No surprise, enjoying delicious French foods is one of the highlights of visiting France.
French cuisine is internationally renowned. French gastronomy is even recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Many French foods have an international presence: cheese, wine, pastries, bread, charcuterie. The list is long. But if you spend time in France, you will discover many delicious French foods that are virtually unknown outside the country.
As a gourmand who has toured the country, I am well placed to introduce you to some of those foods: a shortlist of some of the most delicious French foods that you have probably never heard of.
Raclette is frequently named the most popular meal in France, so it might seem an unusual entry to start our list.
Raclette refers to the cheese from the Savoie and Haute-Savoie region of France and a wildly popular meal made with the cheese.
More than just a meal, it is a French — and Swiss — dining experience that brings friends and families together during cold months. A messy, communal feast of melted cheese and good times at noisy dinner tables.
The perfect convivial experience, no lengthy preparation is required.
Using a grill and little trays for melting the cheese, tables are loaded with piles of sliced raclette cheese — sometimes smoked or flavoured with mustard or pepper — and plates of charcuterie. Commonly accompanied by boiled potatoes, pickles, and salads.
Diners help themselves. The gathering is informal. The cheese is very much the star of the show.
Originating from Switzerland but long enjoyed in France, hot, gooey raclette cheese was originally scraped from giant wheels at apres-ski restaurants. Today, this creamy, tangy cheese sells in slices for convenient home dining.
Not only is the dish one of the most delicious French foods, it is also one of the most beloved.
Fresh bread is rarely disappointing in France. And although current affairs programs regularly talk of reduced numbers, quality boulangeries (bakeries) are still found everywhere, even in the smallest villages.
But few boulangeries outside the Anjou region sell Fouée. Sometimes called Fouace — confusingly a name shared with a sugared bread — it is a versatile flatbread liked throughout the region.
Typically chargrilled on barbecues, Fouée can be filled with savoury (salé) or sweet (sucré) ingredients.
Fillings are usually simple and might include rillettes (next on our list) or chèvre au miel (goats’ cheese and honey). Popular fillings for sweet tooths include Nutella or caramel au beurre salé (salted butter caramel).
Often offered as an inexpensive snack at outdoor events, this is one of those rare delicious French foods that can be enjoyed on the go.
Possibly one of the better-known foods on this list, rillettes is popular throughout France. Like many of the best French foods, it is unfussy but incredibly flavoursome.
Rillettes was a method for preserving meats before refrigerators were a thing. A local specialty of Touraine since the 15th Century, it gained a national foothold at the start of the 20th Century when it started being mass-produced in Le Mans. Today the original Rillettes de Tour has protected geographical status, although rillettes du Mans is more widely consumed.
It is just good meat slow-cooked in lard. Usually shredded, it is stored with a fatty top layer to help keep the flavour. Salt is always added, sometimes spices and other flavours. But nothing else.
Pork is by far the most popular choice, but rillettes is also made with other meats, including chicken, duck, goose, game, and even fish.
Spread on toast or fresh bread and served as an appetizer or for lazy lunches across France, it is one of the homeliest yet most delicious French foods. Commonly eaten with cornichons (pickled cucumber), it is also the perfect picnic food.
Flammekueche is one of many delicious French foods with Germanic roots.
A dish enjoyed throughout the Alsace region, flammekuech originally arrived with Germanic farmers in a part of France with a deep-rooted Franco-German cultural identity.
Also known as tarte flambée, it is a thin pizza-like tart. Made with bread dough and topped with crème fraiche, onions, and lardons (little bacon cubes).
Flammekueche translates from Alsatian as ‘pie backed in the flames.’ Traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven, it is a delicate, simple dish that puts a creamy spin on the much better-known pizza. Best eaten hot from the oven.
Sticking with the Alsace region, choucroute garnie is another of those delicious French foods with a Germanic influence.
Choucroute garnie translates as ‘dressed sauerkraut’, yet the name understates the heartiness of the dish — it is normally served with a mountain of meat.
Traditional recipes call for three sausages, including smoked Montbéliard, Strasbourg, and Frankfurter. A versatile dish, variations on the traditional recipe include the addition of ham hock, pork knuckles, and bacon.
The cabbage is stewed in wine (typically Riesling) and an array of herbs and spices, including garlic, cloves, and juniper.
The addition of boiled potatoes makes Choucroute garnie a substantial meal and a great way to enjoy several delicious French foods at once.
Boudin noir is a blood sausage that divides opinion. File it alongside (snails) and huîtres (oysters) as a ‘love it or hate it’ dish. Whatever your view, it has an unforgettable flavour.
Blood sausages appear on many international menus. Proving, I guess, that there are plenty who do love it. However, the French version is a little different.
Made using France’s favourite ingredient, cream, and either onions or apples as a filler, the main ingredient is usually pig blood and, occasionally, duck or game blood.
Boudin Noir has an iconic status in France. Famed as the favourite food of the French Foreign Legion — whose anthem is informally known as Le Boudin (officially, Marche de la Légion Étrangère) — it is widely considered to be one of the most delicious French foods.
Including two shades of boudin to this list of delicious French foods may seem lazy. But boudin blanc is a very different sausage to boudin noir.
Made with pork, poultry, or veal – and no congealed blood – this is a happy alternative to boudin noir for many.
A typical boudin blanc consists of lean meat (usually around 70%), fat, milk, eggs, cream, and flour — creating a distinctive white colour.
Variations can see vegetables, fruit, or nuts added to the mixture before being stuffed into long pork sausage casings (although it is sometimes cooked ‘naked’ without casing).
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the meaty bias in this list, you might appreciate piperade, a dish suitable for vegetarians.
French cuisine includes a handful of well-known dishes suitable for vegetarians, including ratatouille, tarte à l’oignon, and gratin dauphinoise. But piperade is often overlooked by French cookbook writers, even though it comes from the Basque region that straddles two food-loving countries.
It is a simple, flavourful stew of onion, green peppers, and sautéed tomatoes. The name is derived from the Basque for pepper (piper), and espelette pepper is the flavour-defining ingredient.
Served with plenty of fresh crusty bread to soak up the juices, it works as a simple main course or side dish.
Préfou is not original or inspired. It started life as butter-rich garlic bread. Nowadays, it comes in a variety of flavours.
A specialty of the Vendée region – home to other delicious French foods like brioche and Jambon de Vendée — it is a popular apéro (apéritif) snack.
Found in boulangeries and supermarkets across France, préfou fillings go beyond classic garlic butter to include flavours like chorizo, blue cheese, and salmon.
It is simple to make at home, but its true popularity stems from the ease of grabbing a pre-made one to pop in the oven. A tasty accompaniment to enjoy while kicking back with friends to enjoy an apéritif or two.
Apéro is an institution in France. Good times nearly always begin with a shared drink and light snacks. Gougères is the perfect bite-sized snack that exemplifies the best of French cuisine.
Another of those delicious French foods that rely on a few well-chosen ingredients, gougères are small choux pastries with a soft cheesy centre.
Probably hailing from Burgundy, they have a long history and once came in many varieties. Today, they are best known as tasty appetizers served at parties.
We have worked our way through some savoury dishes and appetizers in this list of delicious French foods, so it is time to finish with a couple of lesser-known sweet foods.
Nougat is a well-known confectionery outside France. But nougat Montélimar is a little bit special, which is why the French like to keep it for themselves.
Produced exclusively in the Montélimar commune of Drôme, it has geographically protected status and a history stretching back several centuries.
Unlike mass-produced nougat, these sticky delights are made with high-quality locally grown almonds, lavender honey, sugar, and egg whites, with the optional addition of pistachios. Soft and crunchy, with a balanced sweetness, the almonds are the star ingredient.
The nougat of Montélimar is so good it was name-checked in a Beatles song.
Like many delicious French foods, it is created by artisans in small volumes. If you can get your hands on some, grab as much as you can and share as little as possible!
France has perfected sweet pastries and exported its best creations to the world. Croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche, and macarons are amongst the most delicious French foods that can be found anywhere in the world. So, it is odd that the delectable kouign-amman – a specialty of Brittany — is barely known outside France.
It is a butter-rich layered pastry made with extraordinary amounts of sugar. Hated by dentists and cardiologists, kouign-amman is a sticky, flaky, calorie-laden delight.
Sometimes flavoured with fruit or caramel, the quintessential kouign-amman is all about good quality butter. And Brittany knows a thing or two about producing delicious butter and making good use of it.
Following a strict recipe (40% dough, 30% butter, 30% sugar), kouign-amman unimaginatively translates as cake-butter in the Breton language.
First made in Finistère around 1860, kouign-amman has been labelled the world’s fattiest pastry. This may explain why it is one of the most delicious French foods that isnot widely consumed.
I do not recommend eating Kouign-amman frequently, but it is an absolute must if you ever holiday in Bretagne (Brittany).
What about all the other delicious French foods?
France is a country with an enviable gastronomic heritage.
Exploring France unearths many secret culinary wonders. And even though my waistline tells a different story, there are many delicious French foods I have yet to try.
But I hope this short taster has introduced you to some of the lesser-known ones. Now, the challenge is to sample more!