When you think of French food, what comes to mind? Croissants? Quiche? Souffles?
But how about sandwiches? They may not be top of mind, but the French are experts at the art of sandwich-making.
Types Of French Sandwiches
We adore most classic French sandwiches because they’re just a few ingredients. That may sound boring but, when each element is quality and the combination works, well, the result is something divine.
FYI, we’re only talking about proper sandwiches where ingredients are stuffed between two pieces of bread. That means we aren’t getting into tartines or open-faced sandwiches, which we love just as much and which often have many of these same ingredient combinations.
Where To Get Sandwiches
As you travel around France, you’ll notice that one of the major national chains is PAUL, a 100 -plus year-old bakery and sandwich shop. You’ll find many more classic sandwiches like chevre tomatoes and saucisson beurre served at some of these spots.
Read on if you’re curious to know more about these delectable treats from Paris and beyond.
Classic French Sandwiches
There is no hard and fast recipe for this sandwich as it’s more of an idea. When you go to bakeries or cafes, you’ll see variations of fresh tomatoes and chêvre (fresh goat cheese), sometimes with the rind on and sometimes without.
From there, things go in many directions. Sometimes it’s served on sliced pain au levain or sourdough bread, while others are served on a skinny baguette known as a ficelle. Some add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and make it more of a Caprese while others add arugula or fresh herbs. We’re fans of a variation that includes beefsteak tomatoes, goat cheese, honey, and walnuts.
Croque Monsieur (and Croque Madame)
The Croque Monsieur is perhaps the most famous French sandwich. It’s often coined a French grilled cheese sandwich, but it’s more akin to French toast and a sandwich coming together.
To make it, ham and gruyère cheese is mixed with béchamel sauce and then placed between bread which is dipped in egg and then fried until golden brown.
Add a fried egg to the top, and the sandwich becomes a Croque madame. We love the taste of ham and cheese (aka jambon fromage) so much that we made this Croque Monsieur Bread Pudding.
One of France’s most essential and beloved sandwiches is the simple jambon beurre. This is a ham sandwich with butter, but it’s so much more than that. To make one, you’ll need half a baguette, salted french butter, and ham; if you can find jambon de Paris, a French seasoned ham, then even better.
Spread the butter on the baguette, add the ham, and enjoy. It’s so simple, but it’s so good. Of the many sandwich recipes on our site, the jambon beurre is the most popular.
A saucisson beurre is similar to the jambon beurre, except instead of ham as the meat component, dried cured salami – aka saucisson sec –is substituted. There are dozens of varieties of cured sausages in France, made from a vast number of game and ranch animals, so there are many different ways to enjoy these classic French sandwiches.
Many consider the pan bagnat a Niçoise salad in bread, but that’s not quite right. Yes, both recipes hail from the Provence region of France. And, yes, a typical pan bagnat contains tuna, olives, capers, bell peppers, red onions, tomato, basil, anchovies, and a hard-boiled egg.
But what makes this sandwich unique is that it’s smashed on purpose because, once you assemble the sandwich, you weigh it down until it is all smashed together. It’s a classic picnic recipe because it can be made well ahead and only tastes better as it sits.
It’s not uncommon for this sandwich to be personalized by each person who orders one. It’s usually served on a French baguette, but any fresh bread will do. Try your hand at making the pan bagnat with our recipe.
If you’ve ever snacked on pâté, Dijon mustard, and cornichon, then you don’t need any convincing as to how fabulously delicious this combination is.
As the name suggests, this is chockfull of pâté de Campagne sandwich, a collection of different cuts of pork ground and then cooked with herbs and spices at a long, slow simmer.
It’s a hearty sandwich, and the cornichon or small pickles are key as their sourness balances the richness of the pate.
The Modern Types
Döner kebab is something that the French love that isn’t exactly French. Kebab stands began to appear in the 1990s following a significant influx of Turkish immigration. The French immediately fell in love with this tasty treat, and since then, they can’t get enough of it. So, while doner kebab isn’t from France, it’s become a French sandwich staple over the past several decades.
The kebab refers to meat— beef, lamb, or chicken — cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It’s shaved off with a knife, and then it’s combined with vegetables and sauces and is wrapped in a pita or flatbread.
The same goes for falafel. This Middle Eastern vegetarian treat has become popular worldwide, and one of the most celebrated shops to get it in Paris is L’As du Fallafel.
Falafel is similar to kebab, except instead of meat, balls of ground chickpeas are fried to a crisp. The balls are then added to the salad and are served in a wrap or pita. The French love this easy-to-eat, portable street food, and we’re right there with them.
Another popular street food that showcases how other cultures have influenced french food is the merguez frites. Merguez is a spicy lamb sausage brought to France by North African immigrants.
These grilled sausages are best enjoyed stuffed in a baguette with french fries in the roll along with them. It’s French, North African, and a hot dog, all in one!
Crêpes may not be sandwiches by the definition of some, but many argue that they are sandwiches indeed. After all, exterior layers contain other tasty treats, and although you usually eat them with a fork, you can wrap them up in foil and eat them with just your hands.
This French staple comes in two varieties – sweet or savory – and while both are excellent, the savory type, which can include ham, eggs, cheese, or other fillings in the interior, is much more sandwich-like to most. We make a decidedly California version in this recipe for Crepes With Meyer Lemon Curd and Berries.
Sandwich at Chez Alain Miam Miam
Perhaps the most famous sandwich in the world, “The Sandwich” at Chez Alain Miam Miam, is acclaimed as one of the very best sandwiches in France. You can only get one of these at the oldest covered market in Paris, the Marché des Enfants Rouges.
Chef Alain Roussel invented this sandwich in 2005, and there have been long lines ever since. Customers choose the fillings between two kinds of cheese – Comté or Cantal – and enjoy the concoction on fresh-baked bread.
Enjoy Classic French Flavors
These are just a few of the classic French sandwiches you can enjoy on a visit to France. Try one or try them all; you’ll surely fall in love at first bite with several of them.
If you’re interested in planning a trip to France soon, let us lend a hand, and we can help you plan every step of the way. Visit our Travel Services page at travel.saltandwind.com.