What to Taste in France: Typical French Food and Specialties

French cuisine is considered one of the best and most influential cuisines in the world. It is characterized by elegance, sophistication, and an emphasis on quality ingredients. French chefs focus on perfect cooking techniques, dish presentation, and place great emphasis on preserving the natural taste of ingredients and creating harmonious combinations.

The French love using herbs such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, and parsley, and they are masters in preparing sauces. French cuisine often uses wine in cooking.

Macarons, a typical French dessert. These are from the renowned Parisian patisserie Ladurée. The Louvre and the Seine River in the background.
Macarons, a typical French dessert. These are from the renowned Parisian patisserie Ladurée. The Louvre and the Seine River in the background.

Typical French Food

One of the most typical French foods is undoubtedly the croissant. This crispy and fluffy buttery roll has become a symbol of the French breakfast. Croissants are often served with butter, jam, or chocolate filling, and they pair perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) is one of the most famous French main dishes. This dish is prepared with beef stewed in red wine with onions, carrots, mushrooms, and bacon. Another typical French main course is ratatouille. This vegetable dish originates from the south of France and consists of layers of sliced zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Bouillabaisse is a typical French fish soup that comes from Marseille.

Beef Burgundy is an extremely popular French dish that is cooked even beyond the borders of France. This version is from the Prague restaurant Výčep.
Beef Burgundy is an extremely popular French dish that is cooked even beyond the borders of France. This version is from the Prague restaurant Výčep.

French cuisine is famous for its desserts. Crème brûlée, which is a cream made from egg yolks and cream with a caramel crust, is one of the most well-known. Other popular desserts are tarte Tatin (caramelized apple tart) and the world-famous macarons (delicate almond cookies with various fillings).

Crispy French baguette. For many, one of the gastronomic symbols of France.
Crispy French baguette. For many, one of the gastronomic symbols of France.

French National Dish

When you say French national dish, most people think of a croissant or a baguette. However, the official national dish of France is pot-au-feu. This typical French dish is prepared with beef, vegetables, and herbs that are cooked for a long time in one pot. The result is a strong broth and soft, juicy meat that is served with mustard, pickles, and horseradish. Pot-au-feu is a true symbol of French cuisine and its ability to transform simple ingredients into something exceptional.

Pâté en croûte, a meat pâté baked in pastry. A typical French appetizer.
Pâté en croûte, a meat pâté baked in pastry. A typical French appetizer.

What to Taste in France

  • Croissant. Crispy buttery pastry. Croissants have become a literal iconic symbol of French cuisine and are a popular breakfast throughout France.
  • Crème brûlée. Creamy vanilla pudding with a caramel crust. This delicate dessert originates from France and is popular in restaurants across the country.
  • Ratatouille. Vegetable dish made from eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes. It originally comes from Provence in southern France, where fresh summer vegetables are abundantly used.
  • Macarons. Macarons, colorful almond cookies with various flavors. Although popular throughout France, they are often associated with Paris and its luxurious patisseries.
  • Foie gras. Fatty goose or duck liver. This controversial delicacy product is widely produced and consumed in Aquitaine and other parts of southwestern France.
  • Coq au vin. Chicken braised in red wine with mushrooms, bacon, and vegetables. The dish is widespread throughout France, but its roots go back to the Burgundy region.
  • Escargots. Snails prepared with garlic butter. Although consumed throughout France, they are especially popular in Burgundy.
  • Tarte Tatin. Pie with caramelized apples. The dessert was created by mistake at the Tatin hotel in the Loir-et-Cher department in central France.
  • Cassoulet. Bean dish with duck meat, sausage, and pork. It originates from the Languedoc region in southwestern France.
  • Quiche Lorraine. Savory pie filled with bacon, cheese, and egg mixture. It comes from the Lorraine region in northeastern France.
  • Bouillabaisse. Fish soup with various types of fish and seafood. It is a specialty of the city of Marseille and the adjacent coast of Provence.
  • Salade Niçoise. Salad with tuna, eggs, olives, tomatoes, and vegetables. It originates from the city of Nice on the French Riviera.
  • Boeuf Bourguignon. Beef braised in red wine with root vegetables and mushrooms. As the name suggests, this dish has its roots in Burgundy.
  • Confit de canard. Duck meat slowly cooked in its own fat. This specialty comes from Gascony in southwestern France.
  • Tartiflette. Baked potatoes with bacon, onions, and Reblochon cheese. This hearty dish comes from the Savoy region in the Alps.
  • Crêpes. Thin pancakes served sweet or savory. Although popular throughout France, they are particularly associated with the Brittany region.
  • Soufflé. Fluffy dessert made from egg whites, can be sweet or savory. This technically challenging dish is often associated with luxurious French restaurants.
  • Baguette. Long crispy baguettes are an integral part of French culture and are consumed throughout the country.
  • Gratin Dauphinois. Baked potatoes with cream and cheese. The dish comes from the Dauphiné area in southeastern France.
  • Madeleines. Small sponge cakes in the shape of shells. These sweets are associated with the town of Commercy in Lorraine, where they were first made.
  • Pot-au-feu. Hearty soup made from beef and vegetables. This traditional dish is widespread throughout France and is especially popular in the winter months.
  • Clafoutis. A fruit cake with cherries baked in pancake batter. It originates from the Limousin region in central France.
  • Canelés. Small bundt cakes with a soft center and caramelized crust. Canelés come from Bordeaux in southwestern France.
  • Choucroute garnie. Sauerkraut served with various types of pork and sausages. The dish is a specialty of Alsace in eastern France.
  • Financier. Small almond cakes in the shape of a brick. These sweets were first made in the financial district of Paris, from which they also got their name.
  • Aligot. Mashed potatoes with butter and cheese. This hearty dish comes from the Auvergne region in central France.
  • Cassoulet. A bean dish with duck meat, sausage, and pork. It originates from the Languedoc region in southwestern France.
  • Salade Lyonnaise. A salad with pancetta, croutons, and a fried egg. This specialty comes from Lyon, the capital of French gastronomy.
  • Pâté en croûte. A meat pâté baked in pastry. This delicacy is widespread throughout France but is especially popular in Paris and its surroundings.
  • Blanquette de veau. Veal stewed in a white sauce with vegetables. The dish is especially popular during the winter months.
  • Gougères. Small cheese puffs made from choux pastry. These appetizers come from Burgundy and are often served as an aperitif.
  • Moules-frites. Mussels cooked in white wine, served with french fries. This simple but tasty dish is popular throughout France, especially in coastal areas.
  • Chouquettes. Small choux pastry puffs sprinkled with pearl sugar. You can find these sweets in most bakeries in France.
  • Terrine. A meat pâté. It is widespread throughout France, often served as an appetizer.
  • Éclair. An oblong choux pastry dessert filled with various creams and coated with chocolate. This French dessert is now widespread all over the world.

Typical French drinks

Wine is an integral part of French cuisine. France is famous for its vineyards, producing some of the best wines in the world. Among the most renowned wine regions are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Alsace. The French enjoy wine with almost every meal and consider it a part of their culture and lifestyle.

I love French wine regions, Saint-Émilion near Bordeaux is what I consider the most beautiful place I have visited in France.

Vineyards around the town of Saint-Émilion. For me, the most beautiful place in all of France.
Vineyards around the town of Saint-Émilion. For me, the most beautiful place in all of France.

Another typical French drink is pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur originating from Provence. It is usually served as an aperitif, diluted with ice-cold water, which gives it a characteristic milky color.

How to fully enjoy French food

If you want to truly savor French cuisine, it is advisable to follow a few principles:

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to eat and enjoy every bite. The French are known for paying proper attention to food and not rushing.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. French cuisine is incredibly diverse and offers an endless variety of flavors and aromas.
  • Treat yourself to a glass of good wine with your meal. Let the sommelier advise you or follow your own taste.
  • Enjoy your meal in pleasant company. The French love dining with family and friends and consider it an important part of social life.
  • If you plan to cook French food at home, choose quality ingredients and pay attention to their freshness. Shop at farmers’ markets or from trusted suppliers.

Before your trip, you can also read books about French cuisine and gastronomy or watch French movies and TV series about cooking and food. I adore the Netflix series “Chef’s Table”, so for a visit to France, the special series “Chef’s Table France” is a clear choice. I also devoured another Netflix series “Haute Chocolate” in one bite, where French master pastry chef Amaury Guichon showcases his incredible skills. I recommend it not only to sweet lovers.

Escargots. Snails baked with herb butter, a typical French appetizer.
Escargots. Snails baked with herb butter, a typical French appetizer.

Regional Cuisines and Specialties

France is a large country and French cuisine is strongly influenced by regional customs and ingredients. Each region has its own specialties and traditional dishes. For example:

  • Alsace – known for its choucroute (sauerkraut with sausage), flammekueche (thin pizza with onion and bacon), and Alsatian Riesling.
  • Burgundy – famous for beef bourguignon, snails, and red wine.
  • Provence – renowned for its herbs (thyme, rosemary, lavender), olive oil, tomatoes, and the aforementioned ratatouille.
  • Brittany – known for its pancakes (crêpes and galettes), apple cider, and seafood.
  • Normandy – famous for its cheeses (Camembert, Livarot), calvados (apple brandy), and creamy sauces.
Crêpes, typical French pancakes. These are from Crêperie Tante Germaine in the Breton town of Le Croisic. Local cider, of course, goes with the pancakes.
Crêpes, typical French pancakes. These are from Crêperie Tante Germaine in the Breton town of Le Croisic. Local cider, of course, goes with the pancakes.

Famous French Chefs

France has given the world many famous chefs who have significantly influenced global gastronomy. Among the most well-known are:

  • Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) – considered the father of modern French cuisine, he simplified and streamlined cooking techniques and recipes.
  • Paul Bocuse (1926-2018) – an innovative chef who promoted a new style of cooking known as “nouvelle cuisine,” emphasizing lightness, simplicity, and presentation.
  • Joël Robuchon (1945-2018) – holder of the most Michelin stars in the world (31 in total), renowned for his precise and refined cuisine.
  • Alain Ducasse (1956) – a contemporary chef and restaurateur, owning a number of prestigious restaurants around the world, known for his innovative approach and use of the highest quality ingredients.

French Michelin Restaurants

France is the birthplace of the famous Michelin Guide, which awards stars to the best restaurants. Earning a Michelin star is the highest accolade and a mark of quality for every chef. In France, there are dozens of restaurants with one, two, and three Michelin stars. Some of the most well-known include:

  • L’Auberge du Vieux Puits (Fontjoncouse) – a three-star restaurant by chef Gilles Goujon, known for its creative and innovative cuisine.
  • Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris (Monte Carlo) – a luxurious three-star restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, offering the finest ingredients and impeccable service.
  • L’Arpège (Paris) – a three-star restaurant by chef Alain Passard, renowned for its vegetarian cuisine and use of fresh vegetables from its own gardens.
Dessert at the Parisian restaurant Aux Plumes (Michelin Bib Gourmand). Fermented fruit gazpacho, NY cheesecake with bergamot granita, Thai basil.
Dessert at the Parisian restaurant Aux Plumes (Michelin Bib Gourmand). Fermented fruit gazpacho, NY cheesecake with bergamot granita, Thai basil.

Interesting Facts About French Food

  • The French love cheese, in France you can find hundreds of types of cheese. Cheese is a part of almost every meal and is also served as a separate course.
  • The French are the biggest consumers of cheese in the world. On average, each French person eats 25.9 kg of cheese per year.
  • French cuisine was inscribed on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list in 2010.
  • In 2022, the baguette, a typical French bread, was also inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
  • The croissant, one of the symbols of French cuisine, originally comes from Austria.
  • French cuisine has significantly influenced the cuisines of other countries, especially in Europe and North America. Many cooking techniques and dish names originate from French.
  • The French are known for their love of food and dining. Lunch is the main meal of the day and can last several hours.

Enjoy France and the great French food!