May 17, 2024

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What is the typical lunch in France like ?

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A typical lunch in France is a delightful experience that showcases the country's rich culinary traditions. Usually consisting of multiple courses, a French lunch often starts with a light appetizer, followed by a main dish, cheese, and dessert. This midday meal is not just about the food but also about enjoying a relaxed and social dining experience. From fresh baguettes…

Typical lunch in France is different depending on where we are: home, school or work. But one thing remains: lunch is highly important in France! No one skips it, even if they can only eat a sandwich. Usually, we have lunch at 12 and we take at least one hour to eat. That might even go up to 2 hours. Indeed, it takes time to eat a first dish, a main dish, a dessert, and finish with an espresso!

Typical French Lunch at home

On weekends, typical lunch in France when home really is a family moment. We start cooking early in the morning if the meal we are preparing needs efforts and simmering. We call it mitonner comforting dish. Its pleasant scent will fill the house, and the whole family will enjoy it at noon. In winter, popular meals are tartiflette (potatoes, bacon and cheese), lasagnas or bœuf Bourguignon (Burgundy beef stew with red wine, mushrooms, onions and bacon). In summer, people like to make a barbecue (sausages, chicken, vegetables, potatoes) or make a salad. At home, if there is no special event, like a family or friend reunion, we spend about one hour or one hour and half seating to enjoy the meal. If we have guests, seating time can easily reach 2 hours.


… or at work

All companies do not have a cafeteria. When there is no cafeteria at work, you either need to bring your own food (usually the leftovers from the day before’s dinner) or to go and buy food nearby. In France, most companies provide tickets-restaurants (“Meal vouchers”) : The employees pay half of it and the remaining half is paid by the company. This is very convenient and this is one of the advantages provided by French companies. If there is a cafeteria at work, it is a self-service and employees will pay according to what they took. Some companies might cover a percentage of the meal, but this is not mandatory.

Lunch at school

In France, typical lunch break at school is from about 12 until 1.30 pm (13h30). All schools have a canteen, where children can eat a full meal prepared by an external company. It also can be directly prepared in the canteen, if there is a kitchen that allows it. The menu is planned for the week, and is usually pinned outside the school or on the Internet so that parents and children can know in advance what will be served. The menu is always as follows:

  • Entrée (“appetizer” or “first course”, not sure how to translate it), which can be a soup, a mixed saladboiled eggs or sardines
  • Plat principal (“main dish”), which always is composed of a source of protein like fish, meat or egg, vegetables, like broccoli, carrots or zucchinis, and carbohydrates like rice or pastas
  • Fromage, a piece of cheese
  • Dessert, (no translation needed here 🙂), generally a yogurt or a fruit

Bread and water are always on the table and everyone can have some during the meal. Most children eat at the canteen, as both parents typically are working and can’t pick up their kids for lunch.

French children at the canteen

Typical French lunch outside

When French people eat lunch outside, either on weekdays, with colleagues, or on weekends with family or friends, they typically go to a brasserie (typically French restaurant), that serves special menus at special prices for lunch. The prices are lower at lunch time than at dinner. The Menu du Jour (“today’s special”) often includes a choice of two entrées, two plats du jour and two desserts. In general, only typical French dishes are served. For example:

  • Melon and ham as the entrée
  • Steak tartare with French fries as the plat principal
  • Mousse au chocolat for the dessert

It is not rare that French people drink wine at lunch, even if they are working afterwards (moderately of course !).

In your country, is lunch an important meal ? What kind of food do you eat ? Let me know in the comments below 🙂