14 French Breakfast Foods to Enjoy While in France

Steve Cummings

Woman in France

Food is a huge part of French culture, with its cuisine being the hallmark of fine dining eateries worldwide and many of its most cherished pastries becoming popular elsewhere. If you are going to France on vacation and want to know what to eat so you can experience the life of a local and don't look foolish for asking for something strange, we've got you covered.

It doesn't matter whether you have a sweet tooth first thing in the morning or prefer something a bit savory to start your day the right way. France offers a variety of different breakfast options. Don't expect much in the form of eggs, bacon, and sausage you may be more familiar with. Unless, of course, you stay at a resort that caters to non-French diets. 

The following guide will examine 14 of the best and most famous French breakfast foods, which you should try while there.

What French Think About Breakfast

“The most important part of the day” is often what we are taught about breakfast. In France, things are a bit different, though. There, they consider lunch to be the most important meal of the day. So, breakfast is considered something that holds you over until lunch. That may be why the average French breakfast menu has many quick and easy options. 

Related: 16 Epic Things to Do in Paris as a Tourist

What the French Eat for Breakfast

Before we start our list, it is worth answering many people's question: “What do the French eat for breakfast?” Although eggs feature heavily in much French cuisine and are a staple of many other countries' traditional breakfasts, they are not used in French breakfasts. A traditional French breakfast includes bread, pastries, and other carb-heavy food along with a hot beverage, typically a coffee, tea, or even hot chocolate. 

Crepes for Breakfast or Not?

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Crepes are the traditional light and crispy pancakes that originate from France. Although a traditional breakfast food in many other places worldwide, crepes in France are strictly considered a dessert or snack. If you make them yourself, you will only get crepes for breakfast in France. 

Now that we have covered some of the basics of understanding French breakfast ideas, we can get on with the fun part—highlighting the best French breakfast foods you should try while in the country.

1. Tartine

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As noted above, French breakfasts feature a lot of bread, and one of the best ways to enjoy French bread is with a tartine. Loosely described as an open sandwich, a tartine is usually a lengthwise sliced baguette toasted in quarters or halves and served with butter, Nutella, or jam. Then, you are left with the choice between these toppings. 

It may seem funny that Nutella is often used in France, as it is an Italian product, but it is more popular there than in other countries. 

2. Croque Monsieur 

There are many options if you are looking for a classic French breakfast roll, but the most common and best-tasting is the sublime Croque Monsieur. Don't let the idea of this being a ham and cheese sandwich or roll fool you. You get delicious crunchy, fluffy bread with ham and cheese, moreish bechamel sauce, and gooey cheese inside and over it. 

This was initially invented for workers who needed something quick and filling for lunch. 

3. French Pastries

French Pastries
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You must eat delicious French pastries for breakfast when you want to do it like the locals. There is a little something for everyone, and pastries are found in cafes around the country as a staple of the French breakfast menu. You'll discover brioche (sweet, fluffy enriched bread), flaky croissants (there is nothing like authentic French croissants outside of France!), pain au chocolat (chocolate version of croissants), and pain aux raisins (raisin-filled bread resembling a snail)! In addition to these everyday French breakfast items, you should also look out for and try Kouign-Amann, chouquettes (pastry puffs), and Chausson aux pommes (French apple turnovers).

They are all categorized as “les viennoiseries” and take their name from Vienna. Made with laminated pastry dough layered with butter and folded many times, they were first devised in the Austrian city before being introduced in Paris as far back as the 1800s. 

These are available in bakeries, pastry shops, cafes, and restaurants throughout the country. No matter where you go or how remote and rural you are, you are always close to pastries in France. Depending on the city, town, or even region you visit, you will also find different varieties of these common French pastries. 

4. Chausson Aux Epinards

On a typical French breakfast menu, you will not just see sweet pastry turnovers; you will also find savory varieties. Rather than apples, which are used for classic Chausson aux pommes, a popular choice is Chausson aux epinards, formed into a crescent moon shape and filled with cheese and spinach. We must admit this is a match made in heaven for our tastebuds. They have a smoother exterior compared to Chausson aux pommes, but they are just as delicious and filling. 

5. Café au Lait

Caffè Latte
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While looking at the different French breakfast ideas available, you should enjoy a hot and indulgent café au lait. Café au lait is perhaps the most popular French coffee and is similar in many ways to a café latte from Italy, as it is strong coffee mixed with hot steamed milk. Generally speaking, café au lait will be served in a huge bowl-like cup.

You don't need to have café au lait, though. If you order from a café, you will be served a single shot of espresso unless you ask for anything else. 

Another choice is the noisette, which is similar to an Italian macchiato. It consists of an espresso with a couple of drops of cream or milk and is served in a cup similar to a café. Noisette is the French word for hazelnut and is called so because of the color of the stained coffee and cream or milk made. 

Only ask for a cappuccino in France if you want to be overcharged. Instead, order a café creme, a shot or two of expresso topped with plenty of milky foam. Similar in texture and taste to a cappuccino, it comes in a sizeable bowl-like mug. Just as in Italy, this is considered a breakfast drink, so don't try to order it at any other time unless you are happy to have people give you weird looks. 

There are cafes everywhere in France, and coffee is just as important to the French as pastries, bread, cheese, and wine. So, try at least one cup, even if you are not much of a coffee fan. If you want something different, don't worry; tea is almost as popular as coffee in France. 

6. DIY Breakfast

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While on vacation, doing some things for yourself can be fun. So consider heading to the local grocery store or supermarket. Although many French breakfast recipes may seem intimidating, you can keep things simple and have a tasty meal. 

Why not buy some crusty French bread and a choice of French breakfast pastries and create your own? You can also add eggs if you're missing your favorite breakfast item. It is easy enough to put together the average French breakfast. 

If you are making breakfast for yourself, add more traditional American ingredients and foods like waffles and bacon. 

7. Chocolat Chaud or French Hot Chocolate

French Hot Chocolate
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For an alternative to coffee and tea, try some traditional chocolate chaud or French hot chocolate. Whether you have it as part of your breakfast or not, we recommend you have it at least once. What makes it different from other forms of hot chocolate is that it is made from intense dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and hot milk. Add vanilla or sugar and top it off with whipped cream. 

Hot chocolate is a common French breakfast beverage, so you won't seem weird for ordering it at a café or another eatery. 

8. Pain Perdu

Pain Perdu was at one time a dessert, but it has become a common French breakfast food. It is translated “lost bread” and is called that because it was from a recipe created to use stale bread to avoid its going to waste. 

This typically consists of thick bread slices soaked in a vanilla, sugar, milk, and egg mixture. These are then served with either a delicious fruit compote or powdered sugar. As you will see later in our guide, other options exist for more savory pain perdu. 

9. Feuilletes

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Translated as puff pastries, feuilletes are among the most delicious French breakfast foods. Regardless of whatever you have on top of them or inside them, they are a must-try. From one boulangerie, or French baker, to the next, you will find a variety of feuilletes with mushrooms, cheese and ham, asparagus, and a whole lot more. They sometimes have meat, which will be called Friand a la Viande. 

10. Croque Madame

Like a culinary wife to a Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame is a sandwich made from a soft, sweetened brioche filled with lots of ham and cheese. The whole thing is filled with and topped off with a creamy bechamel sauce like the Monsieur version but has the added bonus of a soft fried egg on top full of yolky goodness. 

Often, because eggs are not usually on the average French breakfast menu, you may have to ask if they will prepare it for you. 

11. Rouleaux De Pain Perdu

Jam Roly-Poly
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We have already mentioned Pain Perdu, but if you would like something more flavorsome and filling, you may want to try this traditional version. This variety of lost bread or French toast comes in slices of bread with chocolate spread or jam that are then rolled up. 

You may only want this common French breakfast food a few times because it is rich and decadent compared to the more traditional pain perdu. 

12. Fruit Juice

orange juice
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Another common French breakfast beverage is fruit juice. When you want something sweet, fruity, and full of vitamin C, apple or orange juice is a great option, and many cafes and eateries around France offer these on their breakfast menus.

Many places offer freshly squeezed fruit juice, which is obviously better for health and taste. 

13. Fromage Blanc and Yogurt

Greek Yogurt
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When you want a break from the carb-heavy common French breakfast foods like pastries, bread, and similar, opt for fromage Blanc or yogurt. However, if you dislike milk or are intolerant to dairy products, you can have mueslis or other breakfast cereals. 

Though it is more common among younger French people, breakfast cereals are still a choice in many places throughout the country. 

14. Fresh Fruit

Woman buying fruits in market
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You may want fresh fruit and some yogurt for a healthier alternative to traditional French breakfast food like bread and carb-heavy pastries. While not the most common choice, many eateries in France will offer this kind of breakfast to its customers. 

Final Thoughts

French Breakfast
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Breakfast in France may not be as important as lunch or dinner, but as food is a massive part of the country's culture, it is still integral to the typical French day. Most common French breakfast foods are typically carb-heavy, but if you are on a tighter eating plan, you can still enjoy food in the morning. Whether you methodically go through our guide to the most common and popular French breakfast items or only the ones that interest you, we are sure you will have a great start to each day you are there.

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have missed something in our attempt to provide the best and most favored options.

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