The Top French Dishes You Need to Try

The French macaron is a delicious sweet treat that comes in a variety of colours and flavours
The French macaron is a delicious sweet treat that comes in a variety of colours and flavours | © Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo
Jo Fernandez

French cuisine is synonymous with fine dining or fussy haute cuisine, yet in reality, French food ranges from warming comfort dishes to creamy desserts. Here’s our guide to the best meals to sample and where to try them. Bon appétit!

Bœuf bourguignon

French comfort food at its finest, bœuf bourguignon has tender cuts of beef in a red-wine gravy with vegetables

Slow-cooked beef in a rich red-wine gravy makes beef bourguignon one of the most famous French dishes around the world. Hailing from Burgundy (Bourgogne), it combines the revered Charolais cattle meat and pinot noir from the region with mushrooms and carrots. Paired with creamy mashed potatoes, it’s elegant comfort food you could serve at a dinner party.

Tuck in: Caves Madeleine in the centre of Beaune, the capital of Burgundy, is a cosy spot famed for its fork-tender version brimming with locally sourced produce.


Cassoulet is a hearty country dish packed with flavour

The best dishes are those that use simple and accessible ingredients to create a lot of flavour – what we call peasant dishes. Cassoulet is one such dish, a rustic meat-and-bean casserole named after the dish it’s cooked in, the cassole. Rooted in the south, the dish has many variants, but its main ingredients are pork, lamb or duck simmered with white haricot beans. In Toulouse, for example, recipes add local sausage and duck or goose confit.

Tuck in: Chez Emile in Toulouse is known for its warming cassoulet and dining terrace, perfect on fine weather days.


Escargots come slathered in garlic butter

Snails are a super traditional French dish. A little like British Marmite, you either love these chewy gastropods, or you hate them. Often served in their shells as an hors d’oeuvre, escargots, as the French call the beloved delicacy, come slathered in garlic butter. In addition, you’ll get special utensils – a pair of tongs and a snail fork to separate the meat from the shell.

Tuck in: Burgundy is well known for its snails. Go to Hélice, L’Escargotier Beaunois, a specialist snail-selling shop in Beaune where you can also dig into 12 Burgundy snails and a glass of white wine for less than the cost of a hardback travel book.

Macaron ​​

French macarons are meringue-based morsels of deliciousness

Tiny, delicate and delicious – who doesn’t love a macaron? Almond flour adds a fragrant touch, and buttercream is the perfect filling. These meringue-based morsels become even lovelier due to the rainbow of colours they come in, from pastel pinks to light greens.

Tuck in: The flagship Ladurée cafe on the Champs-Élysées (where else?) will even deliver – 90 minutes within Paris or 48 hours within France and the rest of Europe.

Gratin dauphinois

Gratin dauphinois is a decadent potato dish

A side dish worthy of main course status, gratin dauphinois is a traditional French staple from the Dauphiné region of France. This ultimate, decadent comfort food is made with thinly sliced potatoes slow-cooked in cream and milk, flavoured with garlic.

Tuck in: The clue is in the name – traditional Restaurant Le Gratin Dauphinois in Grenoble serves a mean version of the regional speciality. Don’t like skiing? Spend the afternoon tucking into this dish instead.


Visit Restaurant Acchiardo for a delicious ratatouille

This fuss-free Provençal stew originated in Nice as a cheap and easy way to eat well on sun-ripened vegetables. The summery dish sees aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and onions cooked with olive oil and garlic.

Tuck in: In the narrow streets of Old Nice, the family-run Restaurant Acchiardo, adorned with red-clothed tables, specialises in classics such as ratatouille.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée is a creamy custard dish topped with a layer of caramelised sugar

There’s some disagreement in the culinary world over whether this smooth, scorched creamy custard dish infused with vanilla originates from France, Spain (crema catalana) or Cambridge (burnt cream). Regardless, crème brûlée has been a dessert in France for centuries, and it’s a fixture on most menus.

Tuck in: Brasserie Le Sud in Lyon, one of four brasseries created by legendary chef Paul Bocuse, serves a classic version topped with crispy, caramelised sugar.

Croque monsieur

The croque monsieur is a tasty toasted sandwich

It’s just a toasted sandwich, right? This French classic made with ham and cheese first appeared on the menu of a Parisian bistro in 1910. It’s simple – a béchamel sauce rich with gruyère, layered with a slice of good ham, then baked until it’s melted and bubbling.

Tuck in: Many French would say the best place to eat them is at home, but Vins des Pyrénées, close to the Place des Vosges in Paris, elevates its croque monsieur with truffle gouda.

Stay at one of these top Parisian hotels to sample the very best traditional French food, or book one of these fine hotels in Burgundy to combine culinary delights with wine tasting.

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