Home About France Cuisine Top 10 French foods – with recipes
Last update on November 11, 2019

French food is known globally for its finesse and flavour. Guide your palete through this list of top 10 French foods, with do-it-yourself recipes of delicious French cuisine.

Traditional French food relies on simple combinations that enhance the rich, natural flavours of basic ingredients. Many French chefs have earned international acclaim for turning French food into haute cuisine and influencing the gastronomic scene worldwide. Food in France has become such an integral part of French culture that it was added to UNESCO’s world list of intangible cultural heritage in 2010.

Anyone’s first step into the world of French cuisine should start with experimenting with diverse French cheese and wine. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France, even at informal dinner parties. In many French restaurants you can order a platter of soft, semi-cured, pressed and blue cheeses, although in France it is typically served after the main course and before dessert.

Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditionally peasant and bourgeois French dishes, many of which come with detailed history, regional variations and modern adaptations. From simple, traditional recipes to complex dishes, it’s not difficult to find a top French food to suit your taste. Many French recipes are surprisingly simple as well, and it’s not as hard as you would think to introduce French food specialties into your weekly menu. Here is a list of top 10 French foods you simply must try.

Bon Appetit!

Top French foods you have to try

1. 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 origin can be traced as far back as the Romans – it was 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-cooking 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 dollop of garlic and saffron mayonnaise (rouille) on top.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Soupe à l'oignon

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2. 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 with wine, mushrooms, salty pork or bacon (lardons), mushrooms, onions, often garlic and sometimes with a drop of 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).

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Coq au vin

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3. Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a comfort dish of white beans stewed slowly with meat, 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 a crust shape. This is a rich, hearty meal perfect for colder months.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Cassoulet

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4. Beef bourguignon

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 eastern 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 flavours. In Burgundy in late August, the Fête du Charolais (in French) celebrates the prized Charolais beef with music, meat and bœuf bourguignon.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Beef bourguignon

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5. Chocolate soufflé

The word soufflé derives from the French verb to ‘blow out’ and is an airy, egg-baked dish with origins dating back to early 18th-century France. Soufflé is eaten savoury or sweet in France, and you’ve likely found chocolate soufflé on dessert menus worldwide. The crispy chocolate crust with an oozing, creamy chocolate centre gives this dessert a sweet surprise.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Chocolate souffle

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6. Flamiche

Flamiche means ‘cake’ in Flemish and this dish originates from northern France, near the border with Belgium. It has a puff-pastry crust filled with cheese and vegetables and resembles a quiche. The traditional French filling is with 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.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Flamiche

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7. 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-cooking 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.

9 quintessential French foods even your kids might eat: Duck confit

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8. Nicoise salad

Salade niçoise is a typical French salad from the Provence region, which can be served as a side dish or a light meal on its own. It’s typically a combination of lettuce, fresh tomatoes, boiled eggs, (canned or fresh) tuna, green beans, Nicoise Cailletier olives and anchovies, although many variations exist.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Nicoise salad

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9. Ratatouille

Ratatouille is another internationally recognised 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 a high heat with a small amount of fat, and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs continually debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all the vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue that the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into a baking dish. The ingredients consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and other green herbs. A similar dish popular in the French Basque country is piperade, which typically adds ham and sometimes eggs to the stewed vegetable mix.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Ratatouille

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10. Tarte tatin

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 dessert she put the pastry base on top of the burning fruit 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.

Top 10 French foods – with recipes: Tarte tatin

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A guide to French wine and cheese

Absinthe, ‘The green fairy’

You’ll find wine bars all over France, with a wide selection in Paris. Even the smallest villages have bars, sometimes as part of a private house, where you can have glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a coffee. Find a traditional bar à vins with a zinc top counter and ask for a glass of absinthe.

Expatica French wine and cheese guide

This bright green, aniseed flavoured liqueur was popular amongst Parisian writers and artists in the early 20th century. It was banned for 100 years, up until 2011, for its alleged hallucinatory effects.

Photo credit: Jacques Lameloise (thumbnail), Ludovic Peron (Soupe à l’oignon), jules (Coq au vin), Ewan Munro (Cassoulet), Noodles and Beef (Boeuf bourguignon), Klearchos Kapoutsis (Chocolate souffle), Eric Chan (Flamiche), Roboppy (Duck confit), Canterel (Salade nicoise), manuela barattini (Tarte tatin).