Indulgent and satisfying, croque madame is perfect for breakfast or lunch. Learn to make this simple yet elegant sandwich at home with this easy recipe.
Tasting a croque madame for the first time had quite an impact. I felt like my taste buds had died and gone to heaven. The egg on top is lovely, the silky and buttery sauce is incredible, the crispness of the bread is the ideal textural element, and the ham brings a sweet smokiness. The sandwich is one part substantial, stick-to-your-ribs fare and one part refined elegance. In addition to taste, everything from cutting into the runny yolk and watching it leave a beautiful yellow streak in the sauce to the golden brown bread is deeply engrained in my memory. That’s why I attempted to recreate the sandwich for years and finally did it! This croque madame hits all the marks but slightly differs from the classic.
Why You’ll Love This Croque Madame
- Unique – This croque madame is a little different. Instead of ham and cheese between two slices of bread, I layered ham with greens and topped each sandwich with a fried egg, followed by the sauce. The sauce is both a topping and the cheesy element of the sandwich.
- The sandwich is filling – Croque madame may be a sandwich, but it eats like a meal.
- Magnificent mornay – The sauce spooned over each croque madame starts as a bechamel and then transforms into a mornay once grated cheese goes in. Although bechamel and mornay sound fancy (and French chefs take both sauces VERY seriously), don’t be intimidated. The hardest part is stirring.
Croque Madame Ingredients Notes
- Bread: This recipe calls for honey wheat. Honey wheat bread is slightly sweet with a soft texture and even crumb yet hearty enough to stand up to the toppings. It also toasts beautifully.
- Ham: Black Forest ham adds a complex smoky flavor to each croque madame.
- Eggs: Perfectly cooked egg with a runny yolk is *chef’s kiss*. However, if that isn’t your thing, cook the eggs until they are done to your liking.
- Butter: Fat is required in the roux to keep the starch granules separate. Otherwise, the flour would clump, resulting in a lumpy sauce. Unsalted butter is best because it allows you to control the amount of salt in the mornay.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is used to make the roux for the sauce. In roux, flour acts as the thickener. Cooking a starch in fat breaks up starch granules then those granules absorb any liquid added, resulting in a thickened sauce.
- Cheese: I kept this mornay classic with gruyère cheese. It has a salty, nutty flavor.
Find the ingredients list with amounts in the recipe card below!
How to Make Croque Madame
- Make the mornay: Start with a roux, follow with cream to make a bechamel, then add grated cheese to turn the sauce into a mornay. Classic French cooking has never been easier!
- Toast the bread: Arrange the slices of bread on the baking sheet, brush with butter, top two slices of bread with an egg (aim for the middle, so the egg doesn’t slide off), and top the other four with ham. Pop them into a 250-degree oven to bake. Remove when the bread is toasted and the eggs set.
- Stack and serve: Assemble each sandwich, layering spinach in between, and place the slices of bread with the egg on top (of course). Then spoon the mornay sauce over the top, and serve!
Variations, Substitutions, and Cooking Tips
Fry or poach the egg – Either will make a croque madame equally showstopping. If frying or poaching the egg, add after assembling the sandwich, then top with the mornay.
Use another type of bread – Any hearty bread with structure will do.
Add cheese to the sandwich – Traditionally, croque madame has ham and grated cheese inside the sandwich. You can’t go wrong with a layer of melted cheese.
Use a whisk for the sauce – Otherwise, you risk lumps.
Freshly grate the gruyère – Pre-grated cheeses are usually tossed with an anticaking agent that will affect the cheese sauce’s texture.
Why is it called a Croque Madame?
A croque madame is a twist on a croque monsieur, meaning “mister crunch”, which is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich made with gruyere, parmesan, ham and a béchamel sauce. A croque madame, pronounced krowk ma·dm, simply adds a poached or fried egg on top.
What Is Béchamel Sauce?
Béchamel is a classic French sauce that combines a roux (flour and butter mixture) with milk or cream. The sauce is typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Béchamel is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine. Mother sauces are a group of sauces on which other sauces are based. Mornay is one of those sauces. It starts as a béchamel and is then enriched with grated cheese, making it a daughter sauce. Béchamel sauce and mornay are relatively easy to make but require careful attention to prevent lumps. The ratio of roux to milk or cream is also important since it determines the thickness of the sauce. A thicker sauce needs more roux, and a thinner sauce requires less.
What to Serve with Croque Madame
A croque madame is an entire meal, so focus on drinks to complement it. You can’t go wrong with freshly squeezed orange juice. The acidity cuts through the richness and cleanses the palate. Tea is another option, or you can go with white wine like Pinot Grigio if enjoying a croque madame for dinner.
- 1 loaf of freshly sliced honey wheat bread
- 1 package black forest ham
- 1 cup of spinach
- 2 eggs
- Béchamel Sauce
- 1 TBS. butter
- 1 TBS. flour
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 7 oz. heavy cream
- 1½ tsp. Dijon Mustard
- ½ tsp. ground mustard
- 1 oz. gruyére (grated)
- In a small sauce pan, heat the butter over a low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add the heavy cream, and whisk over a medium-high heat until the mixture thickens. Add the nutmeg, ground mustard, and Dijon. Remove from heat and add the grated gruyére. Continue to stir until the cheese is incorporated.
- Preheat the oven to 250F. Place 6 slices of bread on a baking sheet and brush each with butter (both sides). Top 2 of the slices with egg, and the other four with ham. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (or until the eggs are cooked thoroughly). Once ready, simply stack (place the bread with the egg on top) and then top with béchamel sauce. Serve immediately!
Try these breakfast recipes next.