The first time I had a jambon beurre sandwich was several years ago on a trip to Paris. I flew in too late for lunch and a little too early for dinner. Since I slept on the plane, I hadn’t eaten anything that day. I decided I’d look for a quick bite that was just enough to tame my hunger, but not enough to ruin my appetite for the rest of the day.
I headed to the Paris city center and looked up the best artisanal bakeries on Tripadvisor. “If there’s one place you can eat a great snack at 4 PM in Paris,” I thought to myself, “that’s got to be an old bakery.” I found the one I liked and asked for a recommendation from the staff behind the counter (I speak a little French, so I got the good tips).
And so I ordered the jambon-beurre sandwich. Ever since, I’ve been recreating this experience over and over (and over) again at home.
In this post, I’m going to tell you why and how to do the same.
What Is Jambon-Beurre?
Jambon-beurre is a simple and classic Parisian sandwich. It’s made with salted French butter and spiced Parisian ham (jambon de Paris) inside a thin and crispy baguette (called ficelle).
Paris is a very busy city, especially for those who live and work there. The Jambon-beurre sandwich is a staple among Parisians, who know that a busy life shouldn’t prevent you from eating amazing food. It’s a simple secret that residents of many other metropolitan cities have long forgotten or never learned.
The French consume 1.2 billion Jambon-beurre sandwiches every year. Unfortunately, the Jambon-beurre sandwich is on a trend to join the endangered species list. In 2018, USA Today reported that, for the first time, more burgers were eaten in France than Jambon-beurre sandwiches.
If you’re curious to know why Jambon de Paris is the best ham for Jambon-beurre (and what makes it so special), check out my post on the topic, The Best Ham for Jambon-Beurre.
If you want to know all there is to know about this ham, head on over to my dedicated post on the topic revealingly titled, Jambon de Paris.
What Does Jambon-Beurre Mean?
The more you get into French cuisine, the better you’ll see how the French like their food named simply and sauced elaborately. The name Jambon-beurre literally means “ham-butter” in French — and is short for “ham and butter sandwich.”
To pronounce jambon-beurre [jahm-bonn burr], say jam with a soft and prolonged “j,” then bon like in “bonbon,” and make a sound in-between bear and bore. Believe me, it gets better with practice!
How to Make Jambon-Beurre Sandwich?
This Jambon-beurre recipe is as simple and as easy to follow as it gets.
Go to the grocery store and buy a long and thin French baguette.
Get 100 grams of thin-sliced deli ham. The thinner the slices, the better. I like mine paper-thin, actually. If you have the option to buy imported French ham (ideally, Parisian ham a.k.a. jambon de Paris), do it.
The last ingredient you’re going to need is a stick of salted butter. I buy President butter for all my cooking. The one with green on the label is salted, the one with red is not. If you can’t find it in your supermarket or grocery store, any slightly salted local or import butter will do.
The secret to this recipe is salted butter at room temperature, spread generously on the inside of the baguette. Take the stick of butter out of the fridge for an hour or two before you make this sandwich, letting it warm at room temperature. Don’t worry, according to the USDA butter is safe at room temperature when left for less than several days.
Jambon-Beurre With Cheese
The traditional recipe is made only with ficelle baguette, salted butter, and Parisian ham.
But who’s going to stop you from tailoring it to your and your family’s taste? One of the best things about cooking is that you can make any recipe from any cuisine your own.
When my nephew comes over (he’s 10 now), he loves to snack on a good ham and baguette sandwich. But his is a special one. To make it a little healthier, I spread Dijon mustard with capers instead of butter on the bread. And to make it to his taste, I add sliced Emmental cheese.
Consider capers, pickles, Dijon mustard, mayo, or even alternative meats like thin-sliced salami to make variations of this classic recipe.
Is it really a Jambon-beurre sandwich? I wouldn’t say so, but who cares? The adults in the family, however, get the classic Jambon-beurre sandwich and some cold beer 🙂 .
Where to Eat Jambon Beurre
Some home cooks, me included, like to try a recipe before they make it at home. I find that it gives me a baseline to follow; it helps me tune my palette to what the original should taste like.
Here’s where to find the best Jambon-beurre sandwiches in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles according to the Internet:
- If you’re going on a trip to Paris, check out TimeOut‘s list of the 10 best places to eat Jambon-beurre in the French capital.
- On the East Coast? Here’s a Reddit thread on where to find Jambon-beurre in New York City, NY. Many say Le Petit Parisien does it best.
- West Coast? Seek out the best Jambon-beurre spots in Los Angeles, CA, with Chowhound users’ recommendations.
Or make it at home. Just check out the Jambon-beurre recipe below.
- Cutting board
- 1 loaf French baguette (ficelle) (but any long, thin, and/or crispy baguette will do)
- 100 grams Jambon de Paris ham (or any wet cured ham that hasn't been dry cured or smoked)
- 1 stick salted French butter
- 3-4 gherkins
- Slice the baguette ½ for two sandwiches
- Cut each ½ baguette open lengthwise with a sharp knife
- Spread a hefty amount of butter on the inside of each sandwich
- Layer thin slices French ham
- Optionally, add halved gherkins on top of the ham
Featured image by Nat in Wikimedia Commons