French food vocabulary: ABC cuisine dictionary & glossary

The handy list of French food vocabulary. With words and phrases translating from French to English, here are the ABCs of French Cuisine!
You are currently viewing French food vocabulary: ABC cuisine dictionary & glossary
(As an Amazon affiliate, we may earn commissions on purchases. All information provided is for entertainment purposes only.)

There is nothing scarier than looking at a French recipe book where you don’t understand anything. Or worse, walking into a French restaurant and looking at the menu in bafflement. French cuisine may be much-vaunted but are you accidentally going to be ordering frog legs or pig guts?

Not that there is anything wrong with those who wish to order a yummy plate of escargot, but I presume that everyone prefers to know what they are ordering before they order it.

Hence, a glossary. We will look at the top French food words, terms, and phrases to make it all clear, along with example recipes so that you can follow it in action. So here goes, the ABC of French food. Allons-y!

☞ READ MORE: 38 French Food Facts that will have you saying “hmmm”

Table of contents:


À emportermeal to go, takeaway food (opposite of “sur place” – eat in)
Additionbill, receipt
Aïolia Mediterranean sauce made of garlic, salt, and olive oil. (Get aioli recipe here.)
Aligotmashed potatoes combined with Tomme d’Auvergne cheese (Get the aligot recipe here.)
Andouillettesausage made from pork intestines. Often smelly.
Apéritifpre-meal drinks before sitting down for dinner (see list of top French apéritifs here).
Apéroan informal get-together over drinks and finger foods. Usually held in the early evening with family and friends.
2 baguettes illustration


Baba au rhumspongy cake soaked in rum. Usually topped with whipped cream and berries. (Recipe for Baba au Rhum.)
Baguettelong traditional French bread
Beignetfried dough, fritter
Bien cuitwell-cooked meat, usually steak. (Other options are “saignant” – rare or “à point” – medium)
Boeuf bourgioniona traditional beef stew cooked in red wine from Burgundy. (See Boeuf Bourgionion recipe here)
Boudin Blancwhite sausages” filled with of cream, breadcrumbs, fat, starch, and boiled pork or chicken.
Boudin Noir“black sausages” filled with cooked or dried blood of pigs, cows, etc.
Bouillabaissea fish stew from Marseille
Briochea type of French pastry bread that is slightly sweet.
café normale illustration (espresso)


Caféa cup of espresso. (See here for ordering other types of coffee in France.)
Cakea savory cake, usually filled with bacon and olives. (A normal english cake is called a gâteau in French.)
Calissona traditional French candy from Aix-en-Provence. Made out of fruit topped off with a thin layer of marzipan.
Canardduck (eg. “confit de canard“, a dish you will regularly see on Parisian brasserie menus.)
Cartethe menu. (Carte de vin is the wine menu.)
Cassouleta traditional dish from Southern France consisting of white beans, sausages, and meats. (See cassoulet recipe here.)
Cèpeporcini mushroom
Charcuteriea variety of dried sausage, ham and meat products served at an apéro get-together. (Get the Guide to composing a charcuterie board here.)
Charlottea type of dessert where the tin mold is lined with ladyfinger biscuits and filled with layers of custard and fruit.
Chèvregoat. (“fromage de chèvre” is goat cheese.)
Chou à la crèmea small pastry ball filled with cream or custard
Compotea pureed fruit that is usually served to children as an after-school snack or dessert
Comptoirthe counter at a bar or restaurant. (In France, unless you are at a fancy restaurant, it is acceptable to go up to the counter to pay. Sometimes, it is even expected.)
Coq au vina traditional stew with chicken cooked in wine. (See coq au vin recipe here.)
Coquille St. Jacquesscallops dish that is usually served as an appetizer in France. (See Coquille St. Jacques recipe here.)
Crème fraîcheheavy cream
Crêpethin flat pancakes, originating in Normandy and Bretagne (Brittany). (See Crêpe Suzette and Crêpe Galette Bretonne recipes.)
Croque Monsieur/Madamea traditional sandwich served at lunch in France, that is smothered with cheese. (See here for a Croque Monsieur recipe.)


Dégustationtasting. (eg. “Dégustation de champagne” – Champagne tasting)
Déjeunerlunch. “Pétit déjeuner” however means breakfast (small lunch).
DessertDessert (get list of top French desserts here)
Digestifa strong alcoholic after-dinner drink. (See popular digestifs in France.)
Dînerdinner. Usually served after 8pm.


(“Eau de robinet” – tap water;
Eau Gazeuse” – sparkling water; “Eau plate” – still water)
Escargotsnails (See how to eat escargot here.)


Faire moitie moitiesplitting in half (eg. spliting the receipt, or splitting a dessert)
Farcistuffed or stuffing (eg. stuffed mushrooms)
FermierFarmer (referring to produce directly from the farm).
Flantype of custard in a crust (see French flan recipe here)
Foieliver. (“Foie gras” is the goose liver delicacy.)
Fonduea traditional recipe from the Alps mountains that involves dipping bread in hot melted cheese dish served in a large pot. (See Cheese fondue recipe here.)
Fritfried. (“Frites” is french fries.)
Fromagecheese (See here for more on different types of French cheeses.)
Fruits de merseafood
Fumésmoked. (“Saumon fumé” is smoked salmon)


Galettea savory crêpe made with buckwheat flour.
Galette des roisa special cake eaten in France on 3 Kings Day
Glaceice cream
Goûterafter-school snack for children
Gratina French culinary technique in the dish is topped with a browned crust of breadcrumbs or grated cheese. (See Recipe for Gratin Dauphinois.)
Grenouillefrog (eg. “cuisse de grenouille” meaning frog legs)


Haricotbeans (eg “haricots verts” is green beans)
Harissaa spicy chili red paste from North Africa that is popular in France


île flottanta French dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise.
ham on a  plate


(“jambon cru” – salt-cured ham;
jambon cuit” – cooked ham)


Kira French apéritif consisting of white wine or champagne mixed with crème de cassis.


Lardonssmall strip of pork bacon that is used in many French recipes.
Lapinrabbit (a French delicacy)
3 macarons illustration


Macaronsa meringue-like cookie with cream in between 2 layers. Comes in a variety of flavors and colors.
MaisonHome (eg: “fait maison” meaning home-made. This is an official govt. distinction that restaurants in France are allowed to note on their menus if they meet certain requirements.)
Moussefood that has been pureed and incorporated with small air bubbles to give it a light and airy texture. (See Strawberry mousse recipe.)


Noixnut; walnut


Oignononion. (See Soupe à l’oignon recipe here.)


Panissea finger food appetizer made from chickpea flour. Get the panisse recipe here.
Pâtépaste made of ground meats and organ meats (see pâté examples here)
Pastisan anise flavored apéritif
Pâtisseriepastry; pastry shop
Petit poispeas
PichetPitcher or Jug (eg. “pichet de vin” meaning pitcher of wine, which is usually less expensive and less quantity than a full bottle of wine.)
Pimentspice. (“pimenté” meaning spicy)
Platmain dish. (eg. “Plat du jour” meaning special of the day)
Poivronbell pepper
Poivrepepper (as in salt and pepper)
Pomme de terrepotato
Pot-au-feua French beef stew with carrots, turnips, leeks, celery, and onions. Get the pot au feu recipe here.
Pouletchicken (see recipe for Poulet Provençale)
Pourboiretip (Note: In France, the price usually includes the tip. If you wish, you can round up the bill.)


Quenellea long oval dumpling made of fish that originated in the city of Lyon.
Quichea tart crust filled with pieces of cheese, meat, seafood or vegetables. (See recipes for spinach quiche and quiche lorraine here.)


Raclettea traditional winter dish that involves pouring melted cheese on to potatoes. Served with charcuterie ham and pickles. (See Raclette recipe here.)
Ratatouillea vegetable stew made with zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. (See ratatouille recipe here.)
Rillettesmeat which has been seasoned then slow-cooked and submerged in fat for several hours. The rillettes are spread on bread and eaten (usually as part of a charcuterie platter.)
Rizrice (eg. “Riz au Lait” meaning rice pudding)
Rouxroux is made with flour and butter of equal parts, blended and cooked together to make a paste. It is used to thicken sauces.


Saignantbloody; meat that is lightly cooked or rare (Other options are “bien cuit” meaning well-cooked or “à point” meaning medium.)
Salsifisa root vegetable called salsify that is commonly eaten in France
Saumon fumésmoked salmon
Saussisona dry cured sausage
Soccaa type of flatbread from Nice (see Socca recipe)
Sommeliera member of the restaurant wait-staff who picks the wine and advises clients.
Sous videa French cooking technique in which food is placed in a plastic pouch (or glass jar) and cooked in a water bath for a long time.


Tartareraw meat or fish that has been chopped or shredded into small pieces. (See Salmon tartare recipe here.)
Tarte flambéeA thin pizza that is a specialty in Alsace along the French-German border. Usually made from fromage blanc or crème fraîche, thin-sliced onions and lardons.
Also sometimes called Flammkuchen or Flammekueche.
Tartiflettea traditional scallop potatoes dish from Savoy, France, made with reblochon cheese, lardons and onions. (See tartiflette recipe here.)
TartineSpread (eg. chocolate tartine)
Terrinepaste made of ground meats and organ meats, similar to Pâté, that has been cooked in an earthern dish.
Tripesanimal guts (lining from the stomachs) of various farm animals


Un/Uneone (French joke: if you are not sure if it is “un baguette” or “une baguette“, just ask for “deux (2) baguettes“!)
wine glass illustration


Veloutéa non-chunky soup or a sauce based on chicken stock and flour
Verreglass. (“Verrine” meaning a dish served in a glass cup.)
Vinwine (“Vin chaud” is hot wine, or mulled spiced wine.)


Welscha type of croque monsieur sandwich from Northern France, which is served with a savory sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients.


XXLRestaurants in France do not serve xxl-size food portions. If you are really hungry, you should order entrée-plat-dessert (starter-main-dessert)


Yaourtyogurt (see recipe for yogurt cake.)


Zzzzzzthat was a lot of food, time for some zzzz’s!

If you enjoyed that article, you may enjoy reading more about the essentials in a classic French pantry. A bientôt!

Leave a Reply