17 Items to Get at a French Grocery Store
17 Items to Get at a French Grocery Store
Every foodie knows French cuisine is to be respected, even if it’s not their cup of tea. But honestly, very few people on the earth haven’t found at least a couple of items on the list of traditional French dishes that haven’t tickled their fancy.
Whether you’re an experienced connoisseur of French food or you’re just starting your gastro-journey, you’re bound to find something that’ll feel appealing at a French grocery store.
Here are 17 items we think you should pay particular attention to.
Is there anything more French than ripping into a buttery croissant at breakfast and having a sip of coffee right after? French pastries are inarguably some of the most iconic items in French cuisine. You can always try baking them yourself, of course, but as they tend to require quite some time and effort to bake, you’re probably better off getting them ready-made.
Indeed, you’re not going to find all famous French pastries at a grocery store, but there are a few classics you can always grab:
Croissants, the most famous of them all, have layers of delicate dough and butter encased in a crunchy and flaky crust. A perfect breakfast item or snack, croissants are perfect either for sandwiches or by themselves, especially if they’re filled with chocolate or jam.
Palmiers are crunchy and flaky small French pastries shaped like a palm leaf and generously dusted with sugar. They’re sometimes called pig’s ears or elephant’s ears.
Tartlets - pay attention to these small French tarts packaged in neat, colorful boxes. Packed tartlets have the same rich buttery crust but are usually filled with some kind of jam to have them last longer.
Pain au lait is a soft and a bit sweet milk roll, typically served at breakfast. It’s usually paired either with some cheese or a fruit spread (and sometimes with both!).
Brioche bread is probably the most famous French bread aside from baguette. It has high butter and egg content, resulting in a tender texture and rich flavor. An essential characteristic of the French brioche is its dark golden, flaky crust.
Madeleines are one of the simplest and most famous French pastries, though they’re not talked about nearly as often as croissants. Small sponge cakes they’re easily recognized due to their shell-like shape. They’re light (lighter than American sponge cake), not overly sweet, and often flavored with either citron or nuts.
Check out our Brioche Pasquier selection for some iconic French pastries to grab!
These thin pancakes are another iconic breakfast dish in France. However, you’ll find they’re very popular at all times of the day. French crepes come in two varieties: crêpes sucrées (sweet) or crêpes salées (savory).
Among those with no time and no right baking equipment, It’s pretty common to grab plain ready-made crepes at a French grocery store and then quickly fill them with either sweet or savory fillings depending on the mood.
French cookies are another signature item at French bakeries, though they’re often overlooked in favor of croissants and baguettes.
Classic French beurre cookies, Galettes Bretonnes, or Palet Breton, are moderately sweet and slightly salty butter biscuits. They’re supposed to be deep golden color, with a rich and buttery flavor. They’re one of the best-selling cookies in the world.
Sables are classic French shortbread cookies, made similar to their British counterparts, with sugar, butter, and flour, without leavening. Sables are traditionally flavored with lemon or orange zest or almonds.
But when you think of French cookies, you probably think of Macarons. The French macaron is a cookie sandwich where the cookie part is made with meringue mixed with ground almonds and powdered sugar and then “glued” together with a sweet, creamy filling.
French snack and dessert manufacturer LU is particularly famous for its large cookie selection that spans from classic butter cookies to boat-shaped barquette cookies to their signature Le Petite Ecolier (little schoolboy), a traditional cookie covered with chocolate on one side, a design that dates back to 1880s.
Traditional French mustard it’s made with brown mustard seeds and white wine. Dijon mustard is traditionally slightly spicy, but there are also sweet Dijon mustard varieties these days.
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel is salt collected from the seawater surface. It forms in large crystals and is typically used to sprinkle on top of the dish after it’s done cooking instead of seasoning during the process.
Creme fraiche is a type of soured cream, but not sour cream. Creme fraiche has higher fat content (up to 45%) and has a milder flavor. The defining difference between the two is that sour cream usually contains thickening agents not allowed in creme fraiche production.
French people are certified cheese addicts. They produce and consume more cheese per person than any other country. Unsurprisingly, some of the most renowned cheeses are traditionally made in France, so you should definitely grab a few if you find yourself at a French grocery store.
Emmental is possibly the most recognizable French cheese. Like Swiss Emmentaler, it’s a medium-hard, bright yellow cheese with large holes. It’s often used in gratins and fondues as it melts well.
Camembert and Brie are both moist and creamy cow’s milk cheeses with ripened soft rinds. According to a legend, Camembert was created by a Normandian farmer. She refined a cheese recipe given to her by a priest from Brie, thus the similarities. Camembert has slightly lower butterfat content. They pair well with fruits, nuts, and honey.
Roquefort is a moldy blue cheese made with sheep’s milk. It has a sharp, tangy flavor.
Chevre is a soft goat’s cheese, usually used as a spread. It has a very creamy texture and mellow, fruity flavor.
Comté is often called France’s favorite cheese. It’s somewhat similar to Gruyere, made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and aged between a few months and four years. Younger Comté is fruity and soft, while aged Comté is harder with a well-pronounced nutty flavor.
Pate is a paste made with a mixture called forcemeat (lean meat and fat ground together). Almost any animal, poultry, or fish can be used, but the most popular is definitely pork liver pate. Henaff, a French manufacturer, offers quite a large selection of pork pate made in different ways. Traditionally, various ingredients can be used to flavor pate, from spices to fresh herbs to vegetables to brandy.
While not the most widely consumed by a long margin, the most iconic pate would be pate de foie gras. Pate de foie gras is a specialty product made with duck or goose liver. But not just any duck or goose will do. The liver used for pate de foie gras needs to have a particularly high-fat content for a smooth, creamy texture and a rich flavor, which requires keeping the birds on a special diet. The world’s #1 producer of pate de foie gras is Rougie.
Truffles are fungi that grow in oak trees shades in the French countryside. They don’t sound like anything special, but they’re a rare and highly prized delicacy, considered these days to be an essential element of haute cuisine.
Truffles have an earthy and meaty flavor similar to some mushrooms, but their flavor profile is more complex with sweeter and nuttier undertones and a distinct oaky aroma.
Even adding a few slices of truffles can significantly increase the price of the dish, so if you like them, you’re better off investing in some to keep at home.
Or you can just grab some truffle salt or truffle oil at a French grocery store. Professional chefs aren’t particularly fond of either, but they do carry the flavor through!
Chocolate truffles are, in fact, named after the fungi truffles! Created in Savoie, these traditional French candies are made with fresh cream and chocolate. The ganache is then coated with various ingredients, including cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or a hard chocolate shell.
Fruit Preserves: Jams and Spreads
Fruit preserves are a traditional part of French breakfast. They go with almost all breakfast items: fresh or toasted bread, croissants, or buns, as a sweet filling for crepes, etc.
Basically, if you have some kind of baked good on the table, it’s likely to be accompanied by some type of fruit preserve.
French jams and spreads come in a wide variety of flavors, so if you’re checking out a selection at a French grocery store, adding some unique flavors to your cart alongside strawberry and blueberry would be prudent. Famous french brand Bonne Maman offers options like mirabelle plums, black cherries, mandarin, chestnuts, etc., which you might not find elsewhere.
Since we mentioned chestnuts, it bears to clarify that while France isn’t as big a producer as China or Korea, les châtaignes are VERY popular in France, particularly as a dessert item. They’re widely used for sweet spreads and pastes and stewed in sugar syrup to create a treat called marrons glacés.
Some brands, like Clement Faugier, focus exclusively on chestnut-based products and thrive. So you get how big they are.
Spices & Herbs de Provence
As with most cuisines with a long history, French cuisine, too, depends a lot on proper seasonings for authentic flavors. Herbs de Provence, a combination of dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, and lavender, is possibly the most iconic French seasoning blend used in many savory dishes. Cumin, turmeric, paprika, and cinnamon are other oft-used spices.
Unsurprisingly, sauces are as crucial to French dishes as spices, so if you’re not up to cooking them yourself, you should grab a few jars at a French grocery store to keep in your pantry. Sauces that maintain flavors particularly well through mass production are:
Bernaise sauce, herby butter sauce emulsified with egg yolks, and white wine vinegar. Traditionally served with grilled meat.
Burgundy sauce, or Bourguignonne, is made with red wine, flavored with shallots, herbs, and butter. Traditionally served with red meat or poultry.
Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk with melted butter and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper (either white or cayenne). It’s the signature sauce in eggs Benedict and is often paired with lighter ingredients, like fish or vegetables.
Beurre blanc is a white butter sauce with vinegar and white wine. It’s often flavored with lemon or citron. It’s typically paired with fish, poultry, and vegetables.
Want to experience French cocktail culture? Grab a few bottles of flavored syrups at a French grocery store and mix them yourself. The favorites change depending on the season, but rose, grenadine, and mint syrups are consistent mainstays you’ll find on many cocktail cards.
Teisseire is the biggest syrup producer in France, with its products found in many a bar and restaurant (there’s even a professional line).
Bonus? Add them to your coffee. Not something most French people do, but it does taste so good.
Escargot, or French snails, are a delicacy and one of the signature dishes in French cuisine. Usually, they’re cooked with garlic butter, wine, or stock and then placed back in their shells to serve. Seasonings include more garlic butter, fresh parsley, and pine nuts.
And yes, packaged escargot are frequently sold at French grocery stores, so if you’re feeling brave, you can cook them yourself!
Sparkling drinks are popular in France, especially in less sweet, lighter varieties. If you’re planning to grab a French lemonade, grab one with a unique flavor like lemon-mint, pink grapefruit, or pomegranate.