Here are the best French cookbooks that are written by actual French chefs. French gastronomy (la gastronomie Française) has long been renowned for its complexity of technique and ingredients. As a French, I love to cook and I know how the cuisine Française can be intimidating, with its daunting sauces, its perfectly fluffy soufflés, and its masterful manipulation of primary ingredients. That is why you may need a little guidance when making French cuisine in your own kitchen.
Luckily for you, today’s post is all about the best French cookbooks you can use for reference or inspiration but also for step-by-step recipes. Indeed, I’ve invested a lot of time researching content to bring you the best French cookbooks in English, but also in the French language –si vous parlez un petit peu Français. All of these cookbooks are written by actual French chefs: some of them are well-renowned chefs, owners of Michelin-starred restaurants, but also influential authors and food critics. And while some of the suggestions below are encyclopedias meant to be followed literally to the letter, others are modern reinterpretations with step-by-step recipes for improving your overall cooking.
So whether you’re a foodie, the family cook, or an aspiring chef who’s dreaming of his own Michelin star, I have picked out the best French cookbooks for you to discover.
The Best French Cookbooks (in English) Indispensable For Every Cook
Larousse Gastronomique has been the foremost resource of culinary knowledge since its initial publication in 1938. It’s the world’s best gastronomic bible with alphabetized entries about everything related to food like raw ingredients, cooking techniques, famous chefs, culinary jobs, and kitchen tools. With entries arranged in encyclopedic fashion, Larousse Gastronomique is not only incredibly user-friendly, but it is also a fantastic read for anyone who loves food.
The 21st-century edition of Le Larousse Gastronomique is enhanced with 3,800 recipes featuring dishes from all over the world, and 400 reportage photos of the most prestigious restaurants today. And not only it contains recipes but teaches readers about the history of French cuisine and how to properly use French techniques.
Le Guide Culinaire, Escoffier
When French chef and restaurateur Georges Auguste Escoffier published the first edition of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, it immediately became an indispensable book for professional French chefs and kitchen staff. More than a century later, it remains the classic reference for professional chefs. This book is the only completely authentic, unabridged English translation of Escoffier’s classic work. This latest revised version includes more than 5,000 recipes in narrative form for everything from sauces, soups, garnishes, and hors d’oeuvres to fish, meats, poultry, and desserts. Escoffier’s Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery is the ultimate guide and cookbook for anyone who is serious about French food, modern cooking, or culinary.
Le Répertoire de la Cuisine, Louis Saulnier
Le Répertoire de la Cuisine is a professional reference cookbook written by Théodore Gringoire and Louis Saulnier and published originally in 1914. It is intended to serve as a quick reference to Le Guide Culinaire by Saulnier’s mentor, Auguste Escoffier, and adds a significant amount of Saulnier’s own material. Also, it’s better suited for intermediate or advanced cooks rather than beginners. This can be seen as the “how-to” manual of a disciple following his mentor and it’s therefore suitable as a brief reference for professional cooks rather than beginners.
Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes
It is all but impossible to talk about modern French cuisine without mentioning Paul Bocuse, who was named Chef of the Century in 2011 by the Culinary Institute of America. There are three Michelin stars and the Legion of Honor in his name. In his book, Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes, he shares 500 simple, traditional French recipes. Aimed at the beginner but with enough breadth to entice the confident chef, these recipes can be readily prepared at home and emphasize the use of the freshest and simplest ingredients.
The book is divided into twenty-two chapters, fourteen covering savory recipes and eight covering sweet recipes, with everything from soups to soufflés, fish, meat, and vegetables. There’s also a helpful and well-organized appendix, featuring average cooking times for different types of meat, conversion tables, and a glossary of key French culinary terms.
Let’s Eat France! by François-Régis Gaudry
Let’s Eat France! was named Best Food Book of the Year / Best Book to Gift by the New York Times Book Review, National Geographic, Houston Chronicle, The Guardian, Real Simple, and more. This book is so much more than a cookbook, it’s a feast for food lovers and Francophiles! Let’s Eat France! includes classic recipes, including how to make a pot-au-feu, eight essential composed salads, pâté en croûte, blanquette de veau, choucroute, and the best ratatouille. But also, a region-by-region index of each area’s famed cheeses, charcuterie, and recipes. And poster-size guides to the breads of France, the wines of France, the oysters of France—even the frites of France. This French cookbook combines the completist virtues of an encyclopedia and the obsessive visual pleasures of infographics with an enthusiast’s unbridled joy.
François-Régis Gaudry is a well-known French food critic and host of the show On va déguster on the French public radio channel Inter France. He is also a food journalist at L’Express and the host of Très très bon on French television channel Paris Première.
La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking
La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking combines over 300 classic regional French recipes —from Bresse chicken in mourning to lobster Aurora as well as simple classics like artichokes with foie gras— that anyone can easily follow at home. The restaurant “La Mère Brazier” became the most famous in France. Its proprietor and chef, Eugénie Brazier, was the first woman awarded six Michelin stars. She became—and still is today—the inspiration and mentor for modern French cooking, and leading chefs including Paul Bocuse have trained with her.
While most classic French recipes are complicated and time-consuming, Brazier’s cooking is more practical and user-friendly. Filling an important gap in culinary history, this book is a must-have for anyone interested in classic recipes and French regional cuisine.
Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World
Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World is an international bestseller! With 200 quick and easy recipes, this French cookbook will be your new go-to for everyday meals. This easy-to-follow cookbook is packed with 1,000 photographs and dozens of appetizer, lunch, and dinner ideas. With basic flavors and fresh ingredients, chef, food photographer, and cookbook author Jean-François Mallet helps anyone, the novice and gourmand alike, prepare tasty time-saving meals. Each recipe includes two to six ingredients and fewer than 4 steps.
Jean-François Mallet has taught at the École Supérieure de Cuisine Française Ferrandi in Paris, and worked for many years with such chefs as Joël Robuchon and Gaston Lenôtre. Today he is a food writer and photographer and contributes to French magazines, such as Saveur, Elle à Table, and Etoile.
The Five Seasons Kitchen, Pierre Gagnaire
In 2015 Pierre Gagnaire, whose 11 restaurants worldwide boast two and three Michelin stars, was voted “Best Chef in the World” by his peers, and 2016 sees him mark 50 dazzlingly creative and successful years in the kitchen. In his book The Five Seasons Kitchen, Pierre Gagnaire follows the rhythm of the seasons and shares his best recipes that are very accessible for home cooks. There are six menus with starters, main dishes, and desserts, in each chapter. For the chef, there are five seasons (not four) and spring must be divided into two seasons as there are not the same products in March and in June.
The French Chef Handbook, Michel Maincent-Morel
The acclaimed La Cuisine de Référence is now available in its international English version: The French Chef Handbook. This French cookbook revolutionized the learning of cooking by offering solid techniques to beginners. It’s a bestseller in the French chef community, that is now available in English! This bestseller includes 500 techniques, 1,000 recipe worksheets, more than 3,000 photos, and a wide panel of 118 videos accessible by QR codes or URL to facilitate understanding.
Michel Maincent-Morel is a retired culinary instructor and honorary head chef at Jean Drouant Hospitality School of Paris. He has written several books which have all been awarded by the French National Culinary Academy grand Prix.
Alain Ducasse Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good
Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse challenges the cliché image of French food as complicated and heavy. In his book Alain Ducasse Nature: Simple, Healthy, and Good, he goes back to basics and rediscovers the pleasures of simple French food based on healthy, locally sourced ingredients that are in season, without the fat, and without the fuss. The book features charming line drawings and mouthwatering food photography by one of France’s most acclaimed food photographers. And with over 190 simple yet sublime dishes, Ducasse highlights a wide range of flavor combinations in which vegetables, fruits, and grains take pride of place, while animal protein is used sparingly for flavor.
The Best French Cookbooks in French Language
- Le Grand Larousse Gastronomique
- Mieux manger toute l’année – 2021, Laurent Mariotte
- Le grand cours de cuisine Ferrandi
- Le grand livre de la cuisine française, Jean-François Piège
- Fait maison: numéro 1, numéro 2 and numéro 3, Cyril Lignac
- Cuisine, leçons en pas à pas (Meilleur ouvrier de France)
- Toute la cuisine de Paul Bocuse
- On va déguster : la France
- Simplissime La cuisine française
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