What is a French Dip Sandwich?

G. Wiesen

A French dip sandwich is a type of sandwich consisting of sliced meat on a roll, usually a French bread baguette, which has been dipped into the pan drippings of the cooked meat. These sandwiches can also be served dry with a small container of the drippings, referred to as eating the sandwich au jus or “with juice,” rather than being dipped into the liquid before serving. Sometimes, beef broth is used rather than the actual liquids in the pan from cooking the meat, or the drippings can be added to other liquids such as broth to increase the amount available. The French dip sandwich does not owe its origin to French cuisine and is an entirely American delicacy.

A French dip sandwich may feature roast beef.
A French dip sandwich may feature roast beef.

While there is some debate regarding the origins of the French dip sandwich, the most popular claim is that it was invented by Philippe Mathieu, former owner of Philippe’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, California. The story goes that in 1918 Mathieu was preparing a sandwich for a police officer consisting of sliced roast beef on a French bread roll. While preparing the sandwich, Mathieu reportedly accidentally dropped the bread into the pan drippings from the roast beef, and the police officer insisted he would eat it regardless. The story goes that the officer enjoyed it so much he brought some friends back the next day to try the “dip” sandwich.

Despite being used with French rolls or baguettes, a French dip sandwich is an American delicacy, not French.
Despite being used with French rolls or baguettes, a French dip sandwich is an American delicacy, not French.

Many people associate a French dip sandwich with roast beef, but it is also often made with lamb, pork, and turkey. French dip sandwiches are still made at Philippe’s in Los Angeles and are still made by dipping the bread into the liquids, rather than serving the sandwiches au jus. Customers are able to request both single and double-dipped sandwiches, dictating the amount of juices that will be soaked into the French dip sandwich. Philippe Mathieu was French and the roll on which the sandwich was first served was also French, but otherwise it is a wholly American food.

The French dip sandwich quickly spread in popularity and numerous restaurants throughout the United States now serve these sandwiches. Many restaurants offer the sandwich “with au jus,” which typically indicates the sandwich is prepared dry and is provided with a container of liquid to dip the sandwich into while eating it. The unnoticed repetitive nature of the listing, basically translating as “with with juice” is similar to other American linguistic repetitions such as the reference to automated teller machines (ATM) as ATM machines.

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Discussion Comments


I once had an amazing horseradish sauce for prime rib at a casino buffet and ever since I have been putting horseradish on my french dips. I like it even better than the au jus.

Before then I had never thought of putting horseradish sauce on beef before but thank God I was up for trying it. The pungent sour of the horseradish combined with the richness of the beef is incredible.


I like to make french dip sandwiches with au jus at my house. I really prefer to do this at home because I can use high quality beef and really put some time and effort into my jus.

People think of french dip sandwiches as ball park food or something out of a lunch truck but they are derived from some really classy french recipes. A good jus can take hours to make and is very delicately seasoned. Most people don't want to go through all the trouble but I think it's worth it. A good beef jus is the real nectar of the gods.


The french dip is one of my favorite sandwiches but you have to have it with the au jus sauce. Without the sauce it is just another steak sandwich.

I have actually been to a place that makes an incredible french dip that they then dip into a container of au jus. The bread gets soaked through and it is a really sloppy mess but it is amazing. You wouldn't expect the au jus to be so good at a dive joint like that but it really is.

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