French Food Vocabulary Guide

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve settled at your table in a fine French restaurant, airily waved away the English menu, started perusing the French menu… and realized you’re completely lost.

 Sure, you know that porc is pork. But what is travers de porc? And what about joues de boeuf? Does that really mean beef cheeks? Do cows even have cheeks?

There’s no question that at many French restaurants, extra vocabulary guidance is in order. Certain restaurants will feature parts of the animal that you’d likely have trouble naming in your native language, much less French. And even if you’re able to figure out the kind of food offered, then the mode of preparation – often included in the description – may throw you off. And then there’s the simple fact that hundreds of dishes have names that simply do not translate.

 Be baffled no more. Here’s a short guide to common French foods, dishes and preparation styles that you might encounter in a French restaurant.

Bon Appétit!

 French Meats & Poultry Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les viandes et les volailles)

 Agneau = lamb

 Andouillette= tripe sausage (chitterling sausage)

Biche = female deer

Canard = duck

Caneton = a young male duck

Cannette = a young female duck

Cervelle = brains

Coq = Rooster

Entrecôte = beef rib steak

Escargots = snails

Faux-filet = Sirlon steak

Gigot d’agneau = leg of lamb

Jambonneau = Pork knuckles

Langue de boeuf = tongue of beef

Lapin– rabbit

Marcassin – young wild boar

Magret de canard = fattened duck breast

Sanglier – wild boar

Moelle – beef bone marrow

Os – bone

Oie Goose

Paleron = shoulder of beef

Pied de mouton = sheep’s foot – OR – a kind of wild mushroom, so watch out!

Pied de porc = pig’s foot

Pigeon – pigeon

Pigeonneau – young pigeon

Pintade – guinea fowl

Queue – tail (e.g., queue de boeuf – oxtail)

Ris d’agneau/ veau = sweetbreads of lamb/veal

Rognons = kidneys

Travers de porc = spare ribs

Volaille – poultry


French Seafood Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les fruits de mer)

Cabillaud = cod

Calamar = squid

Crevettes = Shrimp

Gambas = large shrimp

Étrille = a small crab

Flétan = halibut

Goujons = small catfish, usually fried

Huîtres – Oysters

Limande = sole-like ocean fish

Lieu = Pollock (a white fish)

Lotte = monkfish

Morue = cod (young)

Moules = mussels

Noix de St. Jacques = sea scallops

Palourdes = Clams

Pétoncles = small scallops

Seiche = large squid

Truite = trout


French Vegetables Vocabulary

(Vocabulaire pour les légumes)

Asperge = asparagus

Aubergine = eggplant

Betterave = Beet

Carotte = carrot

Cèpe = porcini mushroom

Cresson = Swiss chard

Courge = squash

Courgettes = zucchini

Épinard = spinach

Fenouil = fennel

Mange-tout = snow peas

Navet = turnip

Poireaux = leeks

Panais = parsnips


French Foods/Dishes

(Cuisines française)

Acras de Morue = codfish cakes

Boudin noir = Blood sausage.

Charcuterie = various cold cuts, pork sausages and other salted, prepared meats

Cassoulet = a casserole of white beans, confit of duck or goose

Coq au vin = chicken slow-cooked in red wine, garlic and other seasonings and vegetables

Cuisses de Grenouilles = Frogs legs

Friture = a plate of small fried fish or other seafood

Galette – a crêpe made of buckwheat flour

Grattons – crispy fried pieces of pork; cracklings

Joues de Boeuf/Cochon = Beef cheeks/pig cheeks

Oeuf en meurette = poached egg in red wine sauce

Oeuf à la coque = soft-cooked egg

Pâté = a mixture of cook meat and fat, formed into a spreadable paste.

Quenelles = fish (usually pike) dumplings

Ragoût = stew

Rillettes = paté-like; salted pork (or other meat) cooked slowly in fat then formed into a paste.

Tête de veau = calf’s head.

French Preparation Terms

(preparation à la française)

à l’ancienne = in the old style

à la vapeur = steamed

à l’étouffée = stewed

à point = medium (cooked, as in a steak)

au four = baked

confit = meat (usually duck or goose) cooked in its own fat

coulis = fruit purée

croustillant = crispy

en croute = baked in a crust

farci = stuffed

feuilleté = cooked in a puff pastry /phyllo dough)

 fumé = smoked

mijoté(e) = simmered

papillote = cooked in parchment paper

Parmentier = with potatoes

 poêlée = cooked in a pan


 What’s the most memorable French dish you’ve eaten? Share with us below!