Top 10 Popular Traditional French Foods
French cooking is revered in culinary circles. Now I’m not one for favourites, especially when it comes to cultural foods – there is something to celebrate about food from any region. But there is something slightly different about the food of the French. It is spoken about with tremendous respect, as if royalty, or an elder in the food world.
Many staple cooking elements originated or were perfected in the regions of France. Then of course, there are those few dishes that remain notoriously French – for better or worse! Read on to see how many you’ve tried.
Ah! The classic French baguette. You can find them almost everywhere these days and they have become somewhat of a staple, not only to the French. This is an incredibly versatile bread. It can be sliced length ways to make for a deliciously filled lunch, sandwich-style. Or cut into little disks and piled high with toppings for cocktail snacks.
The best way to eat them though, is with a delicious saucy meal, where you tear it into pieces with your hands, dunk it in and let it soak up all the flavour.
Since baguettes are taken so seriously in Paris, there is an annual event aimed at awarding the very best one in the city. The latest winner is Boulangerie Leroy-Monti and is definitely worth a visit!
OPENING HOURS: Tues to Sun – 7am to 8:30pm
ADDRESS: 203 Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris, France
Metro Station: Daumesnil
What would a French food list be, without the addition of the famous (or infamous) Escargot. The uncommon nature of the core ingredient in this dish, may be the reason for its popularity. Escargot, my friends, consists of cooked snails. This is a dish you should definitely try when in Paris.
The edible land snails are most usually cooked in a tantalising garlic butter (the French love butter!), with a dash of white wine if you are lucky. They are usually served with baguette as hors d’oeuvre, which means appetiser or small dish.
You can find escargot on just about any menu in Paris, but L’Escargot Montorgueil should be top of your list. Check out our article on The 10 Best Restaurants for Escargot in Paris here for more.
OPENING HOURS: MONDAY TO SUNDAY — 12PM TO 11PM
ADDRESS: 38 RUE MONTORGUEIL, 75001 PARIS, FRANCE
METRO STATION: ÉTIENNE MARCEL
3. Onion Soup
The soup of the people! French onion soup is a simple recipe that can supposedly cure hangovers. What’s not to love? Well, burnt onion soup is not ideal. Luckily since this is a French dish that dates back years and years, bad onion soup is not something you have to be weary of. Especially in Paris.
This is a dish you can be sure will be served with plenty of baguette! Enjoy it as a starter or a main, especially during the chilly French winter.
Natalie has written an article about Where to Find the Best French Onion Soup in Paris. Check it out here.
4. Croque Monsieur
Another wonderful winter dish is the Croque Monsieur. Though that’s not to say it isn’t the boss of all toasted sandwiches all year round. What makes it such a boss of the sandwich world, is the fact that it’s so much more than just a sandwich.
First of all, it’s a cheese and ham sandwich. Secondly, it involves béchamel sauce. And lastly, it is served hot! For those who don’t know (and therefore don’t realise the decadence of this toastie), béchamel is a basic, but game changing sauce. It is made using butter, flour and milk, and is at the root of a lot of French cooking.
Two buttery slices of toasted sourdough envelop béchamel and mustard, with grated cheese and a slice of the best French Ham. Another generous sprinkling of cheese tops it off before the whole the whole thing goes into the oven until a crispy golden brown makes one of the best in town – give it a go!
OPENING HOURS: Daily – 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m
ADDRESS: 6, place Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, 75006 Paris, France
Metro Station: Mabillon
5. Nicoise Salad
This dish is one of the lighter French delicacies you will come across and one that (very unusually) doesn’t include butter! The hero of this salad, and what sets it apart from the rest, is anchovies. Also always included in a Nicoise salad, are beans, capers, olives and tomatoes. All set on a bed of lettuce and drizzled with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Many recipes these days also incorporate hard boiled eggs and tuna.
Le Cafe Blanc in Paris is a magnificent little cafe that serves a beautiful tuna Nicoise. And it’s right near the Louvre!
OPENING HOURS: Daily – 6m to 2am
ADDRESS: 10 Rue Croix des Petits Champs, 75001 Paris, France
Metro Station: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre
This is a great option for vegetarians and can include any number of delicious vegetables. Most commonly included are eggplant, onions, tomatos, zucchini (or courgette, in French!), peppers and squash. They are all stewed up in a big pot, together with olive oil, garlic, herbs and splash or more of white wine.
7. Coq au Vin
Not one for the vegetarians, Coq au Vin heroes both chicken and bacon in one delicious go. Also in the mix are mushrooms and red wine. Talk about decadence! This is a magnificent winter dinner and goes down well with more wine and slow roasted vegetables, like the one below. À La Biche au Bois, a Michelin guide feature, makes an outstanding Coq au Vin, traditional bistro-style.
OPENING HOURS: Tues to Fri – 12pm to 2pm, 7pm to 10:30pm, Mon and Sat — 7pm to 10:30pm, closed Sunday
ADDRESS: 45 avenue Ledru-Rollin, Paris, 75012, France
Metro Station: Quai de la Rapée, Ledru-Rollin, Paris Gare de Lyon
8. Dauphinois Potatoes
Dauphinois Potatoes are an amazing accompaniment to Coq au Vin. The French version of a potato bake, potatoes dauphinois take the humble spud to a whole new level. Sliced potatoes are slow baked in a cream and garlic sauce for hours and sometimes topped with cheese for that extra bit of decadence. Dauphinois Potatoes are perfect for a slow Sunday lunch or to go with a wintery dinner.
The infamous soufflé! This is a notoriously difficult dish for chefs to get right. When it’s wrong, it’s a soggy mess. But when it’s right, it’s fluffy and light and just like eating a cloud. And luckily, they come in both sweet and savoury flavours.
Butter, flour, milk, eggs and any strong cheese generally make up the savoury variety. The sweet version most often replaces the cheese with chocolate or vanilla and sugar. In either variation, all the rich and heavy ingredients get whipped up into an airy batter and baked. All that said, it’s essential to find somewhere known to make a perfect soufflé. Luckily you have come to the right place to find it. In Paris, it’s Le Soufflé.
OPENING HOURS: Mon to Sat – 12pm to 4pm, 7pm to 10pm
ADDRESS: 36 rue Mont Thabor 75001 Paris
Metro Station: Concorde, Pyramides
The perfect goodnight, good morning or just good day treat, is the delightful macaron. Available in hundreds of different flavours, these colourful little morsels have been around in some shape or form since the Middle Ages. The idea is thought to have been brought to France from Italy. The French finessed the Italians prototype and the macaron as we know it today was born.
There is much debate as to where the best ones in Paris can be found but there are two spots that most often run at the front. Take your pick of which to try between Ladurée and PIerre Herme. Or better still, try both! You won’t struggle to find one as there are tons of each dotted around Paris. If you find yourself stumbling across one, count yourself lucky and go in!