Are you planning a trip to France or looking to make traditional French cuisine at home? If so, you’re undoubtedly looking forward to some fantastic French dishes. To be correct, the whole concept of gourmet cooking — haute cuisine originates in this beautiful country. These are the best French foods on your next trip or home.
In France, food is a very big deal, and as a result, the ingenious methods, the elegant sauces, and the artistry of French chefs are known worldwide.
But if you’re interested in some adventurous dining, try the food features that locals love. These are the many traditional dishes that regular French people have enjoyed for centuries.
Between the co-author, Woodrow Matthews, who has lived in France for several years, and editor-in-chief Kyle Kroeger’s perspectives from a dozen trips to France, we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve included photos from traditional French restaurants, including Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, and the South of France.
Most French meals are made from things that wealthier people tossed out, so you might want to eat first and ask questions later! Here are several examples of classic dishes for your French culinary adventure.
What We Cover
- Best French Cuisine by Category
- Traditional French Food to Try
- 1. Bœuf Bourguignon
- 2. Salade Niçoise
- 3. Bulots
- 4. Squab
- 5. Omelette
- 6. Langue de Boeuf Fumée
- 7. Galettes Bretonnes
- 8. Andouillette
- 9. Raclette
- 10. Tartiflette
- 11. Coq au Vin
- 12. Soupe à l’Oignon
- 13. Quiche Lorraine
- 14. Pot-au-Feu
- 15. Chocolate Soufflé
- 16. Pâte à Choux
- 17. Steak Tartare
- 18. Ratatouille
- 19. Croque Monsieur & Croque Madame
- 20. Escargot
- 21. Foie Gras
- 22. Tarte Tatin
- 23. Chicken Cordon Bleu
- 24. Steak Frites
- 25. Jambon-Beurre
- 26. Blanquette de Veau
- 27. Fromage de Tete
- 28. Boudin Noir
- 29. Ris de Veau
- 30. Tripes
- 30. Pieds de Cochon
- 31. Tete de Veau
- Why You Should Try Authentic French Foods
- What is traditional French food?
- What is France’s most famous food?
- What is a popular delicacy in French cuisine?
Best French Cuisine by Category
|Coq au Vin
|Best Meat Dish
|Best Vegetarian Dish
Traditional French Food to Try
1. Bœuf Bourguignon
Bœuf bourguignon is a classic French dish that originated in the Burgundy region of France. Garlic, red wine, carrots, onions, and beef stew are slowly cooked to bring out the natural flavors.
The dish is typically served with potatoes or bread. Bœuf bourguignon, when served as a stew, is perfect for a winter meal, as it is hearty and filling. The dish can be made ahead of time and reheated, making it ideal for entertaining and leftovers.
While the ingredients may seem simple, the flavors are complex and truly unique. If you want a new recipe, I highly recommend this Bœuf bourguignon recipe from the New York Times.
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2. Salade Niçoise
Salade niçoise originated in Nice, France, and has become a signature menu item at many restaurants worldwide. This dish is an excellent example of how French cooking is fantastic at incorporating local ingredients.
The warmer, mild climate of the French Riviera is great for growing greens, olives, tomatoes, green beans, artichokes, and other vegetables that may not grow as well in northern climates.
All of these can be thrown together into a tasty – and healthy – salad and then drizzled with olive oil. But what sets this salad apart is adding some fish, which often can be fresh or canned tuna or anchovies. Plus, egg slices are also a good accent.
A salade niçoise resembles an Italian-style caprese salad with greens, tomatoes, and ricotta cheese balls. Regional variations of this salad may eliminate lettuce or anchovies but add other items like potatoes.
Let’s start easy. Seafood dishes and fish dishes are popular in French food. You can buy bulots from street vendors in Paris and all the seaside towns in France.
Everybody has their recipe for cooking them, and they’re all delicious. You must take the little bulot out of its shell with a special pick.
They taste like clams and are fun, even as a light meal. Served with lemon juice and iced water on a hot summer day, you’ll have a refreshing and satisfying French cuisine.
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Another not-too-scary dish on our top list is squab or pigeon, which does not taste like chicken. Pigeon is a local delicacy in France, and it was once known as a peasant dish, but it’s truly quite good. It’s rich and is often served breaded and stuffed with butter, garlic, and other good flavors.
The meat is rich and dark, with a delicate texture and an earthy flavor that makes it unique. And who knows? You might already have eaten pigeon meat — in the U.S., it’s called squab.
If you want to venture into a pigeon recipe at home, there are plenty of ways to cook and season your bird. All you need is the pigeon breasts, some olive oil, and some flavors like cumin, garlic, and pepper. Prepare the oven for this one, as roasting is better than frying the meat in the frying pan.
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You may think you can create a proper omelette if you whip one up in your kitchen. Maybe you’ve even “decided” to make one accidentally if your planned scrambled or fried eggs didn’t go quite how you expected. But even if your effort turned out well, it may not necessarily be an authentic French omelette.
This staple of French cuisine has specific characteristics that not everyone is familiar with or expects. For instance, a true French omelette doesn’t have much besides eggs, cheese, and herbs. Some “omelettes” you may find elsewhere may include many other fixings, like meat and vegetables.
Authentic French omelettes are also usually cooked longer at a lower heat, making them a little fluffier, richer tasting, and maybe even lightly browned on the edges than the non-French methods, which sometimes suggest cooking them a little faster and hotter.
6. Langue de Boeuf Fumée
Here’s one that you might not find in the cooking guides at home: translated, this is smoked ox tongue. Tongue is cooked in all kinds of ways all over the world. You know how good it is if you’ve already tried it barbequed or in a taco.
The flavor is much like a lesser cut of beef, but the texture is much smoother — and in the right hands, ox tongue can be so tender and sweet that it melts in your mouth.
You can get some incredibly fancy variations on this simple dish, including a luxurious Langue Lucullus at Benoit in Paris, where it’s stuffed with foie gras.
7. Galettes Bretonnes
The Brittany region of France is responsible for creating these wonderful buckwheat pastries. They differ slightly from French crêpes, mostly made of wheat flour.
Galettes bretonnes, also called crêpes salées, are part of the galette family, which includes galette fruit and galette de rois, which is a treat typically cooked and served on or around Epiphany or Mardi Gras that includes a figure of Baby Jesus.
The bretonne variety of the gallette is a little smaller and generally has a sweeter filling compared to some of the other types filled with more savory flavors like meats and cheeses. Gallettes are believed to date back to the 12th century.
To make one, the dough is put in the pie pan. Next, the filling is set in the middle, and then the edges of the dough are folded over the center, covering the filling.
To start an argument in France, ask two locals what they think of andouillette. This controversial little sausage is another one of those love-it-or-hate-it dishes.
It’s made from tripe and chitterlings (intestines), usually pork or veal. If you’ve eaten and enjoyed chitterlings, give andouillette a try.
The flavor is strong and earthy — and, like chitterlings, there’s a certain amount of smell involved in the preparation and consumption of andouillettes — an acquired taste and certainly not for everyone.
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This dish has to be one of the best features of French cuisine – especially for anyone who loves cheese. Raclette is a special type of cheese that is melted under high heat and used to smother just about anything.
The most common foods, along with raclette cheese, are boiled potatoes with various types of meat, usually ham. Mix it all, put a nice scoop of cheese on it, and you have a forkful of happiness. I call raclette one of the seasonal recipes in France as I’d say it’s a dish most satisfying on a cold winter day.
However, the French disagree with me and see no reason why you can’t eat it year-round. This could be a lovely recipe for those who don’t want to try head cheese or young pigeon!
Here is one of the many related recipes to the above raclette – it’s called tartiflette. This is a bowl of boiled potatoes, lardons, onions, and often some white wine.
Tartiflette is more like a casserole, eaten out of a bowl filled with the ingredients, while raclette is more hands-on and customizable as you go.
Tartiflette is a wonderful après-ski dish, so you’ll find it served at the ski lodges of the Alpes and Aosta Valley. It is warm and refreshing when you are ready to rest after the slopes.
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11. Coq au Vin
Coq au vin is an authentic French cuisine classic anywhere in France. In this traditional French food, coq au vin means ‘rooster with wine.’ Chicken is braised slowly on medium heat in red wine and some brandy.
The combination yields a wonderfully flavored sauce mixed with vegetables, butter, and salt. While strange birds and calf’s heads may scare you, the glorious creation of coq au vin in traditional French cooking should be a relative haven to serve.
And while we may not be so used to cooking with different types of alcohol at home, it is common all over France. After all, who doesn’t love a good serving of chicken? You won’t be disappointed with a traditional coq au vin.
12. Soupe à l’Oignon
No matter the time of year, there is always something comforting about a hearty dish of soupe à l’oignon or onion soup. This classic French dish is typically made with beef stock, onions, and croutons, and it is garnished with a sprinkle of melted cheese on top.
While soupe à l’oignon might seem simple, it is actually quite complex in flavor. The key to a good French onion soup is slowly caramelizing the onions to become sweet and brown.
This takes patience, but it is well worth the effort. Once the onions are cooked, the soup is simmered with beef stock and various seasonings.
The result is a rich and flavorful soup perfect for a cold day. Whether in Paris or your kitchen, a French onion soup bowl will surely hit the spot.
13. Quiche Lorraine
No trip to France is complete without a taste of quiche Lorraine. This savory tart puff pastry dish originated in the Lorraine region of France and has become a staple of French cuisine.
Quiche Lorraine is typically made with eggs, cream, bacon, and onions, often served for breakfast or lunch. The dish is simple to make, but it is oh-so-delicious. When visiting France, order a quiche Lorraine. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’re ever in Paris and looking for a traditional French meal, look no further than pot-au-feu. Considered the national dish of France, this classic dish simmers beef and vegetables in water or stock until tender. The result is a flavorful stew that can be served with various side dishes.
While pot-au-feu is usually considered a winter dish, it is delicious anytime. So, next time you’re in the City of Lights, don’t forget to give this comforting meal a try.
15. Chocolate Soufflé
A chocolate soufflé is a decadent, classic French dessert perfect for any occasion. This nation cradles some of the best chocolate in the world, and there are numerous ways to enjoy it.
From rich, dark chocolate bars to delicate truffles, even the pickiest of eaters will have trouble saying no to this special treat. And, of course, no visit to France would be complete without trying a chocolate soufflé.
These light and fluffy desserts are traditionally served with a dollop of whipped cream, and they are sure to delight even the most discerning palate. If you want a truly unique culinary experience, add the delicious French dessert of chocolate soufflé to your itinerary.
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16. Pâte à Choux
One of the highlights of visiting France has been indulging in some of the country’s renowned pâte à choux. This puff pastry dates back to the 16th century and is made by cooking choux dough in boiling water until it forms into light, fluffy balls.
The balls are then traditionally oven-baked and served with a sweet or savory filling. I’ve tried both the sweet and savory versions, which are delicious!
The sweet pâte à choux is often filled with cream or custard and topped with sugar, while the savory ones can be filled with anything from cheese to ham. These little pastries are a must-try treat.
17. Steak Tartare
Steak tartare is one of the most delicate and popular French dishes featured in restaurants worldwide. This appetizer dish is made with raw beef that is minced or chopped and then seasoned with various spices and is an excellent source of protein.
In general, anything classified as tartare generally originates around raw meat. It is typically served with various accompaniments, such as French bread, potatoes, vegetables, and sauces.
This tasty French dish is said to have originated in the early 19th century in the city of Strasbourg in France. Steak tartare gained popularity in the late 19th century and early 20th century and has now migrated away from only French restaurants and into modern menus in various ways.
Ratatouille is a French dish, originating from the Provençal region, that typically consists of eggplant, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. It is often served as a side dish but can also be eaten as a main course.
Ratatouille is usually made with fresh veggies but can also be made with canned or frozen vegetables. Don’t let looks deceive you. This French food is both healthy, filling, and delicious, thanks to the usage of thyme. Thyme is a ubiquitous herb in French cuisine, adding a subtle earthiness and depth of flavor, famously used in multiple other dishes like coq au vin.
It is also relatively easy to make and can be made ahead of time and reheated. Ratatouille can be served hot or cold and eaten alone or with a French baguette or rice.
19. Croque Monsieur & Croque Madame
What’s a croque monsieur you ask? It’s a fried or grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But not just any old ham and cheese sandwich. This one is smothered in a rich béchamel sauce.
The croque madame is very similar to the monsieur but with the addition of a fried egg on top. This is a great breakfast item that you can find on nearly every French menu at a cafe, bistro, or brasserie.
French escargot is a signature dish of cooked snails and is usually served as an appetizer. It is typically seasoned with garlic, parsley, and other herbs. This is one of the best French dishes to try while visiting this fantastic country.
The Romans are believed to have introduced snails to the country, and the dish eventually became popular among the French. It is said that escargot was first served as an appetizer at a dinner party hosted by Louis XIV, and the dish has since become one of the signature dishes of France.
21. Foie Gras
Foie gras is a French dish made from the liver of a duck or goose being fried in its own fat, which gives the dish a thicker flavor. The foie gras is cooked in duck or goose fat. It is usually served as a terrine, pate, or mousse.
This dish is usually served with crusty bread and a sweet wine like Sauternes. It’s been a popular piece of French culture ever since and remains one of the most popular dishes worldwide.
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22. Tarte Tatin
This French classic is a must-try for anyone visiting the country. Tarte Tatin is an upside-down apple tart, and while it may look challenging to make, it’s pretty simple.
The key is to simmer the apples so they caramelize and become nice and soft. Serve this with some crème fraîche or ice cream, and you’ll be in for an incredibly delicious treat.
This French version of apple pie will have you returning for more. It’s often an underrated French dish for dessert since the appetizers, the main course, and excellent wines take the grand prize, leaving no room for desserts. But for this, save room when dining out to try this incredible French food.
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23. Chicken Cordon Bleu
Oh, chicken cordon bleu! It’s a delight for your taste buds, guaranteed to make them dance joyfully. The French and Swiss may have disputes regarding its origin, but when you take a bite of that crispy chicken, the melted cheese, and the savory ham, you’ll forget all about borders and savor the heavenly flavors on your plate!
Here’s a fascinating tidbit: ‘cordon bleu’ translates to ‘blue ribbon’ in French, a badge of honor for your palate. And let me tell you, this traditional French dish deserves that blue ribbon and more.
If you ever find yourself in a cozy Parisian cafe or a bustling Geneva restaurant, do yourself a favor and order the chicken cordon bleu. Trust me, it’s a culinary journey you won’t forget. And as they all say, “Life’s too short for bad food.”
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24. Steak Frites
Steak frites is a simple yet elegant dish that can appeal to anyone and is actually considered Belgium’s national dish (depends on who you ask sometimes). It consists of pan-seared or grilled beef steak in the United States, served on a bed of French-fried potatoes, commonly known as French fries.
Yes, there’s a whole discussion on which side of the Atlantic Ocean this potato style originated, but frites have certainly caught on across much of the world as a perfect savory side to beef dishes, from steak to burgers.
It’s especially appreciated by those who want to choose something different to go with their meat than the baked potato or rice pilaf served at most steakhouses. Plus, finger food is always fun.
You can cook your steak and your fries to your liking at home, but at most French cafes, you’ll likely get your steak medium rare and your fries slightly crispy. Order a red wine from Burgundy or Bordeaux to unlock some new flavors from the steak.
But you’ll also get a side of horseradish. The sauce on top of the steak varies by region, from a butter base to a brown gravy.
This entree translates to “ham and butter,” the famous French food version of a ham sandwich. The usual bread is half a baguette, creating a light, fluffy taste surrounding lightly smoked ham quality cuts.
The baguette also includes unsalted butter. The sandwich uses at least one type of French cheese, usually brie, which has a good flavor and is not overpowering.
Cheese provides extra flavor and texture to the culinary experience and further distinguishes it from a basic, uninspired sandwich in other countries. In some areas, your sandwich may come with small pickles. The meal was a typical working-class lunch for centuries.
Still, after restaurants and cafes began serving it in the 19th century, it has become one of the most famous French foods available everywhere. Some French cuisine experts suggest only using “jambon” ham, which comes from a certain type of pork, but others say any ham will do.
26. Blanquette de Veau
In French cuisine, the general description of blanquette is a white ragout (stew) that typically includes some white meat. The dominant meat, usually veal, is cooked in a creamy sauce, making it tender and tasty.
Although the dish can be made with poultry or lamb, many prefer the taste and texture of veal. Other ingredients in this dish can include vegetables (the whiter, the better,) crème, egg whites, and white mushrooms.
Another suggested ingredient is carrots because of the taste, not necessarily the color. In the culinary community, there is debate about what the best part of the veal should be in this particular stew. Some top chefs suggest the shoulder, others indicate the breast, and others recommend the rump.
This dish can be served with white or mostly-white sides such as rice or pasta. Some recipes suggest adding generous amounts of pepper or grated black truffle for taste and contrast.
27. Fromage de Tete
Fromage de Tete is head cheese, and you may have run into it before if there’s a good deli near your home. Don’t be put off because it’s made from various goodies in and around a cow’s head. Fromage de Tete is awesome.
The texture is wobbly, like a firm Jello. It smells like high-quality bologna — and tastes like rich, spicy ham. Get past the odd texture, and you’re in for a real treat.
28. Boudin Noir
Boudin noir is either blood sausage or blood pudding. The great British chefs might be reminded of something similar, and in France, it’s generally made with pork blood. They add many other ingredients— commonly onions, bacon or fatback, apples, parsley, egg, cream, and seasonings to hold it together.
You’ll often find boudin noir served on a plate with cooked apple and diced potato cooked with onion. This is a dish you’ll either love or hate. The texture is dense and somewhat gritty, and the flavor is rich and spicy with a strongly metallic aftertaste.
29. Ris de Veau
Ris de veau is made from the pancreas of a calf — in English-speaking countries, it’s called sweetbreads. The taste is mild, like bacon, and the texture is silky and reminiscent of scallops. If you try organ meats, this is the place to start.
This is an ancient recipe that has (somehow) survived from Roman times. You should try it as it is an experience, but do yourself a favor and don’t overdo your research beforehand, or you may be scared off.
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Tripes (in English, tripe) is an animal stomach. In France, it’s most often veal belly. Soft and tender, tripes can be delicious, especially with a hefty serving of boiled potatoes. For obvious reasons, make sure your tripes come out of a pristine kitchen prepared by a competent chef – you’ll easily find this dish at French restaurants.
30. Pieds de Cochon
The pork-eating world has voted, and the decision is unanimous — there’s just about no part of a pig that isn’t scrumptious. As proof, try some pieds de cochon (pig’s feet) while you’re in France. They’re a little bit greasy and gelatinous, but let’s face it — so is bacon. And they’re also fatty, porky, and yummy.
The rich flavor is much like a ham hock since they make a great addition to soups and stews. They are often served in recipes with vegetables like green beans, red wine, and toasted bread with French cheeses.
31. Tete de Veau
Tete de veau is a seriously traditional dish. It’s made from parts of a calf’s head, boiled down, and composed into a single piece. Tete de Veau is a little bit fatty and definitely gelatinous. The jelly-like texture and odd flavor might take a little getting used to.
Your best bet is to try it with a good sauce. It’s pictured here paired with a gribiche sauce based on eggs, which is a great choice.
Why You Should Try Authentic French Foods
You might not have the stomach for all these most famous French foods, but try as many as possible! There’s no better way to get to know a country than by eating its most famous dishes — you’ll have some beautiful memories to bring home with you, and the chances are you’ll remember most of them as delicious. Bon appétit!
What is traditional French food?
Traditional French food is a combination of peasant dishes and haute cuisine. The former is simple, hearty meals using inexpensive and easily accessible ingredients. At the same time, the latter is a more elegant and sophisticated style of cooking that emphasizes high-quality ingredients and meticulous preparation.
Some classic examples of French peasant dishes include cassoulet, ratatouille, and boeuf bourguignon, while haute cuisine favorites include soufflé au Grand Marnier, escargot, steak tartare, and canard à l’orange.
What is France’s most famous food?
French fries, of course. These petite-cut fries are unlike anything else in the world and are simply delicious. Other famous French foods include Tarte Tatin, ratatouille, and the Croque-monsieur or Croque-madame.
What is a popular delicacy in French cuisine?
Delicacies in cuisine are a way of French life, so plenty of popular options exist. Among the finest French delicacies are escargot, crème brulee, creamy camembert, and café gourmand.