Basic French food vocabulary that you need to know!

by Audrey Sivadier
May 03, 2021
woman learning Basic French food vocabulary

Me, you, your neighbour, your mother-in-law – everyone eats! And if you are learning French, the following could be very useful to you! The French have made gastronomy a central part of their culture. So much so, that their favourite topic of discussion during meals is… food! So here are some essential words to participate in these conversations.

Essential French food vocabulary

Les légumes – vegetables

Whether you eat them « crus » (raw) or on the contrary « cuits » (cooked), these words may come in handy. In restaurants, you can order a « assiette de crudités » (a plate with salad and raw vegetables).

Some of the ‘vegetables’ on this list are technically fruits (such as tomatoes and cucumbers) but the French classify them as ‘vegetables’. This will save you from searching for the vegetable at the weighing machine in the supermarket.

  1. Une tomate – a tomato
  2. Un radis – a radish
  3. Un concombre – a cucumber
  4. Un poivron (vert, rouge, orange ou jaune) – a (green, red, orange or yellow) pepper
  5. Des haricots verts – green beans
  6. Des épinards – spinaches
  7. Un champignon – a mushroom 
  8. Un chou-fleur – a cauliflower
  9. Un oignon – an onion
  10. Une pomme de terre – a potato
  11. Un poireau – a leak

For this list, you should not have to make much effort to memorise. Even if the spelling is slightly different, the pronunciation is almost the same.

  1. Une carotte – a carrot
  2. Une courgette – a courgette
  3. Une aubergine – an aubergine
  4. Une salade – a salad

Les fruits – fruits

Along with vegetables, they are part of the dietary recommendations of many countries, the famous “5 fruits and vegetables a day”. Fruit is sometimes parfois « mûrs » (ripe/mature) and sometimes « pas mûrs » ou « verts » (not ripe/green). 

And if you had to remember one verb, it would be the verb « éplucher » (to peel).

  1. Une pomme – an apple
  2. Une poire – a pear
  3. Un abricot – an apricot
  4. Du raisin – grapes
  5. Un pamplemousse – a grapefruit
  6. Une banane – a banana
  7. Un citron – a lemon
  8. Un ananas – a pineapple
  9. Une fraise – a strawberry
  10. Une framboise – a raspberry
  11. Une cerise – a cherry
  12. Une pêche – a peach
  13. Une orange … an orange! 

The best French slang words that will make you sound like a native speaker

Le poisson – fish

You can read it on restaurant menus, or buy it in « poissonnerie » (fish shops). Be careful, the double “ss” is important, make sure you pronounce it [s] and not [z]… Otherwise, it would be much less edible (poisson ≠ poison).

  1. Le saumon – salmon
  2. Le cabillaud – cod
  3. Le thon (ignore « h » for pronunciation) – tuna
  4. Les fruits de mer – seafood
  5. Un crabe – crab 
  6. Une huître – oyster 
  7. Une crevette – shrimp
  8. Une moule – mussel
  9. Une coquille St-Jacques – scallop

La viande – meat 

In France we have a specialised shop for meat and it’s called “la boucherie” (like a butcher’s hop). The same shop usually sells “charcuterie” as well. This is the name used for sausage, sausages, hams, pâté… Also, in restaurants, you can order a « assiette de charcuterie » (“charcuterie plate”). In France, you can find a wide variety of meats:

  • Le porc – pork
  1. Une côte de porc – a pork chop
  2. Du jambon – ham
  • Le bœuf – beef
  1. Une bavette – flank steak
  2. Une entrecôte – rib steak
  • Le veau – veal
  1. Un rôti – a roast
  • L’agneau – lamb
  1. Une côtelette – a chop
  2. Un gigot – leg 
  • La volaille – poultry
  1. Un poulet – a chicken
  2. Un canard – a duck
  3. Une dinde – a turkey 
  4. Une aile – a wing
  5. Une cuisse – a thigh

Les produits laitiers – dairy products

  • Les fromages – cheese

There are more than 1,200 of them in France! Here are only the French people’s favourite cheeses:

  1. Le camembert
  2. Le brie
  3. Le fromage de chèvre – goat cheese
  4. Le comté
  5. Le bleu d’Auvergne
  • La crèmerie – creamery
  1. Le lait – milk
  2. Le beurre – butter
  3. Le yaourt – yogurt
  4. La crème fraîche
  5. Un œuf – egg 

If you buy a « produit fermier » (‘farmhouse’ product) for cheese or poultry, for example, it will generally be of better quality, with a stronger taste. 

Try these tongue twisters in French

Les produits de base – basic products

  1. La farine – flour
  2. Le sucre – sugar
  3. Les pâtes – pastas
  4. Le riz – rice
  5. Les légumes secs (lentilles, pois chiches…) –  Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc.) 
  6. Une boîte de conserve – A tin can 

The French are consuming more and more “bio” (organic) products, and you can find specialised shops and entire shelves devoted to “bio” in French supermarkets.

The future tense in French

Les condiments – condiments

  1. Le sel – salt
  2. Le poivre – pepper
  3. L’huile – oil
  4. Le vinaigre – vinegar
  5. La moutarde – mustard
  6. La mayonnaise 
  7. Un cornichon – gherkin 

Les boissons – drinks

Feel like celebrating the end of this vocabulary list? Then you can get:

  1. Le champagne
  2. Le vin (rouge, blanc, rosé) – wine (red, white, rosé)
  3. La bière – beer 
  4. Le cidre – cider
  • Les boissons sans alcool – free alcohol drinks
  1. L’eau (gazeuse ≠ plate) – water (sparkling ≠ still)
  2. Un jus de fruits : le jus d’orange, de pomme, de raisin… – juice (orange, apple, grapes…)
  3. Un café – a coffee
  4. Un thé – a tea
  5. Un chocolat chaud – a hot chocolate

Now it’s your turn to make these words your own, by writing them down in a notebook,or you could try ordering some of the above words the next time you’re at a restaurant. Pay attention to the gender (masculine/feminine) of the nouns, write them in two different colours to help you remember. And you can highlight the words you already know. Finally, the best way to remember them in the long term is to use them! Write sentences in context or use them with your Lingoda teacher.

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