Jambon Beurre: The French Ham Sandwich

Parisians love their baguette sandwiches, and around lunchtime, you can see Parisians lining up outside their local boulangeries to grab one on the go. Whether they are going to eat it on the way to somewhere (something that used to be taboo) or stopping to picnic with a friend, the sandwich is a classic. And the king of all classics is the jambon beurre sandwich, the French ham sandwich.

This simple sandwich is more than just crunchy bread, salty ham, and a slab of butter – the jambon beurre has a special spot in every Parisian heart. With only 3 simple ingredients, they better be good because each one stands out!

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jambon beurre - french ham sandwich
Jambon-beurre. (Wikimedia 2023, August 13).

What is Jambon Beurre Sandwich?

Jambon-beurre, also known as the Parisian, is a French ham sandwich loved by all, especially by those in Paris, and has remained a favorite despite increasing lunch choices. As the name suggests, the jambon beurre is a sandwich made with baguette, butter, and ham. A simple recipe, it is enjoyed by everyone, both old and new. 

Because the ingredients used are very basic, the taste of the sandwich depends heavily on the quality of the ingredients. The taste can be altered using variations of European-style butter, from unsalted to creamy and demi-sel.

jambon beurre - french ham sandwich with cornichons
jambon beurre – French ham sandwich with cornichons

The sandwich can be traced back to 18th-century England before it was introduced in France. Louis XIV also made an earlier version of the jambon-beurre popular in the country, a sandwich made with round bread and topped with poultry. He used to include it in his hunting parties as it was easy to carry and convenient to eat on the go.

At the end of the 19th century, it was primarily eaten by workers and peasants. It is estimated that the jambon-beurre that we know today did not come into the picture until 1950 when it was popularized in the Les Halles district of old Paris.

Jambon de Paris

One of the main reasons why the jambon-beurre sandwich is also known as the Parisian is because of the use of Parisian ham. Also known as Jambon de Paris, it is a cooked white ham that is poached in vegetable broth and sold in slices in all supermarkets. It is one of the products that is universally associated with the French.

Made with superior quality, the first mention of Jambon de Paris is noted in 1793, and then in 1869 when Jules Gouffé, a cook, describes it as “an ordinary salted ham, boiled, boned and then placed in a terrine with the rind underneath and which is then cooled”. The ham then became an expensive product due to the heavy taxation during the World War I. 

The ham was initially an artisanal product. This changed in the 20th century with the introduction of industrial charcuterie. Earlier, jambon de Paris was sold in the delicatessens where it was sliced off from a 5kg piece. With the newer methods, it was now also sold pre-sliced in packages in all supermarkets.

Where to get a good Jambon Beurre Sandwich in Paris?

Although the timeless French sandwich is available in a majority of shops and cafes, there is nothing worse than having an “okayish” jambon-beurre on stale bread or without enough butter.

Here’s my quick guide to finding a genuinely good French ham sandwich when in Paris.

La Fontaine de Belleville

With an aim to revitalize the Parisian bistro, La Fontaine de Belleville is the master of classics, be it a good coffee with beans roasted in-house, or a favorite sandwich made with Bellevaire butter and ham from Le Prince de Paris.

Address: 31-33 rue Juliette, 10th Arr

Caractère de Cochon

Caractère de Cochon is a charcuterie store that specializes in pork. Along with just meat, they also sell a really good jambon-beurre with some of the best quality ham and salted butter.

Address: 42, Rue Charlot, 3rd Arr

Le Petit Vendôme 

This chic Parisian bistro doesn’t hold back on the ham when it comes to jambon-beurre. They have a variety of gourmet recipes made with local products and a really good onion soup!

Address: 8, Rue des Capucines, 2nd Arr

Chez Aline

A cute bistro run by Delphine Zampetti, Chez Aline offers one of the best ham and butter sandwiches in the area! It is prepared right on the spot and has a quality combination of semi-salted butter and tasty ham folded in a crunchy French baguette.

Chez Aline Paris Jambon Beurre Sandwich

Address: 85, Rue de la Roquette, 11th Arr

The French Bastards

Homemade bread and good, quality products, The French Bastards sell some of the best pastries and sandwiches. They have an inventive menu for both, sweet and savory dishes. The ham is Doumbea Paris ham, and the butter is an AOP butter from Poitou-Charentes with the option of Comté or even Emmental from Haute Savoie.

Address: 61, Rue Oberkampf, 11th Arr

Le Bon, Le Beurre & Le Truand

In this small sandwich shop in the 9th arrondissement you will discover old-fashioned sandwiches of a bygone era. Their recipe top because they truly use the highest quiality for the simple ingredients: a “Meilleur ouvrier de France” baguette combined with “Prince de Paris”, the last branded ham still made in the City of Light.

Address: 31 Rue de Châteaudun, 9th Arr

Other notes and variations:

  • Sometimes you will see a jambon beurre with cheese (usually Gruyere cheese), this is really a French ham and cheese sandwich with butter, but whatever 😉
  • Cornichons may be served on the side or sometimes put inside the sandwich
  • There is no other spread except the butter, no Dijon mustard, etc.
  • Croque monsieur sandwiches are entirely different! It is ham and cheese between a slice of bread and a Bechamel sauce on top, grilled on medium heat until the top is golden brown.
  • Vegetarian or vegan? You can still have a French ham sandwich! Check out this plant-based ham!

This is my go-to sandwich while in France. I am picky about it though! Quality matters. I will say that when desperate I will head to the near's Paul's store (it a franchise boulangerie) and grab theirs. I usually pick one up in the CDG for the plane ride home too! The newer franchise BO&MI also has a decent one.

How about you? Have you had a jambon beurre, the French ham and butter sandwich? Do you have a favorite spot in Paris?

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jambon beurre - french ham sandwich

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