Readers reveal: The worst food in France

The results are in from our poll in which readers reveal their least favourite French foods of all, from despised offal to stomach-churning molluscs, dubious meats to disappointing pastries.

Readers reveal: The worst food in France
Which French delicacy can you really not stomach? Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP

Let’s be clear from the start that most French food is fantastic. The country has a proud tradition of gastronomy and exceptional fresh, local produce is on sale at most local markets, making cooking a joy.

We love to celebrate French cuisine in our food and drink section HERE.


But there are some classic French dishes that are just a step too far for many foreigners.

We asked readers to tell us which French dishes they simply cannot stomach, and why.

Hundreds of people nominated their most disliked food, and we then put the shortlist to a public vote. The item voted worst French food of all was – andouillette.

Of those who nominated andouillette as their least favourite, the most common reason was the taste, followed by the smell, while some others said they just couldn’t get past the idea.

So what is andouillette? It’s basically a type of sausage, and you’ll often see it for sale at food stalls at Christmas markets or sports grounds.

But it’s the method of preparation that puts many people off – the pork used to make the sausage comes from the large intestine of the pig – the bowel in other words – and this gives andouillette what is politely described as its “strong, distinctive odour”. Basically it smells of shit.

Andouillette fans say if you get past the smell, the sausage itself is delicious. Others disagree while some question why on earth you would want to eat something that smells like that. 

It’s good for a pithy political quote though, former French prime minister Edouard Herriot said: “La politique, c’est comme l’andouillette, ça doit sentir un peu la merde, mais pas trop” – Politics is like andouillette, it should smell a little of shit, but not too much.

Second worst was tête de veau – calf’s head, which is pretty much as it sounds, the slow-cooked head of a cute little baby cow. This is sometimes served whole but other times boned and rolled, but plenty of readers were not keen on the taste while others say the idea is just too gross.

In third position was foie gras – made from the livers of artificially fattened geese. While many readers simply don’t like the taste, others declined to eat it on moral grounds – the production of it involves force-feeding the geese in a process that many believe is extremely cruel. Foie gras is banned in many countries on animal welfare grounds.

And in fourth place came the French classic dish of snails. Perhaps not as common in France as foreigners believe, snails are still served in many French bistros. Despite their generous coating of garlic butter, many readers could not bring themselves to eat them. 

READ ALSO Do the French really eat frogs, snails and horses?

We also asked readers what they believed the most over-rated French dish was, and here the nominations were more varied, with some people opting for a dish they simply believe is not all it’s cracked up to be, while others suggested a dish that should be good, but is often poorly prepared. 

While many people nominated foie gras as simply the worst food, others nominated it as over-rated – the fatty liver (somehow it sounds better in French) is expensive (most due to its labour-intensive production) and is therefore often served as a ‘treat’ on special occasions in France, particularly at Christmas and New Year.

In second place was the ‘royal tart’ Galette des rois. This is the cake traditionally eaten on the Christian festival of epiphany (January 6th) and it has a lot of fun rituals – crown-wearing, sitting under the table, finding the lucky bean – that makes it popular with French families.

But the cake itself? It’s perhaps best described as simple, a flaky pastry case filled with frangipane or in some areas puréed apple. It’s not that it’s unpleasant but in a country rightly famed for it’s pâtisserie, there are better options out there. 

The traditional January 6th cake Galette de rois. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP)

Steak-frites is a French bistro classic and done well it’s simple food at its best – a good cut of meat, simply cooked, freshly made French fries and usually either green beans or salad on the side.

But because it is so ubiquitous it’s often done badly in places that don’t really care for their meat – the most common complaints from readers were tough steak, limp frites or a chef who simply hadn’t listened to the cooking instructions.

Boeuf bourguignon is one of the simplest French dishes – beef, veg, stock and wine all thrown together in a pot and cooked slowly. 

Basically it’s a beef stew and since a lot of other European countries have their own version of this dish, many felt that boeuf bourguignon was simply over-hyped for what is a tasty but basic dish.

There were also several nominations for ‘vegetarian food’, as many people pointed out that it can be tough to be a veggie in France, especially outside of the big cities. 

‘Call the restaurant’ – your tips for being vegetarian or vegan in France

Member comments

  1. It would be interesting to see the results of this poll by country of origin of the responder. I suspect the results would show clear signs of cultural influence.

  2. Being a big farmer I can vouch for the inaccuracy of your statement
    “Smells like Shit”
    Rather a ripe gamey smell

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?