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France is among the most visited countries in the world. One of the primary reasons people go is to eat the food and drink the wine! French food has a reputation of being some of the best in the world, and rightfully so. While not quite as simple as traditional Italian food, French food still places a strong emphasis on high-quality ingredients and quality over quantity. Here are thirty of the most delicious, most traditional French foods to try, be it in France or from the comfort of your kitchen. If you try any of these recipes at home, let me know in the comments how they turn out! Bon Appetit!
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Table of contents
- boeuf bourguignon
- confit de canard
- crème brûlée
- croque monsieur / madame
- escargots de bourgogne
- galettes bretonnes
- gratin dauphinois
- pot au feu
- poulet chasseur
- quiche lorraine
- salade lyonnaise
- salade niçoise
- soupe à l’oignon
- steak tartare
- tarte tatin
- pin it!
Boeuf Bourguignon, aka beef Burgundy, is a seemingly simple beef stew braised in red Burgundy wine and beef stock. Traditionally added to the dish are carrots, onions, garlic, bouquet garni, pearl onions, mushrooms, and lardons (thick-ish strips of bacon).
Despite its name, Boeuf Bourguignon did not originate from Burgundy. Instead, the name is a reference to the use of wine. The ‘bourguignon’ generally refers to either a dish prepared with wine or with a mushroom and onion garnish.
Julia Child famously brought this dish to the United States when she referred to it as “one of the most delicious beef stews concocted by man.”
Here is her very own recipe.
Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish stew that originated in Marseille, one of France’s most famous port cities. French fisherman initially made the stew by using the small, bony fish that they were unable to sell to restaurants or local markets.
There are a few other traditions that differentiate a Bouillabaisse from other fish stews. First, is the addition of Provençal herbs and spices to the base. Next is the way the fish are cooked in the stew – the fish are added one at a time and then brought to a boil. A traditional Bouillabaisse will use bony rockfish from the Mediterranean. And last, is how a Bouillabaisse is served. The broth is served in a soup bowl with some bread and rouille and the fish is actually served in a separate dish. The fish is then added to the soup dish. It may seem redundant, but the French are nothing if not sticklers for tradition.
Get the recipe here.
Contribution: Shobha, Just Go Places Blog
Cassoulet is a slow-cooked stew originating in the Southwest of France. It has been popular in the area since the Middle Ages and is one of the most iconic traditional French foods.
Apparently the story is that when the English besieged the city people during the Hundred Years War, the citizens threw together everything they could find into one pot to stew. This would allow them to keep their strength up with food while also keeping an eye on the invaders. Some people believe the history of cassoulet goes back even further, that Crusaders brought this dish back from the Arab world.
Types of meat that the stew boasts are typically duck and sausages. Other types of meat can include, goose, mutton and even pig skin. The one ingredient you must include in the stew is white beans. The stew is so hearty that it stands alone well. You will, however, get bread and butter to mop up the delicious juices that remain.
There are many places in the Languedoc that offer a traditional Cassoulet. It is a hearty, traditional farmhouse dish that has been steadily gaining in popularity. Many restaurants in the Languedoc offer it on their lunch menus.
Photo & Contribution: Elisa, France Bucket List
The Choucroute is one of the most famous traditional foods in France. It is typical of Alsace, a historical region located in Eastern France, however you can also find it in southern Germany.
A good Choucroute is a must of any weekend getaway or Alsace road trip. It is a cheap comfort food, particularly during the winter months, but you can find it all year round in Alsace.
There’s no fixed recipe for the Choucroute, but it always includes at least three kinds of meat, plus potatoes and cabbage. The most popular meats used are sausages, salted cuts of pork, and sliced pork.
If you are looking for an excellent traditional Choucroute, the winstubs are the place to go. These are traditional Alsatian restaurants: cheap, popular, and with a cozy atmosphere. Wash it down with beer or white wine of Alsace, and it tastes delicious.
confit de canard
Confit de Canard is a traditional French dish which uses the entire duck. People worldwide consider it a delicacy, one of the most elegant dishes from France. This is a preservation process that consists of salt curing the meat and then cooking in its own fat.
It’s definitely one of the more complicated (and time-consuming) dishes on this list, as you have to slow-poach the meat for up to 10 hours. Once the meat is done cooking and cooling, store it in a canning jar or other container and submerge it in its fat. It lasts in the fridge up to six months (if sealed)! The fat acts as both a preservative and a sealant, resulting in a very rich dish.
Coq-au-Vin is a traditional French dish that many people are familiar with. It’s super-simple – braise chicken with wine, lardons, and mushrooms. The traditional recipe uses a red Burgundy wine, but there are many variations that have emerged over the years. Coq-au-Riesling, for example, is a typical Alsatian variant.
There are many legends that cite people making Coq-au-Vin as early as the times of ancient Gaul, however, the recipe wasn’t actually documented until the late 1900’s! Still, it’s a safe assumption that some rustic variant of this dish existed for many hundreds of years prior.
Crème Brûlée (literally ‘burnt cream’) is a rich and decadent dessert that’s a must-add item on a list of traditional French foods. It consists of a sweet custard base that’s poured into a ramekin and left to set. Next, a thin layer of sugar is dusted evenly along the top of the custard, and then torched with fire to create a contrasting texture along the top layer.
There’s something strangely satisfying about cracking the burnt layer of Crème Brûlée with your spoon and discovering what lies beneath. Sometimes you’ll find variants in the flavor of custard, but the most sumptuous is by far the original unflavored version.
Contribution: Kat, Wandering Bird
One of the best things about touring France in a motorhome is the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of delicious French food. However, there’s one dish which never gets old- the humble (yet insanely delicious!) croissant.
A croissant beurre is made by creating a layer of pastry and butter. Decadent, simple, and sophisticated all at the same time.
You can buy croissants EVERYWHERE in France, but definitely try one fresh from the oven from a local boulangerie.
The pastry is delicate, flaky, and melts in your mouth. You can eat them plain or with butter, or for a savory edition, try ham & cheese. You can also get them with chocolate, almonds and even apricot jam.
croque monsieur / madame
A Croque Monsieur is a hot cheese and ham sandwich. It dates back to 1910 when it first appeared on a café menu, the intention being a warm, satisfying, quick bite to eat. It’s pan fried in butter (of course), and topped with a little grated cheese. Some places like to top with béchamel once the sandwich is finished.
And a Croque Madame? The same thing, but with the addition of a fried egg on top.
escargots de bourgogne
Photo & Contribution: Leyla, Offbeat France
Escargots (or, snails, as they’re commonly known outside of France) are a traditional French food that have always garnered strange reactions worldwide. It certainly does qualify as one of France’s strange foods, but only until you try one of these delicious little morsels.
After that, it magically turns into a delicacy.
The much-maligned little escargot isn’t eaten for its taste, but as a support for the unconscionable quantities of butter, garlic and parsley that cover it. Dipping bread into melted butter could be boring and so the languorous escargot comes to the rescue, a simple support for all that buttery goodness.
There is a rumor that escargots became a culinary specialty during a visit to France by the Tsar of Russia in 1814. The party was late to the restaurant which, as a result, was out of food. Legend has it that the excited chef ran into his garden looking for something suitably edible, spotted some snails, and the rest is history.
There are many ways of preparing these – with sage and cream, or in a gratin, but by far the most common is baking them in the oven, with that irresistible butter sauce.
Contribution: Nadine, Le Long Weekend
The French equivalent of Italian focaccia, Fougasse is a stuffed flatbread that’s synonymous with the South of France. Typically filled with salty olives and herbs de Provence, you can also find variations that add in extra cheese or anchovies.
Its origins are humble, as it was initially used as the ‘test’ bread to check the wood-fired oven was ready for the real thing. But it has now worked its way into the Provençal diet and you’ll find it at boulangeries and markets in Aix-en-Provence and elsewhere around Provence.
Its appearance makes it easy to spot – simply look out for the flatbread shaped like a leaf, tree, or wheat, and brimming with black olives. And the shape isn’t its only defining characteristic, the flavor is distinctive too. The salty, herby, dense savory bread is best enjoyed as an aperitif, with a glass of Provence rosé, or accompanied by a salad for a light lunch.
Galettes Bretonnes are a sort of crêpe that comes from Brittany. These savory crêpes get their distinguishing flavor from buckwheat flour, which lends a somewhat nutty taste. To make Galettes, simply fold the crepe around whatever savory ingredients you may crave. Some popular options include the classic ham, Gruyère, and egg, or more adventurous eaters might like to try spinach and cream, or even smoked salmon.
A Gougère is a small, savory pastry baked with cheese. It is made out of choux dough, which does not use a rising agent. Instead, the baker adds more moisture content in the form of boiled water and butter with the addition of flour. The additional moisture steams the dough in order to puff the pastry.
As with most traditional French foods, there are many different variants of Gougère, particularly with the type of cheese used. The most popular cheeses are Gruyère, Comté, or Emmentaler, yet you’ll find many more than just these three types.
Gratin Dauphinois is a traditional French dish that consists of sliced potatoes which are baked in milk or cream. The gratin preparation is a culinary style that is topped with a browned crust, usually by the addition of bread crumbs, cheese, egg, or butter.
The crunchiness of the outer crust creates a beautiful textural contrast with the smooth, piping-hot, creamy potatoes underneath. It’s almost like a savory Crème Brûlée in this sense! OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Still, Gratin Dauphinois is a must-try, and rather easy to make at home.
Fun fact – what makes Gratin Dauphinois different from plain ol’ potatoes gratin is the use of raw potatoes as opposed to boiled potatoes.
Ahh, the most popular sandwich in France! And perhaps the most simple. A jambon-beurre is simply a baguette with butter and sliced ham. That’s it. I don’t think you could screw this one up if you tried! However, if you want to make this at home, be sure to get a fresh baguette (ficelle is best), high-quality butter, and premium ham.
The ham may be slightly different than what you’d find in France (jambon de Paris). Still, there are some great substitutes you can use if you don’t live in Europe.
These delicately scrumptious little confections are the ultimate treat when visiting Paris. Macarons melt in your mouth if you get them from the right place (aka Ladurée), and come in a wide variety of flavors. As with other traditional French foods, many cities and regions claim a long history of making macarons.
Macarons are incredibly sensitive to moisture and thus fairly complicated to make. It can be challenging to recreate what you might have tried (or dreamed of trying) in France. The good news is, you can get Ladurée’s famous macarons shipped straight to your door!
pot au feu
Pot au Feu may very well be considered France’s national dish. It is a traditional beef stew that is as simple as it is delicious.
There are a few key components that are required to make the ultimate Pot au Feu. The first is some sort of cartilaginous meat, such as marrow bone or oxtail. Root vegetables are a must! Parsnips, turnips, carrots, onions, etc. And inexpensive cuts of meat, those which require long cooking periods to tenderize. Last, you’ll need a bouquet garni and some additional spices, such as salt, pepper, and clove.
Here’s a classic Pot au Feu recipe.
Commonly called ‘Hunter’s Chicken,’ Poulet Chasseur is a common dish prepared in French kitchens throughout the country. The dish is made with chicken that is sautéed in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, brandy, tarragon, and vermouth.
The word ‘chasseur‘ means ‘hunter’ but is also the name of the sauce the chicken is sautéed in. The chicken can be dredged in flour prior to sautéing, or not, the rules with this dish are not too rigid.
There is an Italian counterpart, whose name means literally the same thing – ‘cacciatore,’ though the ingredients vary slightly.
Profiteroles are adorable little pastry balls that are also made of choux dough. As mentioned above, choux dough does not contain a rising agent and instead relies on the moisture content of melted butter and water to create steam in order to puff the pastry.
They are typically filled with a sweet cream or custard that is neutrally flavored, however, you’re sure to find variations out there. Profiteroles are usually drizzled with a little chocolate sauce, caramel, or fresh whipped cream.
The elegance (and deliciousness) of a perfect Quiche Lorraine lies in its simplicity. Quiche Lorraine is a French tart made of pastry crust filled with eggs and milk or cream, along with some savory fillings. A traditional Quiche Lorraine is made with lardons.
Photo & Contribution: Ayngelina, Bacon is Magic
Ratatouille is a classic French recipe from the south of France in Provence. Although many traditional dishes from France use a lot of butter and cream, Provence is in the Mediterranean where it’s more common to have lots of vegetables and use olive oil instead of butter.
It is very similar to other rustic peasant dishes in the region from Spain, Turkey and Greece, where vegetables are the star ingredient because people could not afford meat.
This recipe is perfect for entertaining a group because it has always been vegan and gluten free, relying on the fresh, local taste of vegetables in season. It is bursting with flavor and its easy presentation makes it one of the prettiest dishes on the table.
Originally from Nice, this stewed vegetable dish is great as a side but is remarkably versatile. It is delicious on top of pasta or crusty French bread. To make it a bit heartier it is delicious when topped with a poached or sunny side up egg.
Rillettes is somewhere between confit and a country pate. It is a preservation method that employs rendering meat in its own fat. It’s cooked extremely slowly for hours on end. The resulting meat is fork-tender, shredded, and stored in sealed containers, submerged in its fat to last.
Rillettes is most commonly made with pork, but other variants are common as well. I personally love salmon rillettes! It’s usually consumed as an appetizer or snack, smeared on slabs of toasted bread.
As the name suggests, Salade Lyonnaise comes from Lyon, France. It’s a very simple salad comprised of frisée, lardons, and a warm dressing made of vinegar, dijon mustard, and rendered fat. Put a poached egg on top, and you’re good to go.
This salad is absolute heaven when done right (and I don’t even care for poached eggs!). Some bistros will add house-made croutons, but traditionally the salad is a simple trio.
It’s super-simple to make and takes all of 15 minutes. Get the recipe here.
The other French salad worthy of a spot on this list is Salade Niçoise. This gem originated in Nice, and showcases Niçoise olives, tomatoes, eggs, tuna (or anchovies), and extra virgin olive oil.
There is a lot of controversy over which ingredients are truly traditionally French. Some variations include cooked potatoes, green beans, raw vegetables – essentially anything you could think of. There are variations among the dressing ingredients as well.
Here is a personal favorite recipe of mine for Salade Niçoise.
soupe à l’oignon
Whenever I am in France, I go nuts over this stuff. Let’s be real, I go nuts on it in the U.S. as well. To me, this is the ultimate comfort food. Crusty bread soaked in a savory beef and onion broth with globs of melted cheese that stick to your face. Yum.
French onion soup, or, as it’s called in France, Soupe à l’Oignon, is one of my favorite traditional French foods to eat. It is usually prepared in an individual crock, with the cheese added last, and then served gratinéed, with a nice crust covering the outer layer of the cheese. Despite this dish being far from healthy, it is well-worth the indulgence.
Steak Tartare (Boeuf Tartare) is a staple in French restaurants in France and all over the world. It’s one of the easiest to make, too. In fact, when I worked at Les Halles restaurant in NYC, we had to make this dish tableside. If you didn’t know, Les Halles is the restaurant where Anthony Bourdain first made a name for himself. Needless to say, I am well-versed in preparing this iconic French fare.
Steak Tartare is comprised of raw, finely minced beef mixed with egg yolk, diced white onion, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, capers, and chopped cornichons. It’s traditionally served alongside toasted baguette.
People all over the world drool over this dish. In recent decades, there has been rising popularity in tartare made of other types of meat – most commonly tuna or salmon.
Here is Anthony Bourdain’s own recipe for Steak Tartare.
The Tarte Tatin is named for the sisters who invented it and featured it in their hotel. The tarte is made with fruit that has been caramelized in butter and sugar prior to baking.
Tarte Tatin is usually made with apples, but many different types of fruit may be used. When made with apples, it’s essentially a caramel apple for adults. Yes, please!
Tartiflette is a heavenly dish from Savoy in Alsace and one of my favorite traditional French foods. It’s main ingredients are potatoes, Reblochon cheese, lardons, and onions. It’s a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dish that’s perfect after a day of skiing or snowboarding the mighty Alps. Chase it down with a crisp glass of Alsatian white wine at a communal wooden table, or try your hand at making it at home.
Tripoux is a traditional French food that I’ve never actually tried. I tend to shy away from all things tripe-related, and this is no exception. Still, it’s well-loved and therefore worth including.
Tripoux is essentially small bundles of sheep tripe (stomach lining) that’s stuffed with sheep’s feet, savory herbs, different vegetables, and sweetbreads. It’s definitely not something for the faint-hearted. However, if you’re an adventurous eater, give it a shot!
As you can see, even the most traditional French foods are somewhat controversial among critics as to what is the actual original recipe. But some variation of these dishes have been circulating around France for a long, long time and are representative of local cuisine. What’s your favorite traditional French dish? Drop a comment below!