Think of Croque Madame as the French equivalent to the American grilled cheese, but even more delicious! Crusty bread is spread with a Mornay sauce and Dijon mustard, stuffed with ham and gruyere, and topped with a fried egg.
I’m pretty sure this is my favorite sandwich ever.
I had an absurd number of croque madame sandwiches while I was in Paris, considering all of the food choices that I had while I was there.
I just couldn’t stop eating them.
And if you’ve ever had one, you know why.
Each eating component has many layers to it.
For example, this sandwich is not just crunchy. Because the Mornay sauce soaks into the bread and goes under the broiler for a few minutes, it gives it a rich and gooey interior as well, not to mention the melty texture of the Gruyere.
And the slight sweetness of the meaty ham, with sharp Dijon to contrast, the nuttiness of the Gruyere, the creaminess of the Mornay…it’s all so magical together.
Even though it sounds like a lot is going on, it’s really not time-consuming or hard to make.
Give yourself 20 minutes in the kitchen, and you’ll have a big platter full of hot sandwiches to enjoy by the end.
How to Make Mornay Sauce:
A big part of the croque madame is a creamy Mornay sauce that soaks into the bread.
What is Mornay Sauce? It’s basically just a bechamel sauce with gruyere added at the end. It’s simple to make and takes less than 10 minutes!
To start, melt butter in a skillet, then add an equal amount of all-purpose flour:
Stir together to combine the two into a blond paste, then slowly whisk in milk:
Bring the mixture to a boil, and watch the sauce thicken:
Turn the heat off, then add shredded gruyere, salt, and a touch of grated nutmeg:
Give that a whisk, until the cheese melts and the sauce has a thick and gooey texture:
Now we can make the sandwiches!
How to Make Croque Madame:
To assemble the croque madame sandwiches, spread half the bread slices with mustard, and half with the Mornay sauce. Then top with shredded gruyere on one side, and deli ham on the other:
I have tested tons of variations of this sandwich over the years, and though I commonly see white sandwich bread used, I think a sturdy loaf bread like sourdough is MUCH, much better. It has better flavor and texture.
Also, Dijon mustard is my favorite mustard choice for the sandwich, though sometimes I’m in the mood for a more grainy mustard. Use your favorite.
For the ham, my preference is Black Forest, but other types will go nicely too.
Put the sandwiches together, then spread the outsides with softened, salted butter:
Pan fry the sandwiches in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes on each side until golden, just as you would with the usual American grilled cheese:
Transfer the crisp sandwiches to a baking sheet, and spread the tops with more Mornay sauce.
You can also add more gruyere on top if you’d like, which I admit is unnecessary but sometimes I do it anyway:
Pop the sandwiches underneath the broiler in your oven, until the Mornay and cheese are bubbling and melted:
Croque Madame vs Croque Monsieur:
And finally, to turn the Croque Monsieur into a proper Croque Madame, you need a couple of fried eggs to put on top:
I love dipping the sandwich into the runny yolk, but this sandwich is plenty outrageously delicious as just a Croque Monsieur if you feel like skipping the egg altogether.
More Sandwich Recipes:
For the Mornay Sauce:
- 2 tbsp butter (unsalted or salter)
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2.5 ounces gruyere cheese shredded (1/2 cup measured)
- pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
For the Croque Madame:
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 1/2 lb black forest ham thinly sliced from the deli
- 6 oz gruyere cheese grated (a heaping cup, measured)
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp softened salted butter, for spreading (or more)
- 4 large eggs
- black pepper
To Make the Mornay Sauce:
- In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and whisk until a smooth, blond paste forms, about 30 seconds.
- While whisking, add 1/4 of the milk to start. Whisk until smooth, then gradually add in the rest of the milk, to minimize clumping. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the pan from the heat, then whisk in the gruyere, nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp salt, until smooth and gooey. Taste and add more salt, if necessary, then set the sauce aside.
To Make the Croque Madame Sandwiches:
- For each sandwich, spread one slice with mornay sauce, and the other slice with Dijon mustard. I like about 1.5 tbsp of Mornay per slice, and 1.5 tsp of Dijon per slice, but no need to be exact.
- Add a few slices of ham to one of the bread slices, and about 1/4 cup of shredded gruyere to the other. Put the bread slices together to form sandwiches, then spread the outsides of both pieces of bread with softened butter, about 1.5 tsp each, but again, no need to be exact.
- Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat and cook the sandwiches on each side for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown on each side.
- Remove the sandwiches to a sheet pan, and preheat the oven broiler to high.
- Spread about 2 tbsp of mornay sauce onto the top of each sandwich, and broil until the tops are golden brown and bubbly, and the sauce has seeped into the crispy bread, about 2 minutes.
- Fry the eggs in the same frying pan that you grilled the sandwiches with, making sure to season them well with salt and pepper, until the white is set but the yolk is still runny, about 2 minutes.
- Top each sandwich with a fried egg, then enjoy while hot!
Post updated in March 2019. Originally published July 2011.