Pain au chocolat or chocolatine: what’s the difference?

Pain au chocolat or chocolatine: what’s the difference?

by Clarisse Girod-Garufi

Updated February 24, 2023

Pain au chocolat vs chocolatine: It’s time to learn the difference for your next holiday in France because this is not just the translation of chocolate croissant in French, it’s a debate! Even as foreigners, you must know about this famous French chocolate pastry. Everybody goes crazy about it, from children to elderly people. So, what is this discussion that took over the internet all about?

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The French and their love for food

One of the biggest French clichés is food and how much we love it. Pastries are a big cultural advertisement for France internationally. That is probably why the pain au chocolat vs chocolatine debate became such a big deal. 

In France, this debate had the same influence as the iPhone vs Android oneThat is how culturally important it was for us, French people.

Pain au chocolat vs chocolatine

So where’s the difference? Well, here is the thing: there is none! Both names are referring to the same thing: a delicious croissant dough filled with two dark chocolate sticks, that you can usually buy for around 1€. Easy, right? Not really. The name of this delicacy changes depending on which French region you’re living in. That is where the debate comes in: between un pain au chocolat and une chocolatine, which one is the right one?

Chocolatine is mostly used in the south-west of France, while pain au chocolat is used everywhere else. Technically, they are both right, as they refer to the same pastry. But social media and memes joined the battle, separating France and opinions even more.

French people are usually very opinionated and do not hesitate to rise up against what they don’t agree with. An official survey website has been created for people to vote on and choose what to call this pastry. 

The Bordelais (people living in Bordeaux, a fervent chocolatine supporter) did not hesitate to boycott all pain au chocolat buyers. It wasn’t surprising to find a chocolatine for 1€ next to a 1,50€ pain au chocolat. In the same bakery.

French people are really proud of this pastry and its international fame. Its name became a matter of regional pride and tradition. Even famous chefs joined the debate and shared their point of view.

However, the surveys are pretty clear: 84% of French people call this pastry a pain au chocolat. The remaining 16% are mainly people living in the south-west of France (from Bordeaux to Toulouse). The obvious gap between the two did not help with calming everything down. And so, war had been declared between the pain au chocolat clan and the chocolatine clan.

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What does history have to say about chocolatine?

From a historical point of view, chocolatine would be the winner. A lot of research has been done on the subject. They actually went as far as the origin of the pastry, when the Schokoladencroissant was imported by August Zang in Paris during the 19th century. The evolution of the Dutch language and years upon years of people modifying the pronunciation made it so that chocolatine would be the most logical answer.

What about the rest of the world?

The French pastry debate took over international media as well, including the BBC. Videos and documentaries doubled in number to try and explain the new French pastry civil war. 

Surprisingly, chocolatine is mostly used abroad as well. Belgium will mostly use pain au chocolat or couque au chocolat. Quebec, Mexico and Japan all prefer chocolatine. Despite the bloody battle going on in France, chocolatine wins internationally. 

Except in our dear English speaking countries, as they love doing whatever they want. Therefore, they do not buy a pain au chocolat, nor a chocolatine: they buy a chocolate croissant.

Politics vs the chocolate croissant debate

If you thought I was joking when I said French people took this debate very seriously, well, you’re seriously wrong. In 2018, students wrote to President Macron to get the term chocolatine a reserved spot in the French dictionary. The President mentioned the debate in a speech and everything escalated until it reached the Parliament. Yes, you read it right.

A few MPs fought for chocolatine to be acknowledged as an official term. They wished for the pastry to keep its fame and status through its name. According to them, the chocolatine should be representing France abroad and keep a recognisable name so as not to confuse foreigners.

However, the amendment was rejected, and pain au chocolat will keep on being the mainly used term. I think the most important thing to remember is that, while the debate has been fun, we all know what a Bordelais is referring to when they are asking for a chocolatine. And vice versa.

Now, you’ve been warned. Next time you come to Paris, ask for a pain au chocolat. But if you come to Bordeaux, save your 0,50€ and ask for a chocolatine. Calling everything by its right name can definitely help you blend with the crowd and pass yourself off as a local.

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