Vegetarian might as well be a dirty word in France. Whenever I ask French friends about options for vegetarians when it comes to their national cuisine, they usually shrug their shoulders and suggest the vegetarian starts eating escargot.
In French culture, to be vegetarian is to miss out on some of the biggest pleasures in life. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, one still has to respect the fact that some people choose to cut out meat for reasons that are religious, health-related, ethical, or just personal.
As such, if you are a vegetarian in France or have friends visiting Paris who are, you’re going to be searching high and low for some meat-free options in a country whose cuisine is built on the likes of foie gras, steak tartare, and poulet rôti. This can be a struggle if you can’t speak or read French, so I decided to compile a list of fail-safe vegetarian options that you can find on the menus of most brasseries, so that you can enjoy French cuisine while maintaining your dietary preference.
Note: The options listed below are only for vegetarians that do not eat meat. They are not suitable for people who cut out eggs or dairy products.
Traditionally a peasant’s dish from the south of France, ratatouille is a vegetarian stew best had in the spring and summer months. It’s composed of caramelized onions, peppers, courgette, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and other goodies, and made extra flavourful thanks to fresh herbs and dry white wine.
Camembert au four
Camembert au four is a must for any vegetarian in Paris. The center of the French cheese becomes gooey when baked in the oven, and typically served in restaurants with honey, fresh baguette, and a small salad on the side.
Salade de chèvre chaud
This dish is made up of a salad of assorted vegetables – usually lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes – accompanied by toast topped with baked goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic reduction.
Another dish best had in the summer, gazpacho is a cold soup made up of tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, and olive oil. While this is the core recipe, sometimes restaurants jazz it up with special additions such as jalapenos.
Just because you’re vegetarian doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the best French street food! Almost every single crêpe stand in Paris is make-your-own, which means you can pick and choose from ingredients to suit your dietary preference. A great savoury option would be oeuf et fromage (egg and cheese), while you can’t go wrong with Nutella et banane (Nutella and banana) for sweet.
Soupe à l’oignon
Soupe à l’oignon – popularly known abroad as French onion soup – is a must-try in Paris. The savoury onion broth is made all the better by gratinéed bread and cheese on top. A great, hearty choice if visiting Paris in the wintertime!