If you want to give your home cooking a French twist, there are a few key ingredients French cuisine relies heavily upon.
These are the go-to kitchen ingredients and pantry items that many French families keep on hand to create delicious home-cooked French meals. And here’s the best part: you probably already have many of these items in your cupboards!
To help you get started, I’ve compiled a French ingredient list of items you can cherry-pick from and add to your grocery list.
You don’t have to add everything on this list to your French grocery list, but stocking up on a few of these French food staples and having them at your fingertips will make it easier to add some French flair to your home-cooked.
I created this list from a variety of source including, my circle of French friends here in France, consulting various French websites such as Santé publique France, France’s national public health agency, personal experience and the fact that I shop at French grocery store chains in France on a daily basis.
French home cooking staples:100 ingredients for your French Grocery List
Building Your French Shopping List with French Ingredients
French cuisine has a mystical reputation often associated with haute cuisine (fine dining) and complex recipes that might seem too challenging or intricate for everyday cooks to try at home.
The truth is that you don’t need to be a
Many French recipes are much simpler to prepare than they might seem. In fact, one of the defining features of food in France is simplicity, relying on fresh, high-quality ingredients.
By stocking your pantry and fridge with key pantry staples and French ingredients that form the building blocks of French cooking, you’ll have everything you need to cook authentic dishes enjoyed by families across France.
Let’s start with Panty ingredients.
French Pantry Ingredient Staples:
Pantry ingredients, like canned goods, grains, and
Most commonly used herbs and
Although recipes vary by region, there are some basic herbs and essential pantry
- Herbes de Provence: A dried French herb blend from Provence that typically includes a combination of: Thyme, savoury, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram.
- Bay Leaf:
- Bouquet Garni: Bouquet garni, which means “herb bundle, is used in soups, stews and stocks to infuse flavours. Usually consists of dried bay leaves, thyme, and a few sprigs of fresh parsley tied together with kitchen twine or placed in a small Muslim bag.
Subtle Flavors and Finishes:
- Chervil: This delicate herb has a mild anise-like taste and is often used in French cuisine to add a subtle hint of flavour to salads, soups, and egg dishes. It’s also one of the ingredients in the Fines Herbes.
- Fines Herbes: A blend of finely chopped fresh herbs, which typically include parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil. Often used as a
seasoningor garnish to add fresh flavour to dishes.
Spices for Sweet and Savory dishes:
- Ground Cinnamon: Sometimes found in desserts like apple tarts, spiced cakes, and spiced bread such as “pain d’épices.
- Nutmeg: Often grated directly into creamy sauces like béchamel and velouté.
- Regular salt
- French salts: Fleur de sel and Guérande Salt
- Himalayan salt.
- Both black and white
- Fresh cracked black pepper.
Sweeteners and Flavors:
In addition to granulated sugar, brown sugar and honey are also useful in preparing many savoury dishes such as “Honey Glazed Carrots” (Carottes glacées.) Honey and brown sugar are also used to make marinades and to glaze meats such as duck and pork.
- Brown Sugar
Oils and Vinegar:
Oils and vinegar are the foundation of many dishes and must-have French ingredients in France.
- Extra virgin olive oil:
- Sunflower oil:
- Truffle Oil: Oil infused with
truffleessence to add a luxurious earthy flavour to dishes.
- Specialty oils: It’s always nice to keep a specialty oil on hand, such as grape seed oil or walnut oil, to give recipes that extra refined flavour.
- Red wine vinegar: Adds a bold, tangy flavour to dishes to hearty and savoury recipes, such as marinades for red meats, vinaigrettes for salads with strong-flavoured ingredients like tomatoes and olives, and as a finishing touch for roasted or grilled vegetables.
- White wine vinegar: Has a milder and crisper flavour than red wine vinegar. Often used for recipes where the vinegar’s flavour should complement rather than overpower the other ingredients: perfect for lighter vinaigrettes and marinating poultry or seafood.
- Apple cider vinegar: Mild, slightly fruity and tangy flavour commonly used in lighter salads and dishes instead of red wine vinegar, which is more acidic and robust. Preferred for recipes where the vinegar’s flavour should complement rather than overpower the other ingredients.
- Balsamic vinegar:
- Champagne vinegar: Use it instead of other vinegar for a lighter, less acidic flavour that won’t overpower other ingredients.
For Broths and Stocks:
One of the most important French ingredients for soups, stews and sauces is broths and stocks. They’re like having liquid gold because they elevate dishes by infusing them with richness and depth. For instance, coq au vin, a chicken in wine sauce, is made even better because it contains wine and chicken stock.
- Chicken Stock:
- Beef Stock:
- Vegetable Stock:
- Red Wine:
- White Wine:
- Cognac or Brandy: Used in sauces and for flambéing.
Canned and Preserved:
Although using fresh ingredients and homemade tomato sauce is ideal, busy French people in France often rely on canned and preserved foods for convenience and backup.
- Canned fish: natural tuna, salmon, crab, mussels, mackerel, sardines, anchovies
- Canned legumes: lentils, chickpeas, red, black, or white beans
- Canned vegetables: peas, green beans, corn kernels, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, peeled tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste.
- Canned fruits: sliced or diced pineapple, pears, peaches, apricots, chestnuts
Versatile dry kitchen staples & accompaniments in a French kitchen pantry
Accompaniments are dishes served alongside the main course to complement or enhance a dish’s flavours and textures.
Other kitchen staples, such as flour and polenta, are versatile ingredients such as flour, which can be used to thicken savoury butter sauces or as the main ingredient in a recipe such as a cake.
Legumes and dried grains:
Dry grains and legumes are essential and versatile staples in a French cook’s pantry. They are the foundation for many classic French dishes that can be transformed into a wide range of dishes.
- French Green Lentils: One of the most popular varieties of lentils consumed in France is the green Puy lentil, known as “Lentille Verte du Puy.”
- Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas): Although not native to France, it is quite popular in modern French recipes, especially in southern regions like Provence and Marseille.
- Barley Beans:
- White Beans: White beans, such as cannellini, are used in a few traditional dishes, such as French pesto soup and cassoulet.
In France, chickpeas and white beans are often purchased in tin cans or glass containers.
- Rice (long grain): Long grain rice is used in a variety of dishes, including French pilaf, known as “Pilaf de Riz” in France. Pilaf is a method of cooking rice in a flavorful broth, often with vegetables and sometimes with meat or seafood.
- Wild rice, or Red Camargue rice: Carmague rice is a wild, short-grained red rice with an earthy, nutty flavour traditionally grown in the marshes of the Camargue region not far from Montpellier, France. It’s used in a variety of classic and contemporary dishes. Wild rice or brown rice is a good substitute if you can’t find red rice.
Alternative Grains and Staples used in South of France Provencal and Mediterranean cooking
While these may not be considered traditional food staples across France, they have found their way into the local Mediterranean cuisine of the South of France, including salads, side dishes, and main courses.
- Polenta: A type of cornmeal that is coarsely ground. Christopher Columbus brought corn to Europe from the Americas, and the Italians adopted it to create polenta as a staple food. Polenta is also used in some French recipes, especially in the southern regions of France. Once cooked, it can be served soft or allowed to set and then sliced, grilled, or fried.
- Quinoa: A versatile seed similar to grains, originally cultivated in the Andes Mountains of South America. It has recently become popular in France and can be found in contemporary French dishes such as salads and side dishes despite not being native to the country.
- Couscous: A type of pasta made from semolina wheat with North African origins. Although technically not a grain, it is commonly grouped with grains because it’s used similarly to grains. Although it is not technically a grain, it is often categorized as one because of its similar use. While not a traditional French grain, it has become increasingly popular in France, especially in Mediterranean dishes in the southern region.
- Bulgur: Boulgour is a whole wheat product made from cracked wheat kernels that have been parboiled and dried. It’s a staple ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines and has also found its way into some French recipes. Boulgour is commonly used in salads, stuffings, and pilafs and is known for its nutty flavour and quick cooking time.
Other Dry Ingredients
- Buckwheat flour: The essential ingredient in savour French buckwheat
crepes(galettes de sarrasin) is gluten-free and thought to originate from Central Asia.
- Chick Pea flour: Also known as garbanzo bean flour. Ued in Provencal dishes, particularly in Nice and Marseille. Socca and panisse are popular dishes made from this flour.
Socca is a thin, savoury pancake (or flatbread) made from the batter of garbanzo bean flour, water, olive oil, and seasonings popular in Nice, France. Panisse from Marseille is similar to socca but with a thicker, firmer, and dense texture.
Condiments are usually added to dishes to enhance a meal’s taste, texture, or aroma. They can be in sauces, spreads, dips, or seasonings and are typically used in small amounts during cooking or at the table.
- Mayonnaise: French mayonnaise almost always contains 3% to 6% Dijon mustard. Although not used in many French recipes, it’s the preferred condiment with fries.
- Dijon Mustard: A staple in the French kitchen.Used in vinaigrettes, sauces, and marinades.
- Cornichons: Tiny, tart pickles often served as a condiment alongside pâté, charcuterie, and French cold cuts. It’s also one of the ingredients found in steak tartare.
- Black and green olives:
- Confit d’oignon (onion confit): A sweet and savoury onion jam or confit often used as a condiment to enhance the flavour of various dishes. It can be spread on bread or used as a topping for meats, cheeses, or pâtés.
- Anchoïade (anchovy-based spread): Made with anchovies and garlic, blended with olive oil and sometimes vinegar or lemon juice and used as a condiment or dip for vegetables, seafood, or grilled meats.
Refrigerated and Perishable Items
France produces over 1000 types of cheese varieties. However, there is a handful of French cheeses that are widely used in French recipes and considered essential French ingredients in homes across France. Here is a short list of some of the best-selling and most consumed cheeses in France, according to Statista.
Emmental and Gruyere cheese:
If you like Swiss cheese, you’ll love
If you can’t find
Emmentalor Gruyere cheese, you can use any Swiss cheese as an alternative, but there may be subtle differences in taste and texture.
- Emmental: You could say that
emmentalis to France what Cheddar is to the English-speaking world.
- Gruyère: Named after the Swiss town of Gruyères. Slightly sweeter, nuttier, and more complex flavour than
Emmental. Cheese of choice in French onion soup.
Popular French Hard cheeses
- Comté: A semi-hard French cheese with a nutty and fruity flavour made with cow’s milk in the Jura region of eastern France. In addition to creamy recipes such as quiches and potato gratins, aged compté is also a good choice for cheese platters.
- Cantal: A firm cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne region of France that comes in two varieties,
CantalJeune (young) and CantalVieux (aged). Young Cantalis mild and creamy, while the aged version has a sharper, nuttier flavour. Cantalis often used in cooking, grating over dishes, or enjoyed on its own as part of a cheese platter. Cantalmay be hard to find outside of France, but check online or at specialty food stores in your area. Or use mild to medium-aged cheddar cheese as a replacement. While Cheddar doesn’t have the exact same flavour profile as Cantal, it has a similar texture and taste.
Soft to semi-soft French cheeses
Strong and pungent cheeses
France is known for many “stinky cheeses,” which not everyone appreciates. Two of Frances’s milder “strong” or “stinky” cheeses are
- Goat cheese: Chèvre is commonly sold in small cylindrical “goat cheese logs” in France, known as “Buchettes de chèvre.” A good choice for a
cheese boardor in a warm goat cheesesalad.
- Roquefort (blue cheese): There are many types of blue cheese, but
Roquefortis one of the most well-known. This blue-veined sheep milk cheese has a powerful flavour and pungent aroma thanks to the blue mould that develops during aging.
Other Dairy & Cheese staples
Of course, butter is a critical ingredient in homes across France, but unsalted butter is a must-have French ingredient, too. And when it comes to butter, French butter is hands down the best in the world.
- Unsalted butter: Useful for sauces and pastries when you want to control the amount of salt in your dishes.
- Best French butters in my opinion: Beurre d’Isigny, Beurre de Bordier, Beurre Montaigu
- Crème Fraîche: A tangy, thick, heavy cream you need a spoon to scoop out. It’s made from heavy cream cultured with bacteria and used in many French dishes. This is a must-have ingredient in almost all French homes. If you can’t get your hands on crème fraîche, you can substitute it with Sour Cream, which is slightly tangy but not as thick as creme fraiche, so consider adjusting the consistency if needed.
- Heavy Cream: Known as “crème épaisse” or “crème.” Heavy cream in France usually contains at least 30% fat, which makes it thicker and richer than regular cream or half-and-half.
Yogurt and Fresh cheeses (that are not aged)
Fresh cheese is a category of cheese known for being mild, creamy, and having a high moisture content. It’s typically unaged or lightly aged, with a soft and spreadable consistency. Fresh cheeses are created using a fermentation process involving beneficial bacteria cultures to ferment milk. These fresh cheeses are used in both sweet and savoury French dishes.
- Yogurt: Although you would never think of yogurt as a fresh cheese, it actually is because it’s made through the process of milk fermentation. Yogurt is used in savoury and sweet French desserts, especially full-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt. It’s also a popular breakfast food in France.
- Fromage Blanc: Fromage Blanc, which means “white cheese,” is the main ingredient in a French cheesecake and is very similar to high-fat yogurt but with a milder and creamier taste. It’s made by heating milk and cream and then fermenting.
- Fromage Frais: Fromage frais, which means “Fresh cheese” in French, is like a cross between yogurt and cream cheese. It’s made with whole or skimmed milk. It’s smooth and creamy like yogurt but thicker, with fewer calories and less cholesterol than traditional cream cheese.
Allium Vegetables (foundational vegetables)
Vegetables that belong to the Allium genus, like onions and garlic, add flavour and depth to a wide range of French dishes. They are often sautéed or cooked at the beginning of the cooking process to create a foundation for the rest of the French ingredients.
- Onions: Including red onions, yellow, and white.
- Shallots: Shallots have a milder and sweeter flavour compared to onions, with subtle hints of garlic
- Leeks: Often used in soups and stew, leeks have a gentler onion flavour and are often added to stews, quiches, or cooked on their own. It’s also the key ingredient in potato leek soup.
- Chives: Often used as a garnish in salads, soups, and various dishes.
- Scallions (Green Onions): Scallions are young onions with white bulbs and green stalks. Both parts are edible and are used in a wide range of dishes, especially in
Seasonal Fresh vegetables
Many people in France value eating locally grown, in-season produce that follows nature’s changing seasons because fruits and vegetables are fresher and taste better when they are in season. Eating locally grown produce is more sustainable and better for the environment because it doesn’t require long-distance transportation.
This preference for “eating in season” and “locally grown” is known as “manger de saison” and “manger local” and is deeply ingrained and supported by various aspects of French culture and food traditions. Need poof? Just head over to a French farmers’ market (les marchés), where local producers sell fresh, seasonal produce directly to consumers.
The table below shows the peak seasonal availability of vegetables in France, which are sometimes in season in more than one season. The specific timing of when vegetables are in season can vary slightly depending on the region and local climate. Check this site to find out when produce is in season in your area.
Baby Green Peas (Petit Pois)
Fava Beans (Fèves)
Bell Peppers (Poivrons)
Green Beans (Haricots Verts)
Patty Pan Squash (Pâtisson)
Brussels Sprouts (Choux de Bruxelles)
Celeriac/Celery root (Céleri-rave)
|Red Kuri Squash (Potimarron)
Potatoes (Pommes de Terre)
Jerusalem artichokes (Topinambours)
|Potatoes (Pommes de Terre)
Winter Squash (Courge d’Hiver)
Fresh Salad Greens and leafy greens
Although Iceberg lettuce is a common salad ingredient in some parts of the world, in France it’s mainly used for sandwiches or burgers for its crispy texture and lack of flavour that doesn’t overpower. French home cooks prefer salad greens that have a more pronounced and distinctive taste.
Here is a list of fresh salad greens commonly found in the fresh produce section of a French grocery store.
- Butter Lettuce: (Laitue)
- Endive: (Endive)
- Frisée: (Frisée)
- Mâche: (Mâche or Lamb’s Lettuce)
- Mesclun: (Mesclun)
- Oakleaf Lettuce: (Feuille de Chêne)
- Radicchio: (Radicchio)
- Roquette: (Roquette or Arugula)
- Spinach: (Épinards)
- Sucrine: (Sucrine or Little Gem Lettuce)
- Watercress: (Cresson)
Sauteed, au gratin, in risotto, served with meat or fish, there are several types of mushrooms that are stapes in French homes.
- Button Mushrooms /year-round: In France, button mushrooms are known as “Champignons de Paris”(Paris mushroom) and are widely consumed year-round.
- Chanterelles /Late spring to early autumn: Delicate, golden-yellow mushrooms with a mild and fruity flavour.
- Porcini (Cèpes) /Late summer and early autumn: Strong earthy flavour.
- Morels (Les Morilles) /March to June: Honeycomb-like mushroom with an intense, nutty, earthy flavour that adds depth to sauces and dishes. Often used in upscale restaurants,
- Oyster mushrooms (Les pleurotes) /year-round: Tender mushrooms with a delicate flavour and subtle earthy taste. They have the ability to absorb flavours which makes them great for sauteing with butter and garlic as a side dish, incorporated into omelets or quiches, or used to enhance sauces for meats or pasta.
In France, people eat many types of meat including beef, steak, chicken, pork, lamb, and and magret de canard. However, when it comes to home cooking, there is one ingredient that stands out: lardon, a type of pork that is widely used in French cuisine.
Lardon is a type of cured pork often compared to American bacon.
Unlike thin-sliced American and Canadian bacon, which can be eaten on its own, French lardon is typically sautéed and added to recipes as a flavour enhancer. In France, you can easily find pre-cut packages of lardon that come in small cubes or matchstick-shaped strips, either smoked or unsmoked.
Two classic French dishes that use lardon are a salad from Lyon called “salade Lyonnaise” and “Flammkuchen” from Alsace — a flatbread topped with creme fraiche, onions, and lardon.
Can’t find French lardon? Try these replacements:
Lardon is a little hard to find outside of France. You could use regular thinly sliced bacon, and many people do, but it’s not the same.
Here are some substitutes for lardons that closely mimic its flavour.
If you have access to a butcher, ask for a thick-cut slab of bacon with a higher fat content and cut it into cubes or matchstick strips. Italian Pancetta can also be used as a substitute for lardon
Fresh sausages are an important French ingredient used in various recipes, ranging from traditional stews to barbecued dishes. Several types of fresh sausages stand out, and they include:
- Merguez: A spicy North African sausage made with a mixture of beef and lamb. It is especially popular for grilling or adding to couscous dishes.
- Chipolata: Chipolota is from the Italian word “cipollata,” which means “made with onions.” This is a mild, thin pork sausage that you can find in many recipes.
- Toulouse Sausage: Typically made with pork and seasoned with garlic and different herbs. It’s used in various French dishes, including cassoulet.
- Andouillette: Real French andouillette sausages are an acquired taste. It’s made from pork intestines or chitlins, which have a strong and distinctive flavour (that I don’t like.)
- Boudin Blanc: A white sausage made from pork or chicken, often mixed with cream, breadcrumbs, and various seasonings. It’s commonly served with mashed potatoes or in a creamy sauce and is very popular during festive Christmas and New Year’s meals.
- Boudin Noir: Also known as blood sausage, made with pork blood and various seasonings and ingredients. It can be found in different regional variations across France.
Dry-cured salami-type sausages
Salami or dry-cured sausage, also known as “saucisson” in French, comes in hundreds of flavours and varieties and can be made with pork, beef, or other meats. These delicious dried sausages are a common household snack in France and are often paired with cheese, baguettes, and wine.
- Saucisson: A type of dried French salami.
Seafood and Shellfish
Whether smoked, pickled, or eaten fresh, fish is popular in France, especially in the Mediterranean region in the South of France. Some of the most commonly used and well-known fish consumed in France include:
- Anchovies (Anchois): Often included in sauces, dressings, and as a pizza topping.
- Cod (Cabillaud): Some well-known French recipes that use cod include “brandade de morue” (a dish made from salt cod), “Morue à la Bordelaise” (cod with tomato sauce,) and “Cabillaud à la Provençale” (Cod fish cooked with tomatoes, garlic, olives, and herbs.)
- Haddock (églefin or Haddock): Fresh and smoked.
- Mackerel (Maquereau): Fresh, preserved in tins, and smoked. Sometimes served as part of a charcuterie platter.
- Salmon (Saumon): Fresh and smoked salmon.
- Sardines (Sardines): Fresh, smoked, or canned. Commonly found in French Mediterranean cuisine, sardines can be grilled, marinated, or bought canned.
- Sea Bass (Bar or Loup de Mer): Popular choice in restaurants prepared whole and roasted, grilled, or poached.
- Sole (Sole): This delicate flatfish is typically prepared, such as sole meunière, where it’s lightly floured and sautéed in butter with lemon and parsley.
- Trout (Truite): Fresh and smoked. Especially popular in the south of France.
- Tuna (Thon): Used in various French dishes, including Niçoise salad, tuna steaks, and canned tuna for sandwiches and salads.
- Mussels (moules): Often found in classic dishes like Moules frits (mussels and fries.)
- Clams (palourdes)
- Scallops: A popular French scallop dish is coquilles Saint-Jacques.
- Shrimp (crevettes: Frequently grilled, sautéed, or used in dishes like Shrimp Scampi or Provençal. Larger prawns are known in France by their Spanish name, Gambas.
Wine and Spirits for drinking:
Wine and spirits are just normal things to have around the house in France. However, beer is not. You can enjoy wine and spirits during meals or share a glass with friends and family during the French apero. They can also be used as an ingredient in recipes.
- Red Wine
- White Wine
- Pre-dinner aperitif drink: 77 French Apéritif drinks explained: A mini guide to pre-dinner drinks
- After dinner digestif: 27 After Dinner Drinks The French Love To Drink (Digestifs / Digestives)
Don’t forget baguettes:
Although this list includes some of the most common French ingredients and pantry staples that French home cooks widely use, it’s important to keep in mind that there are also regional French recipes and ingredients not commonly known or used throughout France. For instance, chickpea flour, merguez sausage, and Espelette chilli pepper are extremely popular in parts of the South, but less so in the North.
If I could choose one thing that almost every French home always has on hand, it’s the iconic French bread, simply called a “baguette” in France. It’s used in everything from sandwiches, served as a side dish with meals, and often included on charcuterie and cheese platters.