For lovers of rich, creamy, and fabulously decadent cuisine, there is no more enticing dining destination than the birthplace of haute cuisine itself, France. Known for its liberal usage of butter and traditionally meat-centric dishes, such as cassoulet, coq au vin, and beef bourguignon, French cuisine may seem off the table for those interested in eating a more plant-based diet.
Luckily, that’s not the case. Not only are several different kinds of vegan and French-based restaurants out there proving that beloved classics like crêpes, galettes, and even escargot can be made without the dairy and meat (just check out the NYC-based Little Choc and Delice & Sarrasin for proof), but it turns out there are plenty of plant-based ingredients you can stock up on to transform your kitchen into a culinary haven fit for a Francophile.
Our list of essential ingredients for a French pantry:
It may sound basic, but having bread — in particular, a baguette — on hand is essential if you want to stock your pantry like a French chef.
If you want your French meals to taste authentic, you can’t avoid using plant-based butter. There are, of course, plenty of vegan butters on the market, but there really is nothing better than learning How to Make Your Own Vegan Butter yourself — because then you can adapt for different recipes!
Cheese is extremely important in France — in fact, it can even be considered its own course, depending on where you’re dining. Brie, Gruyere, Emmentaler, and Parmesan are all staples in French cuisine.
Don’t forget the classic French cheeses as well: get a taste for France with this Camembert recipe, or go for any of these two variations of vegan chevre: this Cranberry Pecan Chevre Log is amazing for the holiday season, while this Naturally Fermented Cashew Herb Chevre can be enjoyed anytime.
Herbes de Provence is a combination of various dried herbs that are prevalent in the Provence region of southeast France. You can typically buy Herbes de Provence at any local grocery store — most blends will feature some combination of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. If you can’t find it pre-made, you can make your own Herbes de Provence by mixing any number of different dried herbs and dried lavender together, just like the Provençals did, but we recommend trying to incorporate lavender flowers, fennel seeds, mint, basil, and thyme to achieve a more standard, “authentic” flavor.
Fleur de sel, which translates to “flower of salt” from French, are thin, young salt crystals that form on the surface of seawater after drying out. Fleur de sel is used as a topping, rather than as a cooking ingredient. It tends to form a sort of delicate crust, providing both texture and a clean, light flavor.
This recipe for French Inspired Creamy Lentil Potato Salad uses fleur de sel to achieve a pop of dynamic flavor and a nice crunch; when you use fleur de sel in this recipe for Raw Cinnamon Almond Fudge, which is pictured above, however, you can clearly see the salt flakes and how they help elevate and brighten the rich and creamy dessert.
Dijon mustard is an oft-used component to help emulsify and amp-up the flavor of French salad dressings, while grainy, more dense mustards can be paired with heavier protein sources, like seitan.
“Mirepoix” is the classical French culinary term for a combination of onions, carrots, and celery, which have been diced up small and then sauteed or cooked in fat until they go soft and begin to brown. This trio of ingredients forms the basis for plenty of classically French meals. Read more about Mirepoix: This Simple Veggie Trio.
Sometimes, people will add shallots, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato paste, and more to their mirepoix, depending on what the recipe calls for. The recipe pictured above for Patates au Vin: French Potatoes and Mushrooms in Red Wine Sauce, for example, swaps out the celery for mushrooms.
These are all essential liquid ingredients for the French chef. Vinegar is tangy, acidic, and great bases for marinades and more. Wine can add a little oomph to your dishes and make them more hearty; broth infuses flavor and comfort into any meal.
Now that you know all the essential ingredients, here are some of our favorite vegan French recipes to get you started.
This Tempeh Bacon and Leek Quiche, pictured above, is an all-vegan quiche made from silken tofu blended with full-fat coconut milk, tempeh bacon, leeks, spinach, and garlic poured over a dairy-free pie crust.
This dairy-free version of Cauliflower au Gratin is just as comforting, but more filling, thanks to the addition of protein and fiber-rich chickpeas. Instead of bechamel and gruyere, the dish is covered with a creamy, cheesy sauce made from cooked butternut squash and cashews blended together.
This Mille Feuille With Homemade Custard, pictured above, is a beloved French pastry with layers of crispy, buttery puff pastry, custard filling, and a chocolate and vanilla frosting.
Don’t miss these Praline Macarons, which are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, filled with a delicious homemade hazelnut, praline filling.
And of course these fresh and zesty Pistachio Lemon Tuiles are light yet decadent and beyond gorgeous to look at.
Want more? Ask someone to Paint You Like One of These Vegan French Recipes by downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Mushroom Bourguignon