Crispy blue-ribbon sandwich

Fancy French stuff is our passion.

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Read Time: 7 minutes

What is this sandwich?

This sandwich experience includes crispy chicken, slices of ham, melty Swiss cheese, and a creamy and tangy dijonnaise sauce inside a soft, caramelized onion bun. This is chicken cordon bleu stuffed into sandwich form.

Cordon bleu and some history

The internet librarians over at Wikipedia say that cordon bleu is meat—typically veal, pork, or chicken—that has been pounded thin, wrapped around a slice of ham and a slice of cheese, and then breaded and pan-fried or baked. The phrase cordon bleu is French, and it translates into English as blue ribbon. In 16th century France, a blue ribbon was originally used to denote knights in the Order of the Holy Spirit because they wore specific crosses hung with a blue ribbon or blue sash.

It is thought that the banquets the Order of the Holy Spirit knights held were so often famously filled with high-quality, fancy food that eventually the symbol of the blue ribbon became synonymous with high class and haute cuisine. The cordon bleu or blue ribbon association with high class and fancy cuisine is what led a French culinary magazine from the late 1800s and then later, a French (now International) cooking school to both name themselves Cordon Bleu.

Despite its seemingly French origin, the dish of cordon bleu first came about in Brig, Switzerland, and started appearing in cookbooks in the 1940s. According to the Wikipedia page linked above “chicken cordon bleu” was first cited in the New York Times in 1967 which doesn’t seem like that long ago (depending on who you ask).

What we’ve learned

So, we’ve learned that this dish was not originally a sandwich, and it was instead a thin piece of chicken that had been butterflied or cut to reveal a pocket that could be filled with ham and cheese. The version of cordon bleu that is cooked for this sandwich isn’t exactly traditional. First off there’s no wrapping ham and cheese inside of the chicken and secondly, the choice of breadcrumbs isn’t quite the same. But the flavors will be like traditional cordon bleu.

We’re all about the haute cuisine over here at Bounded by Buns, so this is a perfect sandwich for us to tackle. First, we need some bread and for this fancy (or not-so-fancy) sandwich and I decided to make caramelized onion buns.

Caramelized onion buns

This is a fancy version of one of my regular burger bun recipes. The fancy part comes with the addition of caramelized onions which bring a bit more sugar and a lot more savoriness to the final soft and squishy bun.

A spoonful of sugar really sweet onions.

First, you caramelize diced onions and then add them into the dough which changes the color of the dough and adds extra sweetness. The recipe calls for you to save some caramelized onions to sprinkle on top before the final bake to give them the appearance of onion-baked buns.

Like my other burger buns, I flatten the shaped dough before the final rise.
One hour later the dough has puffed substantially.
Add a few pieces of caramelized onion on top of each dough ball.
Bake until the tops of the buns are browned and shiny.

Caramelized onions are sticky little devils, so I found when it came time to sprinkle some onions on top of each bun before baking that it was easiest to sprinkle them using a fork or knife and not your fingers. If you’re a fancy chef, you could use your plating tweezers, but my kitchen seems to be fresh out of those.

A lot of store-bought onion rolls will have poppy seeds sprinkled on them as well, so I did that to half of this batch.
Six caramelized onion buns ready for sandwiching.

Here’s my caramelized onion bun recipe that works great in this sandwich and it’s also great for burgers, roast beef and cheddar sandwiches, and more basic cold-cut sandwiches as well.

3 hours and 30 minutes
Caramelized onion sandwich buns

These are very flavorful buns perfect for your next burger night. The addition of caramelized onions brings a bit of sweetness that will balance well with savory sandwich combinations.

Get Recipe

This recipe is not focused on making traditional cordon Bleu, but we need melty cheese, slices of ham, a mustardy sauce, and crispy chicken.

Ham and Swiss cheese

There’s not a whole lot to write about in the section. We’re talking about deli sliced meat and cheese.

My wife isn’t a fan of ham, so we bought ham and turkey slices from our grocery deli and both worked great. The ham I bought was a little thick so I only used two slices, but this sandwich would work great with an extra slice or two if the meat was sliced thinner.

I bet you don’t have a photo of ham and cheese slices on your phone.

Technically cordon bleu was invented in Switzerland so it makes a lot of sense that it would call for the use of Swiss cheese. You could use pretty much any cheese in this sort of sandwich, but I stuck with the traditional holey Swiss slices. This sandwich would be a great use for that block of cheese that you have in the back of the fridge as well. Just make sure to slice it thin enough that it will melt.


Traditional cordon bleu doesn’t usually have a sauce that accompanies it but for a sandwich, I felt we needed a spread to moisten the bread and add a bit more flavor. I chose to incorporate a Dijonnaise which is just a fancy way to say, “a blend of mayo and mustard”.

In my experience, there are two good ways to make a good Dijon mustard-focused sauce for this sandwich and I have recipes for both. One requires a bit more effort than the other, but they both will take less than 10 minutes once you have all the ingredients.

The simple version of this sauce recipe requires just two ingredients.

This is my Dijonnaise recipe that starts from scratch making the mayonnaise from scratch.

10 minutes
Homemade dijonnaise

A lot bit creamy and a little bit mustardy. This combination is almost perfect for your next cold-cut sandwich or jam-packed, meat-filled sub.

Get Recipe

This is my Dijonnaise recipe that only requires mixing storebought mayonnaise with Dijon mustard.

Last but not least, we need to make the chicken part of chicken cordon bleu.

Oven-baked panko chicken

I’ve shared a few recipes that I make in the oven that use Panko breadcrumbs to add crunch and seasoning. Just a couple of weeks ago I shared a shrimp recipe that is very similar in process to this crispy chicken recipe.

The goal of this process is to get consistently thin pieces of chicken so that they cook evenly, and we use pre-browned breadcrumbs so that visually the chicken looks very appealing and still has a flavorful crunch.

The chicken part of this sandwich is baked in the oven so it’s super easy to make and clean up.

Butterflying chicken

To get the chicken consistently thin we need to butterfly it.

I’ve butterflied quite a few types of meat for this sandwich blog, and I typically point to an instructional video on YouTube to explain how it works. I’ve never really been able to feel satisfied that I’ve explained the process well enough through words and static photos. But I will keep trying. Here are eight photos that I think will help to describe the process. If you’re not interested or dislike looking at raw meat, you can scroll past.

Butterflying a chicken breast is cutting the chicken horizontally so you can open it up like a book—or butterfly.

You can butterfly a chicken breast from either side, but I like to start my cuts from the same side.
I look for this divot you see at the top right which typically has some white tendons/lines running from it.
When I’ve found that divot, I know that that is the side I do not want to cut through.
Remember you can cut through either side; this is just the side I start from.

In the first photo, you’re looking at the top of the chicken breast. By top, I mean that this is the side that the skin would be attached to. In this example, there is no chicken tender attached, but it would be attached to the underside and the tender sits in between the breast meat and the ribs.

With a sharp knife and some practice, you can cut through in one long stroke, but I typically will make 2 or 3 cuts.
Once you’ve opened it up a little bit, you can cut again in the same direction and the same spot to open the book up a bit more.
If you cut through in one big slash the inside will be a bit smoother looking than this. But for this dish, it doesn’t matter.
After butterflying a chicken breast, the thickness of the meat will be more consistent and therefore cook more evenly.

Once the chicken is butterflied, we want to continue further and pound the chicken even thinner.

Pounding the chicken flat

You could make chicken cordon bleu with just a butterflied piece of chicken breast, but for this sandwich, it helps a lot if you also pound the meat to a consistent thickness so that it bakes quickly and evenly. I use a specialized meat mallet that I somehow acquired many years ago, but Amazon or your local home goods store should have plenty that you could choose from if you need a new chicken hammer.

Place the butterflied chicken under parchment, plastic wrap, or a plastic bag before pounding.
I use a dedicated meat mallet but you could use something heavy like a cast iron skillet.
Once pounded, the chicken should be pretty much the same thickness throughout.

Panko and the cooking process

Before we start to cook the chicken, we need to toast our breadcrumbs. This step could be considered optional if you don’t have the time, but you will end up with chicken that is coated with very light tan breadcrumbs instead of golden-brown breadcrumbs.

My Panko toasting process involves 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter, 3/4ths of a cup of Panko breadcrumbs, and about 7 or 8 minutes over medium heat. You simply want to cook the breadcrumbs until they take on a nice “fried food” color.

Start with melted butter over medium heat.
The Panko breadcrumbs immediately soak up all the butter and start to brown.
Stir fairly often to make sure the breadcrumbs toast evenly.
Seven or eight minutes later you have browned, toasted breadcrumbs.

Sandwich assembly time

Once you have the chicken cooked and all your ingredients ready, the next part is easy.

After a quick bake, the chicken is done, and the breadcrumbs are crunchy.
Top with slices of ham and cheese and return to the oven under the broiler to melt.
Three or four minutes later the chicken cordon bleu is ready to sandwich.

The sandwich

Here are a bunch of photos of this sandwich in action and the recipe is just a bit further down the page.

Melty cheese and crunchy chicken lead to a great sandwich.
The cross-section view.
Once the chicken is baked, there’s very little work to finish the sandwich.
This technique of cooking Panko-crusted chicken is easy and results in a great “almost fried” chicken sandwich experience.
The broiling process means you’ll always get melty cheese.
This sandwich has been added to the weeknight dinner rotation.
Crispy chicken cordon bleu sandwich view printable page for this recipe

This chicken cordon bleu sandwich includes crispy chicken, slices of ham, melty Swiss cheese, and a creamy and tangy dijonnaise sauce inside a soft, caramelized onion bun.


Crispy Panko chicken
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 34 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 chicken breast, butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Sandwich assembly
  • chicken (from above)
  • 2 or 3 slices of ham
  • 1 or 2 slices of Swiss cheese
  • 2 sandwich buns (see notes for the buns I used)
  • Dijonnaise (from above)


Butter browned Panko breadcrumbs: Add 3 tablespoons of butter to a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and bubbly add 3/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs. 

Cook the breadcrumbs, stirring often until they start to look golden brown like the exterior of fried chicken. Once they are browned remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.

Panko chicken: preheat your oven to 450 F / 230 C. 

Butterfly your chicken breast and then cut it into two pieces. Butterflying cuts the chicken breast parallel with your cutting board so that you will have a flat, thinner piece of chicken. Here's a short butterflying tutorial if you've never butterflied a chicken breast before. After you've butterflied the chicken, go ahead and cut the large chicken piece in half so that you have two thin cutlets. 

Cover the cutlets with plastic wrap or even better, a large zip-top bag that you have laid on top of the chicken. Using a meat mallet or a heavy pot, pound the chicken through the plastic to attempt to flatten each piece of chicken until it is less than 1/4-inch thick. This might take some effort and it will expand the width of your chicken piece considerably. After the chicken has all been pounded, cut each cutlet into pieces that are around the size and shape of your bread. The goal is to get 2 hand-sized, quarter-inch thick cutlets out of one chicken breast. 

Set up your chicken dredging station. You will need two bowls or large plates for this. 

The first bowl will contain 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, and 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Whisk to combine well. The second bowl will have the butter-browned Panko breadcrumbs.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray, this is where your chicken will go when you have coated it in breadcrumbs.

For each chicken cutlet, dip into the egg mixture (ensuring that it's fully coated everywhere) and finally press into the Panko breadcrumbs until each piece is fully coated. Place on the cooking spray sprayed aluminum foil. 

Bake for 6 minutes, remove from oven, and flip each chicken cutlet. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. 

Once the chicken is done, remove the sheet pan from the oven and turn the oven on to broil. 

Add slices of ham and cheese on top of both pieces of chicken. Place the sheet pan back into the oven and broil to melt the cheese. You can toast your bun at this point as well if you want. You will want to keep an eye on the cheese to make sure it doesn't burn. It should probably take 3 to 4 minutes to get all melty. 

Dijonnaise: while the cheese is melting, combine mayonnaise and Dijon mustard in a small bowl and stir to combine well. 

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Sandwich assembly: spread some Dijonnaise on the bottom of the bun. Top it with the chicken, ham, and melty cheese, and then close it all with the top bun. 

Serve and enjoy.


I used my own homemade caramelized onion buns for this sandwich but you can buy anything from hamburger buns to another type of onion roll if you prefer. 

Check back next week

Next week we’ll be putting things in pockets.

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