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Monday, August 12, 2013

Breakfast in France and the French Breakfast Menu. Ordering Breakfast in France.

 Breakfast is le petit déjeuner.
Lunch is déjeuner, and dinner is diner.
Behind the French Menu 
Bryan Newman

         Last updated February 2017
   Breakfast in a French café
Photograph courtesy of leonbarnard
To order breakfast in a French café page down to the
French Breakfast Lexicon
What do the French have for breakfast?
Weekday breakfasts in a French home and the breakfast in a small hotel will usually be quite similar.  The singular difference may be the addition of croissants in the hotel. In most French homes croissants are kept for the weekend.
Café - Coffee –The coffee for breakfast in a private home will usually be a café au lait, a very milky coffee. 

Thé - Tea    Tea is regular black tea, usually without lemon or milk. Fruit or herb tea, called an infusion or a tisane, will be among the choices for breakfast in a French home.

Chocolat à Boire  - Hot or cold drinking chocolate - and hot or cold milk, lait, may be served for children.

Pain – Bread, pronounced pan will not always be a baguette. In the large cities the bread of choice for visitors may be a baguette; however, that is not true for all of France. The baguette was always considered a Parisian bread, and to many it still is and other local breads may be on the table.   Large round loaves called a pain boule or boule de pain was until about 100 years ago the only bread seen at most breakfast tables, and they remain popular today. Thin breads, like baguettes, go stale very quickly while a boule will remain fresh for a day or two.
A pain boule.
Photograph courtesy of kochtopf
With the disappearance of the traditional corner bakeries the purchase of fresh bread, every morning, is less and less an option.  So choosing a bread that will last a day or two has become increasingly important.  For more about the different types of French bread see the post: French Bread:  The types of French Bread.
Pain beurré also called tartine beurré -  Bread and butter. Pain beurré, pronounced pan ber-ray, will be on every French breakfast table. For pain beurré any fresh bread is acceptable.
Confiture, jam or jellyand or miel, honey, will be on the breakfast table.  
Pain au chocolat and or pain au Nutella – Bread and chocolate spread and or bread and Nutella are often on the table for children.
Toast – Toast, also called pain grille may be on the table; at breakfast in a private home, toast is usually there when the bread is not really fresh.
Croissants – Croissants. In most homes croissants are kept for the weekend.
Do you want to practice your pronunciation? 
Use these excellent free programs, I do.

A French family’s weekend breakfast.
Weekend breakfasts, in a French family, will include croissants, eggs, juice and much more.  Families may also go out for a Buffet Dimanche, a Sunday buffet.  A French Sunday buffet is the French version of a Sunday brunch with French favorites on the menus. It is an enjoyable, and a relatively inexpensive, way of dining with the whole family.
Breakfast in Small French Hotels and Cafes.
The weekday breakfasts served in France’s small hotels, B and B’s, and small cafés will be similar to the weekday breakfast of French families. Cafés will, of course, offer croissants every day.
French hotels from  3 stars and up often have a breakfast buffet with eggs, cereal, sliced sausages, meats, cheeses, yogurt along with baguettes and other white and whole wheat breads,  These offerings can be very limited or overwhelming.  As may be expected much depends on how much you are paying.
 Breakfast in the larger hotels and cafes. 

Breakfast in the best hotels offers everything needed for power breakfasts for their guests who will include industrialists, famous actors and actresses and, also visiting politicians. Five stars plus hotels also offer their customers from non-English speaking countries their own breakfast specialties.  In the larger towns and cities, breakfast in a café is usually far less expensive than hotel breakfast.   However, in France, check first that certain credit cards are accepted as American Express rarely is.  Tipping in cafes and restaurants in France is not expected. See the post: No Tipping in French Restaurants. The Hidden Joys of Dining in France.

A French Breakfast Lexicon for visitors to France
The French breakfast menu, with all the French you need to know.

When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 his cooks and kitchen staff along with those of his Barons brought many French words into the English kitchen. For more about that French connection see the post: The French Connection and The English Kitchen

Ordering coffee for breakfast in France.
Coffee with milk - Café au lait; pronounced café-o-lay; this is coffee with lots of milk, and it is the traditional French breakfast coffee. Café au lait is somewhat like a café latte, but with more milk. The size of a breakfast cafe au lait varies greatly and, in France, most cafes offer one size only; their own.
Cappuccino  - Cappuccino or Capuccino; a French cappuccino is thirty percent espresso coffee, fifty percent milk, twenty percent froth and no whipped cream. 
Café Complete - This is not a type of coffee, it is French café shorthand used for a set breakfast. A café complete will include a coffee and a croissant or bread rolls, and or a baguette with butter and jam.
Decaffeinated Coffee -  Café Décaféiné. In the larger cafés, this should be available with grains de café décaféiné, decaffeinated coffee beans. In the smaller cafés, you may be offered Sanka, decaffeinated instant coffee. When ordering decaffeinated coffee, use the French colloquial term, café déca, pronounced de-ka.
American coffee - Café Américain. This is the French and also the Italian idea of what Americans drink for breakfast; however, drip brewed or filtered coffee has long been out of fashion in France. A café Américain is a single shot of espresso coffee served in a normal sized cup with added hot water; milk will be added on request. A café Américain may also be on French menus as a café allongé.
Instant coffee - Café déshydraté or safé soluble.
A single café espresso
Photograph courtesy of arquera

A short black espresso coffee    Un espresso or un café.  Ordering either will bring you a single, short, black, espresso coffee.
The coffees above are the coffees most often seen on French breakfast menus. For the other coffees, you may see in France see the post: The A - Z of ordering coffee in France.
Ordering tea for breakfast in France.
Tea – Thé, pronounced tay.
Tea – Thé.  Black tea; the tea that is often referred to as English tea. Despite the name, the tea available in all French cafés will be similar to that in the USA, and that means not very strong. For diehard Brits and colonials, if you must have a specific tea every morning take some tea bags with you.
Tea with milk - Thé au lait, pronounced tay-o-lay. If you request milk on the side you may be served tea with warm milk if you did not ask for cold milk. For tea with cold milk request thé avec lait froid, s’il vou plais, pronounced: tey avec lay frawh sil vous play.  Froid is pronounced frawh and means cold, and the s’il vous plais  means please.
Lemon Tea - Thé au citron.

Tea without milk or lemon - Thé nature.

 A herbal tea prepared with fresh herbs 
Photograph courtesy of Khairil Zhafri.
Fruit and Herbal Teas  are on breakfast menus in France – They are called infusions or tisanes. Fruit and or herbal teas are not only a popular beverage, but also an important part of France’s trusted homeopathic medicines. There will be a variety of fruit and herbal teas available in all cafés and restaurants
Sugar and sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners  – Édulcorant.  NB. Not every small French café will have artificial sweeteners, so take some with you.  Sweet and Low, NutraSweet and similar local sweeteners are available in all supermarkets.
Sugar – Sucre. 
Ordering milk and drinking chocolate for breakfast in France.
Drinking Chocolate -  Chocolat à boire.
Hot chocolate  -  Chocolat chaux, pronounced  chocolat show.
Cold chocolate  - Chocolat froid, pronounced chocolat frawh.
Milk- Lait, pronounced lay.
Hot milk -  Lait chaux. 
Cold milk – Lait froid.
Ordering water for the breakfast table in France.
Water -  Eau, pronounced oh.

Bottled table water - Eau de table; that is water that has been filtered and treated.
Cold water – Eau froid. 
Hot water - Eau chaude. 
 Advert for Thonon mineral water.
France has over 600 different mineral water brands, 
more brands of water than cheeses!
Photograph courtesy of mamottux. 
Mineral water – Eau minérale.
Tap water – Eau du robinet. Tap water in all the towns and cities of France is drinkable, chlorinated and mostly fluoridated. Tap water is free.
For more on water and mineral water in France see the post: Water in French restaurants. Free or to be paid for?
Ordering bread for breakfast in France.
Bread - Pain, pronounced pan.
Baguette -  Baguette or pain baguette;  the most well-known of French breads. Baguettes were originally only a Parisian bread are now are generally available wherever there are tourists; other breads may also be on the breakfast menu.
There are many excellent different types of French breads, if another bread is on the breakfast menu without an English translation see the post: The types of French Bread, and a Lexicon for Buying French Bread.
Bread and butter - Pain beurrée or tartine beurré.
A sliced baguette with butter and apricot jam.
Pain beurrée et confiture d’abricot.
Photograph courtesy of This Rules
Bread and butter and jam, that’s jelly in the USA.-  Pain beurrée et confiture,  or tartine beurrée et confiture.
Ordering toast for Breakfast in France
Toast - Pain Grille or Toast.
Toster was a French word that came to England with William the Conqueror and its meaning then was to grill. The word came back to France as toast with the English meaning including toasted bread.
Toast with butter - Pain grille au beurre or toast au beurre
Toast with apricot jam - Toast avec confiture d'abricot.
Toasted baguette - Baguette grille. The words toast and grille may be used interchangeably,
Butter, jam, the USA jelly,
and honey on the French breakfast menu.

France has quite a number of special kinds of butter, and in the top-rated hotels, cafes, and restaurants they may be on the menu. For more about French butter see the post: The Many Wonderful, and Different, Butters of France.

Butter or sweet butter - Beurre or beurre doux; that is unsalted butter.

Salted butter - Beurre sale; pronounced sallay. French salted butter has between 3-5% salt; the label on the packet shows the exact percentage.
 Jam, Jelly, on the French Breakfast Menu
Jam - Confiture.
Strawbery jam – Confiture de fraises.
Apricot jam – Confiture d’abricot.
Orange marmalade - Marmelade d'orange.
Citrus marmalade - Marmelade d'agrumes.

Honey – Miel.
Acacia blossom honey - Miel d'Acacia.
Lavender honey - Miel de lavande, honey from lavender flowers.
Honey, on sale, in a French market
Photograph courtesy of Little Sadie
 Ordering cereals for breakfast in France.
   Cereals – Céréales.
Cornflakes and other cereals are popular in France. Outside of the smallest cafés and small hotel breakfasts cereals are usually offered; they may include Rice Crispies, Coco pops, All Bran, Oatmeal, Muesli etc.,
  Cereals in France.
Photograph courtesy of La Neige
Ordering cheese and yogurts for breakfast in France
Hotel breakfast menus may include cheese plates, and most cafés serving breakfast will offer cheeses and yogurts. Remember this is the country with over 400 different types of cheese and so cheese may be offered with every meal.

Cheese – Fromage.

A selection of soft and matured cheeses - Fromages frais et affinés.
Soft white cheese - Fromage blanc.
Cottage cheese – Cottage cheese.  In France, cottage cheese is a relatively recent arrival, and Danone is, I believe, the leader. In supermarkets, cottage cheese is sold alongside the yogurts not the cheeses.

Plat de Fromage - A cheese plate.
N.B. Most prepared cheese plates offer three to four cheeses.
. Photograph courtesy of Stéphanie Kilgast
Ordering croissants and other pastries for breakfast in France.
Croissants et pâtisseries.
Croissants will be on café and larger hotel breakfast menus every day. On your walks around town tens, if not hundreds, of different croissants will be available.  Despite that, at breakfast time, outside of hotels and cafés that make their own croissants, you will usually just see the traditional, and most popular, croissant au beurre, the plain butter croissant, and the croissant aux chocolat, the chocolate croissant. Later in the day, the choice will be much larger. 
 Croissant orange juice and coffee. 
Photograph courtesy of Maite Confitería.

Viennoiseries look somewhat similar to small American Danishes though they are made with a pastry similar to that used for croissants.    Two hundred years ago the French had recognized Viennese pastry chefs as the best in the world. Still today these small pastries carry the name of Vienna.  Many patisseries, cake shops, and boulangeries, bakeries,  still make these popular pastries and have the word Viennoiserie on the shop’s sign.

A Boulangerie/Viennoiserie in Paris today.
Photograph courtesy of hugovk.
Pain Beignets –  Pain beignets, pronounced: pan bay-nets, are popular breakfast pastries. They are made with deep-fried puff pastry dough, and before serving covered with powdered sugar. The word beignet is French for both a doughnut and for many other products that are deep fried. American doughnuts, which are available in France, are called beignets Américain.
Pain beignets served at breakfast with a café au lait, 
a milky coffee.
Photograph courtesy of  tibbygirl.
French Toast on the French breakfast menu  - Pain perdu, (pronounced pan perdu). Pain perdu translates as lost bread; that is bread that is considered too dry for normal use.  Nevertheless, one of the few things that you can do with stale bread is to make French toast.  As the English name acknowledges the French created French toast. The original French version still used today is bread soaked in milk with added sugar along with vanilla or other flavorings.  The bread will then be dipped in eggs and fried in butter until golden brown. It may then be served with a jam, a jelly or syrup.
French toast with honey or maple syrup - Pain perdu au miel ou au sirop d’érable.
Ordering eggs for breakfast in France
Boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets and more.

Eggs are – Œuf or Œufs, pronounced eouf or eoufs.
One egg – Une œuf.
Two eggs – Deux œufs.
Egg white - Blanc d'oeuf.
An egg yolk - Jaune d'oeuf.
 Œuf Biologiques – Eggs from free-range chickens raised in an organic environment. See the post on France's organic foods: Organic Food in France; Organic Produce, Meats, Milk, Cheeses, Wines and More.
Ordering Fried Eggs for Breakfast in France.
Œufs au (sur le) plat or Œufs sauté à la poêle.
One fried egg – Un œuf au plat or un œuf sauté à la poêle.
Two fried eggs, sunny side up - Œufs au (sur le) plat. 
Two fried eggs, over easy - Œufs sur le plat tourné. NB The French do not usually make fried eggs over easy,  but they will understand the request; though the eggs may be served well done.  I suggested a solution for a friend and in one particular café it worked.  Try: œufs sur le plat tournés pour une minute, fried eggs over easy for just one minute, pronounced eoufs oh plat tournei por une minoot.
Two fried eggs with a slice of ham, and buttered bread on the side - Œufs au plat avec jambon avec pain beurré.
Œuf or Œufs Cocotte – Eggs baked in a casserole.  The word cocotte will be part of the title of a dish on the menu when the egg or eggs are cooked in the oven and served in a casserole. For  breakfast, you may be offered bacon and eggs, and for a light lunch, the eggs may be baked on top of a vegetable like asparagus. Despite being baked œufs cocotte should arrive with a semi-liquid yolk.
Oeufs au cocotte.
Photograph courtesy of
If you have the time and want, to see how my own order for eggs for breakfast went wrong read the post: What happened when I ordered eggs for breakfast in France.

Ordering Scrambled Eggs for Breakfast in France
Scrambled eggs - Œufs Brouillés.
The French prefer their scrambled eggs, very slightly runny If you want your scrambled eggs well done then request them bein cuit, pronounced bien kui.
Plain scrambled eggs - Œufs brouillés nature.
Scrambled eggs with tomatoes - Œufs brouillés à la tomate.
Two scrambled eggs and two rashers of grilled bacon – Deux œufs brouillés et deux tranches de bacon grille.
Scrambled eggs and sausages.
Photograph courtesy of Accidental Hedonist
Brouillade -  Brouillade is a light version of scrambled eggs that originated in Provence, France. The eggs whites are beaten separately and only then mixed with the yolks; that provides a light and delicate form of scrambled eggs.
Eggs Brouillard served with morel and black trumpet mushrooms - La brouillade d’œufs aux morilles et trompettes de la mort.
Ordering Boiled Eggs for Breakfast in France.
A lightly boiled egg -  Œuf à la coque, pronounced: eouf a la cok, with coque meaning a shell.  In France, as elsewhere, there is no binding definition of a lightly boiled egg.
A medium boiled egg -  Un œuf mollet; a boiled egg where the white is firm and the yolk still liquid.  Œuf mollet began as a medium boiled egg taken from the shell and served as part of a salad or another dish; now in most cafes, at breakfast only, it will be served in its shell.


Œuf à la coque, a lightly boiled egg, with bread and butter.
Photograph courtesy of sansplans
A hard-boiled egg  - Un œuf dur.
 Ordering Poached Eggs for breakfast in France 
Poached eggs - Œufs pochés.
Two poached eggs -  Deux œufs pochés.
Two poached eggs and bacon - Œufs pochés au bacon. 
Ordering omelets for breakfast in France.
An omelet -  Un omelette.
The French prefer their omelets slightly runny on the inside, baveux, and I have learned to prefer them cooked that way. However, if you want your omelet well done ask for your omelet: non-baveuse or bien cuit, pronounced bien kui.
An omelet with fried bacon pieces - Omelette aux lardons;  lardons are small bacon pieces.
A plain omelet – Une omelette nature.
An omelet with France’s favorite herb group les fine  herbes  - Omelette aux fines herbes.  An omelet with les fine herbes offers a delicious introduction into French dishes that include a variety of herbs. The fine herb group are cerfeuil, chervil; ciboulette, chives;estragon, tarragon; persil, parsley and thym, thyme.
Omelette aux fine herbes
Photograph by yay micro
Mushroom omelet - Omelette aux champignons.
Cheese omelet - Omelette au fromage.
An egg white omelet -  Une omelette de blancs d'œufs.
Other egg dishes on French breakfast menus.
Œufs à la Bénédictine or  Œufs Benedict– Eggs Benedict. Eggs Benedict are poached eggs served over an English muffin and Canadian bacon all covered with Sauce Hollandaise. Most award the creation of Eggs Benedict to the legendary New York restaurant Delmonico’s. There is no connection between Eggs Benedict and the Bénédictine D.O.M. liquor. Sauce Hollandaise is the only French connection.
Œufs Mornay – Hard-boiled eggs prepared with a Mornay cheese sauce served on top and then baked in the oven. A Mornay sauce is a sauce Béchamel  with added egg yolks and Comte cheese.  A Sauce Béchamel  is a white sauce flavored with nutmeg and one of France's "mother" sauces.  A mother sauce is a sauce that will have been added to and changed and so has many children and grandchildren like Sauce Hollandaise. For more about Comte cheese see the post: Comte AOP (AOC), the premiere cheese of France
Ordering mushrooms for breakfast in France.
Mushrooms– Champignons, pronounced champinyons.
Button mushrooms, cultivated mushrooms - Champignons de Paris.
Chanterelle Mushrooms – Chanterelle girolle
Porcini Mushrooms -  Cèpes.
St. George's Mushroom  - Mousseron.
Wild mushrooms - Champignons des bois, champignons sauvage. 

Cèpes, porcini, mushrooms in the market
Photograph courtesy of The Richards
Tomatoes  on the French Breakfast Menu
Tomatoes - Tomates.
                Grilled tomatoes – Tomates grillée.      

Ordering bacon for breakfast in France.
Bacon  – Bacon or lard.
Bacon and lard are two of the many French words that arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Since then, those same words have traveled back to France; however, one word, lard, in French now also means bacon and so it has a decidedly different meaning to its modern English usage
In English, the word lard means pig fat, while in French pig fat is saindoux. In French, both words, bacon and lard,  are used for  bacon in English.

Grilled Bacon - Bacon grillé or lard grille.

Grilled bacon.
Photograph courtesy of Another Pint Please...
Ordering ham for breakfast in France.
 Ham - Jambon.
On French breakfast menus, the ham served will be boiled ham, the same type of ham called city ham in the USA and boiled or traditional ham in the UK; in France it is called jambon de Paris or jambon blanc. Cured ham, jambon cru, a ham that has been smoked and or salted and then air dried for many months will only rarely be seen on a breakfast menu.
Two fried eggs and two slices of grilled ham - Deux œufs au plat au deux tranches de jambon grille.
Braised ham  - Jambon braisé.
Ordering sausages for breakfast in France.
Sausages– Boudins, saucisses and saucissons sec.

The French word saucisse, from which the English word sausage came, is still another word that arrived in England with William the Conqueror.  A few hundred years later the French began using, on their side of the channel, the word boudin to mean an uncooked sausage. A sausage, grilled or fried, for breakfast may be on the menu as a boudin blanc, a pork sausage, or a boudin de bœuf, a beef sausage. The word saucisse may also be used on breakfast menus, and when either a boudin or a saucisse is on the menu without any qualification then it is a pork sausage. A saucisson sec is a salami style sausage.  French menus are rarely clear about the exact differences between boudins, saucisses and saucissons; see the post: Sausages in France. A short introduction to France’s world of sausages.

A grilled pork sausage served with two fried eggs - Boudin blanc grillée au œufs au    plat.
Grilled sausages served with two poached eggs - Saucisses grillée avec deux œufs pochés.
Sauces and condiments on the French breakfast table.
Black pepper – Poivre.
Mustard – Moutard.
Maple syrup – Syrup d’arable.

French Heinz Ketchup bottle.
Photograph courtesy of Heinz, France.

Salt – Sel.
Tabasco – Tabasco.
Tomato ketchup – Ketchup.
Worcestershire  Sauce - Worcester Sauce.
Ordering Fruit Juice for Breakfast in France.
Juice-  Jus.
Fresh orange juice  - Jus d'orange pressé.
Freshly squeezed fruit juices -  Jus de fruits presses.
Lemon juice - Jus de citron.
Orange juice - Jus d'orange. If your menu just reads jus d'orange without the word pressé, squeezed, that indicates that the juice is bottled, canned or frozen.
Ordering Fruit for Breakfast in France.
Fruit – Fruit, pronounced fru-it.
Apple – Pomme.
Apricot – Abricot.
Banana – Banana.
Citrus fruit salad - Salade d’agrumes.
Fresh fruit - Fruits frais.
Fresh fruit salad - Coupe de fruits frais.
Orange – Orange.
Pear – Poire.
Pineapple – Ananas.
Prunes – Pruneaux.
Stewed prunes - Compote de pruneaux.
What to check before sitting down to order breakfast in France!
Credit cards -  Cartes de Crédit.
 If you intend to use a credit card in a café or restaurant, check beforehand that credit cards are accepted.  While most cafés and restaurants accept Visa cards, locally called Carte Bleu, and Master Card, locally called the Eurocard there are always a few cafés and restaurants that do not do not accept any cards, and there are many that do not accept American Express or Diners Cards, so always check.
Paying the bill:
The bill, the check  – L’Addition. Just say l'addition, s'il vous plais, that means the bill please, pronounced: le add-icion sil vous play.
Thank you – Merci.
Thank you very much – Merci beaucoup, pronounced: merci bo-coo.

Tips - Pourboire.
Tips are not expected in French cafés and restaurants. However, If you are paying the bill in cash, and the service was acceptable, then just round the sum up to the nearest Euro. For more about tipping and service charges in French restaurants see the post: No Tipping in French Restaurants.The Hidden Joys of Dining in France
Omitted from this post are those breakfast dishes that having crossed the Channel or the Pond, and are on French café and restaurant menus with their English names.  Those dishes include American pancakes and more.
Also, omitted are some items that may be on a few café menus such as crêpes, those, mostly thin, French pancakes. Crepes are not a traditional French breakfast dish; however, many crêperies, French pancake houses also serve breakfast. For more about French crepes see the post: Crepes, Pancakes and Waffles.
Connected Posts:

A short introduction to France’s world of sausages.


Cherries in France; Cherries on French Menus.



No Tipping in French Restaurants. The Hidden Joys of Dining in France.




The French Connection and The English Kitchen


What happened when  I ordered eggs for breakfast in France.

Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 2,500 French dishes with English translations and explanations.  Just add the word, words or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google or Bing.
Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014, 2016.

For information on the unpublished book behind the blog please contact Bryan Newman


  1. There is an error in the spelling for the French word for pear; it is poire.

  2. Thank you, Jack, for catching the error. Despite my use of Word in French the occasional printers' devil permits errors to remain.