12 Essentials for French Cooking

12 Essentials for French Cooking

Pierre Robert

While searching for  recipes this weekend, I came across a list of key ingredients that every cook should have on hand when preparing French food.

Take a look at what a well-stocked French kitchen/pantry looks like…..

  1. Bread – Although a French baguette is preferred, any bread that is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside will do. However, buying or making the bread fresh is a must.
  2. Butter – As expected, much of the richness of French food has its base in butter. Yet, offering this spread with bread is a no no.
  3. Cheese – The French do love their cheese. Like bread, nearly any kind of cheese will do, and offering multiple varieties is not only preferred, it’s expected. Paired with bread, a cheese selection can make an excellent starter or savory dessert.
  4. Fleur de sel – This coarse, gourmet salt is pricey. Luckily, it’s also very flavorful, so a little goes a long way. Sprinkle or grind over top of prepared vegetables, meats, or fish.
  5. Herbs de Provence – This traditional blend of French herbs is a mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavendar, and possibly other herbs. Because the herb mix is often seen as gourmet, it can be priced higher than most herbs. Even novice cooks are likely to have the first three herbs in their pantry, so save a little money and purchase the lavendar when needed.
  6. Leeks – A milder relative of the onion, leeks offer a sweet flavor that even onion-avoiders may enjoy.
  7. Mustard – From smooth Dijon, to spicy and grainy, mustard adds tang to many French dishes. Bonus – it has minimal calories!
  8. Olive Oil – Used for sauteeing or simply drizzling, olive oil adds flavor (not to mention the good fat) to French dishes.
  9. Shallots – Like leeks, shallots are cousins to the onion, but with a mild, more garlicky flavor.
  10. Tarragon – Used mainly for chicken dishes, this strong herb can overpower other flavors.
  11. Vinegar – Red, white wine, balsamic, and more, vinegars are used as bases for sauces, dressings, glazes, and marinades.
  12. Wine – Similar to vinegar, red and white wine are commonly used in French cooking to add flavor to sauces and marinades.

Bistro Chic Extra – Although the original list stops at the above 12 ingredients, I would also add heavy cream and eggs to the list above. Cream can be used to thicken sauces and soups and add a richer flavor and silkier texture. Like cream, eggs can add thickness to sauces,  but they can also be used to whip up a quick dinner during the week (think quiche) or a casserole for weekend brunch.

How French is your kitchen and pantry?



  1. Valerie Hendley

    J’ai tous ces ingredients. Spot on!

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