Croque Monsieur Vs Monte Cristo: What's The Difference?

The classic ham and cheese sandwich is a common target for new ideas and rearrangements. Over the years, chefs have taken it to new heights, creating innovative twists like the croque monsieur and Monte Cristo. But for two iterations of the classic meat-and-cheese duo, they couldn't taste more different. And for that, their sauces are to thank.

Starting us off strong with a rich and savory take is the croque monsieur. The sandwich is toasted and topped with béchamel, a creamy white sauce that is made with butter, flour, and milk. To finish things off, it is broiled until the béchamel is browned and bubbly. The luscious sauce becomes caramelized and gooey while the crispy sandwich underneath adds the perfect textural contrast. You'll need a fork and knife for this one, no doubt. For an extra twist, putting a fried egg on top transforms the croque monsieur into a croque madame.

On the other hand, the Monte Cristo takes the ham and cheese sandwich to a sweeter place. After being assembled, it is battered in an egg and milk mixture and fried in butter, French Toast-style. It's topped with a dusting of powdered sugar on top and served with a side of jam or maple syrup. The result is a sweet and savory combination that is golden and crispy on the outside but custardy in the middle. Fans of French toast will appreciate this fun take on their favorite brunch food.

Battle of the ham sandwiches

Beneath the accessories and flourishes, the two sandwiches aren't very different at all. Both feature white bread, deli ham, and a smear of Dijon mustard. The cheese may vary, but both use some form of Swiss cheese. The croque monsieur typically uses gruyère or emmental cheese, while the Monte Cristo favors gruyère and the holey Swiss cheese. Versions of the sandwich can be found using other types of cheese and, on occasion, you can find a Monte Cristo with turkey or chicken.

The birth of these two sandwiches can be traced back to Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. The croque monsieur, which practically translates to "Mister Crunchy," was created to be the perfect snack at Parisian cafes. It is said that the name came about when the owner of a cafe referred to his sandwich as "Mister Meat." Created in 1910, it rose to fame after being featured in a reputable publication. Around the same time, the Monte Cristo was making its rounds. Originally thought to be a version of the croque monsieur, it was also served in Parisian cafes but gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1930s. While the creator remains unknown, it is thought that the name may have paid homage to the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. Despite their differences, it's clear that these two sandwiches have both had their share of fame and glory.