Updated: Seven foods that need to go mainstream in France

(Update: I wrote this two years ago, and a lot of things have changed around here! I’ve discovered new things, a lot more international food has popped up in Lyon, I started buying almond milk, you get the idea.

I think that a lot of the things on the list still hold true. None of them are part of French culture (France has its own awesome things) and most of them are still unfamiliar to the older generation/people who live in less urban areas.

Keep in mind that Lyon is the second biggest city in France (or third after Marseille depending on how you slice it). It’s been voted one of the best cities for start-ups and there’s a substantial population of young hipsters and bobos (and foreigners, like me!)  There is so much innovation and creativity present in this city! Happily, that has begun to translate into food too. In the years that I’ve lived here a lot of new restaurants and cafes have popped up, and I’ve discovered new places I didn’t know about before.

If you live in a less-urban area of France, I’d love to know your take on these things too! Can you get smoothies and barbecue where you live? Does anyone eat corn on the cob?

So with that, here’s the original post; you’ll find my updates italicized below each section.)

*  *  *  *  *

France has adopted a lot of so-called American foods over recent years. Cute cupcake boutiques are popping up right and left, the burger craze is bigger here than at home, and even kale has made its way over. You can buy “muffeens” in some boulangeries, and although I can’t bring myself to fork over two euros (about $2.75) for one bagel, but they’ve rolled on over here too.

You get the idea. It’s not like France has issued a ban on foreign food concepts and you can only eat French food in France (although sometimes it feels like it.) And if you know where to go and you’re willing to pay the price, you can find most things, especially in Paris. However, there are some awesome things that aren’t easy to find over here, and that makes me sad when I’m hungry and craving a burrito. So in the name of food cravings and homesickness, here are seven foods that need to go mainstream in France, like, ASAP.

One   Smoothies

Smoothies are available in France, for sure – you can even buy Naked juice at Monoprix now. But the larger population of France is likely to say, “Smoo-tie? C’est quoi ça?” Maybe it’s because the word contains the unpronounceable “th” sound, I don’t know.

Monoprix smoothie
Note the pronuniciation guide: “smoo-see”

But this girl grew up drinking Jamba Juice (back when it was $3 for a big smoothie!) and in the summer, smoothies are non-negotiable! No worries though – I just make them at home. (Hugo: “Strawberries and banana together? Are you sure that will be good?”)

It was good.
It was good.

(Update: Some trendy healthy places in Lyon do offer smoothies – you can find them at Dust Café, Garden State, and Le Tasse Livre. But the word “smoothie” remains a tongue-twister for most Francophones, and in smaller cities, you’ll probably be making your smoothie at home. Nothing wrong with that!)

Two   Tacos

Tacos have gone a little bit mainstream in Paris with the success of Candalaria and the like. However, not all of us live in Paris, and the dearth of Mexican food in France is appalling (yes, appalling!) Quesadillas are unheard of, tortillas are explained as “galettes” or “crêpes,” and salsa is “cette sauce rouge qui pique” (and I’ve definitely seen it consumed with potato chips. How do you like that?)

The thing that gets me every time? In France, this is a taco:

Kebab tacos

Before I knew this, I got really excited when Hugo told me we were going to have lunch at a place in Grenoble that made the best tacos. But instead of tacos, it was more like a cross between a kebab and Indian food.

It was delicious, but it wasn’t tacos.

This is all I wanted
This is all I wanted

(Update: Since I wrote this two years ago, several Mexican restaurants have popped up in Lyon! Woohoo! You have Two Amigos (my favorite) for California style tacos and burritos and hands down the best margaritas in town, Don Taco for traditional Mexican food, and the trendy Mexican taqueria Piquín. You can also get a decent burrito at Tu Esquina, which offers kind of a hodge-podge fusion of Spanish and Latin American food.

You can read about Mexican food in Paris here, here, and here.)

Three   Reese’s

Reese’s peanut butter cups are virtually unknown in France. I suppose it’s not that surprising, as peanut butter itself is not popular. I don’t pine for Reese’s because I have Côte d’Or chocolate and Kinder Bueno to fatten me up, but still, it’s a shame something so delicious hasn’t made it across the pond, especially when other less drool-worthy American candy has. (You tell me. Do you want a Crunch, or a Reese’s?) You can only buy Reese’s in American food specialty stores, and if a box of Apple Jacks is going for 12 euros (that’s about $16 dollars and yes, I am dead serious) you can imagine the price you’d pay for your peanut butter cup fix!

(Update: Still true! I bring over Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups from the States. Yummmm.)

American food
Note the pronuniciation guide: “smoo-see”

Five   BBQ

I don’t think I really knew the wonders of barbecue sauce until I moved to Chicago, but now I’m hooked forever. I love love love it. Sweet Baby Ray’s was always in the fridge. It’s not so much a thing here (although you can get Texas BBQ flavored Pringles!) but I’ve seen it on some trendy burgers (what’s up Camion qui Fume and Burger N Co!), so maybe it’s coming soon!

(Update: In Lyon you can get a BBQ pulled pork sandwich at the trendy restaurant Shack and the serious steakhouse Franklin’s, and in Paris I’ve been dying to try The Beast, a bona fide barbecue joint in the 10th. I also like the pulled pork sandwich at Frenchie to Go. Here, the New York Times elaborates on American barbecue in Paris.)

Six   Corn

How can you have summer without corn on the cob? How can I make my dad’s famous corn cake fritters without fresh corn? How can you grill that Mexican-style corn I keep seeing on Pinterest without corn? You can’t, but fresh corn isn’t a thing here. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere (and if you have, TELL ME WHERE!) Apparently, you can get it frozen at Picard, but frozen’s not the same.

Corn on the cob
It’s not summer without THIS!

The irony? There are fields and fields of cornstalks, but corn is considered animal food, not people food. (And if you’re wondering if I’ve ever snatched some corn directly from the field, I’m not going to say I haven’t tried. ) Corn is sold in cans, however. Make of that what you will.

(Update: You can buy corn on the cob at grocery stores – you’ll find two shucked ears in a styrofoam dish covered with plastic wrap. So that’s something. But eating corn on the cob is definitely not part of French culture.)

Corn fields

Seven   Mimosas

Mimosas are not a thing in France. The French don’t understand why you would ruin champagne with orange juice. (Our answer? Because then you can drink it in the morning!) Important detail: While in the US we often use “champagne” to mean all sparkling wine, in France, it only means the sparkling wines from the official region of Champagne, which is pretty fancy. I wouldn’t mix it with orange juice either! So if you’re trying sell a French person on mimosas, explain that it’s okay to use a cheaper vin petillant to make this delicious morning cocktail. (And YES, mimosas count as food.)

(Update: I stand firm on this one. Mimosas are still not a thing. Brunch is, though, and some places offer brunch cocktails like a bloody mary. But French brunch and American brunch are still rather different animals, including when it comes to drinking in the morning.)


For the record, I love living in France and they have oodles of yummy things here that we don’t have in the U.S. On any given day you can find me at the boulangerie stuffing my face (so elegant. I really fit in here). But there are a million things like breakfast sandwiches, chopped salads, Whole Food sandwiches (or any sandwich not on a baguette), and even almond butter that I miss sometimes. The good news is, I can make a lot of these things myself, and as a bonus, people are impressed with my quesadilla-making skills (aka melting cheese on a tortilla). Win.

But still. Ask me what I miss the most about the U.S. besides my family and friends, and I’ll probably tell you Mexican food. (Unless I spent the day battle French bureaucracy or SFR customer service. Then I’ll say that I miss efficiency.)

(Update: These days, I will tell you I miss Trader Joe’s and free shipping.)


What do you miss from home?

P.S. For more recommendations, you can check my Pinterest board for France, The HiP Paris Blog, Paris by Mouth, and Yelp! which has a strong community in Lyon. If you speak French, try Lyon City Crunch and Le Petit Paumé.

25 thoughts on “Updated: Seven foods that need to go mainstream in France

  1. Hmmm I can see your point since you live there, but I would be heartily disappointed to return to Paris and find the same food stores and products I can get here. Perhaps it’s the ubiquity of American retail stores that has made me say “stop!” Please maintain some uniqueness and originality. On the other hand, a baguette sandwich would get old, and I would miss Mexican food too.

    1. For me, it’s the ubiquity of McDonald’s and Subway that makes me roll my eyes! I agree it would be no fun to visit a country and eat the same food you eat at home. And I don’t really understand the point of paying sky-high prices at those American food stores – I wouldn’t buy most of those products in the US anyway! But really good tacos are hard to beat 🙂

  2. Haha, so true about Mexican food. I live in Paris and have been unable to find good cheese for making quesadillas. It’s also really hard to find veggie burgers unless you go to a specialty store.

    1. Now that you mention it, I don’t know if I’ve ever run across a veggie burger in France. (And definitely not those tasty vegetarian corndogs from Trader Joe’s!) Vegetarians I know here say they regularly get “but you eat chicken, right? Fish?”In fact, I don’t think I know any French vegetarians… but I’m sure they exist! (Somewhere.)

      And yum, quesadillas.

  3. Hello! REESE’S WIN AT LIFE!! I just got a care package with the little Christmas tree-shaped ones and can’t wait to dig in. And about corn on the cob, I found a pack at Picard. Maybe it’s slowly making its way to mainstream France. If I miss one thing from home, it’s coffee to go in a cup you can take with you! Cool post!

    1. Haha so true!!! Christmas tree-shaped Reese’s sound awesome! Ooh, how was the Picard corn? I tried out the kind in the barquettes at the supermarket this year and it was pretty good. I’m suspicious of the shrink-wrapped pre-cooked kind though. We actually have at least three or four Starbuck’s in Lyon, but almost no one takes it to go, they sit “sur place” in true French fashion! I’m currently mad at them though, because they changed their fidelity program and wouldn’t accept all the points I had racked up on the old one. No customer love here!

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Tee hee. I think British people miss different stuff (spicey curry) but most of them are too shameful to mention (gravy). #AllAboutFrance

  5. OMG I miss Jamba SO MUCH!! We’ve made Mexican food at home ever since moving abroad, so it hasn’t been too much of a hang up for us once we found tortillas at Carrefour. We always had to bring peanut butter on the plane with us! Funny how it’s “easy” to adjust, but certain tastes just stick with us! Love this! #AllAboutFrance

    1. I always brought over peanut butter too!! I did get much better at making tacos after I moved to France – in Chicago it was so easy to buy them cheap that I didn’t cook them much. You’re right, it is funny how you still want certain things from home even as you adapt to a new culture. I stopped missing most things from home after a few years, or I figured out how to make them… but I still kept bringing over that peanut butter 🙂

  6. Ah yes, sweetcorn, sweetcorn all around and not a grain to eat … unless you are a cow! I grow my own so I can have fresh cobs but do also buy the tinned … although my French friends were amazed when I served it hot as they only ever seem to add it to salads! #AllABoutFrance

    1. Yum, what a treat to have fresh corn! Yes, corn in salad is strange to me (except in a southwest salad, I suppose, which is not like anything I’ve seen in France) but that does seem the only place that tinned corn ends up in France! I hope your French friends will spread the word about delicious hot corn.

  7. I have thought this for a long time! It’s great to hear an American take on food that’s missing from France. As a Brit in French supermarket I nearly had a breakdown when I realised that there was only ONE flavour of curry available – and it was tinned!! Also I love a roast parsnip (maybe not on my summer hols) but did you know that the French only feed them to animals? A bit like that corn cob! I think they’re missing out 😉

  8. It’s interesting to see what you as an American misses, which is very different to what the average Brit would miss. Mexican food seems to be so important to you. I love corn on the cob but unlike you I can find it easily here in local supermarkets and eat it often! Right now I’m just back fro Vietnam and craving Vietnamese food desperately. So while I don’t really miss any British or Australian food I wish there were better Vietnamese restaurants and stores in the south (Paris is great but not the south!) Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

    1. Haha, yes, we love Mexican food! In more recent years corn was available at Monoprix, but always in a styrofoam barquette and never in the husk – I don’t know why I care about that! 🙂 Mmm Vietnamese food sounds delicious. If you are ever up in Lyon, you can find some good international cuisine, including Vietnamese. Can’t guarantee it will live up to the food in Vietnam, though. (And I suppose Lyon isn’t exactly next door… but for what it’s worth!)

      A friend of mine who lived a long time in the UK and now lives back in California misses baked beans (apparently they’re available here but rarely the vegetarian version) and certain biscuits. I was certainly impressed by the biscuit aisle of the supermarket when I was in Oxford!

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