Characters ordering food in a French restaurant

If you're looking to learn a new language, French is a great option – especially when it comes to the food in the French culture. French cuisine is renowned around the world for its incredible flavors and complex preparations. But before you can enjoy all the food that France has to offer, you need to know how to describe food in French.

This article will teach you the basics – from describing the taste and texture of a dish to baking the famous French croissants. So get started today. You may be surprised at just how much you can learn.

La nourriture / Les aliments – General Food Vocabulary

If you want to be able to discuss French food, you’ll first need the basic vocabulary. Here are the essentials:

Things Found in thePantry

Native

Translation

la confiture

jam

le croissant

croissant

la farine

flour

l'huile d'olive

olive oil

la mayonnaise

mayonnaise

la moutarde

mustard

un œuf, des œufs

egg, eggs

le pain

bread

les pâtes

pasta

le riz

rice

la sauce

sauce, dressing, gravy

le poivre

pepper

le sel

salt

le sucre

sugar

Common Foods

Native

Translation

les légumes

vegetables

les fruits

fruits

les viandes

meats

les poissons

fish

les frites

french fries

le pain

bread

la salade

salad

la pizza

pizza

le pain grillé

a toast

Characters eating

French Cooking Verbs

Native

Translation

avoir faim

to be hungry

manger

to eat

déjeuner

to have breakfast or lunch

dîner

to have dinner

goûter

to taste

nourrir

to feed

Dishes in French

Native

Translation

le hors d'œuvre, l'entrée

appetizer

Please note that in American English, an “entrée” means main course, but the same French word refers to an appetizer. Beware of the false cognates.

Native

Translation

la soupe, le potage

soup

le plat principal

main course

la salade

salad

le dessert

dessert

Vegetables in French

Native

Translation

un légume

vegetable

un artichaut

artichoke

les asperges

asparagus

une aubergine

eggplant

la carotte

carrot

le céleri

celery

le champignon

mushroom

le chou-fleur

cauliflower

le concombre

cucumber

les épinards

spinach

un haricot

bean

la laitue

lettuce

un oignon

onion

le maïs

corn

les petits pois

peas

la pomme de terre

potato

le radis

radish

la tomate

tomato

Fruits in French

Native

Translation

le fruit

fruit

un abricot

apricot

un ananas

pineapple

une banane

banana

une cerise

cherry

un citron

lemon

un citron vert

lime

une fraise

strawberry

une framboise

raspberry

une mûre

blackberry

une myrtille

blueberry

une orange

orange

un pamplemousse

grapefruit

une pastèque

watermelon

une pêche

peach

une poire

pear

une pomme

apple

une prune

plum

un raisin

grape

Character buying fruits at the store

Meats in French

Native

Translation

la viande

meat

l'agneau

lamb

les anchois

anchovies

le bifteck

steak

la dinde

turkey

les escargots

snails

le jambon

ham

le lapin

rabbit

le porc

pork

le poulet

chicken

le rosbif

roast beef

le saucisson

sausage

le veau

veal

le poisson

fish

Dairy in French

Native

Translation

le beurre

butter

la crème

cream

la crème fraîche

sour cream

le fromage

cheese

le fromage blanc

cream cheese

la glace

ice cream

le lait

milk

le yaourt

yogurt

Deserts in French

Native

Translation

le dessert

dessert

le biscuit

cookie

les bonbons

candy

le chocolat

chocolate

la crème brûlée

a specific dish – custard with burnt sugar topping

la crème caramel

flan

le fromage

cheese

les fruits

fruit

le gâteau

cake

la mousse au chocolat

chocolate mousse

la tarte

pie

la vanille

vanilla

Common French Baking Words

Native

Translation

un gâteau

a cake

un biscuit

a cookie

du pain

bread

la pâtisserie

pastry

la pâte brisée

shortcrust base or short crust pastry

la pâte sablée

sweet shortcrust pastry dough

la pâte feuilletée

puff pastry

croustillant

crunchy

la crème au citron

lemon curd

un fouet

a whisk

une pincée de sel

a pinch of salt

la maïzena

cornstarch

le beurre coupé en dés

cubed | diced butter

un jaune d’œuf

an egg yolk

un blanc d’œuf

an egg white

rallonger

to thin out | add a little liquid

une meringue

a meringue

une cuillère à soupe (cs)

a tablespoon (tbsp.)

le papier sulfurisé

greaseproof paper

une casserole

a sauce pan

un fond de tarte

a tart bottom, a pie crust, bottom of a pie crust

battre les oeufs

beat, whisk the eggs

monter les blancs en neige

beat egg whites until stiff

le bicarbonate de soude

baking soda

la levure chimique

baking powder

le sucre vanillé

vanilla sugar

extrait de vanille

vanilla extract

A recipe in French

How Is It Cooked?

Native

Translation

au gratin

baked with cheese and breadcrumbs

à votre goût

to your liking

au jus

meat served with a sauce or gravy made from the juices released during cooking

en cocotte

cooked in a covered baking dish

confit

cooked in fat (either its own or the fat of something else)

en croute

wrapped in pastry

farci

stuffed

frit(e)

fried

fumé

smoked

haché

ground (meat)

piquant

spicy

au pistou

with basil

provençal

cooked with tomatoes, anchovies and olives

rôti

roasted

à la vapeur

steamed

julienne

to cut food (usually vegetables) into very thin pieces

Important Restaurant Vocabulary

Native

Translation

allérgique à

allergic to

végétarien

vegetarian

végétalien

vegan

le serveur | la serveuse

waiter | waitress

Important – never call a waiter garçon, no matter how many times you’ve seen it in movies.

Characters in a French restaurant

Native

Translation

l’assiette

plate

la carte / le ménu

the menu

compris / inclus

included

la dégustation

tasting menu

plat du jour

dish of the day

un méli-mélo

an assortment

un morceau

a piece

l’addition

the check

délicieux

delicious

je voudrais

I would like…

et pour la madame/mademoiselle?

and for the mrs | miss?

le pourboire

tip

Please note: it’s not necessary to tip in French restaurants. Service and tax is almost always included in French restaurants, listed as servis compris. It doesn’t usually go directly to the staff, though. So if you’re very pleased with the service, you can leave a tip: 5-10% or simply round the bill.

Final Thoughts on French Food Vocabulary

Learning how to describe your food desires in French is a must for any aspiring chef or foodie. This article has provided you with the basics of French food vocabulary, from the essential pantry words to common French baking terms. With these words under your belt, you should be able to navigate any French menu with ease.

We also hope that these words will help you decipher the French recipes in the original, go through the cooking process easily, and get a bite of French cuisine in your own kitchen. Trust us: French dishes are worth the effort. Bon appétit!