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24 Best Traditional French Food & Dishes to Try

24 Best Traditional French Food & Dishes to Try

Planning a trip to France? If so, you’re undoubtedly looking forward to some really amazing French dishes. To be correct, the whole concept of gourmet cooking — haute cuisine originates in France. The ingenious methods, the elegant sauces, and the artistry of French chefs are known all over the world.

But if you’re interested in some really adventurous dining, try the food features that locals love. These are the dishes that regular French people have been eating for centuries.

Most of them are made from things that wealthier people tossed out, so you might want to eat first and ask questions later!

Traditional French Cuisine to Try

Here are several cook guides to some classic foods to try on your French culinary adventure.

1. Bulots

Let’s start out 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 own recipe for cooking them, and they’re all delicious. You have to work the little bulot out of its pretty shell with a special little pick.

They taste a lot like clams and are fun to eat, even as a light meal. Served with a bit of lemon juice and some iced water on a hot summer day, you’ll have yourself a refreshing and satisfying piece of French cuisine.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in France

 2. Squab: The French Pigeon Dish

Another not-too-scary dish that makes our top 13 is the pigeon, which does not taste like chicken. The meat is rich and dark, with a delicate texture and an earthy flavor that makes it really special.

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 actually 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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3. Langue de Boeuf Fumée: Beef Tongue

Sliced Beef Tongue
Courtesy of WikiHow

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.

4. Tete de Veau: Calf’s Head

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere, especially if young pigeons didn’t scare you off. 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.

5. Ris de Veau: Sweetbread

Ris de Veau is made from the pancreas of a calf — in English-speaking countries, it’s called sweetbreads. The taste is very mild, and a little like bacon and the texture is absolutely silky and reminiscent of scallops. If you’re going to try organ meats, this is the place to start.

This is an ancient recipe that has (somehow) survived from Roman times. You should definitely try it as it is an experience like no other, but do yourself a favor and don’t overdo your research beforehand, or you may be scared off.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Lyon, France

6. Tripes

Tripes (in English, tripe) is an animal stomach. In France, it’s most often veal belly. Soft and tender, tripes can be quite delicious, especially along with a big serving of boiled potatoes.

For obvious reasons, make sure your tripes come out of a pristine kitchen prepared by a really competent chef – you’ll easily find this dish at French restaurants.

7. Pieds de Cochon: Pig’s Feet

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 totally yummy.

The rich flavor is a lot like a ham hock; like ham hocks, they make a great addition to soups and stews. They are often served in recipes with vegetables like green beans and red wine.

8. Fromage de Tete: Head Cheese

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 by the fact that it’s made from various goodies in and around a cow’s head. Fromage de Tete is awesome.

The texture is kind of wobbly, like a really firm Jello. It smells a bit like high-quality bologna — and tastes like rich, spicy ham. Get past the odd texture, and you’re in for a real treat.

9. Boudin Noir: Blood Sausage

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.

To hold it together, they add many other ingredients— commonly onions, bacon or fatback, apples, parsley, egg, cream, and seasonings.

You’ll often find Boudin Noir served up 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.

10. Andouillette

If you want 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 either 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.

Definitely an acquired taste, and certainly not for everyone.

See Related: Potato Soup: A Traveleering Staple

11. Raclette

Blocks of Cheese

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 to eat along with Raclette cheese are boiled potatoes with various types of meat, usually ham. Mix it all together, put a nice scoop of cheese on it, and you’ve got a forkful of happiness.

Personally, 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 an especially attractive recipe for those who don’t want to try head cheese or young pigeon!

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Nice, France

12. Tartiflette

Potato French Meal in a Bowl

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, and this is why 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.

See Related: Weird Food Combinations That Are Strangely Good

13. Coq au Vin

Chicken and Potato Dish
Coq au Vin” by Will Clayton is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Coq au vin is a true French cuisine classic just about anywhere in France. Coq au vin literally means ‘rooster with wine,’ in this traditional French dish, chicken is braised slowly on medium heat in red wine and some brandy.

The combination yields a wonderfully flavored sauce mixed with vegetables, some butter, and a bit of salt. While strange birds and calf’s heads may scare you, this creation of French cooking should be a relatively safe haven to serve.

And while we may not be so used to cooking with different types of alcohol at home, it is very 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.

14. French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup Dish
image by Steven Miller/Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

No matter what time of year it is, there is always something comforting about a hearty dish of French 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 the soup 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 then simmered with beef stock and various seasonings. The result is a rich and flavorful soup that is perfect for a cold day.

Whether you are in Paris or your own kitchen, a bowl of French Onion Soup is sure to hit the spot.

15. Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon Serving
Slayschips, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Boeuf Bourguignon is a classic French dish that originated in the Burgundy region of France. It is garlic, red wine, carrots, onions, and beef stew slowly cooked to bring out the natural flavors.

The dish is typically served with potatoes or bread. Boeuf Bourguignon 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.

While the ingredients may seem simple, the flavors are complex and truly unique. If you are looking for a new recipe to try, I highly recommend Boeuf Bourguignon. You won’t be disappointed!

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16. Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine Dish
Donna Alvita, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 it has become a staple of French cuisine.

Quiche lorraine is typically made with eggs, cream, bacon, and onions, and it is often served for breakfast or lunch. The dish is simple to make, but it is oh-so-delicious.

If you find yourself in France, be sure to order a quiche lorraine – you won’t be disappointed!

17. Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu Dish
Andre, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re ever in Paris and looking for a traditional French meal, look no further than pot-au-feu. This classic dish is made by simmering beef and vegetables in water or stock until they are tender. The result is a flavorful stew that can be served with a variety of side dishes.

While pot-au-feu is usually considered a winter dish, it is delicious any time of year. So next time you’re in the City of Lights, be sure to give this comforting meal a try. Bon appetit!

18. Chocolate Souffle

A chocolate soufflé is a rich, decadent dessert that is perfect for any special occasion. And what could be more special than a trip to France?

The country is home to some of the best chocolate in the world, and there are numerous ways to enjoy it. From rich, dark chocolate bars to delicate truffles, there is something for everyone.

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.

So if you’re looking for a truly unique culinary experience, be sure to add a chocolate soufflé to your itinerary. Bon appétit!

See Related: Strange Foods in America You Should Try

19. Pâte à Choux

Freshly Baked Pâte à Choux
Two Helmets Cooking, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the highlights of visiting France has been indulging in some of the country’s renowned pâte à choux. This traditional 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 and they’re both 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. No matter what the filling, these little pastries are definitely worth a try if you ever find yourself in France.

20. Steak tartare

Steak tartare Dish
insatiablemunch, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Steak tartare is one of the most delicate and popular French dishes that is featured in restaurants around the world. This appetizer dish is made with raw beef that is minced or chopped and then seasoned with various spices.

In general, anything classified as tartare generally originates around raw meat. It is typically served with a variety of accompaniments such as French bread, potatoes, vegetables, and sauces.

This traditional 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 now has migrated away from only French restaurants and into modern menus in a variety of ways.

21. Ratatouille

Ratatouille Dish

Ratatouille is a French dish 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 vegetables, but can also be made with canned or frozen vegetables.

This traditional French food to taste is known to be a healthy and filling meal. It is also relatively easy to make and can be made ahead of time and reheated. Ratatouille can be served hot or cold and can be eaten alone or with a side of French baguette or rice.

22. Croque Monsieur & Croque Madame

Croque Monsieur
Michael Brewer, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

23. Escargot

Escargot Dish
eatingeast, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

French escargot is a signature dish consisting 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 during a visit to this amazing 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 one of the signature dishes of France.

23. Foie gras

Foie gras is a French dish made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened. The foie gras is cooked in the duck or goose’s own fat. It is usually served as a terrine, pate, or mousse. This dish is traditionally served with crusty bread and a sweet wine such as Sauternes.

It’s been a popular piece of French culture ever since and remains one of the most popular dishes around the world.

See Related: Best Side Dishes For a Summer Barbecue

24. Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin Dish
Loslazos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 difficult to make, it’s actually quite simple.

The key is to cook the apples slowly 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 take on traditional apple pie will have you coming back for more. It’s often an underrated French dish for dessert since the appetizers, the main course, and amazing wines take the grand prize, leaving no room for desserts. But for this, save room when dining out to try this incredible French food.

Why You Should Try Authentic French Dishes

You might not have the stomach for all these French foods, but try as many as you can! There’s no better way to get to know a country than by eating its traditional dishes — you’ll have some wonderful memories to bring home with you, and the chances are you’ll remember most of them as delicious.

FAQs

What is traditional French food?

Traditional French food is a combination of peasant dishes and haute cuisine. The former is simple, hearty meals that use inexpensive and easily accessible ingredients, while 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 traditional Croque-monsieur or Croque-madame.

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