Candied Bacon + Arugula Croque Madame is a must for your next weekend brunch date. This classic bistro sandwich has a surprise twist that elevates its comfort food status to WOW!
Croque Madame with Candied Bacon + Arugula
You think you’re going to get that familiar, comforting bite, but then something happens…
Suddenly there’s a peppery-sweet-salty explosion of flavor and crunchy bits…wait, chewy bits. No, it’s both. Then you taste something earthy and herbal that’s headed in another direction.
All the while, there’s a smooth, creamy, nutty deliciousness from the sauce and cheese and runny yolk, and you’re like…what just happened?!
It’s simple…candied bacon, arugula + thyme.
Gather Your Ingredients
You could probably throw together some take of croque madame anytime with what you have on hand. This version is really no exception. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Bacon — this stands in for the ham! Because you’ll candy this yourself, avoid flavors that are already sweetened. Thick cut is ok; you just may need to bake it a bit longer. I haven’t tried this with turkey bacon, and I imagine it would work (but why!?). I used a standard cut, lower sodium, hardwood smoked pork bacon.
- Brown sugar — light or dark works.
- Salted butter — I prefer to toast sandwiches in salted butter, so use it throughout this recipe for ease. If you’d prefer to use unsalted and season yourself, go for it!
- All-purpose flour — to thicken the sauce.
- Milk — my go-to is 2%, but skim or whole also works.
- Nutmeg — just a little. A classic addition to cream sauces.
- Fresh thyme — for a subtle herbal note.
- Gruyere — this is the classic choice. Comté is the closest alternative for flavor. Emmental or fontina are suitable alternatives as well.
- Brioche — I love the buttery quality of brioche, but other breads like sourdough, country loaf, etc. work perfectly, too!
- Dijon mustard — love the subtle spiciness this provides.
- Arugula — no one can say you didn’t get your veggies.
- Eggs — I fry these in a skillet, but you can poach them, too.
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Make the Candied Bacon
- Line your sheet pan with parchment or foil for easy cleanup. Set the wire rack inside. Space the bacon on the wire rack and sprinkle each with brown sugar and fresh cracked black pepper.
- Bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness.
- When done, remove the bacon to another sheet of parchment so it doesn’t stick to the wire rack as it cools.
Make the Mornay Sauce
Mornay sauce is simply béchamel with the addition of grated cheese. If you’ve ever made a white sauce or cheese sauce for mac + cheese, then you’re familiar with this process.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan.
- Add flour and whisk while it cooks for one to two minutes (not looking to get any color).
- Add the milk, nutmeg + thyme and continue whisking as it thickens into a creamy sauce.
- Turn off the heat, add the cheese and stir until it has completely melted.
The sauce will continue to thicken as it rests.
Assemble + Cook the Croque Madame Sandwiches
This recipe makes two sandwiches, but you can easily halve or double the ingredients. Assemble all the sandwiches at once, and toast them in your skillet in batches if needed.
- Spread dijon mustard on the bottom slice of bread.
- Add candied bacon.
- Next, add arugula.
- Top with shredded gruyere and the top slice of bread that has been spread with dijon and mornay sauce.
Toast the sandwiches in a non-stick skillet in melted butter — just as you would grilled cheese — then transfer to a sheet pan. Spread mornay sauce on top of the sandwich, then sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese.
Bake the sandwiches for 15 to 18 minutes until the sauce and cheese is melty and gooey. Top each with a fried egg and garnish with fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
This recipe calls for two slices of bacon per sandwich. If you’d like to make extra, multiply the ingredients as needed. If you have leftover candied bacon, wrap them in wax or parchment paper and store in a zip-top bag in your refrigerator for up to a week (if it lasts that long!). I don’t recommend making any more sandwiches than you plan to eat…they are best fresh and hot!
A traditional Croque Monsieur is not served with an egg on top. Also, most classic Croque Monsieur recipes use béchamel vs. mornay sauce, but still have cheese in the sandwich.
Enjoy this with just about anything, but some great accompaniments include fries, soup, and mixed greens salad. For brunch, serve it with additional candied bacon and some fresh cut fruit.
More Sandwich Recipes You’ve Gotta Try!
- Onion Ring + Bacon Grilled Cheese
- Baked Hawaiian Roll Sliders with Chorizo + Cheese
- Fall Harvest Turkey Burger with Figgy Dijonnaise
- Tomato + Artichoke Two-Cheese Panini with Pesto Aioli
Candied Bacon + Arugula Croque Madame
- 4 slices bacon
- 4 tsp brown sugar
- fresh cracked black pepper optional
- 1 tbsp salted butter or unsalted
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- dash nutmeg
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves only, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup gruyere cheese shredded
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 slices brioche bread
- 4 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 cup gruyere cheese shredded, divided
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- ½ tbsp salted butter
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then set a wire rack on top of that. Place the bacon on the wire rack, and sprinkle each slice with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. If using, crack some black pepper over each (I highly recommend it). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, then transfer the bacon from the wire rack to a clean sheet of parchment before it has a chance to stick. Leave the oven on.
- Meanwhile, make the mornay sauce. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Next, whisk in the milk, nutmeg + thyme and continue stirring until the sauce is smooth and creamy and begins to thicken (this takes about a minute). Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the 1/4 cup of grated gruyere until completely melted. Set aside; it will thicken more as it cools.
- Before assembling the sandwiches, set aside 1/4 cup of the 1 cup of gruyere (this will be sprinkled on top when you bake). Set out two slices of brioche. Spread each slice with 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. Place two slices of bacon on each piece of bread, then half the arugula and half the remaining shredded gruyere. Spread 1 teaspoon of dijon and 1 tablespoon of the mornay sauce on each of the remaining slices of bread, and place on top of the sandwiches.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick skillet. Add the sandwiches and toast on one side. Carefully flip them over and toast on the other side. Transfer them to a sheet pan. Divide the remaining mornay sauce over the tops of each sandwich and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of gruyere you set aside earlier. Bake until the sauce and cheese is gooey and melted, about 15 to 18 minutes. (Optional, but you can also broil them for a minute or two at the end.)
- Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Crack two eggs into the skillet and fry them until the whites are set. (I find it helpful to cover the skillet for a minute or two at the beginning to help the whites set without overcooking the yolks.)
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only.