Croque monsieur is such an irresistible toast that we believe everyone should be able to enjoy it, no matter their diet. So, today we want to show you how to make a plant-based variation of this classic French nibble using vegan cheese and smoky eggplant slices. We think you'll love it!
Made up of the two French words croquer ("to crunch") and monsieur ("mister"), it's easy to understand why the croque-monsieur is the king of crunchy toasts. Slices of toasted brioche bread are smothered with mustard and bechamel, then topped with cheese and ham. After a final sprinkle of cheese, the toast is grilled until super crusty and oozing with melted cheese.
For our healthier, vegan version of this sandwich, we had to find a proper alternative to almost all those ingredients that make the croque a croque. Brioche bread, bechamel, ham slices, and cheese are all unsuitable for folks with a dairy allergy or following a plant-based diet. But we found a way, and we'll show you how!
First, we used wholemeal toast bread slices instead of brioche bread, which doesn't contain eggs and butter. Wholewheat toast is not only vegan but also lower in fats and higher in fibres, meaning it's healthier for you. As for the bechamel, we prepared it by simmering plant-based oat milk with olive oil, starch, and spices until thick and creamy.
Replacing the classic grated Gruyèr cheese with a vegan alternative was quite simple. Many brands are now offering coconut oil-based cheeses, and they're easy to find at supermarkets. Although we always prefer wholesome and nutritionally sound ingredients, we couldn't skip the vegan cheese in this recipe; it's an essential ingredient for the final flavour and feel of the croque monsieur.
Finally, we could have replaced the ham with store-bought vegan deli ham slices made with seitan or Quorn. But we thought, what's healthier, more wholesome, and cheaper than an eggplant? So, we sliced it super thinly and let it roast with smoked paprika and celery salt while preparing the bechamel. These smoky slices are so full of flavour you won't feel you're missing anything; we promise!
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil
|Wholemeal Toast Bread Slices
|Vegan Grated Cheese
Thinly slice the eggplant with a mandoline slicer or knife.
Arrange the slices flat onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and season them with smoked paprika, celery salt, and pepper.
Then, roast them for 15 minutes at 200°C (400°F).
Meanwhile, let's prepare the vegan bechamel.
Add oat milk, garlic powder, onion powder, ground nutmeg, bay leaf, salt and pepper to a pot and stir well.
Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Let the sauce sit for 10 minutes to infuse before removing the bay leaf.
In a clean pot, whisk the oil with sifted starch and slowly pour in the milk.
Then, turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring.
As soon as you see the first bubbles whisk the sauce vigorously for 1 minute or until thick.
Then, remove the pot from the heat.
Now, let's assemble the croque.
For each person, take two bread slices and lightly toast them.
Then, spread each of them with mustard, followed by a layer of vegan bechamel, grated vegan cheese, and roasted aubergines.
Now, top only one slice with more bechamel and vegan cheese, as shown in the picture.
Place the cheese-topped slice over the other and bake the croque monsieur for 15 minutes at 200°C (400°F).
When the cheese has melted and is lightly browned, remove the toast from the oven and serve it right away.
You can swap aubergines with sliced portobello mushrooms.
If you're short on time, skip steps 1 to 3 and use store-bought vegan deli ham and vegan bechamel instead.