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Different types of bread you can find in France

By Aline
Reading Time: 4 minutes
bread france

France is synonymous with its iconic bread, and for good reason. The rich tradition of French baking offers a variety of bread types that are not only delicious but also an integral part of French culture.

Whether you’re planning to live in France or just visit, understanding the different types of bread available will enhance your culinary experience. Here’s a guide to the most popular types of bread you can find in France.

1. Baguette

The baguette is perhaps the most famous type of French bread. Long, thin, and crusty, the baguette is a staple in French households. The classic way to enjoy a baguette is fresh from the bakery. French people often eat it plain or with a simple spread of butter and jam for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, baguettes are perfect for sandwiches, such as the famous jambon-beurre (ham and butter) sandwich, or as an accompaniment to cheese and charcuterie platters.

bread france

2. Pain de Campagne

Pain de Campagne, or country bread, is a rustic, round loaf that often includes a mixture of white, whole wheat, and sometimes rye flours. This bread has a thick, crunchy crust and a dense, chewy interior. This rustic bread pairs wonderfully with hearty dishes. Enjoy it with soups, stews, or a thick slice of pâté. It’s also excellent for making open-faced sandwiches (tartines) with toppings like smoked salmon, avocado, or roasted vegetables.

3. Pain Complet

Pain complet is a whole wheat bread that offers a denser texture and a slightly nutty flavour. Whole wheat bread is a healthier option that works well for breakfast or lunch. French people often enjoy it with a variety of toppings such as avocado, smoked salmon, or a simple spread of honey or nut butter.

4. Pain Poilâne

Named after the famous bakery in Paris, pain Poilâne is a round, sourdough country bread made from a mixture of whole wheat and white flour. It has a distinctive, slightly tangy flavour and a thick crust. This tangy sourdough bread is delicious when toasted and topped with butter, cheese, or cured meats. It’s also a great base for more elaborate tartines, such as those with goat cheese, figs, and honey.

5. Brioche

Brioche is a sweet, buttery bread with a soft, tender crumb. It’s enriched with eggs and butter, giving it a rich flavour and a light, fluffy texture. Brioche is often enjoyed as a sweet breakfast treat. It’s delicious with butter and jam, or you can use it to make French toast (pain perdu). It’s also a key ingredient in some desserts, such as bread pudding.

6. Pain Aux Noix

Pain aux noix is a delightful variation of traditional French bread that includes nuts such as walnuts or hazelnuts. This bread has a crunchy texture and a rich, nutty flavour. Nut bread pairs perfectly with cheese, especially soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert. It’s also great with a drizzle of honey or spread with fresh fruit preserves.

bread france

7. Fougasse

Originating from the Provence region, fougasse is a flatbread often shaped like a leaf or an ear of wheat. It’s typically flavoured with ingredients like olives, herbs, cheese, or lardons (bacon). This flavorful flatbread is often enjoyed as an appetizer. It’s delicious on its own or dipped in olive oil. Fougasse can also be served alongside soups or salads and makes a great accompaniment to a charcuterie board.

8. Pain Viennois

Pain viennois is a slightly sweet bread with a soft, tender crumb, similar to brioche but less rich. It often contains milk, butter, and a touch of sugar. Pain viennois is ideal for a light breakfast or snack. Enjoy it with butter and jam, or with a spread of Nutella. It’s also perfect for making sweet or savory sandwiches.

9. Pain d’Épices

Pain d’épices is a traditional French spice bread made with rye flour, honey, and a blend of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. It has a dense, moist texture and a warm, spicy flavour. Spice bread is often enjoyed as a sweet snack or dessert. It pairs wonderfully with a spread of butter or a slice of foie gras. It’s also great with tea or coffee, and can be used in dessert recipes like gingerbread trifles or spice bread pudding.

10. Pain de Mie

Pain de mie is a soft, white sandwich bread with a fine crumb and a slightly sweet taste. It’s often used for making sandwiches, toast, and French toast. Pain de mie is perfect for making classic sandwiches due to its soft texture. It’s also a popular choice for making French toast, grilled cheese, or club sandwiches. You can also use it for canapés and tea sandwiches.

bread france

How to Shop for the Best Bread

To shop for the best bread in France, visit reputable artisan bakeries known for their quality or local favourites recommended by residents. Search for bakeries near you:

Look for freshly baked bread with a golden, crispy crust and a dense, moist crumb. Engage with bakers to learn about their ingredients and baking process, ensuring minimal additives and high-quality components. Buy in small quantities for maximum freshness, and store in paper bags at room temperature, or freeze if necessary. Avoid chains like La Mie Câline or Paul—even though the bread can be good there, it is always better in local bakeries. 

Try Them All

Exploring the various types of bread in France is a delicious journey through French culture and culinary tradition. Each type of bread has its own unique characteristics and flavours, offering something for every palate. As you immerse yourself in life in France, don’t miss the opportunity to savour these delightful breads and discover your favourites.

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