Meals in French

Instructor: Emily France

Emily has experience teaching English and French and has a master's degree in International Studies

In this lesson, we will learn about the three main meals in French, including common dishes or foods that are typically eaten in France for each meal. We will also go over some general food vocabulary to help you better enjoy mealtime in French.

Introduction to French Meals

Pauline is walking around Paris in the early afternoon, and elle a faim (she is hungry, ehl ah fam). She needs de la nourriture (some food, duh lah noo-ree-toor) and soon! Which repas (meal, ruh-pah) should she manger (eat, mahn-zhay), and where?

Since it's the afternoon, Pauline will be eating le déjeuner (lunch, luh day-zhuh-nay), and since she's in Paris, there are lots of restaurants (rehs-toh-rahn) for her to choose from.

Once in a French restaurant though, navigating the menu can be overwhelming. Many of the foods may sound unfamiliar to a native English speaker, and there can be a lot of courses depending on which meal you're eating. Knowing what to choose and which foods are appropriate for which meals will help you better enjoy your dining experience, whether you're at a casual café or a formal restaurant.

General Food Vocabulary

Meals in French are largely the same as those in most English-speaking countries. Most French people eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, like we do. So, the general structure and timeline of meals in France should be familiar to you, even if some of the dishes look foreign. To begin, let's go over some general food-related terms in French:

French English Pronunciation
la nourriture food lah noo-ree-toor
avoir faim to be hungry (literally: to have hunger) ah-vwahr fam
manger to eat mahn-zhay
le repas meal luh ruh-pah
le goûter snack luh goo-tay
le restaurant restaurant luh rehs-toh-rahn
la cuisine kitchen lah kwee-zeen
la salle à manger dining room lah sahl ah mahn-zhay

This woman is hungry. She is eating some food.


In France, le petit déjeuner (breakfast) is typically a lighter meal made up of a pastry or a piece of bread or toast with a spreadable topping, called une tartine in French. Here are some breakfast terms, including typical breakfast items that you might see in France:

French English Pronunciation
le petit déjeuner breakfast (literal translation: the small lunch) luh puh-tee day-zhuh-nay
le croissant croissant luh kwah-sahn
le pain bread luh pan
la tartine toast with jam lah tahr-teen
la gaufre waffle lah goh-fruh
la pâte
la pâtisserie
pastry lah paht
lah pah-tee-suh-ree
le beurre butter luh buhr
la confiture jam/jelly lah cohn-fee-toor
le café coffee luh kah-fay
le thé tea luh tay
le fruit fruit luh froo-ee
le yaourt yogurt le yah-oort

This is a typical breakfast in France: a croissant and some coffee.


When eating le déjeuner (lunch) in a restaurant or at home, the French usually begin a light appetizer consisting of soup, salad, or terrine (a meat mixture usually spread on crackers or bread, teh-reen), followed by a main course and a dessert. For lunch on the go, many people in France also eat sandwiches (usually a baguette with ham and cheese) or savory crêpes from street vendors. Here are a few lunch-specific terms in French:

French English Pronunciation
le déjeuner lunch luh day-zhuh-nay
la terrine terrine (meat mixture, usually sliced) lah teh-reen
le pâté literally: paste (meat mixture, thin and spreadable) luh pah-tay
le sandwich sandwich luh sahnd-weech
le crêpe crepe luh krehp
la soupe
le potage
soup lah soop
luh poh-tahzh
la salade salad sah-lahd


Le dîner (dinner, luh dee-nay) is usually a much longer and more complex affair than lunch, with multiple courses. The courses usually follow this order: 1. apéritif: a light alcoholic drink and small appetizer, 2. an appetizer or entrée, 3. a main course or plat principal, and 4. le fromage (cheese) and le dessert (dessert). In restaurants, une salade (salad) is sometimes served before the cheese and dessert course. Le vin (wine, luh van) is, of course, enjoyed throughout the meal. Below you'll see more information about these courses and some common dishes you might see in a French home or restaurant:

Common Apéritifs

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