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BlogGlobal cuisineWe asked a French local what to eat in France—here are the 20 French foods she picked
french baguettes with jam on a wooden table
Global cuisine

We asked a French local what to eat in France—here are the 20 French foods she picked

Sep 12, 2022 by Jamie Gallerani

France is known for its world-class culinary scene, and we wanted to know about some of the best, most authentic French food to taste on tour. So we went straight to the source and asked Vinciane. She’s a French local and Go Ahead staffer who books all the meals on our France tours—and she knows a thing or two about delicious French dishes!

From boeuf bourguignon to pain au chocolat, check out the 20 French foods Vinciane says every traveler should taste on tour in France. Plus, get some regional tips about French cuisine, and find out about the different types of French eateries to visit.

Outside seating at a French Restaurant

Regional tips about French cuisine

While you’re guaranteed to taste delicious dishes no matter where you travel in France, the type of French food you’ll find depends on the region and season. “The upper north part of France has more heavy cuisine because in winter it gets colder, so historically we have more specialties with potatoes, pork, sage, cream, and butter,” said Vinciane. “Whereas in the south, where it stays warmer, you have more fresh fish, lean meat, and grilled vegetables.” Check out more French traditions to know before you go, and read on to see Vinciane’s breakdown of regional food rules.

Opt for olive oil in the south

“In the south, like in Provence, we love to use olive oil to sauté different dishes,” said Vinciane. “You can go from a vinaigrette in a salad, to fried fish, or use it to prepare meat, or add a drizzle on top of something.”

Don’t miss duck in the southwest

“The southwest of France is very famous for duck. This is where the highest quality farms that raise ducks are. So, if you tell someone, ‘I’m going to cook something with duck from the southwest of France,’ they are already salivating, thinking, ‘Oh, that is gonna be good!’”

Go for butter (and buttery pastries!) in the north and east

“In the northern and eastern parts of France, we are more keen on using butter for frying things. We also use butter in pastries, because let’s say we are bigger in pastries than in the south. When you go to Normandy and Brittany, people are cooking and baking a lot with butter and cream. Normandy is also famous for having very green pastures and producing quality butter, cream, and milk products. So that’s why it’s a huge part of local specialties. In Brittany, people are really, really huge on salted butter. We don’t add salt to butter anywhere else in France, but they really like their salted butter.”

Dig into German-inspired dishes and anything cinnamon in the east

“I come from the Lorraine region, which is above Alsace. I personally lived 10 minutes from the German border with my family. We see a lot of German influence. We bake a lot around Christmas time, and use a lot of cinnamon, which is very widely used in the eastern part of France.”

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20 traditional French dishes and where to try them

Are you wondering, “What are the famous foods in France?” Sure, you can never go wrong with a baguette and a box of macarons—those are two of the most popular French foods for good reason. But, there is so much more to French cuisine, and staffer Vinciane shared 20 traditional (and sometimes unexpected) French foods that everyone should seek out on tour in France.

No matter which France trip you take, you can be sure the traditional French food you try is as fresh as it gets. “We use a lot of fresh products,” said Vinciane. “Generally speaking, French cuisine is a lot of cooking fresh products, and adding a lot of herbs and spices to make dishes a bit more lively. People are very big on buying and making things from scratch.”


French Delicacy, Boeuf Bourguignon or beef stew

1. Boeuf bourguignon

What it is: a classic type of beef stew
Where to try it: the Burgundy region, in the east

Vinciane’s take on this traditional French food: “In some regions there are some meals that are more famous than others. In Burgundy, you will of course be offered boeuf bourguignon. It’s a beef stew cooked in a brown sauce. It’s delicious. It is one of my favorite meals. It’s not something too difficult to make at home. It takes more patience than skill, so that is something people could reproduce at home. As opposed to something like macarons, where you need to have some technique and the patience to do it!”

Visit Burgundy on tour

French Delicacy, Coq au vin

2. Coq au vin

What it is: a classic stew made by braising chicken (or, more traditionally, rooster) in red Burgundy wine with lardon, mushrooms, and onions
Where to try it: the Burgundy region, in the east

What Vinciane says about this traditional French food: “Another thing I really like is coq au vin. It’s something people don’t make very often; it’s more for celebrations. I think this is something U.S. travelers might expect in France. It’s one of the old-school recipes that is very good, but tends to be a bit lost in translation. So you have less and less places making it. Generally the places offering this are good restaurants, more traditional.”

Visit Burgundy on tour

French Delicacy, Quiche Lorraine

3. Quiche Lorraine

What is is: a savory egg-and-bacon tart
Where to try it: the Lorraine region, in the northeast

Vinciane’s take on this traditional French food: “I like the quiche Lorraine coming from my region. It has a savory crust, and it’s a mix of eggs, cream, and lardon (bacon bits). Some say you can’t put grated cheese on top, some say you can. I think traditionally the recipe doesn’t have cheese in it, but that’s another point to argue on.”

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French Delicacy, Pain-au-chocolat

4. Pain au chocolat (or chocolatine)

What it is: A croissant with chocolate inside
Where to try it: the city of Paris (or anywhere on tour in France, really!)

What Vinciane says about this popular French food: “Everywhere we call it ‘pain au chocolate,’ except in the in southwest of France, where people call it ‘chocolatine.’ That is one of the differences we have between regions.”

See Paris on tour

French Delicacy, Kouign-amann

5. Kouign-amann

What it is: a sugary, multi-layered Breton pastry
Where to try it: the Brittany region, in the northwest

Why Vinciane says this is one of the best French dishes: “It’s a sweet pastry made with a lot of butter and sugar. It’s delicious, it’s crispy, it’s a hug. And it’s difficult to make, so not many restaurants offer it as a dessert. You’re more likely to find it in a local bakery. You won’t find it anywhere in France except Brittany.”

Visit the Brittany coast

French Delicacy, galette

6. Crêpes & galettes

What it is: thin pancakes that can be either sweet or savory
Where to try it: the Brittany region, in the northwest

How to try these dishes from France: “When travelers visit Brittany, and are in Cancale near Saint-Malo or around the Brittany coast, they have a half-day optional excursion where they go for lunch in a local crêperie with their Tour Director. ‘Crêpe’ refers more to the sweet kind, but if you want a savory crêpe with ham, cheese, or fish, you would use the word ‘galette.’ Oftentimes galettes are made with buckwheat, which we call ‘sarrasine’ in French.”

Explore Brittany on tour

French Delicacy, Salicorne

7. Salicorne

What it is: A local, edible algae
Where to try it: the Brittany region, in the northwest

Vinciane’s take on this famous food in France: “It’s very salty, a bit tangy, and a bit citrusy almost. Some use it as a side salad, or put a few pieces of salicorne on galettes.”

Tour the Brittany coast

French Delicacy, Huîtres

8. Huîtres

What they are: oysters
Where to try them: the town of Cancale, in the Brittany region; the city of Arachon in the New Aquitaine region; the Marennes-Oléron basin in the New Aquitaine region

What Vinciane says about oysters and French food culture: “Travelers go to an oyster farm in Cancale on our Brittany’s Emerald Coast & Cancale Lunch excursion. They’re shown how they raise oysters, how they choose and collect them, and how they do quality control. Then travelers get to taste different kinds of oysters. There are ‘huître plate,’ the flat ones, and ‘huître creuse,’ which are cupped oysters. Typically you just squeeze a bit of lemon juice on them, or you can also have a little slice of sourdough with butter.

“We also have a boat cruise and oyster tasting in Arachon, which is on the western coast of France. The biggest city close by would be Bordeaux. Travelers take a boat ride to a tiny village called Le Canon on our Arcachon Bay Cruise & Bordeaux Wine Tasting excursion. They visit a local oyster producer, have an oyster tasting, and see the different oyster beds.”

Stop in Cancale on tour

French Delicacy, Bouillabaisse or seafood stew

9. Bouillabaisse

What is is: a Provençal fish stew
Where to try it: The Provence region, in the southeast (specifically in the city of Marseille, where it originated)

Vinciane’s tip about this famous food in France: “When you go by the coast anywhere in France, you can have some fish soup. Every restaurant would have their own recipe, but the bouillabaisse is specifically served in the Provence region around Marseille. It has to be done a certain way to be called bouillabaisse. You can get fish soup everywhere, but you can only get good bouillabaisse in select places.”

Explore Provence on tour

French Delicacy, Ratatouille

10. Ratatouille

What it is: a simple, rustic vegetable stew made with eggplant, pepper, zucchini, squash, and tomato
Where to try it: the Provence region, in the southeast (specifically in the city of Nice)

Vinciane’s fun fact about this popular French food: “Another one I grew up eating was the famous ratatouille. Everybody heard about it because of the movie Ratatouille. As a matter of fact, the movie shows ratatouille as nice slices around a plate, and many people in France were arguing because the real ratatouille has diced-up vegetables mixed all together. When you slice different vegetables the way they did in the movie it’s called ‘tian de legume.’ It is a bit different than ratatouille. It might taste the same but the presentation is different. Also, you would put tian de legume in the oven, whereas you can cook ratatouille on the stovetop.”

Visit Nice on tour

French Delicacy, Gardiane de taureau

11. Gardiane de taureau

What is is: bull meat stew
Where to try it: the Camargue, a natural park located in the Provence region, in the southeast

Why Vinciane says this is a French dish you must try: “This is something uncommon, even in the rest of France. But if you go to the Camargue region—and more generally, if you go to the French border on the southwest nearing Spain—people are using bull meat. So you have the bull meat stew called gardiane de taureau. It is very good. I don’t think it’s something people expect, but it’s very typical of the region.”

Explore Provence on tour

French Delicacy, Tarte aux myrtilles

12. Tarte aux myrtilles

What it is: blueberry tart
Where to try it: the Savoie province, which is situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the southeast, and is bordered by Switzerland and Italy

Why Vinciane picked this as one of the best French foods to try: “I grew up eating this is a lot, and this is something you can find a lot in the Savoie region because they have blueberries growing in the mountains. When I go there in the summer, in the French Alps, I can go on any hiking trail and look around and find some blueberry bushes. They use a lot of blueberries in the local specialties.”

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French Delicacy, Tartiflette

13. Tartiflette (with Reblochon cheese)

What it is: a baked cheese-and-potato gratin dish
Where to try it: the Savoie province, which is situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the southeast, and is bordered by Switzerland and Italy

Vinciane’s memory of enjoying this popular French food: “Something we ate a lot in winter, which is originally from the Savoie region near the mountains, is tartiflette. You make it with onions, scalloped potatoes, cream, bacon bits, and a ton of cheese on top. The cheese you have to use is called Reblochon, specifically from the Savoie region. We are very protective of our cheese, and there is a special competition every year to determine who makes the best Reblochon.”

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French Delicacy, Salade de lentilles lyonnaise

14. Salade de lentilles lyonnaise

What it is: lentil salad topped with a poached egg
Where to try it: the city of Lyon, in the southeastern region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Why Vinciane says this French dish made the list: “We like to cook eggs in many different ways in France. You have the famous omelette, and there is only one right way to do an omelette—we even have chefs serving omelettes in some restaurants because they are perfect ones. So we make a big deal about cooking eggs. Then you have poached eggs. I am thinking of a specialty from the city of Lyon, where they make lentil salad with cut-up onions and spices. Then you have croutons, lardons (bacon bits), and a poached egg on top. That is one of the specialties you would have there, and it’s delicious. Poached eggs are also not easy to make.”

Tour the city of Lyon

French Delicacy, Violettes cristallisées

15. Violettes cristallisées

What it is: candied violet petals
Where to try it: the southern city of Toulouse, in the Occitaine region

Vinciane’s suggestion for tasting this French food: “In Toulouse, you would have sweets made with violet, the flower. They are very, very tasty. I like them very much. They have a Maison de la Violette shop in the city, and they also have a barge where they show how they make this kind of sweet. But you could find it anywhere in the city, really.”

Visit Toulouse on tour

French Delicacy, Périgord black truffles

16. Périgord black truffles

What it is: fragrant, flavorful, expensive tubers in the fungi family that are available from December through February (and are similar to mushrooms—kind of)
Where to try it: the city of Périgord, in the southwestern region of New Aquitaine

What Vinciane says about truffles and French food culture: “You would only have fresh Périgord truffle seasonally, and they have a special truffle market. You can also taste good walnuts locally because they are known for that in the region, and some special goat cheese and foie gras.”

Check out our insider’s guide to truffle hunting →

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French Delicacy, Canelé

17. Canelé

What it is: a rum-and-vanilla-flavored pastry
Where to try it: the city of Bordeaux, in the southwestern region of New Aquitaine

Why Vinciane says this is one of the best French foods to seek out: “It’s a baked, custard-filled pastry with a caramelized outer crisp. It’s difficult to make. This is why canelé are expensive and everybody likes them!”

Visit Bordeaux on tour

French Delicacy, Biscuit rose de Reims with wine

18. Biscuit rose de Reims

What it is: pink cookies meant to be dunked in Champagne
Where to try it: the city of Reims in the Champagne region, in the northeast

Vinciane’s take on this classic French food: “These pink cookies are oblong and a bit soft, like the cookies you would use to make tiramisu, except a bit shorter and fatter. They have confectioner sugar on top, and are something they only do locally. You wouldn’t find them anywhere except Reims.”

See the Champagne region

French Delicacy, Choucroute garnie

19. Choucroute garnie, or baeckeoffe

What is is: meat, potatoes, and pickled cabbage cooked in Alsatian wine
Where to try it: the Alsace region, in the northeast

Vinciane’s take on this famous French food: “In Alsace you will have the famous choucroute, which they also call baeckeoffe. It’s made with different meat cuts, vegetables, and cabbage, and is cooked in clay pots.”

Visit the Alsace region

French Delicacy, Mannele

20. Mannele

What it is: a traditional holiday treat made with brioche bread
Where to try it: the Alsace region, in the northeast

Why Vinciane loves this popular French food: “Around Christmas time, we also do some gingerbread in the Alsace region. They also have their own little brioche figures they make around Christmas called mannele—this is the Alsatian name. The name in Alsace means ‘little man.’ We have tons of local specialties.”

Visit the Alsace region

Types of eateries to visit in France

Think the only way to taste world-class French food is by visiting a Michelin-starred restaurants on tour in France? Think again! Vinciane said that the type of eatery you should visit “depends on what you’re looking for.” There are ‘bouchons’ in Lyon, ‘auberges’ attached to bed-and-breakfasts, and bread shops called ‘boulangeries’—but that’s just the start. Here are a few more go-to’s for everything from coffee to classic French dishes.

Café

“Like the name indicates, you would typically go and sit down for a coffee at a café,” said Vinciane. “Cafés offer options for a light breakfast, like some kind of croissant. During the day they would have some different snacks, maybe one or two pie slices, or little things you can grab, like cookies, to go along with your café.”

Bistro

“Some places use ‘bistro’ and ‘brasserie’ as the same thing,” said Vinciane. “But for me, bistro has more of a connotation to go for a drink after work with colleagues, maybe for a coffee or an alcoholic drink. But now, some eateries are also called “Bistro de…” For example, in Lyon, you would for sure have a bistro called ‘Bistro de Lyon.’ That would be a restaurant-style place.”

Brasserie

“Brasseries are for casual dining,” said Vinciane. “In a brasserie, you would find traditional recipes, made with basic, normal ingredients—not super high-end, reinvented recipes. Most of the time, it’s just the classics that they offer. If you go to a typical brasserie in Paris, you could find boeuf bourguignon, you could find coq au vin (if you’re super lucky!). Then you would find maybe one or two fish options and different types of salads.”

See why visiting brasseries is one of the best winter activities in Paris → 

Crêperies

“That is another type of eatery that you have by the seaside in Brittany, which specializes in crêpes.”


What’s your favorite French food? Ever tried any classic French dishes on tour in France? Let us know on our Facebook page!


Dining tips
About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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