Croque Monsieur vs. Croque Madame: What's the Difference?
Plus, how to make a cheesy, crispy, and classy French sandwich at home.
Few sandwiches feel fancier than the croque monsieur and its egg-topped variant, the croque madame. But what exactly makes them so classy and delicious? Here's what you need to know about the differences between a croque monsieur and a croque madame (and how to make each one at home):
What Is a Croque Monsieur and How Is It Different From a Croque Madame?
A croque monsieur is a hot sandwich consisting of ham and cheese on thick slices of white bread. The dish originated in French cafés more than 100 years ago and, since it's easy to prepare and eat with your hands, it quickly became a bistro staple.
What's the deal with the name? "Croque" means "crunchy bite" and "monsieur" means "mister."
Typically, a croque monsieur is made with thinly sliced baked or boiled ham and sliced creamy Emmental or Gruyère cheese. The bread, which is topped with grated cheese, is often dipped in beaten egg before cooking. Bechamel sauce is sometimes added into the mix for extra creaminess and flavor. Croque monsieurs can be baked in the oven or fried in a frying pan.
Croque Monsieur vs. Croque Madame
A croque madame is simply a croque monsieur with a poached or fried egg on top. The difference between the two sandwiches has to do with how the egg is incorporated into the rest of the ingredients: In a croque monsieur, the bread is dipped into the beaten egg before it's cooked (French toast-style). In a croque madame, meanwhile, the egg is cooked and then placed on top of the already assembled sandwich.
"Croque monsieur" and "croque madame" are very French names, so it's difficult to explain their pronunciation in American terms. The "croque" is pronounced somewhere in between "crock" and "croak." The "o" sound is slightly elongated, but not entirely.
The history of the croque monsieur is a bit murky, but one of the first known written references to the cheesy sandwich can be found in the second volume of Marcel Proust's 1918 seven-part novel In Search of Lost Time. It was featured on Parisian menus as early as 1910.
There are a couple well-known, but not verifiable, origin stories for the croque monsieur. According to one story, French workers left their lunches too close to a radiator. The heat melted the cheese and toasted the bread and the sandwich was born.
Another legend holds that a Parisian chef invented the croque monsieur one day in 1901, after running out of baguettes. When a customer asked about the ingredients, the chef pointed to the butcher and said "C'est la viande de monsieur (It's that guy's meat)."
How to Make a Croque Monsieur or a Croque Madame
If you want to make a croque monsieur or croque madame that'll transport you from your own home to a French brasserie, you need just a few ingredients and a good recipe.
"Delicious," reviewer Amelia Schmertz says of our croque monsieur recipe. "Brought me back to junior year abroad in Paris and my favorite brunch place near the Tuileries."
Get the recipe: Croque Monsieur
"This was oh so good," raves reviewer SweetPepper13. "I swear my taste buds were singing the hallelujah chorus. This was so quick and easy to make and very filling."
Get the recipe: Croque Madame