French Food & Cooking Terms

By Gayot Editors

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!

> Check out GAYOT’s:
Best French Restaurants Near You
– Best French Restaurants in the U.S.A.
– Best French Bistros
French Wine Reviews.


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
Andouillette: scooked tripe sausage. Read about The Return of Brasserie.
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. Read more about choucroute.
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


Escargots persillade with burgundy snails

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 beans
Sorbet: sherbet
Soupe:read about The Return of Soup
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 remember: le fromage after the entrées, just before dessert, (not at the beginning of the meal).