You’ll be shocked by how simple this salad is to assemble, yet delivers a fancy French meal that’s perfect for busy weekdays and lazy summer weekends. Customize it to your heart’s delight.
Of course, many of my best French recipes have come with Benjamin’s enthusiastic endorsement so I was eager to give his recipe a try.
What came out of the oven in 5-10 minutes was a beautifully crusty and warm goat cheese toastie that accompanied a straightforward leafy green salad.
I can’t get over the fact that you can really get dinner done in less than 20 minutes, including washing the lettuce leaves! And this is a kitchen-renovation-friendly recipe…we made the whole thing in our toaster oven (an anniversary gift from Alex’s generous parents) without a full kitchen.
Let’s see how you can bring this awesome recipe into your meal plan.
What’s chèvre chaud?
A very popular appetizer in French bistros, chèvre chaud is warmed goat cheese on top of a slice of bread. The dish is served hot and comes in many variations where you can add things like honey, nuts, sauces, and/or herbs.
It’s a close cousin to bruschetta, the Italian antipasto where toasted sliced bread is served with chopped tomato, basil, and drizzled with olive oil (plus many more variations). The difference is that goat cheese is the main feature in chèvre chaud, which is served hot (or warm).
Why make chèvre chaud?
While goat cheese is an acquired taste, if you enjoy the tangy taste and creamy texture of goat cheese on its own, you’ll love melted goat cheese with a touch of honey and a crunch from the nuts.
NOTE: I’ve known people who dislike the “gamey” flavor that goat cheese can carry, yet still like chèvre chaud because baking the goat cheese mellows it out.
Ultimately, this dish is worth making because it’s fantastic return on investment (ROI) on your time. How hard can it be to bake cheese on bread with herbs and olive oil?
Chèvre chaud vs. salade de chèvre chaud
You can pair these goat cheese toasties (my nickname for chèvre chaud) with a simple salad and end up with a fancy French meal.
This is called a salade de chèvre chaud (warm goat cheese salad), which is a terrific way to transform a snack-sized portion of chèvre chaud into an appetizer or a complete meal. You get a healthy full meal ready to eat in 5-15 minutes.
NOTE: One way to think about the salade de chèvre chaud is the chèvre chaud acts like a topping on your salad. That means you can add chèvre chaud as an “accent” to any kind of salad.
TIP: Start by making the chèvre chaud. While it’s in the oven, you can prepare the salad. Multitasking this way saves you time.
How to customize chèvre chaud
Making chèvre chaud is easy. You take a piece of bread and smear a sauce or spread on it (or skip the sauce if you’re a minimalist). Add the goat cheese and bake it for 5 minutes.
The fun part comes from the creative toppings and mix-ins.
I scoured several French recipe sites to look at how home cooks are making chèvre chaud and assembling their salads. Below are my favorite variation ideas that you can follow to customize your own chèvre chaud, divided into the chèvre chaud and the salad components.
Chèvre chaud variations
Cheese: A log of plain goat cheese is the most common. You could use a flavored goat cheese, such as a herbed goat cheese or a fruity goat cheese like the blueberry vanilla goat cheese logs you can buy at Trader Joe’s and Costco.
TIP: Even though this recipe is centered on goat cheese, if you prefer another type of soft cheese, you could substitute with Brie, blue cheese, feta, or mozzarella.
Bread: For the traditional dish, use French bread—a crusty baguette or a loaf of pain de campagne (French country bread).
For pragmatic non-traditionalists, you can use any hearty bread from sourdough to multigrain bread to focaccia.
For the fancy foodies, you could use puff pastry or buttered phyllo dough. While it’s more work to prepare the pastry, this delivers a beautiful appetizer.
TIP: Many recipes recommend rubbing the bread with a clove of garlic for extra flavor.
Sauce/Dressing: It’s common to drizzle olive oil over the bread before or after placing the goat cheese. Other sauce variations include butter, crème fraîche, and pesto. Many cooks also drizzle honey or thick balsamic vinegar on top of the goat cheese before baking.
Herbs: Common herbs to sprinkle on the goat cheese are thyme, basil, herbes de provence, and oregano. You can add whatever herbs you like, including za’atar as Benjamin does.
Toppings: Chopped hazelnuts and walnuts are very popular additions. You can also add dried fruit like raisins or cranberries. I even saw recipes that added bacon bits.
Salade de chèvre chaud variations
Making the salad component is where you can stretch your creativity. I saw endless salad ideas that included ingredients like chopped avocado, shredded cabbage, steamed asparagus, mint, caramelized onions, and chickpeas.
Here are some of the more popular salad variations:
- Leafy base: lettuce, frisée salad mix, arugula / rocket
- Salad dressing: balsamic vinegar + olive oil, lemon vinaigrette, wine vinegar vinaigrette, honey and Dijon mustard vinaigrette, garlic and lemon dressing
- Salad toppings:
NOTE: Because the chèvre chaud is already fancy, you can make your life easier by keeping the salad component simple. That’s why a lettuce salad maybe with a few other vegetables is sufficient. A simple 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil dressing with salt and pepper is perfect for a simple salad (season to taste).
Tips for success
- Should you pre-toast the bread? If you’re using fresh crusty bread, there’s no need to pre-toast the bread.
- What if you’re using frozen bread? I worried that putting cheese on top of defrosted bread would prevent the bread from toasting adequately. Defrosted bread benefits greatly from toasting because it often gets a bit freezer burnt (this was especially true since I used a parbaked baguette that lived in our freezer for 2 years). Toasting can hide freezer-burnt dryness.
- When I tested out baking the bread at 410 °F / 210 °C for 10 minutes before topping with cheese versus toasting on medium for 5 minutes, it was clear that you make your bread too hard and crispy. Alex complained that it hurt his teeth to eat the bread that was baked for 10 minutes.
- My conclusion is that there’s no need to pre-toast bread but if you’re using defrosted bread, it could be worth a 5-minute medium toast if you have extra time.
- Can you make chèvre chaud in an appliance besides the oven? Yes, I used a toaster oven because our kitchen is still demolished. It worked beautifully (and avoided heating up our kitchenette in the scorching summer weather).
- I’ve seen recipes where you can use a frying pan to make the chèvre chaud. You can follow the same method as this egg sandwich if you want to use a pan on the stove.
- I also saw a recipe for chèvre chaud in the microwave, which I’m more skeptical of. So I can’t recommend that recipe until I try it. But it is possible…
- How to scale: This recipe scales easily, which makes it a fantastic appetizer to make for a dinner party. You can linearly increase the ingredients to make double, triple, quadruple, or more. You’ll likely need to upgrade from the toaster oven to a wall oven or the oven in your range. But it’s doable, which makes this recipe a great party dish for a potluck.
Warm French goat cheese toast with salad (salade de chèvre chaud)
- Chopping Board
- bread knife
- Mixing Bowl
- 1 log goat cheese
- 1 small baguette
- 5 tablespoons (75 ml) olive oil, reserve 3 tablespoons for salad dressing, use as needed
- 1 tablespoon (7 g) thyme, dried
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) Honey, use as much as needed
- 3 tablespoons (30 g) Walnuts, chopped
- 1 head Lettuce, washed and chopped
- 2 small Cucumbers, Persian cucumbers are best
- 3 handfuls Cherry Tomatoes, use as much as needed
- ½ teaspoon (3 g) Salt, sea salt, optional
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) Black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) balsamic vinegar
- Gather the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 410 °F / 210 °C.
Prepare the chèvre chaud
- Slice the baguette (or whatever bread you're using) into thin slices, just under 1 cm / ⅓ inch thick. Place the sliced bread on a baking tray.If you want to toast the bread, you can place the bread in the oven while you prepare the goat cheese (parbake the bread no more than 5 minutes).1 small baguette
- Brush olive oil on each slice of bread. Leave at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil for the salad dressing.5 tablespoons olive oil
- Slice the goat cheese log into rounds about the same thickness as the bread (you can slice the cheese thinner if you prefer less cheese or thicker if you like more cheese per tartine). Place one slice of goat cheese on top of each slice of bread.1 log goat cheese
- Sprinkle a pinch of thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper on top of each piece of goat cheese.1 tablespoon thyme, ½ teaspoon Salt, ½ teaspoon Black pepper
- Add a drizzle of honey on each piece of goat cheese.3 tablespoons Honey
- Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of the honey on every slice of bread.3 tablespoons Walnuts
- Place the chèvre chaud tartines into the oven. Bake for 5 minutes.
Prepare the salad
- While the chèvre chaud tartines are baking, prepare the salad by chopping the cucumber into thin slices and cutting the cherry tomatoes in half.If the lettuce isn't already washed and chopped, rinse and spin the lettuce to dry it. Then chop into bite-sized pieces.1 head Lettuce, 2 small Cucumbers, 3 handfuls Cherry Tomatoes
- Mix the remaining olive oil with balsamic vinegar. Add the salad dressing to the lettuce and toss until combined.2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 5 tablespoons olive oil
Assemble the salad
- Remove the chèvre chaud tartines after 5 minutes of baking. They should be golden brown on the edges but no walnuts should have burned. If the cheese looks white without brown edges, you can bake the tartines for an extra 2 minutes (but this is unnecessary as the goal is ultimately to have warm cheese, not golden brown cheese).
- Layer the salad by creating a base of dressed lettuce greens. Place sliced tomatoes and cucumbers on top of the lettuce. Top the salad with at least 3 pieces of chèvre chaud. Your salad is ready.
- Enjoy your salade de chèvre chaud!
Can you make this in advance?
Since chèvre chaud is served hot, it’s best to bake the cheese on the toast just before serving.
If you want to prepare the dish in advance, you could toast the bread, cut the cheese, and place the cheese and bread together. When you’re ready to bake, add the olive oil and/or honey on top.
NOTE: It could be a good idea to assemble the cheese on the bread if you have a party and are serving a lot of guests. But I would still bake just before serving so the goat cheese is melted and warm.
For the salade de chèvre chaud, you can assemble the salad in advance without dressing. Then dress the salad and bake the chèvre chaud just before you plan to serve the dish.
How to store leftovers?
Once cool, store the chèvre chaud in an airtight container. You can reheat the chèvre chaud in the oven for 5 minutes before serving.
Can you freeze it?
No, I don’t recommend freezing as it will change the texture of the bread. Since this is a 5-minute recipe and it makes only as much as you need, there’s no reason to freeze the dish. Making it fresh every time will taste best.