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14 French Breakfast Foods: A Local’s Guide to the Classic French Breakfast

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Start your day in the right (and very French) way with these delicious French breakfast foods, and put on a morning or brunch spread the whole family can enjoy.

Contrary to some of the dishes that the British across the Channel love to eat in the morning, the typical French breakfast is sweet. Built on a foundation of buttery, flaky pastries and soft-yet-crunchy bread, a whole manor of sweet treats greet French people in the morning.

So if you’re having friends over, hosting a French-themed event, or spending some time in France, these French foods are perfect to enjoy with your morning tea or coffee.

French Breakfast Foods

1. Tartines

Tartines with butter, strawberry jam, honey, and hazelnut spread.
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Baguette is, of course, the ultimate bread for preparing the morning French “tartines”. Farmhouse bread is also an excellent choice, while sandwich bread is very popular with children for its softness.

Adults with a more health-conscious diet opt for wholemeal or multigrain bread, preferably certified organic. Most gourmands, both children and adults, will prefer a “brioche tressée” or a “gâche vendéenne” for their delicious buttery taste.

The slices of bread or brioche may be toasted or not. They are spread with butter, jam, honey or, for those with a sweet tooth, chocolate spread!

2. Butter

Block of butter.
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What would a French breakfast be without butter? With 8 kilos consumed per person per year, France is the world’s leading consumer of butter.

Unsalted butter remains, by a small margin, the favorite of the French. But salted butter has not had the last word and is still very much present in the western regions of the country.

In the east and south, however, unsalted butter wins, with a good score in Burgundy-Franche-Comté (78%).

But in the west of the country, its salted counterpart has many loyal followers. In Brittany, it is widely preferred (89%) as well as in Pays-de-la Loire (72%), where the Guérande salt marshes are located.

3. Jam

Strawberry jam.
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French people eat 8.8 kg of jam, jelly, puree, and paste per capita per year, while strawberry and apricot are the most appreciated by the French.

It is the famous brand “Bonne Maman”, known throughout the world, that controls the jam market in France, with 35% of market share. Bonne Maman jam jar, with its gingham printed lid, is a flagship product of the French food industry.

Jean Gervoson founded the company in 1971, observing that unsold fruit could have another life: jam. “Bonne Maman” was the name he used to give to his grandmother.

Pierre Roche-Bayard, the co-creator of the brand, had the idea of the red and white gingham pattern, inspired by the curtains of the family farm. He also created the jam label with its calligraphy of yesteryear. – a revolution in the world of packaging that still works today!

4. Honey

drizzling honey on a tartine.
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The French are very fond of honey. Each year, about 45,000 tons of honey are eaten in France.

With an average consumption of 600 grams of honey per person, France is one of the countries that consumes the greatest amount of honey in Europe.

With a creamy or liquid texture, lavender, chestnut, forest or all-flower honey, there is plenty to choose from, and a honey to suit every taste!

5. Hazelnut/Chocolate Spread

hazelnut spread
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Nutella has been the favorite chocolate and hazelnut spread of the French for generations. In recent years, other brands such as Nocciolata have gained popularity as well.

Chocolate spread is most often chosen by children or adults for a yummy breakfast!

6. Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereal and milk in a bowl.
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The French are big consumers of breakfast cereals. Children particularly appreciate puffed cereals, chocolaty or not, for breakfast.

For people who are a little more health conscious, manufacturers offer cereals made from whole grains and low in sugar, which are also very popular among French people.

Those looking for a nutritious breakfast can choose from a wide variety of whole grain and dried fruit mueslis, preferably certified organic.

7. Breakfast Biscuits (Cookies)

A few years ago, manufacturers launched biscuits (cookies) specially formulated for breakfast. They are very popular with the French, especially among children. 

They are appreciated for their practical side and represent an alternative to tartines and breakfast cereals. 

8. French Viennoiseries

French Viennoiseries.
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France is well known for its scrumptious viennoiseries. Served at breakfast, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisin, and almond croissants are some of the popular choices.

Did you know that the pain au chocolat, with its delicious puff pastry and its two generous dark chocolate bars, is called “chocolatine” by the French in the southwest of France? No matter how you wish to call it, this pastry is a real treat!

Pain au chocolat.
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Bakers often propose miniature versions of these viennoiseries. These mini viennoiseries are perfect for those who can’t decide and wish to taste them all!

But the French do not eat viennoiseries every single day. These special treats are rather reserved for vacation mornings or weekend breakfasts.

Almond Croissants.
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Pain aux raisins.
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There is nothing more French than a bag full of French pastries straight from the bakery, on a Sunday morning!

Related: 10 French Pastries You Need To Try

9. Good Homemade Cakes

Gâteau au yaourt, quatre-quarts (pound cake), and marble cake sometimes invite themselves to the French breakfast table.

Gâteau au yaourt is a traditional French cake made with, as its name indicates, yogurt. In fact, the recipe even uses a yogurt pot as a measuring tool for the other ingredients. All the ingredients are expressed in yogurt pots, including three yogurt pots of flour, two yogurt pots of sugar, and half a yogurt pot of oil.

Quatre-quarts are also very popular in France, and corresponds to the pound cake known in several countries. Quatre-quarts means “four quarters,” as the cake is made of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs each representing a quarter of the recipe.

Lastly, although it has a German origin, the delectable marble cake is another recipe dear to the French. Its vanilla and chocolate flavors are very much appreciated at breakfast time, and the cake goes particularly well with hot chocolate.

10. Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate
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Hot chocolate is “the” drink for children and grown-ups with a sweet tooth!

It can be prepared with commercial chocolate powders which are a mix of sugar, cocoa, and aromas, or more traditionally with cocoa powder and sugar.

For a more indulgent version, the French opt for whole milk.

11. Coffee

The French are known to be major coffee lovers. A recent study from 2021 reveals that 7 out of 10 (68%) of us drink coffee regularly.

Coffee is a must for many French people at breakfast time. On the terrace of a café or at the dining room table, it is almost impossible for us to do without it.

Espresso is the most popular coffee among the French, followed by long coffee. Most of the French enjoy their coffee without milk. Nearly 60% of French people drink their coffee without sugar and only 10% opt for the caffeine-free version.

At home, the French mainly use pod coffee machines, which were launched a few years ago, to prepare their coffee.

French people are known to love dunking their bread or croissant in their morning coffee!

12. Tea

Green mint tea.
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Tea is by far the most common alternative to coffee among the French. Unlike their neighbors across the Channel, they do not add milk but drink tea with hot water with added sugar or honey.

Tea is seen in France as a healthy detox drink, perfect to start the day! According to a 2021 study, 71% of tea drinkers are women.

Green tea with mint remains timeless. However, flavor combinations and new recipes mixing multiple ingredients are also popular, especially among herbal teas.

13. Fruit Juice 

Orange juice.
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Fruit juice is often found at the French breakfast table. It is particularly appreciated for its vitamin content.

Commercial juices, with orange, multi-fruit, apple, and grapefruit at the top of the list, are very popular. 

However, nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice, if you have the oranges at hand. For us French, there’s nothing quite like it!

14. Yogurt and Fromage Blanc

Yogurt and fromage blanc are often part of the typical French breakfast. Both can replace milk to serve with breakfast cereals or mueslis, for example, or for those who do not like milk. 

Yogurt and fromage blanc also pair particularly well with fresh fruit in season, such as kiwis, bananas, and strawberries.

Related: 20 French Cheeses You Should Absolutely Gorge on in France

French breakfast.
© Nomad Paradise

Summary

Now that there are no more secrets to the French breakfast for you, there is only one thing left to do: try out these different variations, each one as delicious as the next!

Breakfast is a huge part of French culture, so be sure to immerse yourself in this world of sweet treats and morning delights. Be it at a farmhouse in Brittany or a Parisian cafè with a view of the Eiffel Tower, these French breakfast foods can be ordered and devoured in abundance!

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Planning a trip to France soon? Don’t miss out on trying any of these breakfast foods by keeping this article for reference, saved to one of your Pinterest boards.

Pin featuring French breakfast foods.

Contributor: Marie Gauci is a bilingual translator, proofreader, and content writer, with a deep passion for French cuisine, travel, and culture.

Author

  • Hey there! We are Dale and Doina, the founders of Nomad Paradise. We traveled full-time for over three years, and while we now have a home base in the U.K., continue to take trips abroad to visit new places and try new cuisines and foods. Our food guides are curated with the guidance of local foodies, and their contribution is indicated under each article. We also cook the foods we try abroad, and you can discover how to make them in our 'recipes from around the world' category.

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