French cuisine is known around the globe for its flavor and finesse. From wholesome desserts to delectable cheeses, wines, stews, soups, fresh fish….every region in France has its own specialty.
Most Popular French Dishes
Traditional french food consists of a simple combination of natural, rich flavors that come together to create an unforgettable culinary experience. In fact, French cuisine is so highly revered around the world that it was added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages in 2010.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional French dishes along with recipes for each dish to try for yourself.
Teeming with vibrant colours and a delicious flavour, ratatouille is an interesting stew cooked with onion, garlic, potato, tomato, bell pepper, and many other vegetables.
A perfectly prepared ratatouille will bring out the best in every ingredient. Despite the huge variety, the dish itself is never confusing in flavour and is deliciously filling to those who eat it.
Coq au vin
The word ‘Coq’ in French means rooster and ‘Vin’ means wine, so you might be able to figure out what Coq au vin is! Chicken is braised with wine and additional ingredients such as lardons, garlic and mushrooms.
The key to this dish is seasoning and slow cooking. The tender meat in the flavorsome roux is what makes Coq au vin a French favorite.
Raclette is a type of cheese consumed in France and Switzerland, known for its meltability. Once the cheese is heated, it can be easily scraped onto the accompaniments of ham, salami, potatoes, vegetables and gherkins.
Raclette is now often served with a small table-top grill so that a group can sit down and cook as they eat.
Not to be confused with Macaroons, these colourful cookies are sure to catch the attention of everyone who visits a French bakery.
Macarons are a crunchy, airy dessert with a chewy texture that can hold a variety of different fillings, from jelly and jam to chocolate and cream cheese.
Their versatility in colour and flavour make them an extremely popular delicacy, despite their relatively hefty price tag.
Boeuf Bourguignon is essentially a beef stew cooked in red Burgundy wine, although other red wines are commonly used.
It’s a very traditional French dish that is enjoyed throughout the world. The additional ingredients include carrots, garlic, onions, mushrooms and bacon.
Mille Feuille is a dessert consisting of three alternating layers of puff pastry and two alternate layers of pastry cream. The top layer is then covered with a cream and chocolate icing drizzle in a marble effect.
Bouillabaisse is a French fish stew that originates from the fisherman of Marseille using up the bony fish they were unable to sell at market. The three most common fish used in bouillabaisse are ed rascasse, sea robin and European conger, although other fish are often used.
Bouillabaisse is unique due to the herbs and spices used, the preparation in adding fish one at a time, and the way the broth is served first with bread and the fish served on a separate plate.
Typical seasonings include bouquet garni, saffron, fennel and Cayenne pepper. The broth is cooked with garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and olive oil.
When you think of French cuisine, the image of a crispy golden-brown baguette might be the first thing that comes to mind.
This iconic French bread is a long, thin loaf with a crusty surface. Its charm lies in its simplicity.
Baguettes are usually served as appetizers, but they are also delicious enough to be served as entire meals by themselves.
Not only that, but the crustiness of the loaf releases many aromatic molecules as you eat. Tasting a warm, crusty baguette is an experience in itself!
Historically, snails have been a delicacy all over the world, and nobody serves them better than the French.
The snails in this dish are cooked after being removed from their shells and then put back in with sauces, garlic or butter to be served.
Escargot is not only a well-known part of French cuisine, but French culture as well since they are quite often served as hors d’oeuvres, or appetizers.
Distinctively named after the Champagne region in France, this sparkling wine is popularly drunk during festivals and celebrations.
‘Champagne’ is used as a ubiquitous term for all sparkling wines by some people, but champagne is specifically from the vineyards of Champagne. Some grapes used to produce champagne are: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir.
Soup a l’oignon (French Onion Soup)
Usually served as a starter, this unique soup comprises of sliced caramelized onions and meat stock, customarily topped with croutons and cheese. French onion soup is simple to cook and elegant in execution.
Despite its Germanic origins, quiche is globally known as an iconic French pie. It has a custard filling that contains cheese, vegetables, or meat.
Quiche Lorraine, which is quite popular in France, consists of eggs, cream, and bacon. This dish can be served cold or hot and shows great versatility in how it’s prepared.
Dauphinoise potatoes are not only a classic French concoction, they are also widely consumed all over the world. Gratin Dauphinois is made by slicing potatoes and baking in milk, butter and garlic.
Sweet or savoury, soufflés are another French dish that show amazing diversity in flavours. Soufflé is made from beaten eggs combined with other ingredients.
Soufflés can be flavoured sweetly with lemon or chocolate as a dessert, or they can be made savoury with mushrooms or cheese as a main dish.
Confit de canard
Canard is the French word for duck and nobody cooks it better than the French! Confit de canard or Duck confit is a dish considered somewhat luxurious throughout the world.
Traditionally it is made by salt curing the duck meat and cooking in its own fat. The preparation is key and can take up to 36 hours of refrigeration in a rub of salt, garlic and thyme.
The duck fat cooks the dish and has a very rich, distinctive flavor that defines the dish. It is then served with roast potatoes, also cooked in the duck fat, and sometimes red cabbage.
Originating from Liverdun and Commercy of France, madeleines are traditional sponge cakes known for their shell-like shape acquired from baking pans with shell-shaped depressions. It is said that madeleines were made by a certain girl named Madeline that popularized the dish during the pilgrimage.
Now becoming a known dessert in France, madeleines are created using different ingredients and techniques, bringing different versions with unique flair and pairings. From an easily made sponge cake topped with confectioners sugar, today’s madeleines are created with different spices and flavors and pairs well with teas, coffees, and sweet wines.
Regarded as one of the classic dishes of France, Moules Marinières is one of those dishes that taste best when sampled in France itself. This authentic yet straightforward dish consists of fresh mussels cooked with shallots, garlic, and onions.
Along with white wine, cream and the usual salt and pepper are used to adjust its flavor. Finish it off with some French bread and fries, and you’ll experience a special dish with a traditional flair.
Hachis Parmentier is a ground beef based dish, topped with potatoes and cheese. It is similar to the British cottage pie but is well known in France for being named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier who helped to promote the consumption of potatoes in France to ease the hunger epidemic of the time.
As a dish it is mostly adored for being a hearty, filling, homely meal to warm you up on a winter’s evening.
Crêpes are quite a common dish in a lot of households, French or not. Everyone enjoys these thin, delicately cooked, golden brown pancakes for breakfast. Crêpes can be sweet or savoury, though they are usually made sweet. There’s even a holiday every February 2nd where French people eat a lot of crêpe!
Salade Niçoise is a salad made up of Niçoise olives, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and tuna or anchovies, with an olive oil dressing. The dish is outrageously simple, healthy and cost-effective, making it very popular throughout France and the entire world.
The traditional version originated in Nice in the 19th century but many variations have since come about with some passionate chefs arguing about which are the correct ingredients to use.
As the name implies, a cheese fondue is melted cheese paired with several bite-sized treats for dunking. This dish is usually the stuff for cheese lovers, and it’s great to serve in simple gatherings and afternoon snacks.
Usually paired with bread bits for dunking, cheese fondue also pairs well with cooked vegetables and hard biscuits. Since nothing ever goes wrong with cheese, you can always mix and match different treats, juices, and wines to enhance your luxurious experience.
Flaky, buttery, crescent-shaped croissants are just one part of French cuisine’s long love affair with bread. They are an inseparable part of continental breakfast all over Europe.
Sometimes sold plainly, they can also have a sundry of fillings from almonds, fruits, and chocolate to ham and cheese.
Cuisses de grenouille (Frogs legs)
However, they are eaten quite often in certain parts of France still to this day, so they’re not as obscure as you might think. In fact, the French eat an estimated 80 million frogs legs a year. The typical way to cook them is by deep frying them, along with a jus sauce and eating them with your hands.
Bavarian Cream or crème bavaroise is a dessert considered to be both a French and German dish, although it was purportedly developed by famous French chef Marie Antoine Careme. Quite simply, Bavarian Cream consists of custard enriched with whipped cream and solidified with gelatin, garnished with sweet sauce and fruits.
The dish many flavors including coffee, fruit flavors and chocolate. It gained significance in the 1700s when it was considered somewhat of a culinary feat, owing to the fact that it could be served at a very low temperature in an era before refrigerators existed.
Everyone’s had an omelette at least once in their life. This is the famous breakfast dish where beaten eggs are cooked without being stirred until set; usually stuffed with delicious fillings such as cheese, vegetables, ham, or herbs.
Its popularity all over the world has made it one of the most recognizable French dishes to date.
Tarte tatin is a classic French dish made of baked caramelised fruit in puff or shortcrust pastry. Traditionally apples are used but other variations have used peaches, pears or pineapples.
Chateaubriand is a classic French steak dish, made from a fillet cut from the centre of beef tenderloin, often served with a thyme sauce or with mushrooms.
The name Chateaubriand traditionally denotes the way of cooking the dish which used two lesser cuts of meat to sandwich the better cut of meat in, before roasting. These days Chateaubriand is not cooked this way but is used more to refer to the cut of steak.
Often thought of as a cake because of the notable similarities between the two, brioche is actually a flaky bread. It is made with a high quantity of eggs and butter, contributing to an airy, puffy feel.
Brioche is definitely an upgrade for every bread-lover out there as it elevates everything people love about bread.
Cassoulet is a hearty, slow cooked casserole originating from the South of France. The name cassoulet comes from the word casserole, referring to the clay pot that the meal is cooked in. Originally a peasant dish, this rich meal is usually made with pork, poultry, beans and aromatic vegetables heated for hours in a vegetable stock.
Tête de Veau
Tête de Veau is a dish made using a calf’s head, slowly cooked in a broth that is flavored with vegetables and aromatics. It is then served with a gribiche sauce, hard boiled eggs and herbs.
Oblong, finger-sized and glazed. Eclairs are the deluxe siblings to cream puffs, their classic choux dough filled with custard or cream and topped with a layer of chocolatey icing make them the perfect dessert.
You may not be fluent in French, but acquainting yourself with the basics of French food can be a real step up in your gastronomical education. France has a fantastic food culture, and a bonus of great wines to pair the food with.
Reims Pain D’épices
Reims Pain D’epices is a spice flavored pastry often described as a cross between a dense cake and a soft bread. It is made using flour, baking soda or powder and a mix of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. It is sweetened only with honey.
A Pissaladiere is a type of savory tart which is particularly popular in the South of France. It consists of a yeast dough which is rolled out and topped with caramelized onions, anchovies and black olives. The tart is then baked for a short amount of time, just until the crust firms up.