In the western world, France is virtually synonymous with gastronomy. The country has a rich culinary history, from rustic peasant foods to the most technical haute cuisine masterpieces. We’ve collected our favorite French recipes from across the country.
For breakfast, bake buttery chocolate croissants, or for something more filling, try quiche Lorraine. Then at lunch, try a sandwich like a pan bagnat with tuna and olives, or a decadent croque tartine parisienne, an open-face ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce.
Come dinner, start with appetizers—steak tartare and escargot are bistro classics that will you make you feel like you’re dining in Paris; if you want something lighter, vegetable soup and salade Lyonniase are healthy starters that will leave your guests ready for their main.
This braised chicken recipe, adapted from chef Sébastien Gravé, is emblematic of the Basque region’s affection for colorful, peppery stews. Though paprika can work in a pinch, it’s the flakier, lightly spicy, more enigmatic Espelette pepper that’s characteristic of the region.
Soupe à l’oignon
This is a traditional French soup made of onions and beef stock, usually served with croutons and melted cheese on top. The soup’s origins can be traced as far back as the Romans – typically a poor dish – although the current version dates from the 18th century. The remarkable taste in French onion soup is from the caramelisation of the onions, to which sometimes brandy or sherry is added at the end of the slow-cook process. The liquid is typically meat stock, although variations include using just water, adding milk or thickening it with eggs or flour.
For another popular French soup, try the traditional fishermen’s soupe de poisson à la rouille from Marseille, characterised by a dollap of garlic and saffron mayonnaise (rouille) on top.
Barigoule of Spring Vegetables
Crisp spring vegetables pair with a flavorful, vanilla-scented broth in this Provençal classic.
Coq au vin
This quintessential French food was popularised by Julia Child through her television show and book and seen as one of her signature dishes. It is a dish of chicken braised (pot roasted) with wine, mushrooms, salt pork or bacon (lardons), mushrooms, onion, often garlic and sometimes brandy. Although the name translates as ‘rooster or cock in wine’ – and braising is ideal for tougher birds – the recipe usually uses chicken or capon. A red Burgundy wine is typically used, although French regional variations exist using local wines, for example coq au vin jaune (Jura), coq au Riesling (Alsace), coq au pourpre or coq au violet (Beaujolais nouveau) and coq au Champagne (Champagne).
Alsatian Bacon And Onion Tart
Cooking on a very hot pizza stone gives this bacon and onion tart a shatteringly crispy crust.
Cassoulet is a comfort dish of white beans stewed slowly with meats, typically pork or duck but also sausages, goose, mutton or whatever else the chef has around. This peasant dish originates from southern France and is popular in Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. The name of the dish comes from the pot (cassole) it’s traditionally baked in, which is typically shaped like an inverted cone to give the greatest amount of tasty crust. This is a rich, hearty meal perfect for colder months.
Cinnamon Apple Bostock
This winey chicken braise dotted with pearl onions and button mushrooms is the first French dish many cooks outside France make, and no wonder: It’s as simple to prepare as it is elegant to serve. Bostock is a sweet and crunchy breakfast pastry with roots in Normandy. Our version honors Calvados country with a schmear of apple butter and a splash of apple brandy added to the traditional frangipane cream. A generous layer of toasty almonds balances the soft and squishy filling below.
Boeuf bourguignon is a traditional French meal that has become internationally well-known. Coming from the same region as coq au vin –Burgundy (or in French, Bourgogne) in east France – beef bourguignon has several similarities. The dish is a stew made of beef braised in red wine, beef broth and seasoned with garlic, pearl onions, fresh herbs and mushrooms. This recipe is just one example of how traditional peasant dishes have been adopted into haute cuisine; the method of slowly simmering beef in wine was likely developed to tenderise tough (or cheap) cuts of meat. Traditional preparation time is two days to tenderise the meat and intensify the stew flavours. In Burgundy in late August, the Fête du Charolais celebrates the prized Charolais beef with music, meat and bœuf bourguignon.
Basque-Style Fish with Green Peppers and Manila Clams
This riff on Basque pipérade, a classic dish of stewed peppers, incorporates seafood from the region. Hake is traditional, but mild, white-fleshed fish like striped bass or haddock make fine substitutes. Fresh clams offer a briny sweetness. Any assortment of mild peppers will work here
The word souffle derives from the French word to ‘breath’ or ‘puff’, and it is an airy, baked egg dish with origins in early 18th-century France. Souffle is eaten savoury or sweet in France, and you’ve likely found chocolate souffle on desert menus worldwide. The crispy chocolate crust with an oozing, creamy chocolate centre gives this desert a sweet suprise.
Cherry Gateau Basque
The signature dessert of the region, gâteau basque is made by sandwiching a layer of jam or sweet pastry cream between two shortbread-like rounds. Cherry preserves are a classic filling—choosing a good-quality jam makes all the difference—and the dough itself resembles a cookie dough, with additional eggs lending a cakier texture. It can also be baked in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; just be sure to grease the sides with butter before assembling.
Flamiche means ‘cake’ in Flemish and this dish originates from northern France, near the border with Belgium. It is a puff-pastry crust filled with cheese and vegetables and resembles a quiche. The traditional French filling is leeks and cream. There is also a pizza-like version of flamiche, which is without the top crust of the pie. For a southern French twist, try the thin crusty pissaladière which is topped with anchovies, onions and olives.
A lean cut like filet mignon takes well to sautéeing in a little fat, as in this classic preparation with a simple pan sauce that’s laced with brandy and set aflame—a spectacular feat that cooks off the alcohol and contributes rich caramel notes to the dish.
Confit de canard
Confit de canard is a tasty French dish of duck – although goose and pork can also be used – and is considered one of the finest French dishes. The meat is specially prepared using a centuries-old preserve and slow-cook process (confit), where the duck meat is marinated in salt, garlic and thyme for up to 36 hours and then slow-cooked in its own fat at low temperatures (an alternative to deep-frying). It is typically served with confit roasted potatoes and garlic on the side. Today this French dish is served all over France, although it is considered a specialty of the Gascony region.
Pain au Chocolat
Beautiful homemade croissants, each containing a bar of high-quality dark chocolate, make for an impressive and indulgent addition to a breakfast spread
Salade niçoise is a typical French salad from the Provence region, which can be served as a side dish or a meal on its own. It’s typically a filling salad of lettuce, fresh tomatoes, boiled eggs, canned tuna, green beans, Nicoise Cailletier olives and anchovies, although many variations exist.
Mocha Dacquoise Cake
This multilayered French dessert of baked almond meringue, buttercream, and rum-spiked whipped cream tastes best doused in a dark chocolate sauce and served with strong coffee to offset some of the sweetness of the cream layers. Not cutting the cake immediately after it’s assembled helps to prevent the meringues from cracking while slicing through. This recipe is adapted from the cake at Buck’s in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ratatouille is another globally known French dish, hailing from the southeastern French region of Provence. It is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat with a small amount of fat, and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and other green herbs, such as Provence herbs. A similar dish popular in the French Basque country is piperade, which typically adds ham and sometimes eggs to the stewed vegetable mix.
Frozen Chocolate Mousse (Marquise au Chocolat)
They say this French apple tarte was made by mistake in 1898 by Stephanie Tartin when trying to make a traditional apple pie. When she accidentally left the apples in sugar and butter too for long in the pan, in a hurry to rescue the desert she put the pastry base on top of the burning fruits and placed the pan in the oven. She supposedly served the upside-down tart to her guests at Hôtel Tatin and the result turned into the hotel’s signature dish. Although the tarte’s origin is disputed, the delicious result is not.