Looking for French Breakfast foods to try while in the country? From sweet to savory, this post will show you all the must-trys.
When it comes to French breakfast foods there seems to be a general misunderstanding.
Because a traditional European breakfast of pastries, bread, and jam served with coffee is such a common fare in hotels and chambres d’hotes, it is assumed that this is the only breakfast in France.
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In fact, there is a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods in France, and in this article, we are going to explore some of the options available to adventurous gourmet tourists.
What you’ll learn is that there is not really such a thing as a traditional French breakfast.
Instead, you will discover that French breakfasts are as varied and wide-ranging as the other foods for which France is so renowned.
There may not be one typical French breakfast, but there will certainly be at least one for you.
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French Breakfast Foods To Try
In no particular order, here are the French breakfast dishes you shouldn’t miss while in the country.
1. Croque Madame
The Croque monsieur is a snack that many visitors to France will be very familiar with though his delightful wife, Croque Madame, seems to have remained far more in the shadows, at least for foreigners.
She consists of a lightly toasted sandwich made with soft sweet brioche bread and filled with cheese and ham.
A rich bechamel sauce is poured on top of that and the whole affair is crowned with a softly fried egg served sunny side up. This petit déjeuner is guaranteed to last you through until lunchtime.
If you don’t see one on the menu of your chosen breakfast haunt, it is worth asking the waiter if the chef will prepare one for you.
Related Post: Facts about French food
2. Oven Toasted Bread with Cream and Eggs
This plate is pretty simple but it makes a great way to kick off the day, especially if you are an egg lover.
Lay a couple of slices of pain de mie (sliced bread) into a baking tray, gently crack an egg onto each, and then pour over some medium-thin cream. Pop it into the oven for thirteen minutes and voila.
You can boost the flavor by adding freshly chopped chives or parsley. Better still, ask for some lardon, (bacon pieces) to be thrown on top for a really delicious start to your day.
3. Breakfast Pizza Baguette
The baguette is the most iconic of all the French breads, and a crucial ingredient of a French traditional breakfast.
Some chefs like to add a little originality by topping half a baguette with grated cheese, scrambled eggs, and then any of those toppings that you might find on your favorite pizza.
It can be baked in the oven for several minutes and then sliced into portions and served alongside a rich, black coffee.
4. Radishes on Toast
This is one that almost always catches tourists by surprise. The French are very fond of radishes and they eat them often, particularly in spring when they are abundantly available.
Often, they are consumed whole with butter and some salt. As a breakfast dish, they can be thinly sliced and served on buttered toast topped with cream cheese and a touch of dill.
In addition to tasting marvelous, this is a picturesque-looking plate to add to your Instagram account.
5. Radish with Poached Egg
Seeing we have the radishes out, let’s look at another unusual way to kick off your day. Take a few large radishes, halve them and then sear them in a hot skillet.
After that, serve them on a slice of lightly toasted bread topped with butter. Drop a lightly poached egg onto the whole affair and liven things up with some herbs de Provence or some cracked black pepper. Who says breakfast in France has to be boring?
By the way, when the French toast bread, they seldom toast it till it is hard and crisp like you might find it in the US.
6. Traditional French Toast
You guessed it was French from the name, right? Well actually, the French don’t call it French toast at all.
They prefer to call it pain perdu (lost bread) because for a French traditional breakfast, what they often do is cook up leftover bread from the day before so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Slice the bread, dip it in a whisked mixture of egg and milk and then fry it on a pan. After that, you can add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.
This is then topped off with cream and syrup or honey, depending on how many calories you want to absorb before facing the rest of the day.
7. Rouleaux de Pain Perdu
If you are feeling like being a little daring, or simply want a more exotic start to your morning, this glorified version of French toast offers a slightly different approach to the traditional pain perdu.
Coated in jam or chocolate spread, slices of bread are then rolled up and treated in exactly the same way as when making regular French toast.
This version looks delicious, tastes delicious, and should come with a health warning, but you are on holiday so what the heck? Rather than thinking of this as a breakfast of France, consider it more of a rare treat.
8. Traditional French Omelet
The French are fond of eggs and therefore omelets are commonly found on French menus.
When served as a breakfast, they tend to be quite small and the eggs are often mixed with water rather than milk, although a quick word with your waiter will change that if you prefer your omelets a little richer.
Most of the fillings you are familiar with will be available but why not try lardon and goats’ cheese? The strong cheese compliments the bacon pieces perfectly.
9. Ricotta and Figs on Pain Perdu
Here is yet another variation of French toast. Instead of just topping it with honey or syrup, why not layer it with ricotta cheese and then top the whole thing with fresh figs which are commonly available throughout France during the summer months?
10. Oeuf Cocotte
Essentially, this is just a soft-boiled egg served in a small open dish which makes it very convenient for dipping your slice of baguette or croissant into.
The eggs are placed in ramekins (cocottes) and these are then placed in boiling water rather than boiled in the traditional fashion. The eggs are cooked until the whites harden but the yolks remain soft and runny.
When talking about French breakfast foods, it would be unpatriotic, and probably illegal, to overlook the most typical breakfast in France, the croissant.
Enter any bakery, café, or restaurant in the morning and you are almost bound to see a tray of fresh croissants on the counter.
What you need to know is that this little pastry comes in two types. Croissant aux beurre which is made with pure butter while the other is made with margarine.
Forget your cholesterol level, you want the butter one. You can eat them with ham, butter, sliced cheese, or an indulgent combination of all three. Either way, they are all addictive.
12. Pain au Chocolat
The other traditional French pastry that will be sitting on that tray alongside the pile of warm croissants is the Pain au chocolat.
If you were asked what do French people eat for breakfast, these two pastries would almost certainly be at the top of the list.
The pain au chocolat is a roll of pastry injected with a squirt of dark chocolate. It is often called a chocolatine and the two names are interchangeable.
This is one of those words that gets kind of lost in translation. To tartine something is to spread it, so if you spread butter over a horizontally sliced baguette, it would become a tartine.
The same could be said for a slice of any other kind of bread — boule for example. Whether the bread in question is toasted or not doesn’t make any difference and so the confusion grows.
Generally, if you order tartine, you will get sliced bread served with butter and a selection of jams.
14. Chausson aux pommes
Pastries are such a wide subject in France that whole books are dedicated to it.
Suffice it to say that if you were to step into any French patisserie and order any of their mouth-wateringly delicious offerings alongside a coffee, you would not be committing any sort of faux pas when it comes to breakfast in France.
We have looked at croissants and pain au chocolat already, but the other favorite is Chausson aux Pommes (Slipper filled with apples). This is a crisp pastry stuffed with cooked apple and sprinkled with sugar.
Another French breakfast food of a more savory nature this time is the very popular Charcuterie platter.
This is an all-encompassing term that covers a wide variety of cured meats and will often vary from region to region, depending on what is locally available.
It is served on a plate that will almost always incorporate at least one type of dried saucisson (dried sausage), smoked and salted hams, and local pâté or rillette.
This will be accompanied by slices of baguette, large quantities of butter, and pickles. Often there will be cheese thrown into the mix.
If you run out of bread during the course of your meal, don’t be shy to ask for more — it should be free.
These traditional thin pancakes used to be the preserve of the northern regions of France such as Brittany and Normandy.
Today, their range has expanded and you are likely to find a creperie in any large town in the country.
They come in two distinct categories. Crepes made with white flour which are usually served with sweet ingredients such as jam, sugar, or honey, and galettes which are made with black flour and are normally served with savory toppings. These might include eggs, cheese, ham, or a combination of all three.
This cross between a fritter and a donut is another that should come with a health warning. It is impossible to eat just one (or two).
You may even have to be dragged away from the table by large men wearing black leather jackets.
The dough is fried, rolled in sugar, and sometimes filled with jam or compote de Pommes (Cinnamon stewed apples) or strawberry fillings.
18. Alsacian breakfast
These are quite a few regional French breakfast foods from Alsace that you might not find everywhere.
They consist of kouglof (crown-shaped brioche), a slice of schneckekueche (brioche filled with almonds, hazelnuts, or pastry cream), or streusel which is a crumbly topped pastry with a cinnamon flavoring.
These names that don’t quite roll off the tongue refer to sweet cakes that are popular in the east of the country.
They are great winter treats and are often eaten accompanied by a steaming bowl of hot chocolate that is nearly rich enough to stand a spoon in.
19. Pain d’ Epices
This ginger cake also originates from the east of the country but is more widely found than the three cakes above.
Literally translated as “spicy bread”, this loaf contains honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg, along with other ingredients.
It is reputed to have made its way to Europe from Egypt but has now become a common accompaniment to breakfast in France. As a French breakfast food, it is served with coffee and thickly coated in butter.
This is, however, usually enjoyed during the Christmas season in France.
Final Thoughts on the Best French Breakfast Foods
French breakfast foods are often far more varied than many étranger (foreigners) realize.
I assume that this is because the croissant is so widely appreciated that it is understood to be the sole authentic French breakfast available, other than the baguette accompanied by butter and jam.
In reality, there is a huge choice of breakfast options and I hope that you get to try out at least a few of them either while on your trip to France or back at home if you want to try some traditional French breakfast foods.
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