Having had the privilege to travel to Paris for a romantic 5th wedding anniversary with the hubs this past January, one of the most important parts of this getaway that we were looking forward to was the cuisine!
Paris – not to mention the entire country of France – is world-famous for its cuisine, so it makes sense to go into a trip to Paris with a list of French foods you want to make sure you don’t miss while you’re there. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the French delicacies that you can find in Paris, but it will most certainly get you started and help keep you sated in between visits to the many museums in Paris.
And have you seen most French Women (and Men)? They are lean and fit! They are definitely doing something right.
Coupled with the fact that you do a lot of walking in Paris, here is some insight on what to chow down on while visiting the city of lights (courtesy of parislogue.com).
What to Eat in Paris for Breakfast
- Pain au Raisin – A pastry with a sweet custard-like filling and raising, usually rolled in a spiral
- Pain au Chocolat – A pastry with a filling of pieces of chocolate (not a chocolate pudding)
- Chausson aux Pommes – A pastry folded in half and baked with a filling akin to apple sauce
What to Eat in Paris for Lunch or Dinner
- Croque Monsieur/Madame – The French version of the grilled cheese sandwich, a croque monsieur is a grilled sandwich with cheese (usually on the outsie) and ham (on the inside). The “madame” adds a sunny-side-up egg to the top. These are often available from crepe stands, so can be eaten as a snack or (for larger ones) as a more complete meal with a salad.
- Quiche – The most famous quiche is a quiche Lorraine, made with egg, cream, cheese, and bits of ham; but there are many other quiche varieties.
- Escargots – Snails aren’t to everyone’s liking, but if you’re trying to be adventurous this is a good place to start. Proper escargots are served with the little critters still in their shells, cooked in a sumptuous buttery sauce (perfect for soaking up with bread after!). There’s a special utensil you’ll be given to hold onto the shells while you pull the snails out, and if you’re confused (and being nice about it) your waiter will likely give you a lesson.
- Steak Tartare – Another way to eat adventurously is by ordering steak tartare, which is very finely chopped raw beef that’s been marinated and seasoned. The only “cooking” it’s been through is being marinated in alcohol, but it’s still mostly raw. (Fun fact? The original name for this dish was steak a l’Americaine.)
- Omelet – You may recognize the word, but an omelet in Paris isn’t breakfast food. In fact, paired with a salad it’s a lovely light lunch.
- Onion Soup – Outside France, this will usually be on menus as “French onion soup;” in Paris, they don’t need to designate the country. This is a rich beef-based broth full of onions cooked until they’re soft and sweet, then covered with cheese and baked in the oven. It’s delicious, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s light because it’s soup.
- Boeuf Bourguignon – A favorite dish in the winter months, this is a slow-cooked beef stew with an enormous quantity of Burgundy wine poured into the sauce.
- Coq au Vin – This is a chicken dish where the bird has been cooked in wine (yes, Parisians like to cook with wine), and is another cold-weather favorite.
- Confit de Canard – In English, this is duck confit, and it’s an incredibly popular dish among the French. If you’ve never tried duck, this is a great introduction. Prepared right, a confit de canard is tender, flavorful, and could serve as a stand-in for just about any comfort food you can imagine.
- Moules – When they’re in season, you’ll see signs for moules (mussels) on sidewalk chalkboards in front of restaurants all over Paris. They’re a Parisian must-have, and worth trying even if you’ve had mussels in other places. They’re different in Paris. (For a variation, try “mouclade,” which is a dish of mussels baked in a cream & white wine sauce.)
- Huitres – Mussels aren’t the only shellfish popular in Paris. Huitres, or oysters, are a nice splurge meal at one of the many oyster bars in Paris (if oysters are your thing).
- Steak Frites – This is one of those dishes people have heard of before visiting Paris, but may think is something more complicated than it actually is. It’s a steak and fries – and that’s essentially it. If you have to try it to say you did, that’s fine, but it’s not as exotic as it might sound.
What to Eat in Paris for Snacks
- Falafel – Mentioned above, falafel itself is a dough made from ground chickpeas, formed into golf ball-sized balls, and fried. Most often served in a pita and dressed with condiments, eaten sandwich-style.
- Crepes – Ultra-thin pancakes filled with just about anything you could imagine, then folded up. Can be sweet or savory. (Read more about finding the best crepes in Paris.)
- Galettes – Also ultra-thin pancakes served with fillings and folded up, but these are more often eaten with a knife and fork. Galettes are often made from buckwheat flour, and are predominantly savory.
What to Eat in Paris for Dessert
Ahh, mon préféré.
The truth is, you’re on vacation – and since eating in Paris is such a delight, there’s no reason you shouldn’t indulge in more than three meals a day. But if you’re looking for a typically Parisian snack that isn’t a full-fledged meal, you really can’t go wrong with a crusty baguette from a good boulangerie, a selection of fine French cheeses, and maybe some pate for good measure. Take all of these things (plus a bottle of water or wine, depending on your preference) to a nearby park and enjoy a perfectly Parisian picnic.
- Iles Flottantes – This translates to “floating islands,” and it’s essentially dollops of meringue “floating” in a pool of creme anglaise, a vanilla-cream sauce.
- Clafoutis – This is a sponge cake that usually has baked right into it whatever fruits are in season.
- Macarons – Don’t confuse a French macaron with that little mountain of shaved coconut. These are a completely different animal. French macarons are light cookies (made with egg whites) that sandwich a layer of icing. In addition being dainty and delicious, they’re usually extremely brightly colored. The most famous macarons come from the shop that started it all, Laduree in Paris.
- Ice Cream – Ice cream is a nearly universal phenomenon, thank goodness, but in Paris there’s a particular ice cream shop that’s not to be missed. There are a few branches of the Berthillon ice cream shops in Paris, but the best one is on the tiny Ile Saint-Louis near Notre Dame. Berthillon’s sorbets are especially noteworthy (they taste so real, you’d swear you were eating the actual fruit), but I’ve never tasted anything there that wasn’t top-notch and well worth writing home about. (Read more about Berthillon in Paris.)
- Madeleines – These famous French sweets are halfway between a cookie and a cake, and although you’ll more often see them served with coffee or tea as opposed to being listed on a dessert menu, there’s nothing stopping you from saving a few from your afternoon stop at the patisserie and letting them melt in your mouth on the Metro ride back from your dinner that evening.
- Chocolate – Paris didn’t invent chocolate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a long list of chocolatiers in Paris who are busy perfecting the art. There are entire books dedicated to the chocolate shops in Paris, so even if you’re notthat into chocolate it can’t hurt to stop into one if you’re passing by.
- Hot Chocolate – If the weather’s the least bit chilly, you owe it to yourself to indulge in a cup of hot chocolate in Paris at some point. European hot chocolate is nothing like the watery microwaveable stuff you may be used to; in fact, it’s more akin to pudding than something you might drink. And yes, that’s why I think it qualifies as dessert and not a beverage.