18 Traditional and Iconic French Dishes Eaten at Christmas

Ever wondered what dishes grace French tables on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? In this article, I’ll showcase the most iconic starters, main courses, and desserts enjoyed in France on December 24th and 25th.

Here’s a fun infographic to get started:

French christmas dish


Table of Contents



Starter in a Shot Glass

starter in shot glass

Sweet or savory, starters in shot glasses know how to start meals on a high note.

French people love serving them as appetizers at the beginning of a meal.

These starters are usually made from vegetables and fish and are always sure to make guests’ mouths water. Avocado and salmon, crab, and grapefruit are just a few of the possible ingredients.

A starter in a shot glass is one of the few starters that mix sweet and savory flavors and can be eaten in a few spoonfuls.




Fresh oysters are a must-have for Christmas meals.

Most people eat them raw with a dash of lemon juice.

Between oysters, French people love to bite into a piece of bread spread with unsalted butter.

While there are other ways to eat oysters, such as hot and cooked with champagne or au gratin with cheese, these ways of cooking them are not most French people’s cup of tea.

Though oysters are a mainstay at Christmas meals, it is rather difficult to please everyone with this dish as oysters are milky, hollow, flat, and generally of a decent size.


Foie Gras

foie gras

Although this dish is controversial because of the way it is produced, many French people struggle to give it up.

Foie gras is the ultimate festive dish.

Just as a terrine or a pâté, it is served in generous slices and is eaten on toast.

It always comes with chutney or a stewed fruit (ususally stewed figs) and a glass of champagne or a sweet white wine.


A Platter of Seafood

platter of seafood

Jumbo shrimp, crab pincers, shrimp, whelks, and winkles are the usual components of a platter of seafood.

This starter is very popular in France and is perfect for large gatherings due to its variety of crustaceans.

But the thing that most people like best is the homemade mayonnaise that is served with the seafood.

French people love to dip a fresh jumbo shrimp in mayonnaise and devour it without further ado!




Snails are often seen as representative of French cuisine overseas.

In reality, however, French people don’t eat them that often. This is a dish that is reserved for special occasions, making it ideal for starting a Christmas meal.

The most well-known and appreciated snail is the famous Burgundy snail.

They are usually cooked with parsley and garlic, but some creative French people cook them in fricassee or even in puff pastries.

Just as with whelks and winkles, you must remove the snail from its hiding place with a fork or a pick before enjoying it.


Smoked Salmon

smoked salmon

Smoked salmon is incredibly popular in France!

Accompanied with chives or dill sauce, it can be devoured in a single mouthful.

It also can be cooked with a soft-boiled egg and served on a blini or toast, or can even be eaten as a small burger!




A symbol of delicacy and festivity, scallops are a favored starter during Christmas Eve.

They are cherished for their delicate texture and subtle flavor.

Scallops can be served simply pan-seared with butter and parsley, or presented in a gratin, topped with a creamy sauce and broiled in the oven.

They are also sometimes paired with a parsnip or celery root purée, adding an earthy and sweet touch to the dish.


Main Courses

Turkey With Chestnuts


This is the traditional Christmas dish in France.

The stuffing is made from sausage, breadcrumbs, and chestnuts before it is seasoned and used to fill the turkey.

The turkey is then browned in the oven for over an hour before being served while still steaming.

It is almost two meals in one: deliciously juicy stuffing, and poultry with crispy skin and tender flesh!

The ingredients for the stuffing can be adjusted according to everyone’s taste – mushroom stuffing and apple stuffing are also quite popular.




Since a whole turkey weighs around 6 kilos and the price per kilo ranges from €13 to €23, turkey is a very expensive meal!

For this reason, many French people choose a more reasonably priced main dish, such as guinea fowl, a fattened chicken, or a simple chicken!

The choice often depends on the number of guests: a goose is the largest option and will easily fill more than six plates.


Game Meat

Game Meat

Game meat is a vital part of French culinary tradition, especially during the Christmas festivities.

This includes deer, wild boar, and sometimes pheasant.

These rich and flavorful meats are often prepared as roasts or stews, slowly cooked with robust wines and aromatic herbs.

The complexity of their flavors pairs perfectly with winter sides like root vegetable purées or braised cabbages.


Magret de canard (Duck Breast)

Duck Breast

This duck fillet, often served medium-rare, offers tender and juicy meat.

It is usually pan-seared and accompanied by sweet and savory sauces, such as a honey and balsamic vinegar reduction or a red fruit sauce.

This refined dish pairs wonderfully with simple sides like sautéed potatoes or a pan of seasonal vegetables.


Gratin Dauphinois

gratin dauphinois

If there is no turkey to stuff, what kind of side dish is served with these other delicious poultries?

Usually, it is potatoes, especially those cooked as gratin dauphinois!

After being cut into thin slices, the potatoes are cooked in the oven for an hour in a sauce made from milk, nutmeg, and garlic.

Young and old alike adore this traditional dish.


Sauteed Potatoes

sauteed potatoes

Simply cut and browned in a frying pan until they glisten, this simple recipe is one of the French people’s favorite side dishes.


Mashed Vegetables

mashed potatoes

Once again, potatoes win the prize for the favorite type of mashed vegetable during Christmastime. They are not the only vegetable regularly served, however.

Sweet potatoes provide a small change from regular potatoes with their sweet flavor.

Mashed carrots or celery are often enjoyed with roasted poultry.

Sometimes, a collection of several mashed ingredients is served as a side dish.


Grilled Mushrooms


Mushroom lovers are usually thrilled to see a pan of mushrooms served as a side dish.

Penny buns, girolle mushrooms, button mushrooms or mushrooms from a successful personal harvest all are ideal for creating a pan filled with different aromas.

Even though mushrooms are often used for the turkey’s filling, nothing stops French people from adding a ladleful to their plate as well!



Yule Logs

yule logs

Yule logs are a winter holiday dessert, but they are most often eaten on Christmas Day.

They are primarily made with chocolate or fruits, and may or may not be glazed. Glazed logs, however, are very popular because they are slightly lighter after a hearty Christmas meal.

Baked cookie dough is first covered with chocolate, jam, or other fancy fillings.

Then the dough is rolled to form a log full of sweet ingredients and sliced for everyone to enjoy!

Yule logs are perfect because they can be adjusted to accommodate anyone’s taste. Even the dough can be flavored!




Christmas is also a great time to eat pastries we only allow ourselves to buy for special occasions.

The French people’s favorite pastries are chocolate cake and fruit pies, but they are generally not seen as “fancy” enough for a Christmas meal.

That is why most people choose pastries such as the Paris-Brest, the millefeuille, or similar baker’s creations.


Ice Creams

ice creams

To end an already heavy meal, ice cream is French people’s favorite guilty pleasure.

It is especially fitting for a large family meal because everyone can choose their favorite flavor, and usually there are plenty of choices!

Vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, lemon, mango, passion fruit… the list is endless!

Small biscuits such as cigarette cookies or speculoos are often served alongside ice cream.