Readers’ tips: How to create an authentic Thanksgiving in France

Readers' tips: How to create an authentic Thanksgiving in France
A traditional turkey dinner. Photo: Alex Moore/Getty/AFP
For many Americans, the fourth Thursday in November - aka Thanksgiving - is the most important holiday in their cultural calendar.

And while the Americans living in France may be far from home, that won’t stop thousands of them celebrating – even if they don’t get the public holiday like they do back home and have to miss out on watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and American football on TV.

American restaurants in Paris that run special Thanksgiving nights usually get booked up months in advance.

So, instead many will gather in groups across France to devour the traditional turkey with cranberry sauce and take advantage of their adopted home by sinking a few glasses of French wine, no doubt.

We asked our American readers for their tips on creating the perfect Thanksgiving when they are a long way from US stores.


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If you’re among the Americans who will be celebrating at home in France, according to our US readers, things have really improved in terms of accessibility to the foodstuffs you’re used to eating at this time of year back home. 

ChrisInParis tweeted: “Unlike in the past, it’s fairly easy to buy everything you need, though count on paying a lot (€80) for a turkey”, adding that certain ingredients such as sweet potatoes and cranberries are easier to track down than they used to be (see tweet below).  


Chris also warned that it is unlikely that you will be able “to walk in and find a turkey”.

“They’re bred to be ready for Christmas so you need to order in advance. They will be small (around 4 kilo) for the same reason as above,” he tweeted.

Remember that the French for turkey is une dinde – not le dindon as that applies to the living animal.

Also be warned that items like canned pumpkins might still be tricky to get your hands on. 

At this time of year, however, most markets have fresh pumpkins, so you can buy pumpkin pieces, bake and puree them yourself. 


Similarly, you’d be lucky to find Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, French’s French Fried Onions and Stouffer’s Stuffing so that means cooking Thanksgiving dinner in France involves a lot more planning because so many of the dishes have to be prepared from scratch. 

Fresh cranberries are fairly widely available in markets and supermarkets.

Some readers recommended handy websites when it comes to planning and preparing your French Thanksgiving. 

Tish Devling described Alex French Guy Cooking‘s Thanksgiving prep timeline and recipe sources for nine dishes as “pretty epic”. 

While Gina Dellilios recommended food publication Bon Appetit which has a selection of articles covering various aspects of Thanksgiving from the meal from how to produce the perfect brussels sprouts to Thanksgiving cocktails and, of course, the turkey

For Americans who have children in France Thanksgiving provides the perfect chance to introduce them to an American tradition.

“As a father it has become important. A way to show my son a bit of good old America,” Jeff Steiner who leads the group Americans in France previously told The Local.

However even with the best intentions if you’re living in a small apartment, the cooking itself can be tough. 

One American living in France said that with this in mind, with all the baking and roasting that awaits you, you might want to ask a friendly neighbour – preferably one who has been invited to dinner – if you can rent out or borrow their oven for the day.

And let’s not forget about the decorations. 

Getting hold of those may be even more difficult than getting hold of some of the more traditional foodstuffs but don’t worry, there are lots of websites with ideas for how to make them at home – and if you have kids, no doubt they’d love to get involved in this side of the preparations. 

But if after reading this, you think going the whole hog and creating a traditional Thanksgiving in France is just too much effort, you could always keep the most important elements – gathering loved ones together for food and drink – and ditch the turkey.

“Just throw a dinner party and call it Thanksgiving,” said Sarah Schmidt.  

But however you plan to celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving from The Local. 

Member comments

  1. I don’t live in Paris, I live in the Gard. It is far more difficult to find cranberries and can pumpkin here. But why not order the spices and buy a pumpkin? It is like a treasure hunt, to find all f the missing items one needs for a great Thanksgiving. The most important ingredient is the people! We will have a ball. Dinde and all!

    1. We live in the Vaucluse, so the search for American-style ingredients is not easy. We discovered the website which has both Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce (canned) as well as Libby’s Canned Pumpkin. If you are cooking-challenged, as I am, they also carry StoveTop Stuffing! Ikea has a lingonberry jam, which is very good and we find the flavor is quite similar to the taste of cranberry sauce.

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