France is renowned worldwide for its delectable desserts and pastries. From airy meringues to flaky tarts, the French have perfected the art of ending a meal on a sweet note.
In this post, I’m rounding up 25 classic French desserts that you can recreate at home. These elegant yet approachable recipes will transport your tastebuds straight to a Parisian patisserie.
1. Meringue Kisses
Light and airy meringue cookies are a delightful French treat. Made with just egg whites and sugar, these sweet morsels have a marshmallow-like texture that melts in your mouth.
Tint the meringues with food coloring for festive holidays and sprinkle them with chocolate chips or nuts for some added crunch. They’re easy to whip up and perfect for afternoon tea or gifting.
2. Cherry Clafoutis
Clafoutis is a rustic baked dessert with origins in the Limousin region of France. It features fresh cherries baked into a custardy batter and dusted with powdered sugar. Sour cherries are traditional, but any variety works.
The name “clafoutis” comes from the Occitan dialect word “clafir” meaning “to fill.” Bake this when cherries are in season for a simple yet impressive dessert.
With their fluted shape and caramelized exterior, caneles are a French pastry you don’t see every day.
These little cakes have a crispy, custard-like interior flavored with rum and vanilla. Making caneles requires challenging baking techniques to achieve their signature contrasting textures.
But the payoff of pulling these cork-shaped beauties out of the mold is well worth the effort.
4. French Fig Tart
This classic French dessert stars fresh figs nestled into a flaky, buttery crust with frangipane, an almond cream filling.
When figs are at their sweet, ripe peak in late summer and fall, they shine in this tart. The crispy crust provides a nice contrast to the soft roasted figs layered on top.
Slice into slim wedges to showcase the beautiful layered look.
5. Café Liégeois
For an adult spin on the ice cream sundae, try this French dessert composed of iced coffee, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream.
The trio of flavors and textures is served in a tall glass, topped with chocolate shavings or sauce. Be sure to use high quality espresso for the base.
It’s perfect for lunch or a late night treat.
6. French Lemon Tart
Pucker up for this bright and tangy tart! A buttery shortbread crust cradles the smooth, lemony filling made from lemon juice, eggs, sugar and cream.
Fresh lemon zest adds floral aroma. The tartness of the lemon curd plays off the sweet crust beautifully. Serve small slices as it’s quite rich.
7. French Chocolate Truffles
Decadent, bite-sized chocolate truffle candies are a beloved French confection. With an oaky, nutty flavor profile from the cocoa powder and cream base, these melt-in-your-mouth treats are simple to prepare.
Roll the ganache balls in nuts, sprinkles or cocoa powder before chilling. Truffles make great gifts or party favors too.
8. Palmier Cookies
Also known as palmiers, these pretty cookies are made from puff pastry dough rolled up with sugar and cinnamon inside. As they bake, the dough forms the signature palm leaf shape.
With just 3 ingredients, palmiers are easy to make and impressive to serve. The flaky layers shatter into buttery, caramelized pieces that will disappear fast.
9. French Toast
French toast is a dish loved around the world, but it actually originated in France as ‘pain perdu’, meaning lost bread. Day-old bread is dipped in a creamy egg and milk mixture then fried to golden, puffy perfection.
Top with powdered sugar, fruit, syrup or hazelnut spread. Brioche, challah and baguette all make excellent bases.
Beignets are sweet dough fritters that are a specialty of New Orleans, with French roots. They’re made from deep-fried yeasted dough and generously dusted with powdered sugar.
Unlike donuts, beignets have a square shape and no hole in the center. When fresh, they have a delightfully light and pillowy texture.
Dip them in café au lait for the quintessential French Market breakfast.
11. Crème Caramel
This silky, rich custard is topped with a layer of melted caramel that oozes down the sides when unmolded.
Baked in a water bath, the egg and cream base transforms into a velvety flan that jiggles enticingly when shaken.
Serve crème caramel chilled and flipped over onto plates to showcase the glistening caramel drizzle.
12. Parisian Flan
In Paris, flan is an egg custard baked in a tart shell until lightly browned on top. The classic vanilla custard filling has a luxurious, creamy texture.
Unlike American flan, the French version sets fully so it can be eaten out of hand without a plate.
Pick up the eggy, flaky mini tarts from street vendors while strolling around the city.
13. Cream Puffs
Choux pastry is used to make heavenly cream puffs – round pastries with crisp, airy shells and rich fillings.
Fill the hollow puffs with sweet whipped cream, pastry cream, cheese filling or ice cream.
Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with chocolate sauce. Cream puffs are best enjoyed the day they’re made when the choux dough is still tender.
14. Pears Belle Helene
Pears poached in a vanilla-spiked syrup are topped with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream in this elegant dessert.
Named after a 19th century opera, it combines simple flavors for a light and refreshing sweet treat after dinner.
Select ripe pears and avoid over-poaching them to keep the delicate fruit flavor.
15. Crème Brûlée
A French dessert classic, crème brûlée consists of a rich vanilla custard base topped with a layer of hard caramelized sugar.
The contrast of the crunchy burnt sugar crust and the silky custard is highly addictive.
Made with just a few ingredients like heavy cream, eggs and vanilla, it takes well to creative twists too. Try unique brûlée toppings like lemon or lavender.
16. Palets de Dames
These delicate round shortbread cookies are called Palets de Dames or “Ladies’ Pucks” in French.
Their tender, cake-like texture comes from incorporating both ground and chopped almonds.
The subtle nutty flavor pairs nicely with tea or coffee. Palets de Dames are often coated in a thin glaze or jam for extra sweetness and shine.
17. French 75 Cocktail
The French 75 cocktail was created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. It’s composed of gin, lemon juice, sugar and Champagne.
Legend has it this bubbly, citrusy libation was named after the French 75mm field gun used in World War I. Just like the gun packed a punch, so does this boozy cooler!
Flaugnarde is a classic French baked custard dessert flavored with fresh seasonal fruit. Cherries, apricots, apples, pears or plums are nestled into the rich eggy batter before baking.
Similar to clafoutis but larger, flaugnarde puffs up around the fruit and takes on the appearance of a large, rustic pancake.
Madeleines are dainty sponge cakes recognizable for their seashell shape. Their tender, cake-like crumb comes from folding beaten eggs into the batter.
Madeleines taste best fresh from the oven while the sugar coating is still crispy. Dust them with powdered sugar or dip the shell shape in chocolate for added decadence.
20. Apple Cranberry Galette
Galette is a classic French free-form tart with frangipane and fresh fruit as filling. Puff pastry is folded up around sliced apples, cranberries, pears or other seasonal fruit in a rustic presentation.
Easy to make and adapt, galettes feel special with a dusting of powdered sugar or drizzle of caramel sauce on top.
21. Yogurt Cake
This French cake has a marvelous moist crumb thanks to the use of yogurt, which also imparts tangy flavor. Combining the wet and dry ingredients requires no mixer.
The simple recipe bakes up tender every time, making it a great weekday dessert. Dress up a yogurt cake with chocolate chips, fruit or nuts to please kids and adults alike.
Buttery little French cakes called financiers are shaped like gold bars. Almond flour and ground almonds contribute dense texture and nutty flavor. Brown butter and powdered sugar also enrich their taste and springy crumb.
Traditionally made by nuns in 19th century convents, these small-batch mini cakes make a fancy gift or addition to a dessert spread.
23. Kir Royale
Kir Royale cocktails combine crème de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, with bubbles from Champagne or sparkling wine. The sweet yet tart kick of the cassis fruit pairs perfectly with crisp sparkling wine.
Named after a French mayor, the Kir adds festive flair with minimal effort. Just mix and enjoy this berry-infused drink.
24. Ina Garten’s French Chocolate Bark
French chocolate bark makes a stellar homemade gift for the holidays. Covered in nuts, candies and fruits, each piece of bark has delicious custom toppings.
Use high-quality dark chocolate and let your creativity run wild with the mix-ins. Chili powder, pretzels, coconut – anything goes! And there’s no baking required.
No French food roundup would be complete without a mention of crepes. These tissue-thin pancakes can be filled either savory or sweet.
Whip up a simple batter with flour, milk and eggs. Then pour it into a hot buttered pan to make the delicate wrappers.
Fill with Nutella, lemon curd, fruit, whipped cream – anything your heart desires! National Crepe Day on February 2 is the perfect excuse to indulge.