7 Most Delicious French Pastries

One of the most important ingredients in French cooking is butter. It either goes in or on all of their best dishes, from the very basic to the Michelin star. Butter, flour and water are the three ingredients needed to make a basic pastry. It is no wonder then, that this mix has been around for centuries and never lost popularity. While a simple combination to begin with, the French really took the art of pastry to new heights.

I have put together a list of 7 of the most delicious French pastries that you really don’t want to miss out on when visiting the country. While you may have heard of or even tried some of them back home, getting the real (French) deal, will be an experience you won’t forget!

1. The Croissant

Who doesn’t love a croissant? This magnificent breakfast pastry is simple, versatile and always delicious. If you have never heard of one or had one, you are in for a real treat. While they may not always look all that exciting to begin with, croissants will never fail you. Even undercooked or overcooked ones have their own charm! Though this is not something you should not have to worry about when in Paris or France. 

There is some debate about where the croissant really originated. Unless you are a real stickler for facts, it doesn’t really matter because croissants are perfected by the French! Full of buttery goodness, croissants are most recognisable by their crescent shape.

Sweetly stuffed croissants at Gontran Cherrier. Image sourced from Gontran Cherrier official website.

While I sadly haven’t had the chance to try all the croissants in Paris, I have definitely had my fair share. My favourite can be found at Gontran Cherrier, just a 20 minute stroll from the Louvre.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Gontran Cherrier Printemps Paris
OPENING HOURS: Monday to Saturday — 7:30am to 8pm, Sunday — 11am to 7pm
ADDRESS: 8th floor Printemps du Goût, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 PARIS
Metro Station: Havre – Caumartin, Saint-Lazare, Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette

2. Pain au Chocolate

Somewhat of a ‘sister’ to the croissant, is the pain au chocolate. This delicacy is made using the same type of pastry as the croissant. The thing that sets it apart however, is the ‘au chocolat’. If you hadn’t guess it by now, this type of croissant is filled with chocolate. Always.

While you do get chocolate croissants these days, they are no match for a true pain au chocolat. These pastries are less noticeable from their shape, and more so from the chocolate drops that characteristically peep out from the centre.

Pain au Chocolat at Gontran Cherrier. Image sourced from Gontran Cherrier official website.

You can usually find pain au chocolat at all the same places you would expect to find a croissant. So it’s safe to say that I’d once again recommend Gontran Cherrier. The best thing about the pain au chocolat, is that it makes eating chocolate for breakfast feel acceptable!

3. Éclair

Next on this list is another familiar favourite, for me at least – éclairs. 

Though less enticing shape-wise than the croissant, éclairs will not let you down. They usually come stuffed with cream and smothered with chocolate. Though with all the creativity in cooking these days, you can find many variations. Éclairs are made using choux pastry. Special technique in making the pastry allows for the neatly shaped ‘buns’ to steam while baking. This makes for a super light and airy  baked treat, unlike any other. 

Traditional style eclairs. Photo by Aliona Gumeniuk on Unsplash

For the best éclairs in Paris, head to L’Éclair de Genie, in the Marais district. The beautiful store and brand are almost as impressive as their extensive éclair selection. 

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Sunday –  11am to 7:30pm
ADDRESS: 14 Rue Pavée, 75004 Paris, France
Metro Station: Saint-Paul

4. Palmiers 

Even though made from the same puff pastry as croissants and pain au chocolat, the palmier is a totally unique treat. Who knew the humble puff pastry could be enjoyed in so many different ways?!

Never get between a girl and her palmier! Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash.

These little delights are simple at heart but beautiful in style. The puff pastry is rolled out and topped generously with granulated sugar. It then gets twisted into a roll, cut into pieces and baked in the oven. What emerges are a bunch of heart-shaped morsels of crunchy, flakey magnificence.

And the great news is that you can find good ones at just about every patisserie in Paris.

5. Vol-au-vent

Now that we have covered all the sweetest basics, time for a savoury snack: the vol-au-vent. These little pastry cups can be filled with any considered combination of ingredients. From creamy chicken and mushroom, to salmon and cream cheese, they are the perfect appetiser. 

Vol-au-vents were popular finger-foods at cocktail parties in the 70s, but have been around for much longer. I’m glad they’ve made it through to the 2000s because they truly are little bites of pleasure. And pretty to look at too! 

Vol au vent with romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, fennel bulb, radishes, and port wine reduction. Image by Arnold Gatilao, sourced from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

6. Mille-feuille

Okay, enough of the savoury, now back to the sweet. Because let’s be honest, that’s what you came here for!

This next one has got to be my favourite delicious French pastry. Not only is a mille-feuille delightful to look at, it is also heavenly to devour. Mille-feuille, loosely translated to  ‘one thousand layers’, is made by layering pastry with a typically sweet cream. It is a tricky treat to perfect, so when you get a good one, it’s really worth savouring.

Modern mille-feuille. By Loking – Restaurant SENSING. Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.

My favourite type of mille-feuille stacks perfectly red raspberries in between the layers of pastry and cream. The tartness of the berries cuts through the sweet and fatty flavours wonderfully.

7. Galette de Rois

Galettes are available any day of the week, but if you find yourself in France at just the right time, you are in for an epic experience. Introducing the Galette de Rois – a pastry fit for a king. This is a pastry with a long history of tradition. Back in the day, the Galette de Rois was reserved for one day of the year – the 6th of January to be precise. This was for religious celebratory reasons. These days however, you can usually find Galette de Rois available through most of December and January. 

The galette de rois, also known as the King’s cake. Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay.

If you do find yourself in Paris over Christmas season, pop into Poilâne for a Galette de Rois baked to perfection. There is one right near the Eiffel Tower, so you really have no excuse!

OPENING HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday –  7am to 8:30pm
Metro Station: Dupleix

Never fear though, if you find yourself in Paris in March or June. The ‘de Rois’ variation is not the only galette you get. These days there are many types of galettes, served all year round.

Slightly different to the pastries mentioned above, galettes are typically made in tart tins and cut into slices before being served. They can be filled with any number of fruits and have a real rustic charm about them.

And there you have it – seven of the most delicious French pastries to tick off your French foodie bucket list. Bon appétit!