Back in the early 1900’s Parisian cafes started churning out the croque monsieur – a grilled sandwich layered with cheese and ham that made a hearty snack. But this was no ordinary sandwich; it contained layers of creamy béchamel sauce. This menu item became hugely popular in France. Speak to any Frenchman, and they’re likely to have happy childhood memories of croque monsieur for breakfast.

Croque Monsieur on a chopping board
Croque monsieur ready to eat.

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between croque monsieur and croque madame? I’ll start by sharing their similarities: they both taste delectable. Creamy, cheesy sandwiches which are full of taste. But how do they differ? In this article, we’ll look at this along with offering recipes for each version of the croque.

Croque Madame and Monsieur: What’s The Difference?

  • The croque monsieur is a grilled sandwich filled with cheese, ham, and béchamel sauce.
  • The croque madame is a grilled sandwich filled with cheese, ham and béchamel sauce, topped with a fried or poached egg.

That’s it, simple, huh?

When translated from French to English: Croque monsieur and croque madame means: “Mr. Crunch and Mrs. Crunch.” The delicious egg on the croque madame symbolizes a woman’s hat.

Croque Madame Vs Croque Monsieur Infographic

Tips for the making the perfect croque

  • Cheddar cheese is a tasty choice, but a nice Emmental, Cotija, Swiss or Gruyère cheese takes it up a notch. The original version uses Emmental.
  • Keep bread slices to a maximum thickness or 3/4″. You don’t want the bread to over-power the fillings.
  • Ensure the sandwich is cooked long enough so that the exterior is crispy and the cheese melts inside.
  • Slather each slice with butter for maximum crispiness on the outside.
  • Don’t use fresh bread. Instead, allow it to age a couple of days until slightly stiff.
  • The real way to cook a croque is with a frying pan.
  • The perfect time for cooking a croque monsieur is 4 minutes on each side.
  • Use white bread or brioche for some added sweetness.
  • Add some grated cheese to your béchamel sauce to make it a mornay sauce.
  • Add a teaspoon of mustard or some sautéed rapini to help balance out the richness of the sandwich.

Did you know?

The original croque monsieur did not contain béchamel sauce. The layers consisted of bread, butter, cheese, ham, cheese, butter, then more bread.

Croque Monsieur Recipe

Serves: 4. Prep time: 5 minutes.

Croque Monsieur RecipeIngredients

  • 6 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 ½ Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups grated Emmental cheese (or your favorite cheese)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices of white bread
  • 16 slices sliced ham
  • 1 Tbsp chives, chopped finely

Directions

  1. Add 2 Tbsp butter and flour to a small saucepan and heat on med-high. Stir the ingredients frequently until combined and the flour has begun to cook (about 1 minute).
  2. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook and whisk until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Reduce heat to low then add ½ cup of cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir until melted.
  4. Spread remaining butter onto each slice of bread and toast on each side in a large frying pan. If the slices start to dry out, add a little more butter.
  5. Arrange half the toasted bread on a chopping board and layer each slice with two pieces of ham. Spread some sauce onto the meat and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining slices of bread then sprinkle over a little extra cheese.
  6. Place each sandwich on a lined baking tray and heat until the cheese melts.
  7. Switch the oven on to grill (broil) and toast the bread until browned on top.
  8. Serve with a garnish of chives on top.

Croque Madame Recipe

Serves: 4. Prep time: 5 minutes.

Croque Madame RecipeIngredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 ½ Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups grated Emmental cheese (or your favorite cheese)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices of white bread
  • 16 slices sliced ham
  • 1 cup wilted spinach

Directions

  1. Add 2 Tbsp butter and flour to a small saucepan and heat on med-high. Stir the mixture frequently until combined and the flour has begun to cook (about 1 minute).
  2. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook and whisk until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Reduce heat to low then add ½ cup of cheese, salt, and pepper then stir until melted.
  4. Spread remaining butter onto each slice of bread and toast on each side in a large frying pan. If it starts to dry out, add a little more butter.
  5. Arrange half the toasted bread on a chopping board and layer each slice with two pieces of ham and wilted spinach. Spread some sauce onto the meat and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining slices of bread then sprinkle with extra cheese.
  6. Place each sandwich on a lined baking tray and heat until the cheese melts inside.
  7. Switch the oven on to grill (broil) and toast the bread until it browns on top.
  8. Heat a little butter in a frying pan and cook the eggs until whites are set then season with salt and pepper and transfer to the top of each sandwich.

Variations of the croque

Back in the 1900s, the croque monsieur was the ultimate breakfast sandwich in France, much loved and revered. That was until the croque madame arrived in the 1960s. The simple addition of an egg resulted in a hugely popular menu item.

Since then, many new variations of the original sandwich have been introduced.

The Monte Cristo sandwich

The Monte Cristo sandwich consists of two slices of white bread filled with ham and slices of Swiss cheese. The slices are dipped in egg and then fried in butter. Turkey or chicken can also be used in place of the ham.

Monte cristo sandwich on a plate next to jelly
The Monte Cristo combines layers of creamy, savory flavor.

The Monte Cristo is believed to have been inspired by the Croque Monsieur. The sandwich usually comes with jelly, which the sandwich is dipped into for extra flavor.

Some other popular variations include:

Croque Hawaiian

It makes a tasty pizza, so why not add some pineapple to a croque. I’m sure the French would be devastated by this development.

Croque señor

Add some tomato salsa and spice up your morning routine.

Croque bolognese

The Italians and French wouldn’t be thrilled with this variation. Adding bolognese sauce to your croque monsieur isn’t for me, but some love it!

Croque provençal

This variation makes sense! Add slices of tomato for some extra vegetable intake.

Croque gagnet

If ham isn’t enough meat for you, add some andouille sausage and gouda cheese; another tempting variation.

Croque madame on a table
The croque madame has an egg added on top.

Conclusion

The French can take credit for creating a vast number of culinary masterpieces. One of my favorites has to be their gooey, crunchy toasted sandwich filled with ham, cheese, and béchamel sauce.

If you’re unsure what’s the difference between the croque monsieur and croque madame, the answer is simple, one egg! By adding an egg to the top of your croque monsieur, it transforms into a madame.

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