a little added je ne sais quoi because, of course, it’s French. The name literally translates to bite mister, which sounds like a rude thing to say — maybe it’s the French equivalent of "Bite me, dude!" It isn’t meant that way at all though. According to Culture Trip, a croque monsieur is in fact intended to be a gentleman’s sandwich which sounds far classier.

These days, according to recipe developer Eric Ngo, "Croque monsieur is often served in typical Parisian brasseries," although it can be found in bistros and cafes as well. Ngo characterizes his version of the sandwich as beginner level, but be aware that you may need some intermediate saucier skills to create the perfect béchamel.

Gather the ingredients for this classic croque monsieur

ingredients for croque monsieur

To make a croque monsieur, you’ll typically be using white bread. You’ll also need ham –- if you’re using the thin-sliced deli kind as Ngo does, you’ll need about two slices per sandwich. Ngo favors Gruyère cheese for this preparation and tells us, "Comté and Gruyère cheese are the most common cheeses used for croque monsieur." However, he adds that "You could make [a] croque monsieur with any hard [or] semi-hard cheeses that melt well, such as mozzarella." He also tells us, "The amount of cheese is very flexible; it really comes down to personal preference." Ngo likes to top his croque monsieur sandwich with béchamel sauce to give it some additional flavor. This sauce, one of the staples of French cooking, is made with milk (he favors whole milk), butter, and flour.

It all begins with béchamel

béchamel sauce and whisk

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. After it has melted but before it starts to brown, turn the heat down to low and stir in the flour all at once. Keep stirring for 1 minute as it cooks before adding the milk. Pour the milk in gradually, stirring all the while. Cook and keep stirring until the sauce starts to thicken. At this point, add ½ cup of cheese along with the black pepper and salt if using. The salt may not be necessary as Ngo points out that "The ham is often already salted." Stir until the cheese melts, then let the sauce cool down a bit.

Assemble the sandwiches

uncooked croque monsieur sandwiches

As the béchamel is cooling, preheat the oven to 430 F and toast the bread in a toaster or toaster oven. Ngo says that toasting the bread "[helps] hold the sandwich better and give it more structure." He explains that the croque monsieur may wind up being too soft if you don’t toast the bread.

Once the toast is ready, set out two of the slices and spread a generous layer of béchamel across the surface. Top the saucy sides with two slices of ham and ½ cup of cheese each before finishing them off with another slice of toast. Place the two sandwiches in a baking pan and use the remaining béchamel and grated cheese to top them off.

Bake, then broil the croque monsieur sandwiches

croque monsieur on cutting board

Bake the sandwiches for 10 minutes, then turn the oven up to broil and cook them for another 2 minutes. Ngo reminds us to be careful when setting the oven to broil, saying, "Make sure you keep an eye on it as it can burn your croque monsieur!"

Once the sandwiches are cooked, they should be eaten right away. If you’re looking to pair your croque monsieur with a side, Ngo says this dish is "often served with a green salad." A nice glass of vin rouge wouldn’t go amiss, either!

  • 4 slices white bread, toasted
  • 4 slices ham
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat down to low and add the flour all at once.
  3. Cook while stirring for 1 minute.
  4. Gradually add the milk and cook while stirring until the sauce thickens.
  5. Add the salt and pepper if using and ½ cup of grated cheese to the sauce.
  6. Stir until the cheese is fully incorporated.
  7. Set the sauce aside to cool down.
  8. Preheat the oven to 430 F.
  9. Toast the bread in a toaster.
  10. Spread two pieces of toast generously with béchamel sauce on one side.
  11. Cover the sauce with ham, ½ cup of cheese, and a second slice of bread.
  12. Top the sandwiches with the remaining béchamel sauce and cheese.
  13. Bake the sandwiches for 10 minutes, then turn the oven up to broil and cook for another 2 minutes.