Essential Ingredients for French Cooking Checklist

Stock your pantry with a few basic ingredients to create an authentic French meal.

  1. Check Bread

    Ideally, serve it in baguette form. It’s definitely worth searching out at a local bakery.

  2. Check Butter

    Butter is not typically offered on the table alongside the bread. However, it is a key component in French cooking and baking, so buy the best high-butterfat brand your budget permits.

  3. Check Cheese

    Considered a separate course in many French meals, a selection of cheese is always good to have on hand. French cheeses are a solid place to start (think Brie, Camembert, and Roquefort).

  4. Check Fleur de sel

    This is a coarse, hand-harvested sea salt. It’s on the pricey side, so don’t cook with it. Instead, use it as a finishing salt, sprinkling just a few grains on vegetables and grilled fish. Look for it in specialty food stores like select Whole Foods locations and Williams-Sonoma.

  5. Check Herbes de Provence

    Used liberally with meats and vegetables in French cooking (it can really make a roast chicken sing), this dried-herb mixture typically has rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, and a handful of other flavorful herbs.

  6. Check Leeks

    The slightly oniony vegetable adds a sweetness and flavor that are distinctive to French dishes.

  7. Check Mustard

    A smooth Dijon mustard should be on hand for salad dressings, but a grainy mustard that goes with meats (like steak au poivre) is also a must-have.

  8. Check Olive oil

    When deciding which type of quality olive oil to purchase, let your taste and budget be your guides. Save the expensive oils for drizzling on dishes for that extra hit of flavor; use less expensive oils for marinades, sautéing, and mustardy vinaigrettes.

  9. Check Shallots

    Shallots offer the flavors of both onion and garlic. Roasting them alongside a chicken will make them soft and mild, like roasted garlic.

  10. Check Tarragon, fresh

    Tarragon is the main go-to fresh herb for chicken dishes.

  11. Check Vinegar

    Red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar are both key—they’re tangy and make for great vinaigrette and marinade bases. Sometimes a dish calls for the more potent sherry vinegar to provide a little extra kick.

  12. Check Wine

    Used for cooking, both red and white wines are staples in any French kitchen.