The home of gourmet dining and the creator of the ultimate culinary accolade, Michelin stars, France boasts probably the best food anywhere. Although we are a little biased when it comes to French gastronomy! A country rich in produce coupled with an exquisite taste for fine dining has brought us some of the most famous dishes in the world.
A-Z of French gastronomy
Join us on a journey round this foodie paradise and discover the best, the unusual and the delicious in our A to Z guide to French gastronomy. We could just about fill in the gaps with with French words for every food, but that wouldn’t be gastronomic!
A is for aligot
Take some humble potatoes, cheese and garlic, mash them together and you’ve created aligot, a typical dish from Aubrac in central southern France. Perfect for a cold winter’s day comfort food.
B is for boeuf bourguignon
From Burgundy and perhaps the most famous French dish of all. It is probably also the mother of all meat stews.
But we couldn’t miss out b for bouillabaisse from Marseilles, another uber-famous dish.
C is for crêpes
Originally from Brittany, crêpes are now a fast food staple throughout France. A freshly made crêpe au citron or chocolat makes the perfect takeaway snack.
Just as famous is the Lyon cassoulet – a more than hearty stew with white beans and sausage. Not forgetting coquilles San Jacques – scallops with cream and melted cheese.
Just about everywhere in France has a recipe for canard (duck) – confit de canard (slow-cooked), magret de canard (duck breast), canard à l’orange
D is for daube
Daube is a type of French beef stew. Provençal in its roots, you’re most likely to spot it on menus in southern France. The stew is heavy on tender beef chunks, onions, tomatoes, carrots, red wine and herbs. It’s particularly delicious when served with a hearty dollop of celeriac mash.
D is also for Dijon mustard. One of Burgundy’s famous products, it is an ingredient for many salad dressings worldwide as well as the traditional condiment for the Sunday roast and cold-beef sandwich.
E is for escargots
On their own, snails don’t taste of very much at all, but add butter, garlic and parsley to them and you’ve got a national dish. Pass the baguette for dipping…
F is for Flammekueche or Tarte Flambée
France is a land of contrasts clearly shown in its gastronomy. This thin pizza hails from Alsace where they top it with cream, onions and bacon.
F is, of course, also for fromage. Perhaps the backbone of French gastronomy and many people’s preferred dessert – enter stage left the cheeseboard.
G is for Guérande salt
Even salt in France comes with a difference. The salt from the marshes in Guérande, on the coast outside Saint Nazaire, tastes very slightly sweet. It brings a sweet and sour flavour to any dish in just a pinch.
H is for huîtres
To say the French love oysters is understating it. The country produces thousands of tonnes a year and most of those are for home consumption. Les huîtres come into their own at Christmas and New Year when they form an essential part of the festive fare, but this is a year-round treat. It’s also one of the easiest to make because the French eat oysters au naturel with a twist of lemon.
I is for ile flottante
A fun if rather unusual dessert combining light and fluffy meringues served atop creamy crème anglaise. A scattering of caramel to serve is the perfect sweet treat topping. Known both as ‘floating islands’ or as oeufs à la neige. Unsurprisingly a hit with kids and those of us with a sweet tooth.
J is for jambon
A vital part of a croque monsieur (and madame), sprinkled on Flammekueche and quiche, wherever would French gastronomy be without ham.
K is for Kig ha Farz
Definitely the most unusual name for a French dish, but certainly not the most sophisticated. This odd-sounding concoction is actually no more than a giant dumpling. Although in true French style it ups its game with butter, eggs and cream. Typical of Brittany, the Kig ha Farz is served crumbled with smoked bacon.
L is for Lyon
Not actually a specific dish but the city home to the very best French gastronomy and its culinary capital. Lyon is most famous for its pork products – absolutely nothing from the animal is wasted – but the city serves a long list of delicious creations. Try them at a local bouchon, the Lyon name for a small restaurant.
M is for moules
Typically from Normandy but served throughout the country, mussels are usually served steamed in white wine. Moules marinières is the most mussels dish incorporating garlic, shallot, white wine, parsley and cream. Don’t forget the frites to go with them.
N is for Niçoise salad
Nice gives its name to this light, summer salad whose base ingredients include lettuce, tomato, green beans, fresh tuna, anchovies and olives. However, like all great recipes, Niçoise salad comes with infinite varieties on its theme.
O is for oignon
You don’t see many Frenchmen with a string of onions round their neck nowadays, but les oignons continue to make up a number of very French dishes. Soupe à l’oignon is probably the most famous throughout the country while in Provence, oignon farci, onions stuffed with pork and rice, is considered a real delicacy.
P is for Puy lentils
Tiny, nutty and delicious, the lentils from Le Puy-en-Velay in Auvergue go perfectly with stews and salads.
Q is for quiche Lorraine
Another northwest recipe relying on cream, the authentic quiche Lorraine contains bacon and eggs. The cheese is optional.
Q is also for quenelles. Typically from Lyon, they are a delicate oval-shaped bite of creamy fish, sometimes coated in breadcrumbs. The term quenelle is widely used in a culinary context to describe the oval shape such as a quenelle of cream on a dessert.
R is for ratatouille
This vegetarian feast of summer vegetables is part and parcel of Provençal cuisine. It goes perfectly with that other classic dish from Provence, pissaladière, another sort of pizza, topped with caramelised onion and anchovies.
S is for soufflé
French gastronomy is synonymous with soufflé. Sweet or savoury, this dish has been delighting diners for centuries. Along with quenelles, soufflés are among the hardest French dishes to recreate at home and best left to professional chefs.
T is for truffles
Black and from the Périgord in the Dordogne. Gourmet delicacies don’t come much better than these rich, earthy truffes, harvested between December and March. Not for nothing are they known as the ‘diamonds in the kitchen’.
V is for vin
And where would French gastronomy be without it? An essential ingredient for any number of dishes, French wine – red and white – makes all the difference. And the French don’t just add wine to their food. Liqueurs also form part of many typical recipes. Bouillabaisse has a dash of pastis and crêpe Suzette wouldn’t be the same without Grand Marnier.
W is for Waterzooi
As you might have guessed from the name, this dish hails from Northern France in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. It’s originally from neighbouring Belgium, but the locals have made it their own favourite Sunday dish. The real thing is made with fish and vegetables with, of course, butter and cream.