Why fried eggs in France are always sunny side up!

Fried eggs in France are cooked one way—Sunny side up and never served for breakfast. Here’s why and some eggcellent French egg facts and surprising places you’ll find a fried egg in France.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
French sunny side up eggs
French sunny side up eggs

Part of the fascination of travel is discovering new cuisines and experiencing the unique ways other cultures and countries prepare similar foods. 

In France, even something as simple as a fried egg can catch tourists off guard, especially those looking for breakfast served with a fried egg. Fried eggs, cooked sunny side up, can turn up on French dishes where you least expect them.

They find their way nestled in the center of cheesy pizzas or as a topping on dinner crepes. They can even turn up on dinner salads, teetering there waiting to be poked so their creamy yolk can slowly ooze out. 

Join me as we explore some interesting facts about fried eggs in France and how they are incorporated into French cuisine. 

Fried eggs only come one way in France: Sunny side up.

woman eating sunny side up eggs in a brass pan and dipping her baguette in the yolk

In the US and Canada, it’s common to cook both sides of the egg and specify the level of doneness in terms of the yolk and sometimes the whites.

Some popular ways fried eggs are cooked include: 

  • Sunny side up (The egg is fried on one side, with the yolk up and is not flipped.)
  • Over easy (The egg is cooked on both sides by briefly flipping the egg just enough to set the egg white while keeping the yolk runny.)
  • Over medium (The egg is cooked on both sides. The egg is flipped, and the yolk is cooked a bit longer than an over-easy egg to partially set the yolk, but the center of the yolk is still slightly runny.)
  • Over well (The egg is flipped  and fully cooked all the way through. The yolk is firm and no longer runny. Sometimes the yolk is broken on purpose to cook it through faster.) 

In France, things are much simpler.

The sunny-side-up egg is a staple in many French dishes. It can be served alongside a baguette or as a component of a dish such as Croque Madame. 

But, you never specify how you want your fried egg cooked because they usually only come one way— sunny side up. If you see a dish on a French menu in France served with a fried egg, and it’s not specified how it’s cooked, it’s usually assumed that the egg is sunny side up.

The French prefer the yolk runny and the whites to be just set. Many French people aren’t even aware that it’s normal to order eggs cooked on both sides in other countries.

There is no French term for a fried egg cooked on both sides in France.

In France, there is no official word for “over easy eggs” or “over medium eggs.” These terms are confusing to a French person because they don’t exist in French culinary traditions.

In French-speaking Quebec, there is a term for an egg cooked over easy, “oeuf tourné,” translated as flipped egg or turned egg.

How do you say sunny-side-up eggs in French? 

highlight of what the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française calls a sunny side up egg in French language

In France, there are two ways to say sunny-side-up egg in French. 

  1. “Oeuf au plat”: sometimes referred to as “Oeuf sur le plat.”
  2. “Oeuf miroir: sometimes referred to as “oeuf au miroir

Most French home cooks don’t differentiate between these terms and use them interchangeably in France. However, there is a difference in how they are finished, which has been lost over time. According to the official dictionary of the French language, DAF (Dictionnaire de l’Académie française), they are synonyms. 

1) Sunny side up egg in French: Oeuf au plat /UFF-Oh-Plaw/:

Literal translattion= egg on a plate

Oeuf au plat, which translates to “egg on a plate,” is a common way to say sunny side-up egg in French. 

2) Sunny side up egg in French: Oeuf miroir: /UFF-Meer-Wahr/:

Literal translation = Mirror egg

Mirror eggs, “oeuf miroir,” is another way to refer to a sunny side up egg in French. They are cooked slightly more than “oeuf au plat.”

It involves basting by spooning hot butter or oil from the pan over the egg as it cooks to help set and cook the whites and partially cook the runny yolk to the point it has a shiny opalescent effect, like a mirror, hence the name mirror eggs.

Some people cover the pan to allow the steam to lightly cook the yolks, while others prefer to finish the fried egg in the broiler for a few seconds. 

Eggs over easy in French: How to ask for your eggs cooked on both sides: 

If you’re dining out and find a restaurant that serves fried eggs and want to order them cooked on both sides, you’ll have to say something like this:

I would like my egg cooked on both sides (J’aimerais mon œuf au plat cuit des deux côtés.)

You’ll probably get something close to an egg over easy because a French person will probably assume you’ll want the yolk runny since that’s how it’s preferred in France. 

Fried eggs are not a breakfast food in France.

French people don't eat eggs, pancakes or bacon for breakfast. Think continental instead

If you’re from the US, Canada, or the UK, eating Fried eggs for breakfast is pretty normal. 

Fried eggs in France are not part of a traditional French breakfast because breakfast is never savoury. So you won’t find cheese, meat or eggs at a French breakfast table. And bacon for breakfast, well, that’s viewed as a very American thing in France, while bangers are very British. 

Many egg dishes you might think belong in the breakfast category are considered lunch and dinner dishes in France, best served with a vinaigrette salad. These include omelettes, scrambled eggs, and even eggy quiches. And as far as breakfast burritos, forget about it. 

A classic French breakfast is what you might call a continental breakfast: buttered baguette, toasted bread with a spread such as jam or Nutella. Cereal, yogurt, fruits, pastries, and viennoiseries from local bakeries such as croissants or pain au chocolate. The thought of eating cheese or meat in the morning is foreign to many French people. 

How to find restaurants that serve breakfast with eggs in France.

Breakfast at Bonobo in Montpellier

Finding a restaurant in France that serves eggs for breakfast can be challenging, but it is possible if you know what to look for. 

Some hotels that serve breakfast in France may also offer eggs as an option for breakfast. These will usually be sunny side up or soft-boiled.

Restaurants in touristy areas may also offer fried eggs (sunny side up) with toast. Remember, a sunny side egg is called “oeuf au plat.”

There are also specialty restaurants catering to an Anglo-Saxon breakfast, specifically American or British-style.

For instance, in Montpellier, I know of about 5 restaurants that serve up non-traditional French breakfast and brunch items such as pancakes, bacon, bangers, fried tomatoes, and eggs. 

One of my favourite breakfast restaurants in Montpellier is Bonobo, where you’ll find a mix of French people with plenty of foreigners from all over the world dying to get their savoury non-French breakfast. It’s trendy and usually very crowded. Get there early because people form a line before the restaurant even opens. 

Sunny-side-up eggs are usually a component of a dish for lunch or dinner.

Although fried sunny-side-up eggs are not part of a traditional French breakfast, they are traditionally incorporated into many dishes served for lunch and dinner.

Here are a few well-known lunch and dinner dishes that come with a sunny-side-up egg in France. (see photos below)

  • Galettes Bretonnes (Buckwheat Crepes).
  • Pizza: Some pizzas come with a sunny-side-up egg baked into the middle of the pizza. 
  • Croque Madame: A French ham and cheese sandwich topped with a sunny side-up egg.
  • Moroccan shakshuka: crack eggs onto their bed and place them under a broiler until the white is set.
  • Flamenco eggs, a traditional Spanish egg dish, similar to shakshuka but with a distinctly Spanish flair.
  • Minced meat burger with egg: 

Galettes Bretonnes (Buckwheat Crepes).

French buckwheat crepe from Brittany, galette bretonne

Crêpe bretonne: aka Galette bretonn with sunny side up egg.

Croque Madame

a French croque madame sandwich on a bed of salad with sunny side up egg

Croque madame always comes with a sunny-side-up egg served on top. 

Some pizzas come with a sunny side up egg in France

pizza with a sunny side up baked egg

Pizza is very popular in France; some come with a sunny-side-up egg in the middle. 

Moroccan shakshuka

Moroccan Shakshuka with sunny side up baked eggs

Although not a French dish, Moroccan shakshuka is relatively popular and comes with several sunny-side-up eggs served on top of the dish. 

Burger with a sunny side up egg

boeuf haché oeuf

The plural form of the French word for eggs is more complicated to say than you think. 

The “OE” sound in the French word for “œuf” is pretty simple to pronounce, but it can be challenging for non-native speakers who miss pronounce it when they read it on a French menu because the sound can change in its plural form. 

The joining of the “o” + “e” is a French ligature called “e dans l’o” /Uh-dahn-low/ (e in the o.)

  • An egg = Un œuf /An-Uhff/
  • Some eggs = Des œufs /Daze-Uh/ (In this case, you do not say the “f” in the plural form.)

How to cook perfect sunny-side-up eggs the French way:

two unny side up eggs in a pan with handles

I consulted several old and new French cookbooks and watched over a dozen videos by professional French chefs about cooking the perfect sunny-side-up egg.

As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to crack an egg, but there was plenty of overlap between the different methods. 

  1. Melt a tab of butter or oil in a pan over medium to low heat.
  2. Break your eggs one by one into the pan without breaking the yolk. Or break them in a separate bowl and slide them into the frying pan.
  3. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes over low heat until the white of the egg is cooked but the yolk is warm and still runny. 
    • Some French chefs recommended basting the egg yolk by spooning melted butter from the pan several times. This will cook the membrane so that it is less slimy. 
    • If you want to cook the yolk and or the white membrane over the yolk a bit more, cover it with a lid for 20 or so seconds or place the pan in a broiler so that the white membrane over the yolk cooks slightly more and creates that shiny film over the yolk. 
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. (Some chefs salt and pepper the pan with butter before cooking the egg so that the top remains pristine, white and yellow.)
  5. Serve immediately.

Cooking sunny-side-up eggs in the oven

Some chefs cook their eggs in a porcelain dish and finish in the oven.

Below is a video in French where you can see how it’s done.

Oeufs sur plats

Summing up sunny-side-up eggs in France

You might wonder why fried eggs in France are only served sunny side up, and the answer is simple. It’s because most French cooks consider a cooked yolk overcooked and bland.

But Fance’s preference for sunny-side-up fried eggs goes beyond taste; it reflects an appreciation for simplicity, visual appeal, and preserving nutritional value.

So, next time you have the pleasure of experiencing eggs in France, embrace the local customs.

Related: How to Order Rare, Medium Rare and Well-done Steak in French!

Bon appétit!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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