Spicy Monte Cristo Sandwich

Featuring a spicy Monte Cristo sandwich with serranos, chipotles, and pepper jack.

Kick it up with this Spicy Monte Cristo Sandwich, featuring thin slices of serrano chiles, pepper jack cheese, and a raspberry chipotle sauce.

Stack up the spicy Monte Cristo sandwich and dust with powdered sugar.

As if the Monte Cristo sandwich wasn’t unique on its own, I just had to go and drop in chiles. The combination of the serrano chiles, the pepper jack cheese, and the raspberry chipotle sauce adds a bold and spicy flavor to this classic sandwich.

So, what is a Monte Cristo sandwich?

You’ve probably seen it, loved it, or simply wondered why would anyone enjoy powdered sugar and jam with their sandwich.

This sandwich is generally comprised of white bread, a melty cheese such as Gouda or Swiss, ham or turkey, completely dipped in an egg batter and cooked as a French toast sandwich.

Origins of the Monte Cristo Sandwich

I clearly remember ordering this sandwich every time I went to Denny’s during my childhood. The origins of the Monte Cristo sandwich recipe are somewhat disputed, but it is generally believed to have originated in the United States in the early 1900s.

Food historians generally think that the Monte Cristo sandwich was inspired by the French dish Croque Monsieur, a ham and cheese sandwich that is buttered and grilled to a crispiness before being topped with a béchamel sauce. The Monte Cristo uses this foundation and dips it into an egg batter before frying it, similar to French toast.

Ironically, this sweet and savory sandwich did not become widely popular until the 1950s and 60s, when it landed on the menu of large chain restaurants, like Denny’s.

Key Ingredients

This spicy Monte Cristo sandwich takes the sweet and savory foundations and brings the heat with 3 levels of chiles. Let’s briefly break down the main ingredients:

  • Brioche bread – This sweeter bread helps to balance out the heat and tastes delicious as French toast.
  • Dijon mustard & mayonnaise – Call it a Dijonnaise, this combination adds some fat and spice between the layers.
  • Pepper jack cheese – This melty cheese brings a slow, warming heat to the sandwich. It also pairs very well with the Dijon mustard, creating a delicious bond with the ingredients.
  • Smoked deli ham – The smoky flavor and thin layer of ham work well with the spicy chiles, adding a little sweetness to the overall flavor.
  • Serrano chiles – Yes, these can be quite spicy. Slice them thin as they carry a sharp heat.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Bread – Traditionally the Monte Cristo sandwich is made with white bread, but this recipe uses brioche to counter the spicy addition of chiles. Other popular bread choices could be challah, whole wheat, sourdough, or even rye.
  • Meat – Most recipes will showcase thin-sliced deli ham or turkey, but don’t limit yourself there. Try adding crispy bacon, salami, homemade pastrami, or even prosciutto.
  • Cheese – Stick with a cheese that can melt, which really adds to the overall experience. Swiss and Gouda are classic. Try out the recommended pepper jack, provolone, or even brie.
  • Something Sweet – The dipping sauce is not required, but highly recommended. Use any type of jam or preserve you’d like, but thin it out with a little citrus so it can spread easily.
  • Something Spicy – Dijon, stone ground mustard, or horseradish are all fun ways to add aromatic heat to the sandwich. Obviously, chiles are also a great way to add heat whether it’s pepper jelly, sliced chiles, or even using some chile powder mixed into the egg batter.
Cook the sandwich on a hot surface such as a griddle or cast iron.

How to Make This Sandwich

  1. Assemble the sandwiches. Mix the Dijon and mayo together and spread them onto each slice of bread. Stack a slice of bread with cheese, ham, serrano chiles, cheese, and the second piece of bread. You can prepare these ahead of time, just like you would any sandwich.
  2. Prepare the egg dip. Whisk the eggs with the cream and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Make sure the mixture is very smooth, you don’t want gloopy egg whites on your bread.
  1. Heat up the griddle or skillet. Use medium heat, not too hot. You don’t want to burn the butter or the sandwiches. Add the butter and oil to the hot surface and get the sandwiches ready to sear. That’s right, oil and butter together, which helps to prevent the butter from burning too quickly.
  2. Dip the sandwiches into the eggs. If your bread is a little stale or dry, you can soak the sandwiches on each side for a couple of minutes to soak up more of the egg dip.
  3. Sear the sandwiches. Add the sandwiches to the hot surface. Press down gently, or risk finger indentations and uneven searing.
    Allow the Monte Cristo sandwiches to sear for about 3 minutes. Check to make sure the bottom has a nice crust. Flip and sear the second side. If the cheese needs help with melting, you can use a lid or cheese-melting dome to help. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until it’s crispy to your preference.
Press down gently when dipping and searing, or you'll have large indentations in the sandwich.

Important Tips

  • Add both the butter and oil at the same time. The oil helps to prevent the butter from burning too quickly, so you don’t infuse the bread with a burnt flavor.
  • Mince the chipotle very fine, otherwise, the raspberry chipotle sauce will be chunky. Those chiles are spicy!
  • Make sure the skillet or griddle is hot enough to properly sear the French toast on the outside. Too low and the bread will saute, soaking up the butter and oil instead of getting crispy. You definitely want a crispy outside on the Monte Cristo sandwiches!
  • The sandwiches can be fully assembled ahead of time. Dunk the sandwiches in the custard mixture when you’re ready to cook.
  • Use a lid or cheese-melting dome once you flip the sandwich if you need to melt the cheese a little more. It helps to use cheese that isn’t straight from the fridge, cold.
Serve the spicy Monte Cristo sandwiches while they are still warm so you have melty cheese.

More Sandwiches to Love

Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of other options if you’re looking for more. From the rich and cheesy to the slightly healthier side, there’s a sandwich recipe for everyone:

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Featuring a spicy Monte Cristo sandwich with serranos, chipotles, and pepper jack.

Spicy Monte Cristo Sandwich

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Kick it up with this Spicy Monte Cristo Sandwich, featuring thin slices of serrano chiles, pepper jack cheese, and a raspberry chipotle sauce.

  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-3 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 slices brioche, or white bread
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 1/2 pound thick sliced baked ham
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced thin
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Powdered sugar for serving

Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

  • 1/3 cup raspberry fruit jam or preserves
  • 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, more as needed

Instructions

  1. Slice and serve. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve the Monte Cristo sandwiches with the raspberry chipotle sauce.

Notes

  • The sandwiches can be fully assembled ahead of time. Dunk the sandwiches in the custard mixture when you’re ready to cook.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6-8 minutes
  • Category: Burgers & Sandwiches
  • Method: Griddle
  • Cuisine: Sandwich
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