Bon appétit! A Practical Guide to French Food Vocabulary

Learn how to order food, drinks and coffee in French

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By Laura Pennacchietti · December 7, 2023 · 16 minute read

France is the single most touristy country in the world, for many reasons - to name but a few, its beautiful cities, wonderful nature, and rich history and culture. French culture, in particular, is multifaceted and full of charme.

One of the most charming aspects of French culture is certainly its beautiful language, which is still studied and learned by millions of people today. Besides language, French food and wine are also pillars of the French cultural appeal, and if you’re reading this, it means that you have some interest in all of them! We'll aim to bring these three elements together in this article, by giving you a list of go-to phrases to order food and drinks in French.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or just in need of a brush up, our list of French food vocabulary is what you need to make sure you can sit down at that laid-back French café, relax, and order your food without sweating!

Good to know: Before focusing on the food topic, we recommend checking our more general list of common French phrases , which will be useful in any situation. Also check out the lessons in our French Travel course for useful French vocabulary to know and use while traveling.

Want to book a table in French like an expert?

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You will surely learn how to book a table for two in French and say “Je voudrais une table pour deux personnes.” like a native speaker, via Busuu’s free online courses and learning resources!

French cuisine

Exactly like the French language, French food has a centuries-old history and tradition that made it world-famous and led it to dominate the food scene internationally. No matter where you go in the world, you're likely to find a French restaurant. French wine is another extremely popular part of the culture, and it is exported all over the world. Since 2010, UNESCO has officially acknowledged this tradition, by including French food and its rituals in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

If you visit France, you’ll see for yourself how fond the French are of their food culture, and how much they value sitting down for a nice meal accompanied by a good glass of wine. Taking part in this will be an invaluable cultural experience - our list of words and phrases will enable you to make the most of that experience, without having to worry about saying the wrong thing. Sit down, relax and… bon appétit!

Do you need a refresher of French pronunciation, before delving into this food list? Fret not! Check out our practical guide on French pronunciation!

French food vocabulary

Even before you start trying to order, deciphering a menu in another language can be a challenge. Here’s a list of food words that will make your life easier when choosing what to order.

French vocabulary for breakfast

French English
le petit-déjeuner breakfast
le café coffee
le lait milk
le lait d’amande / de riz / de soja almond / rice / soy milk
le thé tea
le jus d’orange orange juice
le pain bread
la confiture jam
le sucre sugar
le miel honey
le croissant croissant
les viennoiseries sweet pastries
le jambon ham
le fromage cheese
les fruits fruits
les céréales cereal
les oeufs eggs

French vocabulary for lunch and dinner

French English
le déjeuner lunch
le dîner dinner
les pâtes pasta
le riz rice
les nouilles noodles
la soupe soup
la salade salad
le sandwich sandwich
la viande meat
le boeuf beef
le poulet chicken
le porc pork
l’agneau lamb
le veau veal
le canard duck
e hamburger hamburger (in a bun)
le steak haché hamburger
le steak steak
les frites French fries
la purée mash potato
les pommes de terre potatoes
les légumes vegetables
les tomates tomatoes
les carottes carrots
les courgettes courgettes
les aubergines aubergines
les oignons onions
les champignons mushroom
les épinards spinach
les haricots beans
les haricots verts green beans
le concombre cucumber
le chou-fleur cauliflower
les petits pois peas
les poivrons peppers
l’ail garlic
le sel salt
l’huile d’olive olive oil
le poivre pepper
les épices spices
le vinaigre vinegar
la sauce sauce
le poisson fish
le citron lemon
l’orange orange
la pomme apple
la poire pear
l’eau water
le vin wine
la bière beer
les boissons drinks

Get to know more French food vocabulary and phrases!

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Learn more than just ordering croissants and try ordering other French pastries! Discover lots of useful French food phrases and vocabulary on Busuu’s free online courses and learning resources

French desserts and snacks vocabulary

French English
le chocolat chocolate
le chocolat chaud hot chocolate
la crème cream
la crème fraîche crème fraîche
la glace ice cream
la vanille vanilla
la banane banana
les cerises cherries
les fraises strawberry
l’ananas pineapple
le raisin grapes
les cacahuètes peanuts
les biscuits cookies
le gâteau cake
la tarte pie
la crème pâtissière custard cream
les fruits des bois berries
le yaourt yoghurt

French restaurant vocabulary

Like any other communication context, ordering food will entail not only speaking, but also listening, as you will need to have brief conversations with the waiting staff. So it’s a good idea to start with phrases that might be addressed to you.

1. Voulez-vous manger à l’intérieur ou en terrasse?
Would you like to eat inside, or on the terrace/in the garden?

2. Combien de personnes?
For how many people?

3. Est-ce que vous voulez un apéritif?
Would you like an aperitif (pre-meal drink)?

In France it is not uncommon to have an aperitif or apéro when you sit down, before you start ordering other drinks or food.

4. Qu’est-ce que vous voulez boire?
What would you like to drink?

5. Êtes vous prêts à commander? / Avez-vous choisi?
Are you ready to order? / Have you made your choice?

6. Est-ce que tout se passe bien? / Tout va bien?
Is everything ok?

This is just a common way for the staff to check that you’re happy with your meal.

7. Voulez-vous voir la carte des desserts?
Would you like to see the dessert menu?

French cuisine is renowned for its desserts - it’s never a good idea to skip it!

8. Souhaitez-vous payer par carte ou en espèces?
Would you like to pay by card or cash?

How to reserve or ask for a table in French

Booking is not necessary in France and you can always show up at a restaurant, but if you have chosen a sought-after establishment and a popular time, it's always better to reserve in advance. Popular meal times are 12.00-13.30 for lunch, and 19.30-20.30 for dinner.

Pro-tip: For a quick brush-up of how to tell the time in French, see our complete guide to telling the time!

1. Je voudrais réserver une table pour deux personnes à 20 heures.
I would like to book a table for two at 8 o’ clock.

2. Bonjour / bonsoir, une table pour deux / quatre / … s’il vous plaît.
Hello / good evening, a table for two / four / … please

This is the phrase you can use to ask for a table, if you decide to just show up at the restaurant.

3. Vous servez encore le déjeuner / le dîner?
Are you still serving lunch / dinner?

Depending on the area of France, and whether you’re in a big city or a small town, meal times might be quite strict and a restaurant could stop serving food any time between 1.30 and 2.30 pm. In that case, you’ll be met with a depressing: "Désolé, la cuisine est fermée” (sorry, the kitchen is closed). You can always come back for a later meal, or the next day.

4. Est-il possible de manger?
Is it possible to eat?

Just a general phrase that you can easily use in any situation, to know whether food is available.

How to order drinks in French

At the restaurant, it’s standard to order drinks before food, so let’s start from there. You can also use these phrases to order drinks at a bar or a cafe.

1. Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.
A jug of tap water, please.

Unlike in other countries, in French restaurants you can have a jug of tap water for free. Make sure you say “une carafe”, otherwise it could be interpreted as bottled water, which is not free.

2. Pourrais-je avoir / est-ce que je pourrais avoir…
Can I have some still / sparkling water, please.

If you prefer bottled water, this is how you order it and specify whether you want it still or sparkling. To say “s’il vous plaît” at the end is a simple and polite way for ordering drinks, and you can use it for anything.

3. Avec glaçons
With ice

4. Je voudrais…
I would like…

Example: Je voudrais une limonade. - I would like a lemonade.

Similar to “s’il vous plaît”, but going at the beginning of the sentence, this is another simple phrase you can use to order anything.

5. Un verre de…
A glass of…

Example: Je prends un verre de vin blanc / vin rouge. - I'll have a glass of white / red wine.

6. Une bouteille de…
A bottle of…

Example: On va prendre une bouteille de Merlot. - We’ll have a bottle of Merlot.

7. Un pichet / un demi pichet de…
A jug / half jug of…

Example 1: Un pichet de vin rosé, s’il vous plaît. - A jug of rosé wine, please.

Example 2: Un demi pichet de rouge, s’il vous plaît. - A half jug of red (wine), please.

The word “pichet” is used especially for house wine, and refers to a 1-liter jug. You can also normally ask for “un quart de… (e.g. vin rouge)” which corresponds to 25 cl, and “un demi pichet”, which corresponds to 50 cl.

8. Une pinte / un demi de… bière blonde / blanche / brune.
A pint / a half pint of… lager / white beer / stout.

The words “pinte” et “demi”, which literally means “half”, are used mainly for beer.

9. Santé / à ta santé!

How to order food in French

With drinks on the way, it’s finally time to order some delicious food. Good news: many of the phrases that are used for drinks, can also be used for food.

1. Pouvez-vous nous apporter le menu / la carte des vins?
Could you bring us the menu / wine list?

2. On peut / peut-on commander s'il vous plaît ? / Nous sommes prêts à commander.
Can we order? / We are ready to order.

3. Quel est le plat du jour / le menu du jour?
What is the daily special / the daily menu?

In France, it’s common for restaurants to have a daily special and / or a daily menu, especially at lunch time.

The daily menu usually has a combination of entrée, main course and dessert (e.g. entrée + main course, main course + dessert, entrée + main course + dessert) which makes it cheaper than ordering à la carte.

4. Le… , qu’est-ce que c’est?
What is… ?

Example: Le cassoulet, qu’est-ce que c’est? - What is cassoulet?

You can use this phrase to inquire about dishes or ingredients that you see on the menu and are not quite sure what they are.

5. En entrée / comme plat / en dessert, je voudrais…
As a starter / as a main course / as a dessert, I would like…

The French meal traditionally includes three courses - entrée, plat (main course) and dessert, and that is also how the menu is often organized. But of course, you don’t have to order all three courses.

6. Pour moi, je vais prendre ...
For me, …I will take

Example: Pour moi, je vais prendre une quiche lorraine avec de la salade. / For me, I will take a quiche lorraine with salad.

Here’s another go-to sentence that you can use to order food (or drinks).

7. Est-ce qu'on peut avoir plus de pain, s’il vous plaît?
Could we have more bread, please?

How to express dietary requirements in French

If you follow a specific diet, or simply want to be able to express your food preferences, check out this section, to make sure you know how to ask the right questions and understand what you can and cannot eat.

1. Je suis végétarien(ne) / végan(e) / pescétarien(ne).
I am a vegetarian / vegan / pescatarian.

As a general rule, add an -e for feminine, if you are a woman.

2. Je suis intolérant(e) à / allergique à…
I am intolerant to / allergic to…

Example 1. Je suis allergique aux petits pois. - I am allergic to peas.

Example 2. Je suis intolérant(e) au gluten. - I am intolerant to gluten.

3. Je ne mange pas de…
I do not eat…

Example. Je ne mange pas de fruits de mer - I don’t eat seafood.

4. Est-ce qu'il y a du / de la ... dans ce plat?
Does this dish contain…

Example: Est-ce que ce plat contient des produits laitiers? - Does this dish contain dairy?

5. Avez-vous des plats végétariens / végans / sans gluten?
Do you have any vegetarian / vegan / gluten-free dishes?

How to ask for the bill in French

That’s it, your French meal is finished - time to ask for the bill! Here’s a few phrases you can use at the end of your meal.

1. L'addition, s'il vous plaît.
I'll take the bill, please.

2. Je peux payer par carte?
Can I pay by card?

3. Est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes étrangères?
Do you accept foreign credit cards?

Most establishments, especially in cities, will accept cards, including foreign cards - but if you want to check, you can use this phrase.

4. C'était délicieux!
It was delicious!
If you have enjoyed your meal, it’s always a good idea to let the staff know!

5. Le pourboire
The tip

Tipping is not compulsory or expected in France, but you can always leave a tip if you’re happy with the service you've received.

French cafe vocabulary

Is all that you really want coffee, rather than a meal? Or do you fancy something more casual than a restaurant? Cafes are as big a part of French culture as restaurants are, so make sure you leave some time to try the cafe experience! In this section, you’ll learn how to order a coffee in French, and other useful phrases and vocabulary to use in a cafe.

1. Bonjour, c’est pour manger?
Hello, would you like to eat?

Example. Bonjour, c’est pour manger? - Hello, would you like to eat?
Oui / Non, juste pour prendre un verre / Non, juste pour un café. - Yes / No, it’s just for a drink / No, it’s just for coffee.

If you enter a cafe around lunch or dinner time, you’re likely to be welcomed with this phrase. The café is a French institution and a place where you can have food, or also just drinks, or even sit for hours with a cup of coffee.

2. On aimerait manger / boire un verre / prendre un café, si c’est possible.
We would like to eat / have a drink / have a coffee, if possible.

3. Bonjour, un café, s'il vous plaît.
Good morning, a coffee, please.

Here’s the simplest way to order a coffee! Good to know - what you’ll get is a small cup of black coffee, similar to an espresso. For a list of types of coffee and what they’re called in French, check the table below.

4. Je voudrais un café crème.
I would like a coffee with cream.

5. Pour moi, un déca.
For me, a decaf.

6. Est-ce que vous servez…?
Do you serve…?

Example. Est-ce que vous servez du café glacé?

7. Au comptoir
At the counter

8. À la table
At the table

How to order a coffee in French: Coffee vocabulary

French English
un café regular coffee, similar to an espresso
un expresso espresso
un café au lait coffee with milk
un café crème coffee with cream
un café noisette coffee with a dash of milk
un café serré strong coffee
un café allongé coffee with water, similar to an Americano
un café glacé iced coffee
un cappuccino cappuccino
un déca (décaféiné) decaf
un café filtre filter coffee
un café double double coffee
un café gourmand coffee with small sweet pastries

Takeout in French

Feeling lazy? For that night when you’re not in the mood to go out, but still want a taste of French delicacies, here’s the main words and phrases you will need to order takeout food in French.

1. Plat / repas / nourriture à emporter
Takeout dish / meal / food

2. Je voudrais … à emporter, s’il vous plaît.
I would like … to take away, please.

Example. Je voudrais un steak frites à emporter, s’il vous plaît. - I’d like a steak with fries to take away, please.

3. Est-ce que vous pourriez ajouter … ?
Could you add… ?

Example. Est-ce que vous pourriez ajouter des couverts en plastique / des serviettes / des sauces? - Could you add some plastic cutlery / napkins / sauces?

4. Est-ce que je pourrais emporter le reste?
Could I take away the rest?

This is a phrase you can use if you’ve ordered too much food and want to take it home.

Wrapping up

Super! You've come to the end of this food guide, now it's time to step into the restaurant and start talking! Whether it's a fancy restaurant, a chilled café or a takeout that you've chosen for your meal today, you're now equipped with the vocabulary you need to go through all the steps of the process. All that is left for you to do is mix up with the locals, relax, and enjoy the unique French dining experience!

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