Without a doubt, the most iconic thing about French culture is its cuisine. From beef bourguignon to cream puffs, iconic French recipes taste fresh to eat. They are best suited for special occasions but also make meals for the whole family. Many French dishes are made from local ingredients and original recipes.
French cuisine consists of cooking traditions and practices which have greatly been influenced by Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. French cuisine has three courses – hors d’oeuvre or an entrée, plat principal, fromage or dessert.
Traditional French recipes rely highly on combinations of rich and natural flavors to create amazing, unforgettable dishes. The amazing palate the French are blessed with has created an unending list of highly regarded dishes, and UNESCO added French cuisine to their list of intangible cultural heritage. Many people are introduced to French food through wine and cheese. There are many pairings, from red wine to white wine, brie to chardonnay, but there’s much more French food beyond the cheeseboard.
French cuisines use home-grown vegetables, including pomme de terre (potato), blé (wheat), carrote (carrot), and échalotte (shallot). They also use home-grown fungi like champignon de Paris (button mushroom), cèpes (porcini), and truffe (truffle). Common fruits are tomatoes, blackberries, strawberries, apples, and plums. There’s a variety of meat used by the French, which includes pigeon (squab), poulet (chicken), canard (duck), and escargot (snails). Commonly used fish include cod, herring, oysters, and calamari. Egg dishes include French omelettes, scrambled haute cuisine preparation, and hard-boiled eggs. Fresh herbs include tarragon, thyme, and sage.
After discussing the ingredients used in French cuisine, let’s move on to 20 of the most famous French recipes for you to get your hands on.
1) 20 Most Famous French Recipes
Classic French recipes consist of styles and recipes unique to France. French cuisine has many signature ingredients synonymous with France’s gastronomy, like coq au vin and a quiche.
Traditional French recipes contain ingredients like olive oil, Dijon mustard, truffles, shallots, and various kinds of cheese. This is a series of ingredients you’ll often find in classic French recipes.
So, let’s start with a list of French dishes to die for.
1.1) French Onion Soup
French onion soup is a starter ordered at many restaurants. It is a classic French recipe that includes beef stock, onions, toasted bread, and Gruyere cheese. What makes this soup different from the others is the layer of melty cheese produced using the gratin technique. The gratin technique involves making something in a shallow dish that will bake and get crusty on the top, and that crust can be bread, cheese – anything.
French onion soup is made with meat stock and browned onions and is topped with cheese. It’s filled with flavor and amongst the best French recipes to keep you warm on a cold day. It is a meal that can be used as a starter or even a meal.
The recipes for French onion soup may vary. The liquid used can also be water, milk can be added, and eggs can be used to thicken the soup. Generally, the onions should be cooked slowly to get them caramelized to a golden brown color. At times, white wine is used to deglaze. The soup base is sometimes topped with toasted bread slices.
For the gratinéed version, the croute is topped with cheese and baked. This is immediately served to individuals via a ladle.
Some alternative names for the soup include Soupe à l’oignon à la Parisienne, Gratinée Parisienne, Gratinée des Halles, Gratinée Lyonnaise, Soupe à l’oignon Lyonnaise and Soupe à l’oignon Gratinée.
1.2) Coq Au Vin
This classic French recipe from Burgundy translates to ‘rooster in wine.’ As the name suggests, pieces of bone-in chicken are braised with red wine and a little brandy with carrots, pearl onions, and mushrooms.
This French classic is one of Julia Child’s signature dishes. The French recipe uses chicken or capon. The chicken can be braised with red wine, mushrooms, or even bacon. While the wine is usually Burgundy, other versions use local wines, like coq au vin jaune and coq au Riesling. There’s even a version with champagne!
The word ‘coq’ means rooster, but coq au vin can be made by any other poultry. The preparation is simple; the chicken is seasoned and seared in fat until it’s tender. The usual seasonings include salt, thyme, and parsley. Standard recipes call for red wine or brandy for braising and mushrooms, garlic, and onions.
If you aren’t a fan of chicken and prefer beef, there’s another great French dish for you called Beef Bourguignon.
1.3) Beef Bourguignon
Another famous French recipe is Beef Bourguignon. This French dish’s name comes from Burgundy, France’s red wine. It is a famous stew with red wine braised beef, served with onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, bouquet garni, and bacon. It also uses a lot of vegetables to make the stew a hearty meal. This dish is also best when left overnight.
In culinary terminology, “bourguignon” is used to describe various dishes prepared with wine of any kind or with a mushroom and onion garnish. Other terms for beef bourguignon are bourguignon or à la bourguignonne, beef/bœuf bourguignonne and bœuf bourguignon.
This peasant dish is a principal dish in French restaurants, and the cuts of meat are tenderized with wine for 2 days to boost the flavor.
Considered to be a national dish of France, ‘pot-au-feu’ means ‘pot on the fire.’ It is a warm meal full of flavor.
Pot-au-feu epitomizes the spirit of classic French cuisine and emphasizes the importance of sharing meals with loved ones. It doesn’t have a definite recipe and has a lot of variations. It is generally made with meat, vegetables, fresh herbs, bone marrow, and spices. These are prepared but served separately, with the marrow first and the meat last.
1.5) Steak Frites
No classic French combination is as good as steak and potatoes. Steak Frites is a French bistro classic and has become a centerpiece of bakeries. The dish’s elements make it a simple recipe: a sizzling beefsteak and hot, crispy French fries.
The steak is often served with cream or creamy béarnaise. The sauce is made from butter, fresh herbs, and egg yolks creating a great accompaniment to the juicy cut of steak.
The jambon-beurre is like a sandwich; it has jambon or ham sliced on a coating of butter between two slices of bread. Since this dish is so simple, it makes every element crucial.
The French baguette is sliced down the center and needs to be baked for a crunchy crust and chewy interior. Jambon de Paris is the best ham since it’s thinly sliced and free from additives. Also called ‘Parisien,’ the jambon-beurre is like ham and cheese but more elegant.
1.7) Confit De Canard
Confit de Canard is one of the tasty French dishes involving duck. It’s an excellent portrayal of French cuisine on a plate. The dish uses the whole duck, and each part is considered useful for the dish to be excellent, including the duck legs.
The duck confit is a duck cooked in its own fat. It is soaked in garlic, salt, and thyme for 36 hours and is slow-cooked at low temperatures. It is served with roasted garlic and potatoes. The dish is popular in France, but the best variation is found in Gascony.
1.8) Salade Niçoise
Salade Niçoise is a French salad and can be eaten as a side dish or a light meal. The salad combines green beans, lettuce, boiled eggs, tuna, anchovies, fresh tomatoes, and Nicoise Cailletier olives. This classic French recipe is from southern France and showcases the best local produce. It’s a fresh, colorful dish plated elegantly on a tray allowing the raw vegetables to steal the spotlight.
There’s also a sandwich version of this salad called ‘pan bagnat.’ It is the salad tucked into French sourdough or a French baguette.
1.9) French Macarons
A macaron is a sweet made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, and food coloring. It has a smooth top and a flat base and comes in various flavors. Since ancient times, a typical Parisian-style macaron would be presented with a ganache between two cookies.
French macarons are sandwich cookies with crisp exteriors; the shells are made with egg whites, and the cookies have a nougat-like texture. Macarons can be of any flavor, from vanilla buttercream to chocolate ganache.
1.10) Potatoes Dauphinoise/ Dauphinoise Potatoes
Gratin dauphinois is one of the easy French recipes you can make at home using sliced potatoes, milk, or cream. The dish reigns from the Duaphine region with many variants, including potatoes à la dauphinoise, gratin de pommes à la dauphinoise, and pommes de terre dauphinoise.
It is made with sliced potatoes, milk, and sometimes, cheese. The potatoes are cut with a mandoline and layered in earthenware to cook. It is different from ordinary gratin potatoes because it uses raw and not cooked potatoes.
1.11) French Omelette
A French Omelette falls in the list of easy French recipes that perfectly describes finesse and delicacy. It has a smooth exterior and moist interior made of a sheet of tender eggs cradled with the same softly scrambled eggs.
If you want to learn to make an authentic French Omelette, start with one without filling first. Even without a filling, the dish is an excellent way to start your morning.
1.12) Pain Au Chocolat
Pain au chocolat, also called chocolatine or couque au chocolat, is a dessert similar to a puff pastry. It consists of a piece of laminated dough with dark chocolate pieces in the center. Often, it pairs well when served warmly from the oven with homemade croissants.
Semisweet chocolate “batons” form the basis for pain au chocolat, a favorite of French children. The most important thing to remember while making a pain au chocolat is that the dough rests in the refrigerator several times along the way. This step can’t be ignored or deemphasized as it gives the pain au chocolat a flaky texture.
1.13) French Toast
French toast is a very easy recipe to bring to life. It is made of sliced bread soaked in beaten eggs and milk with sugar. A few other names for this surprisingly easy dish are eggy bread, gypsy toast, and Bombay toast.
You whip up some eggs along with milk in a bowl, add sugar and whip the mixture until the yolk has been beaten and isn’t lumping anymore. Then take a slice of bread, dip it in this mixture and fry until it’s golden brown.
People love to eat French toast as a sweet dish with vanilla or honey. But people sometimes enjoy it as a savory dish with salt and pepper or even tomato sauce.
1.14) Croque Monsieur
A croque monsieur is a hot ham and cheese sandwich that originates in French cafes and bars as a small snack. The word ‘croque‘ means crunch, and ‘monsieur’ means mister.
A croque monsieur is topped with salt and pepper and then baked or fried. After frying the sandwich till it’s golden brown, you can use bechamel sauce to make it tastier.
A croque monsieur served with a lightly fried egg on top is called ‘croque madame.’ Croque-mademoiselle is associated with a lighter, vegetarian version of the dish made with bread, chives, cucumber, and lettuce.
Ratatouille is a French dish of stewed vegetables with its birthplace in Nice. It’s sometimes called ‘ratatouille niçoise.‘ Each part of France cooks this dish differently, but there are a few common ingredients, including tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, capsicum, bell peppers, and fresh herbs.
1.16) Crème Brûlée
Crème Brule is also known as burnt cream and is virtually similar to the original crèma catalana. This desert consists of rich custard as a base and a hardened caramelized sugar top. It’s served slightly chilled, and the custard is traditionally flavored with vanilla. At times, this classic dessert is also garnished with fresh fruit.
Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked stew of meat, white beans, and pork skin. This meat is typically sausages, goose, duck, and mutton. It is a delicacy commonly found in southern France and is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the casserole, which is a deep, round earthenware pot.
In France, cassoulets are also sold in cans and jars. The cheapest ones contain only beans, bacon, tomato sauce, and sausages, while the more expensive ones include goose fat, lamb, or duck.
1.18) Chocolate Souffle
Souffle comes from the French term ‘to blow’ and is a light, airy dessert seen in many French restaurants. It has a crispy chocolate crust which lets the creamy chocolate ooze out. Souffle can also be savory; you can replace the chocolate with some cheese and enjoy the melted cheese surprise.
This dish has been birthed in northern France. Flamiche means’ cake’ in Dutch. It has a puff pastry-like texture resembling a quiche. The commonly used filling is leeks and cream, and its pizza-like version is served without the top crust.
1.20) Quiche Lorraine
Quiche Lorraine is a rich-in-flavor dish of creamy eggs, smoky bacon, and pastry crust. It is a classic French recipe used during brunch. ‘Quiche’ originates from the German word ‘kuchen,’ which stands for cake. The egg and cream custard was beloved in Lothringen, which was annexed by the French and renamed Lorraine. So, while the borders changed, the dish continues to win hearts.
2) Famous French Recipes: Takeaways
France has a lot to offer in terms of its cuisine. While many of its dishes seem fine-dining appropriate, many of them can be made at home and enjoyed with friends and family without spending much money.
Other than great things to eat, France also has its fair share of contributions to excellent drinks. Various regional varieties of wine can pair with cheese excellently and add a spark to your evening dinners.
French cuisine is an excellent combination of meat, fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Since many French recipes mentioned here have a peasant background, they are easy to make at home and have inexpensive ingredients. Enjoying French cuisine doesn’t require much effort; it just requires you to be open to various flavors and drinks.
So, don’t waste another minute; get the ingredients you want and try these amazing French recipes!