Monte Cristo is a spectacular mash up of the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich + buttery French toast in less than 30 minutes!
These Monte Cristo sandwiches rival Disneyland’s famous version (or better!), are quick and easy to make, a fabulous way to use up leftover ham, are make ahead friendly and the most spectacular sweet and savory combo you will ever sink your teeth into. This mouthwatering Monte Cristo recipe is made with layers of ham, turkey, and Gruyere cheese on sourdough or challah, dunked in a light batter, pan fried until golden, then served with powdered sugar, syrup and/or raspberry jam for dipping. The coveted buttery, golden crispy crust giving way to the velvety inside combined with gooey cheese, is sweet, salty, cheesy, buttery, perfection. Monte Cristos are ideal for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and make a fun dinner as well! Most importantly, they are more heavenly than you can dream of.
Calling all sandwich lovers! I love to recreate my favorite restaurant style sandwich recipes at home, so if you love sandwiches, you’ll love: French Dip Sandwiches, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, Italian Beef Sandwiches, Beef Brisket Sandwiches, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches, Cuban Sandwiches and of course, these Monte Cristo Sandwiches!
Monte Cristo RECIPE
I’ve always liked Monte Cristo sandwiches, but both Patrick and I were swooning over this recipe. They were the best Monte Cristos I’ve ever had. Even the leftovers were spectacular.
This Monte Cristo sandwich recipe is worth every penny, every second, every effort. And If you’ve never experienced Monte Cristos before, now is your chance – please make this recipe! And bonus, these Monte Cristo sandwiches are actually super easy to make – they just involve layering bread with butter, mustard, mayonnaise, jam, ham, turkey and cheese then pan frying – easy peasy, cheesy!
After experimenting, I stumbled upon a few key elements that elevate this Monte Cristo sandwich recipe. I’ll go into greater detail below, but for a brief summary:
- Thick sturdy sourdough adds extra tangy flavor and creates a crispy exterior giving way to a soft interior
- Slathering the outside of the sandwich bread with butter creates a barrier so the perfect amount of batter is absorbed by the bread AKA the perfect golden exterior, soft (not soggy!) interior
- The buttery blanket also means extra buttery flavor – winning!
- Spiking the batter with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla add yet another layer of mesmerizing flavor
- Using Gruyere Swiss as opposed to American Swiss means extra sweet, nutty flavor and silky meltability
- Adding a layer of raspberry jam directly to the sandwich adds a layer of sweetness to offset the savory ham, turkey and tangy mustard
In short, there are SO many reasons to love this Monte Cristo recipe – I can’t wait for you to taste them!
I’m going to go into more details about Monte Cristo sandwiches from their history to specifics on ingredients to step by step instructions. Read on or use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of the post. I hope you love this Monte Cristo recipe as much as us! Happy eating!
What Is a Monte Cristo Sandwich?
A Monte Cristo is essentially a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich on the inside and French toast on the outside. A Monte Cristo is often made with three layers of bread and is piled high with ham, cheese, and often turkey (like in this recipe!). It’s then coated in an egg batter and toasted in a buttery skillet until golden. It sounds like a lot of extra effort for a grilled cheese sandwich, but trust me when I say it’s SO worth it!
What is the difference between a Monte Cristo and a croque monsieur?
French Croque Monsieur sandwiches are grilled ham and cheese sandwiches traditionally made with baked or boiled ham and sliced Gruyere cheese, topped with grated cheese which is then baked or fried to create a cheesy crust.
Monte Cristo Sandwiches are also layered with ham and sliced Gruyere cheese but without the cheesy crust. Instead, the sandwiches are first dipped in egg batter and fried in butter. Monte Cristo sandwiches also typically include turkey and mustard.
Where did Monte Cristo Sandwich Come From?
The Monte Cristo Sandwich is an American variation based off of the French Croque Monsieur sandwiches. Croque Monsieurs first appeared on a Paris menu in 1910 and Monte Cristo sandwiches were first referenced shortly later in 1923 in an advertisement in The Caterer and Hotel Proprietors’ Gazette, January 1923: “Sandwiches … Monte Cristo …. 50 c”.
The earliest known recorded recipe of the Monte Cristo emerged just one year later in 1924 in the Los Angeles Times:
“Cover six slices of sandwich bread with a slice of American full cream cheese, cover the cheese with slices of boiled ham, cover with slices of bread, tie with white string, dip in beaten egg and fry a nice brown on both sides in hot butter. Place on hot plates, remove the string and serve.”
Since that time, Monte Cristo sandwiches have had a rich, evolutionary history, popping up in all over California restaurants in the 1930s and working its way across America. It wasn’t until 1966, however, that the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland, California, put Monte Cristo sandwiches on the map by putting them on their menu. It is by far their most popular menu item, similar to this recipe, except their recipe is deep fried instead of pan fried and served with blackberry preserves.
Ingredients in a Monte Cristo
This Monte Cristo recipe is so easy and requires just a handful of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
- sturdy bread
- sliced ham
- sliced turkey
- sliced Swiss cheese
- raspberry jam
Due to the simplicity of the ingredients, it’s important to make every ingredient count. I’ve gone into greater detail below so you know exactly what to look for to create the BEST Monte Cristo sandwich recipe at home.
I suggest using a sturdy white bread for this recipe that can support all of the ingredients and so the sandwich doesn’t fall apart or become soggy. My absolute favorite bread to use in Monte Cristo sandwiches is sourdough. The slight tanginess compliments the raspberry jam and powdered sugar beautifully. Brioche or challah would be my second choice followed by French bread. If the bread doesn’t come pre-sliced, slice it 1/2-inch thick.
Can I use sandwich bread?
If you want to make Monte Cristo sandwiches with regular white bread, you absolutely can for convenience, just keep in mind airy white breads are prone to falling apart and becoming soggy. You will want to secure the sandwiches together with a toothpick and don’t submerge the sandwiches in the egg mixture for long.
Do I need to trim the crust?
You have the option to trim the crusts from your bread or leave them alone. If you use sourdough, brioche or challah, the crust should be thin and soft enough to blend right into the bread and won’t distract from the texture or the seal of the sandwich. Leaving the crust on these breads, can also make the Monte Cristo sandwiches sturdier.
If you’re using a bread with a heavy crust, you may want to trim it so the sandwich seals better.
Monte Cristo sandwiches are made with Swiss cheese. You need a strong cheese like Swiss to stand out against the egg batter, mayo, and meat.
Please be advised not all Swiss cheese is created equal. “Swiss cheese” in America is actually a broad term that includes hundreds of Swiss cheeses, many of which are sorry imitations of Emmental Swiss cheese actually from Switzerland. Americanized Swiss cheese is made from pasteurized milk and is significantly less flavorful than real Swiss cheese. For the best Monte Cristo, go with real Swiss cheese, specifically Gruyere cheese.
Gruyere is a semi-hard, pale yellow Swiss cheese made of whole milk. It’s the consummate melting cheese that’s slightly sweet, slightly salty, creamy, nutty and boasts enough flavor to cut through the richness of the Monte Cristo. You can purchase an 8 oz. block with the specialty cheeses at your grocery store or I suggest purchasing it at the deli counter and asking them to thinly slice it for you.
You can use any ham for Monte Cristo sandwiches, just make sure it has some flavor! The Monte Cristo is a fabulous way to use up leftover Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving ham which already is seasoned OR I prefer it with thinly sliced deli ham, specifically Black Forest honey ham. While you can use any deli honey ham, other ham varieties such as Virginia ham are more mild and drier than Black Forest ham.
If using leftover ham, you will need only two slices (one per sandwich) because the slices are thicker. If purchasing ham from the deli counter, have them slice it thinly and use two slices per sandwich.
WHAT IS BLACK FOREST HAM?
Black Forest ham is named after the Black Forest area of Germany in which it originated. It is a type of dry-cured smoked ham that typically takes up to three months to produce from start to finish! The raw ham is first seasoned with pepper, garlic, juniper berries, coriander and other spices, cured for four weeks then cold-smoked over pine or fir.
At this point it can be sold as-is or smoked to about 130 degrees in a smoker. This second smoke adds additional flavor to the ham depending on what type of wood is used. Maple, hickory-smoked and applewood-smoked are all popular varieties.
For a Monte Cristo, all varieties will work but I am partial to honey smoked Black Forest ham. It’s slightly sweeter and richer than the other smoked varieties and the smokey sweetness beautifully contrasts with the savory turkey and tangy Dijon mustard.
The turkey for a Monte Cristo is pretty straightforward. You can use any thinly sliced turkey but for the best quality, head to the deli counter (Boar’s Head is excellent). You can also use leftover holiday turkey!
Monte Cristo sandwiches are slathered in both mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. The Dijon adds the signature tanginess and cuts through the creamy mayo and rich egg batter. The mayonnaise adds creamy moisture to the otherwise dry bread. When selecting mayo, make sure to use real mayo, not Miracle Whip, for the best flavor.
If you use both mustard and mayonnaise independently, they are tedious to layer and overpowering. To solve this dilemma, I mix half mustard with half mayonnaise to create a spread. Now we get easy spreadability and the perfect punch of flavor.
Raspberry jam or blackberry is also spread onto one side of the Monte Cristo sandwich independent from the mayonnaise and mustard spread. Its sweetness beautifully compliments the tangy mustard and savory ham and is a must in my book – as in, seriously makes the sandwich. Traditional recipes serve the jam on the side, but why serve it on the side when you can include it in the sandwich and create the perfect bite?
Once the Monte Cristo sandwiches are assembled, they are dipped in a light French toast batter of eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Any type of milk will work, but full-fat delivers the best flavor. The additions of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt elevate the entire sandwich but if you’re missing nutmeg or cinnamon it’s not the end of the world – but make sure to try it next time!
How to Make a Monte Cristo Sandwich
If you’ve made a grilled cheese sandwich before, then you can certainly handle making this bad boy. I like to assemble both Monte Cristo sandwiches at once. Here are the basic steps:
Step 1: Assemble the sandwiches:
- Add butter, mayo/mustard, cheese and ham to bottom bread slice: Place 2 slices of bread on a cutting board (to make two sandwiches). Lightly butter each slice of bread then flip over so the butter is face down. Spread mustard/mayonnaise mixture on the top of each slice of bread. Top with a slice of cheese (or enough cheese to cover the surface of the bread), followed by 2 slices of ham.
- Add jam, mayo/mustard, turkey and cheese to middle bread slice: Spread one side of two pieces of bread with raspberry jam and place side down over ham. Spread the top side with the mayo/mustard mixture. Top with turkey and a slice of cheese (or enough cheese to cover the surface of the bread).
- Add mayo/mustard and butter to top bread slice: Spread one side of two pieces of bread with mayo/mustard mixture and place side down over cheese. Spread the top side with softened butter.
Step 2: Press sandwiches
- Place parchment paper or plastic wrap over one sandwich and top with a cast iron skillet to weigh down and compress for 3-5 minutes, meanwhile make the batter.
- Repeat with second sandwich while you’re cooking the first one.
Step 3: Make the batter
- In shallow dish, mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Use a dish wide enough to fit the sandwich like a pie plate or 8×8 pan.
- Dip the sandwich into the batter, then flip it over so it’s completely covered in the batter.
Step 4: Cook the sandwich
- Preheat skillet over medium-low heat and add butter and vegetable oil.
- Once butter is melted, transfer one sandwich to the skillet and reduce heat to low. Cook for 4-6 minutes per side, until sandwich is golden and cheese is melted.
- Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining sandwich.
What to serve with Monte Cristo
Now that our Monte Cristos are toasted to golden glory, it’s time to garnish! You can serve them with one or all of the following:
- Powdered sugar: Amping up that sweet and savory flavor is the way to go here. Dust your sandwich with powdered sugar and thank me later!
- Fruit: Top your Monte Cristo with fresh berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries.
- Raspberry jam: Is already included in the sandwich so it’s not necessary, but for those who like it extra fruity.
- Maple syrup: Might sound odd, but I was served maple syrup with my Monte Cristo sandwich at a café and it was fabulous. Maple and ham are divine together and, of course, syrup and French toast is the only way to go!
Tips for the Best Monte Cristo recipe
- Crusts is optional. Some bread has extra thick crust which you may want to slice off to help “seal” in the sandwich and prevent the packed filling from falling out. If your crust is thin/soft enough, like in these photos, then feel free to leave it on.
- Don’t skip the mayo! Only using mustard will result in dry bread or overpowering mustard. The mayo adds a rich spreadability while toning down the mustard.
- Don’t skip the mustard! The mustard adds the flaVOR. Its tanginess complements the sweet jam and powdered sugar.
- Choose quality ingredients. I recommend Black Forest honey smoked ham and Gruyere Swiss cheese. Purchase them at the deli counter of your grocery store and ask them to thinly slice both of them for you (makes your life easier and it’s free!)
- Start and end with cheese. When layering the Monte Cristo, it’s important to start and end with cheese—it’s the melty glue that holds all the sandwich components together.
- Don’t skip the butter! Buttering the outside pieces of bread before pan frying creates a barrier between the bread and the egg batter which prevents the bread from becoming soggy. It also promotes a more golden, crispy exterior.
- The press is key. With three pieces of bread, you’ll want to compress the Monte Cristo so the ingredients meld together and create an accessible, tasty mouthful. If you don’t have a heavy cast iron skillet, you can use any pan and fill it with something heavy like cans.
- Don’t oversaturate the bread with the custard. The sandwich doesn’t need to rest in the batter for long – simply dip each side until it’s coated.
- Use a cast-iron skillet. You can technically use any pan to cook your Monte Cristo because it is cooked over low heat, but a cast-iron skillet distributes heat the most evenly.
- Don’t skip the oil. A splash of vegetable oil when pan frying the Monte Cristo sandwiches helps prevent the butter from burning. You can also use another neutral oil but don’t use a flavored oil or that’s what your sandwich will taste like!
- Toast at a lower heat. Don’t toast your sandwich at too high of heat or the bread will toast before the cheese melts. Once the cheese melts and you still want a more golden exterior, then you can crank up the heat.
Monte Cristo Recipe Variations to Try
- Swap cheese: Monte Cristo sandwiches are traditionally made with Swiss Cheese, but you could sub in any other good melting cheese to mix up the flavor profile. Gouda, provolone, Muenster, mozzarella or even sharp cheddar would work.
- Swap turkey flavors: Get creative and try a different turkey flavor such as Cajun, Aloha Sunshine, Blackened, Cracked Pepper, etc.
- Omit the turkey: I LOVE the combination of ham and turkey on this Monte Cristo sandwich, but some people prefer using just ham.
- Swap mustard. Try spicy brown mustard, honey mustard or yellow mustard.
- Add bacon: Swap the ham with bacon – or try both!
- Try different jam flavors: I love raspberry jam, but you can also try other flavors such as strawberry, blackberry, apple, apricot, jalapeno etc.
- Flavored syrup: Try boysenberry syrup (SO GOOD), blueberry, strawberry, butter pecan, etc.
- Go all savory: Swap the raspberry jam for ketchup, barbecue sauce or hot sauce.
Can I Prep a Monte Cristo in Advance?
Yes, IF you use a sturdy bread and not sandwich bread. Sandwich bread will become soggy with the layers of mayo/mustard and jam.
- Sandwich: Assemble the sandwich without dipping in the batter, then wrap each layered sandwich separately in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Batter: Whisk all of the batter ingredients together in advance, cover, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
HOW LONG is a MONTE CRISTO sandwich GOOD FOR?
Monte Cristo sandwiches are good for 3-5 days depending on how fresh your ingredients are. If your turkey and ham have been sitting in your fridge for a couple days, then they’ll be good closer to 3 days. If your ingredients are fresh, the Monte Cristos are good closer to 5 days. If you aren’t going to devour them by this date, freeze them for later.
How to Reheat Monte Cristo Sandwiches
- Microwave: Monte Cristo sandwiches reheat fairly well in the microwave. To reheat, transfer to a microwave safe plate and microwave for 20-30 seconds.
- Stove: Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook for a couple minutes or until warmed to your liking, flipping the sandwich halfway.
- Oven: Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.
CAN I FREEZE MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH recipe?
Yes! Monte Cristo Sandwiches freeze very well, here’s how:
- Prepare the recipe according to recipe instructions, including cooking.
- Let each sandwich cool completely then wrap each sandwich separately with two layers of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil.
- Freeze for up to two months.
- When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator, then let the sandwich(es) sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Toast in a skillet to crisp up the exterior again by melting some butter in a skillet over medium heat and cooking for a couple minutes.
- Re-warm in oven: alternatively, you can warm the Monte Cristos in the oven by wrapping in foil and baking at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.
What Sides to Serve with Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Monte Cristo sandwiches are a hearty meal in and of themselves so they are most commonly served with simple sides, such as fresh fruit. Some of my favorite sides to pair with this sandwich include:
- Perfect Fruit Salad
- Creamy Grape Salad
- Pina Colada Fruit Salad
- Winter Fruit Salad
- Berry Fruit Salad
- Acai Bowls
Looking for More Easy Sandwich Recipes?
- The Ultimate Cuban Sandwich
- Italian Beef Sandwiches
- Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich
- Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwiches
- Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket Sandwiches
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches
- Homemade Philly Cheesesteaks
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