French Cooking Secret: Lardons (aka the French bacon)

Wondering what Parisians eat? It is not quite healthy as you might think. Bacon as an ingredient? Time to start cooking some French recipes!
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“Mmmm Bacon!”, in the words of Homer Simpson.  Not exactly good for you, and definitely not to be eaten in large quantities.  Given all commentary about French people never becoming fat, you might be surprised to know that lardons, aka the French bacon is practically a staple in many a French pantry.

Made of small thin strips of pork meat, bacon lardons are an easy way to add flavor to a dish, without necessarily adding a lot of meat.

In tough times (France has been known to have been in a lot of wars in its history after all), this was a simple way to take left over meat and use it to enrich a dish, without spending a lot of money. These days, it is a one of the top French cooking basics that cooks across France use.

french bacon lardons
French Lardons

☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)

Now I should note that vegetarianism is still quite rare in France. Although some people do avoid pork for personal or religious reasons, bacon lardons are a french cooking staple.

Everything in small quantities” is the mantra here, and bacon lardons are the type of thing that can be added in small quantities to almost any meal to give that it that extra kick, without leaving you feeling bloated and guilty. So French!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are lardons?

Resembling small matchstick-size pieces of bacon, these are small pieces of pork belly that have more fat than regular bacon.  You can buy it in small packs in grocery stores (100g or about a fistful). It is never meant to be the star of any meal, but that “tiny something” that gives a bit more flavor.

How to make lardons?

If you cannot find lardons in your local grocery store, you can still make them at home. Find thick-cut bacon strips and cut them crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2- inch (around 2/3 cm) slices.

How to cook them?

Over medium heat, cook the lardons in a skillet without oil for around 5 minutes, until the lardons look crispy and the fat has been rendered into the pan. Transfer to a plate and drain out any excess oil if you wish.

lardons on a frying pan
Lardons on a frying pan

Usage and Preparation

Bacon lardons can be added to any dish, but here are the main ones that I use more often:

  • Add lardons to any salad, instead of chicken (which takes longer to cook)
  • Cook tagliatelle pasta, and then add onions, spinach, crème fraîche (a type of sour cream), and lardons to the pan.
  • Steam broccoli/beans/spinach and add lardons
  • Cook peas and carrots together and then add lardons
  • Add lardons to cooked lentils or quinoa, along with onions and carrots
  • In an omelet
  • Toppings on a pizza

Note: always cook the lardons first before adding to any dish, as described above, to avoid eating uncooked meat. They usually take about 5 minutes on the stove to get the juices flowing and turn brown.

There are of course much more elaborate recipes, depending on your time and motivation. 

Recipes using Bacon Lardons

1. Beef Bourguignon recipe in Instant Pot

The classic beef bourguignon from Burgundy doesn’t need lardons in it, but if you are looking for extra flavor, this is it.

Beef Stew in Instant Pot (Boeuf Bourguignon)
Beef Stew in Instant Pot (Boeuf Bourguignon)

This pressure-cooked beef stew includes chunks of beef, mushrooms, onions, carrots, celery and a whole host of spices.

Around 200 g of lardons will take your boeuf bourguignon to another level. Get the Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe for Instant Pot here.

Side dish: Tagliatelle pasta, mashed potatoes, rice or baguette.

Wine: Vin de Bourgogne (Red)

2. Classic Quiche Lorraine Recipe with lardons

The traditional quiche lorraine would not be a Quiche Lorraine without some lardons.

quiche lorraine

Almost like a deep dish pizza topped with lardons, cheese, and heavy cream, this is a recipe the whole family will love. Get the Quiche Lorraine Recipe here.

Side dish: light salad with vinaigrette, baguette, or vegetable soup.

Wine: Vin d’Alsace (White or Red).

3. Tartiflette Recipe

Imagine yourself skiing in the French Alps, and ending your day with a large tartiflette.

tartiflette recipe

Potatoes drenched with reblochon cheese, lardons, and white wine, this classic recipe will have everyone saying yum! Get the Tartiflette Recipe here.

Side dish: light salad with vinaigrette.

Drinks: Vin de Savoie followed by traditional digestif like the Savoyard Genepi.

4. Chicken Provencal in Instant Pot Recipe

The chicken provençale is another recipe that doesn’t need pork lardons in it, but it is oh so good if you do add it.

Chicken provencal recipe

Cooked in provençale style, with fresh chicken, red and green peppers, olives, and tomatoes, and wine, this dish will definitely remind you of the South of France.

Add a note of bacon lardons for extra flavor. Get the Chicken Provençale Recipe for Instant Pot here.

Side Dish: Tagliatelle pasta, mashed potatoes, rice or baguette.

Wine: Regional wines like Côtes du Rhône or Côte de Provence.

5. Au Gratin Potatoes Recipe with lardons

The traditional French recipe for Au Gratin Potatoes calls for potatoes with heavy toppings of cheese and crème fraiche. 

au gratin potatoes

Hidden under the cheesy topping, can be whatever you like. A bit of spinach and bacon lardons, maybe? Get the Gratin Potatoes Recipe here.

Side dish: Oven-roasted pork cooked in its own sauce or a light salad

Wine: an Alsace Pinot Gris or Coteaux d’Aix en Provence

6. French Cake Salé: the Savory Cake Recipe

The savory cake looks like a traditional cake cut into slices and guests are expected to pick it up with their hands and eat it like finger food.

Savory cake

Inside, however can be anything from flour, grated cheese, bacon lardons, and olive oil combined together to make a delicious savory cake for a perfect apéro. Get the Savory Cake Recipe here.

Side dishes:charcuterie platter of smoked hams or a cheese board

Drinks: a light sparkling white wine from the Loire or champagne.

7. Coq au Vin in Instant Pot Recipe

Chicken, bacon lardons, vegetables, and wine, all slow-cooked (or instant-cooked!) for a delicious stew that makes the perfect meal for dinner.

coq au vin

Legend has it that the Coq au Vin dates back to the time Julius Caesar and the Romans had invaded France. An old chicken that is slow-cooked in a chicken stew with wine sauce to tenderize it and bring out the flavors. Get the Coq au Vin recipe here.

Side Dish: Tagliatelle pasta, mashed potatoes, rice or baguette.

Wine: Dry Côtes du Rhone, or a light Bourgogne.

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So when you are home late after work, use lardons to give a jump start to any meal.  Even the pickiest little vegetable eaters can be coaxed into trying a plate of broccoli with small pieces of bacon!

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French Cooking Secret: Lardons (aka the French bacon)

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