If you have ever been to France in winter, you know that it gets cold. From the rains of Paris to the windy mistrals of Marseille, there is nothing like a warm and hearty meal after a long day in freezing temperatures.
French winter dishes tend to include a lot of cheese, heavy sauces, meat, and potatoes, everything that promises to warm up the insides.
A lot of the French winter dishes are actually inspired by the France’s culture of skiing. With many excellent ski resorts in the French Alps, a gathering with friends and family over a sumptuous cheesy fondue or a hearty tartiflette is a must.
As an expat turned local here in Paris, I certainly have my favorites. A mouthwatering fondue or a nourishing boeuf bourguignon? Let’s have a look at the best of these French winter food recipes. Allons-y!
1. Cheese Fondue
After a long and snowy day, enjoy time with family and friends with this melted cheese dish actually quite easy to make at home.
There are many combinations of cheeses that you can use to make your fondue, from reblochon to goat cheese. You can also add other items like mushrooms or tomato sauce for added flavor. Get the recipe for cheese fondue here.
Serve with: White wine such as a Riesling from Alsace.
2. Creamy Coquilles St. Jacques en Gratin (Starter)
Another way to serve Served usually as a starter in France, the recipe calls to the coquilles st. jacques (scallops in English) to be cooked in a creamy sauce, drenched in cheese, and topped with breadcrumbs.
It is light but satisfying, as well as being easy to make. And best of all it looks impressive with minimal effort. Get the recipe for coquilles st. jacques en gratin here.
Serve with: Pouilly Fumé from Loire
If you like cheese and potatoes, you will enjoy a tartiflette, the winter dish from Savoie and the Alps. With copious amounts of reblochon cheese and bacon lardons, this potato dish is quick and easy to make in the oven on a cold winter’s night. Get the recipe for tartiflette here.
Serve with: Red or white wine and a traditional digestif like genepi to wash it down after the meal.
Another cheesy dish that comes from the French and Swiss Alps is the raclette. After a long day of skiing (and even if you haven’t been skiing), sit down and share a raclette with family and friends. Raclette is a semi-hard type of cheese, traditionally made from non-pasteurized milk.
Families gather together at the end of the day and cook the cheese together, melting it to place on top of potatoes and charcuterie (salt-cured hams). Learn all about eating raclette here.
Serve with: Vin de Savoie
5. Boeuf Bourguignon
Rich and succulent, the French boeuf bourguignon used to involve long hours of slow-cooking meat and vegetables in juices and wine to release the flavor.
These days, however, the classic boeuf bourguignon can be cooked in less than half the time in the Instant pot. A nourishingly perfect beef stew for a winter evening.
There is also the very similar Carbonade Flamande that uses beer instead of wine. Get the recipe for Boeuf bourguignon in the Instant pot here.
Serve with: A light red wine from Bourgogne
Dating back to the 1300s, the cassoulet comes from the Occitanie region of France. It is a mouthwatering stew made with beans, meat, and sausages all slow-cooked together for hours.
It used to take ages to soak and prepare the beans, but with that handy Instant pot, this is one winter dish that will be a big hit on a cold winter night. Get the recipe for cassoulet here.
Serve with: Cahors or Bergerac red wine. If you don’t like reds, try a white wine such as a Limoux from Burgundy.
7. French Onion Soup
Legend has the French onion soup became famous after being served to the Duke of Lorraine (who was the ex-King of Poland) and his father-in-law, the French King Louis XV.
One taste by the French Royal family and this flavorful soup made with onions became world-renowned. Cooked until the onions are caramelized and then topped with heavy gruyère cheese, this excellent dish is usually served as an appetizer in winter. Get the recipe for French onion soup here.
Serve with: a Quiche Lorraine and a Beaujolais Blanc
8. Coq au Vin
If you don’t like beef and prefer an alternative to the boeuf bourguignon, the classic coq au vin is what you are looking for. A chicken slow-cooked with vegetables in a stew with wine sauce to tenderize it and bring out the flavors.
A delectable dish at any time of the year, but especially in winter. Get the recipe for Coq au vin here.
Serve with: a dry Côtes du Rhone
9. Gratin Dauphinois
The gratin dauphinois used to be a meal for the poor. Potatoes and heavy cream combined over a fire, this simple and hearty meal is filling and delicious.
These days you can add rich ingredients like cheese, bacon lardons, fresh spinach, chopped onions, and anything else you wish to this heavenly winter dish. Get the recipe for gratin dauphinois here.
Serve with: an Alsace Pinot Gris or Coteaux d’Aix en Provence is quite lovely.
☞ READ MORE: Easy Guide to the French Wines
10. Pot au feu
Pot au feu is a traditional French dish including meat, vegetables and herbs all cooked together in a nourishing stew. The name “pot au feu” in French means “pot on fire”, and as you can imagine, the recipe dates back centuries.
In the Middle ages, it was an open flame in a large fireplace kitchen, slow-cooking meat and vegetables on a boil until it became a hearty ragoût. These days, we don’t need an open flame since there is the Instant pot. You can get the recipe for the classic beef pot au feu here, as well as a chicken version.
Side dish: Pilaf rice, tagliatelle pasta, mashed potatoes, or baguette.
Serve with: Vin de Bourgogne (Red) or Beaujolais or white Chardonnay from Languedoc-Roussillon
11. Vin Chaud (Mulled Wine)
Whether it is called Vin Chaud, Glühwein, or Glögg, or whatever it is called, this classic mulled wine recipe is a perfect treat for Christmas and your winter holidays. On those freezing cold winter nights, there is nothing like having a warm cup of vin chaud in your hands.
The wine is heated and then spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and sugar were added. There is also a non-alcoholic version of vin chaud. Get the recipe for vin chaud here.
Serve with: Shortbread cookies or Chocolate cake
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !