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The Most Delicious Vegetarian and Vegan French Recipes

January 17, 2022

When you think of classic French dishes, ones that involve meat–like steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, or coq au vin–probably come to mind first. Traditionally, French cuisine was based around meat, but that’s starting to change. Over 5% of French people are now vegetarian or vegan, and 34% of the French consider themselves “flexitariens.” That’s a fun word that means that your diet is mainly made of vegetables. (Note that the French use the terms “végan” and “végétalien” almost interchangeably, but they mean slightly different things, as this article explains.) 

Below, you’ll find the best French vegetarian and vegan recipes. You might already know some, like la ratatouille or le gratin dauphinois, but we’ve included some lesser-known, equally delicious recipes to surprise you! You’ll learn about the history of these dishes, and, as usual, we’ve included tons of entertaining recipe videos and crazy French facts to help you strengthen your comprehension skills and deepen your cultural knowledge. 

By Sophia Millman

 

Vegetarian Recipes

Tarte Tatin aux Tomates


You can read all about the classic apple tarte tatin in our article about ten essential French dishes. According to legend, cook Stephanie Tatin was making an apple tart one day, but forgot to put her crust in the tart dish. Not wanting to waste her caramelized apples, she put the pastry on top of them and cooked the tart anyway. When she took it out of the oven, she turned it upside down, inventing one of France’s most beloved desserts. The tomato version of the tart is famous in Provence, but you can also find an excellent version at Les Philosophes in Paris. 

  • If you have a New York Times subscription, try making Melissa Clarke’s amazing recipe (that includes kalamata olives) here. You can also read Kitchn’s simple recipe here.
  • Practice your French: watch this video for a step-by-step guide to making an awesome “tatin de tomates facile.” 
  • David Lebovitz makes a tomato tart with goat cheese that we also highly recommend.

 

Gratin Dauphinois

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The history of this famous potato dish is linked to the French Revolution! On June 7, 1788, a riot took place in Grenoble, and the Duke of Clermont-Tonnerre withdrew his troops from the insurgents to avoid a massacre. Then, on July 12, the Duke offered a meal to some of his officers in the Dauphiné region of France. It was on this occasion that the term “gratin dauphinois” was invented and recorded. Practice your comprehension skills and learn more about the dish by watching this clip from France’s historic video archive! 

  • Here’s how to make it. 
  • Up for a French language challenge? Read the recipe in French here

 

Omelette roulée aux fines herbes


The word “aumelette” appears in La Varenne’s 1653 cookbook “Le Pâtissier François.” Historians believe the dish dates to around the time when Italian Catherine de Medici introduced the fork to the French. They also speculate that the emergence of the fork and the evolution of the omelet may be intertwined because, as any good omelet maker knows, the trick is in your whisking technique! The most emblematic omelet is the “Omelette de la mère Poulard,” which was invented in the 19th century in Mont-Saint-Michel, France. Check out an awesome French video about the ​​Omelette de la mère Poulard here–we love how serious everyone is in it! 

  • If you have a New York Times subscription, check out the recipe for Jacques Pepin’s famous “Fines Herbes Omelet” here. Or watch a video of him making it on YouTube here. 
  • You can also learn about (and then make) Claude Monet’s omelette aux fines herbes here
  • Note: if you don’t own a basic nonstick pan or a fancy carbon-steel omelet pan, now is the time to invest in one. It’s really hard to make an omelet in a basic stainless steel pan! 

 

Soupe à l’oignon


These soups are often made with beef stock, but it’s easy to alter them so that the dish becomes vegetarian. No one knows when French onion soup was invented. Some attribute the recipe to King Louis XV, others to Stanislas Leszczynski, duke of Lorraine. According to Alexandre Dumas’s Grand dictionnaire de cuisine, Leszczynski first tastes the soup at an auberge in the Champagne region. He loved the soup so much that he asked to go to the kitchen to see it being made. Although “the smell of the onion… brought great tears to his eyes,” he copied down the recipe!  

 

Vegan Recipes

Ratatouille


The term “ratatouille” became popular in the 19th century, and is derived from the French verbs ratouiller and tatouiller, which both mean “to stir up.” Originally, a ratatouille was any kind of simple stew, and could even include meat. The all-vegetable stew that we know today comes from Provence and first appeared in the early 20th century. Because there is no standard ratatouille recipe, it’s a great and easy French dish to make since you can improvise liberally! 

 

Piperade


This Basque mixture of green peppers, onions, and tomatoes flavored with piment d’Espelette often serves as the base for a chicken dish called “Poulet Basque.” Made with eggs, it resembles a shakshuka. While you can eat it with just about any protein, we recommend serving it plain with baguette. It’s a perfect vegan meal! 

  • You can make it following this recipe in English, or practice your French by using this recipe, which comes with helpful images. 
  • Watch a piperade video recipe of a man with an amazing Southern French accent here

 

Soupe au pistou


The Provençal equivalent of minestrone, this vegetable soup is perfect for pesto lovers! “Le pistou” derives from the verb “pistare” (to crush). In 1931, Auguste Brun wrote about a “Soupe de pistou” made with crushed basil, salt, garlic and olive oil. Unlike pesto, le pistou does not feature pine nuts. The soup is a wonderful summer dish, but could also make a hearty winter soup. 

  • See the perfect recipe for the soup in English here and check out the French recipe here
  • Watch a vintage video of a French man making the soup here

 

Salade de Lentilles


In Italy, it’s customary to eat lentils on the first day of the year because they bring good luck. You can read NPR’s “Luck Be a Lentil Tonight! What the World Eats to Welcome the New Year” to learn more about the Italian tradition. The tradition reached parts of Southern France, and in the Provence region some families eat lentil salads on the first day of each month of the year. 

While lentil salad may not have originated in France, la salade de lentilles is now a popular French dish and one that’s super healthy and delicious. It’s often made with goat cheese or ham, but it’s also common to find all-vegetable versions. You can whip up a delicious vegan version of the salad with this recipe (just replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock and omit the goat cheese). 

We recommend making this vegan lentil salad recipe to celebrate the start of 2022! The recipe is in French, but we’ve translated into English below:

Here’s what you’ll need:

4.2 oz (120 g) of lentils, 1 red pepper, 1 avocado, 1 zucchini, 1 tomato, Olive oil, Lemon juice, Salt and pepper, Chopped fresh basil or parsley (optional)

  • Cook the lentils in a pan of cold water, without adding salt, for 25 to 30 minutes. Drain.
  • Wash the zucchini and bell pepper and cut them into small squares. Fry them for about 15 minutes in a pan with a little olive oil.
  • In the meantime, wash the tomato and cut it into small squares, as well as the avocado, which should be sprinkled with lemon juice so that it does not turn black. 
  • In a bowl, mix the lentils, zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, avocado and optional herbs. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. 
  • Eat and celebrate a lucky 2022!