French Food Terms

Langoustine - Christopher Hache - L'Écrin, Hôtel de Crillon

Don’t know your navets from your noisettes? Have no fear.

Whether you’re dining at a haute gastronomy restaurant or a small café on the outskirts of Paris, GAYOT’s guide to French food terms will arm you with the necessary culinary lingo to negotiate any French food menu.

Bon appétit!

French Food Terms


Agneau: lamb
Ail: garlic
Aïoli: garlic mayonnaise
Américaine or armoricaine: sauce of white wine, Cognac, tomatoes and butter
Ananas: pineapple
Andouille: smoked tripe sausage, usually served cold
Anglaise (à l’): boiled meats or vegetables
Anguille: eel
Asperges: asparagus


Ballotine: boned, stuffed and rolled poultry
Bar: bass
Bâtarde: sauce of white roux (a mixture of flour and butter or other fat, usually in equal proportions, cooked together slowly and used to thicken sauces and soups)
Béarnaise: sauce made of shallots, tarragon, vinegar and egg yolks, bound with butter
Béchamel: sauce made of flour, butter and milk
Beurre blanc: sauce of wine and vinegar boiled down with minced shallots, then thickened with butter
Beurre noisette: lightly browned butter
Bière: beer
Bigarade: bitter orange used in sauces and marmalade
Bisque (crayfish, lobster, etc.): rich, velvety soup, usually made with crustaceans, flavored with white wine and Cognac
Blinis: small, thick crêpes made with eggs, milk and yeast
Bœuf: beef
Bœuf bourguignon: beef stew with red wine, onions and lardons (lardons: small chunks of slab bacon)
Bombe glacée: molded ice cream dessert
Bordelaise: fairly thin brown sauce of shallots, red wine and tarragon
Boudin noir: blood sausage
Bouillabaisse: various fish (including scorpion fish) cooked in a soup of tomatoes, garlic, saffron and olive oil
Bourride: a soup usually made from fillets of large white fish; the creamy broth is thickened with aïoli and poured over slices of bread
Brie: cow’s milk cheese with a soft, creamy inside and a thick crust, made in the shape of a disk and sliced like a pie
Brioche: a soft, often sweet, yeast loaf or roll enriched with eggs and butter
Brochette: on a skewer
Brochet: pike
Biscuits: cookies


Caille: quail
Calvados: distilled apple cider
Canapé: small piece of bread topped with savory food
Canard: duck
Carbonnade: pieces of lean beef, first sautéed then stewed with onions and beer
Carotte: carrot
Carré d’agneau: rack of lamb
Cassoulet: slow-cooked stew of dried haricot beans baked with various meats (pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton) in an earthenware pot
Cèpes: prized wild mushrooms, same family as the Italian porcini
Cerises: cherries
Champignons: mushrooms
Chanterelles: prized wild mushrooms, trumpet-shaped
Charcutière: sauce of onions, white wine, beef stock and gherkins
Charlotte: dessert of flavored creams and/or fruit molded in a cylindrical dish lined with ladyfingers (if served cold) or strips of buttered bread (if served hot)
Chasseur: brown sauce made with shallots, white wine and mushrooms
Chèvre: goat cheese
Chevreuil: venison
Chou: cabbage
Choucroute: sauerkraut; often served with sausages, smoked bacon, pork loin and potatoes
Citron: lemon
Citron vert: lime
Chou-fleur: cauliflower
Clafoutis: a dessert of fruit (usually cherries) baked in an egg batter
Confit: pork, goose, duck, turkey or other meat braised and sealed in its own fat
Coquilles St-Jacques: sea scallops
Côtes d’agneau: lamb chops
Coulis: thick sauce or purée, often of vegetables or fruit
Court-bouillon: stock for cooking fish, meat and poultry
Crème Chantilly: sweetened whipped crème fraîche
Crème pâtissière: a cooked egg custard used as a filling for tarts and cream puffs
Crêpe: a thin, tender pancake (see also Galettes)
Crêpe Suzette: crêpe stuffed with a sweetened mixture of butter, ground almonds, Grand Marnier, orange juice and peel
Crevette: shrimp
Croque-madame: a croque-monsieur, (see below), topped with an sunny side-up egg
Croque-monsieur: grilled ham and cheese sandwich
Croûte (en): in pastry crust
Crudités: raw vegetables
Crustacés: shellfish


Daube: beef braised in red wine
Daurade or dorade: sea bream

French food: scargots


Ecrevisses: crayfish
Entrecôte: ‘between the ribs’; steak cut from between the ribs
Epinards: spinach
Escalope: slice of meat or fish, flattened slightly and sautéed
Escargots(à la bourguignonne): snails (with herbed garlic butter)


Faisan: pheasant
Financière: Madeira sauce enhanced with truffle juice
Fish: poisson
Florentine: with spinach
Foie gras: liver of a specially fattened goose or duck
Fondue: a bubbling pot of liquid into which pieces of food are dipped, most commonly cheese and bread; can also be chocolate and fruit or various savory sauces and cubes of beef; also, vegetables cooked at length in butter and thus reduced to pulp
Forestière: garnish of sautéed mushrooms and lardons
Fraise: strawberry
Framboise: raspberry
Frangipane: almond pastry cream


Galantine: boned poultry or meat, stuffed and pressed into a symmetrical form, cooked in broth and coated with aspic
Galettes and crêpes (Brittany): galettes are thin pancakes made of buckwheat flour and are usually savory; crêpes are made of wheat flour and are usually sweet
Gâteau: cake
Gelée (en): in aspic (gelatin usually flavored with meat, poultry or fish stock)
Génoise: sponge cake
Gibier: game
Glace: ice cream
Granité: lightly sweetened fruit ice
Gratin dauphinois: sliced potatoes baked in milk, cream and grated Gruyère
Grenouille: frog (frogs’ legs: cuisses de grenouilles)


Hachis Parmentier: a dish made with mashed and baked potatoes, combined with diced meat and sauce. Also considered to be the French equivalent of cottage or shepherd’s pie
Hollandaise: egg-based sauce thickened with butter and flavored with lemon
Homard: lobster
Huître: oyster


Jambon: ham
Julienne: shredded vegetables; also a consommé garnished with shredded vegetables
Jus: juice; also a reduction or essence used as a sauce


Lait: milk
Langouste: rock or spiny lobster
Langoustine: saltwater crayfish
Lapereau: young rabbit
Lapin: rabbit
Lardons: small chunks of slab bacon
Lièvre: hare
Lotte: monkfish or angler fish; sometimes called ‘poor man’s lobster’


Madrilène (la): jellied tomato consommé
Magret (Maigret): breast of fattened duck, cooked with the skin on; usually grilled
Médaillon: food, usually meat, fish or foie gras, cut into small, round pieces
Mignonette: traditionally served with oysters, this condiment is made with minced shallots and vinegar
Morue: salt cod
Moules (marinières): mussels (cooked in the shell with white wine, shallots and parsley)


Nantua: sauce of crayfish, white wine, butter and cream with a touch of tomato
Navets: turnips
Noisettes: hazelnuts; also, small, round pieces of meat (especially lamb or veal)
Nougat: sweet made with roasted almonds, egg whites, honey and sugar


Oeufs: eggs


Pain: bread
Parfait: sweet or savory mousse; also a layered ice cream dessert
Parisienne: garnish of fried potato balls
Pâtisserie: pastry
Paupiettes: thin slices of meat stuffed with forcemeat and shaped into rolls
Pêche: peach
Pigeonneau: squab
Pintade: guinea hen
Pissaladière: tart with onions, black olives and anchovy filets
Poireau: leek
Poire: pear
Pomme: apple
Pomme de terre: potato
Potée: various vegetables and meats boiled together
Poulet: chicken
Profiteroles: small puffs of choux paste often filled with whipped cream or crème pâtissière and piled high in a dish with chocolate sauce poured over
Provençale (à la): with garlic or tomato and garlic


Quiche: savory tart of eggs filled with a mixture of cream and various fillings (such as ham, spinach or bacon)


Raisin: grape
Ratatouille: stew of eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, onion and garlic, all sautéed in oil
Rémoulade: tangy cold sauce often flavored with capers, onions, parsley, gherkins or herbs
Ris de veau: sweetbreads
Rissole: type of small pie filled with forcemeat
Rognon: kidney
Rouget: red mullet
Rouille: a Provençal sauce, so called because of the red chiles and sometimes saffron which give it a ‘rust’ color; chiles are pounded with garlic and breadcrumbs and blended with olive oil; the sauce being served with bouillabaisse, boiled fish or octopus


Sabayon: whipped egg yolks, sweetened and flavored with wine or liqueur; served warm
Saint-Pierre: John Dory, a white-fleshed fish
Salade niçoise: salad of tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, anchovy filets, tuna, sweet peppers, celery and olives (also can include green beans, potatoes, basil, onions and/or broad beans)
Saumon: salmon
Sole meunière: sole dipped in flour and sautéed in butter with parsley and lemon
Soissons: garnished with green beansSorbet: sherbet
Spätzle: round noodles, often made from eggs
Steak au poivre: pepper steak; steak covered in crushed peppercorns, browned in a frying pan, flambéed with Cognac, often served in a cream sauce


Tapenade: a paste of black olives, often capers and anchovies, crushed in a mortar with lemon juice and pepper
Tartare: cold sauce for meat or fish: mayonnaise with hard-boiled egg yolks, onions and chopped olives
Tarte: tart, round cake or flan; can be a sweet or savory French food
Tarte Tatin: upside-down apple tart, invented by the Tatin sisters
Tortue: turtle; also, a sauce made with various herbs, tomato and Madeira
Tournedos Rossini: beef sautéed in butter, served with pan juices, foie gras
Truffe: truffle; highly esteemed subterranean fungus, especially from Périgord
Truite: trout


Vacherin: ice cream served in a meringue shell; also, creamy, pungent cheese from Switzerland or Eastern France
Viande: meat
Volaille: poultry

And rememberle fromage after the entrées, just before dessert, (not at the beginning of the meal).