French cuisine is complex in terms of ingredients and technique. This is why any home cook, newbie or skilled, might find it daunting to cook a French recipe.
That’s why it’s a good thing that there are a lot of French cookbooks out there to help you make a good Franco-centric meal. Whether you are in the mood for something technical, or something extensive, there’s always something for you.
Of course, you could always get the classic ones. Julia Child and Jacques Pepin are some of our iconic chefs who’ve written French recipes that have become canon. Their books are the equivalent of taking master classes.
But if you’re looking for some easy, modern takes on French cuisine, there are some new books that will take off your reluctance at cooking them. These cookbooks rely on ingredients that are easy to obtain and emphasize the freshness of the food in order to bring out the distinct flavor of the dish.
Some books will combine recipes with some cultural and gastronomic information about the meal's origins. These books make for an interesting read when you’re not using them for cooking.
In this list, there are cookbooks for every kind of taste and cooking level. These cookbooks have the most interesting takes on French cuisine and feature detailed and reliable instructions. Here are the top ten French cookbooks on Amazon.
Best French Cookbooks
- Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home Hardcover – Illustrated
- Rustic French Cooking Made Easy: Authentic, Regional Flavors from Provence, Brittany, Alsace and Beyond Hardcover – Illustrated
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) Paperback
- Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food Hardcover
- The Art of French Pastry: A Cookbook Hardcover – Deckle Edge
- Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated,
- French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region Paperback
- My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
- French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
1. Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook presents French recipes that have been streamlined so that one spends less time in the kitchen but still gets delicious dishes. The selection is a good mix of the familiar and some new ones that Garten developed using inspiration from the street markets and shops of France.
The recipes are written explicitly so that even a newbie will find them easy to follow. They are accompanied by gorgeous color photographs. The cookbook uses ingredients that are easy to find in the US all year long. There’s also a section in the book that features a selection of wines and liquors for pairing.
Readers love this book for the accessibility of the recipes. Of particular note are the boeuf bourguignon, chicken liver mousse, and the oyster soup recipes. This is French country food but made with very basic and fresh ingredients that one can easily find in a local market. Skilled home cooks will also find some challenging recipes that would be perfect for weekends or special occasions.
2. Rustic French Cooking Made Easy: Authentic, Regional Flavors from Provence, Brittany, Alsace and Beyond Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook presents lesser known French cuisine gathered from the region of Northern France. There’s enough variety in the selection for making simple meals, snacks and desserts which are full of the rich, complex flavors that French cuisine is famous for.
Recipes are well-written and easy to follow. They use ingredients that are easy to source or are pantry staples. Measurements are both in weight and volume. There’s an equal mix of familiar and uncommon dishes,and each one is easily customizable.
The book is beautifully photographed and there are information bits about the culture behind each featured recipe. Readers love the authenticity and accessibility of the recipes. Publisher’s Weekly called it “a superb collection of lesser-known regional French dishes.”
3. Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set) Paperback
You’ll never go wrong with Julia Child if you want to truly master French cooking. This is a boxed set that collects the two volumes of her classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The first volume collects her 524 classic recipes that have been, for nearly 50 years, used by both beginners and seasoned cooks to learn the foundations of French cuisine. The second volume which highlights French baking and charcuterie, contains an extra 257 additional recipes that build on the skills and technique presented in the first volume.
Each recipe is worked out step-by-step with the typical precision that Julia Child has. The books do not have glamorous photos but there are more than a hundred illustrations in the first volume and five times as many in the second volume. All these make it easy for any one with any skill level to properly make the dish.
4. Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food Hardcover
This cookbook gathers and updates the best recipes from renowned chef Jacques Pépin who has made a career out of developing French cuisine recipes that have become classics , not only because they are flavorful but also because they avoid complicated techniques.
The recipes are very approachable and home-cook friendly. The instructions are clearly laid out, and includes info on how long it takes to make the dish.
The selection covers a wide range of cooking styles: from homey country French, haute cuisine, fast food Jacques-style, and fresh contemporary American dishes. There are also some recipes that draw inspiration from the Far East and across Europe.
Readers liked this book because it’s not snobbish and uses ingredients and equipment that are easy to procure. There are no photos in this book but it includes a searchable DVD that demonstrates every technique a cook will need to make the dish.
5. The Art of French Pastry: A Cookbook Hardcover – Deckle Edge
This is a cookbook that delves into making French pastry. It will teach you the basics so that you understand the science behind the ingredients and techniques and how they interact with each other to create delicious pastries.
Recipes are well written and feature precise measurements in grams with their equivalents in US units. The book is accompanied by both gorgeous photography and instructive illustrations. The author also includes some snippets of his life as a pastry chef, which should make this book a charming read.
Readers loved the recipes because they are practical, high quality but easy to do at home. One liked the book because it shows you the potential mistakes one can make in the recipe so you don’t have to commit them yourself. One said that this book is a master class in French baking.
6. Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This book presents classic French dishes that have been updated to reflect how we cook and eat today. More than just a cookbook, it is a guide to what makes food French. This includes showing what the basic techniques are as well as the ingredients.
Recipes are straightforward enough that they can be used for a weeknight supper. Each one is accompanied by a “Thinking Ahead” section which details what aspect of the dish can be made ahead, and how to do it. There are recipes that take about four pages (including a gorgeous photo page), which is indicative of the meticulous care given towards making them user-friendly.
Ingredients, for the most part, are easy to obtain. And substitutions are frequently suggested, especially for recipes requiring French ingredients. Readers liked the book because it carefully explains the degree of complication of each recipe and offers very useful time-saver tips.
7. Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local: A Cookbook Hardcover
This book features what one reader calls “new-traditional Parisian” recipes. It’s both a recipe collection and a look at the modern Paris food scene and how the recipes have evolved from traditional ones.
The recipes are arranged as how one would spend a day eating in Paris; it starts with a chapter on breakfast and ends with a late night meal. The dishes range from French classics to migrant-influenced French cuisine. This book has a beautifully photographed series of images that showcase the dishes.
Readers liked how this book combines a cookbook and a travel book. They also liked how more than half of the recipes are easy to do. This is an essential “eater’s cookbook” for anyone inclined towards Parisian cuisine.
8. French Country Cooking: Authentic Recipes from Every Region Paperback
This cookbook comes with the approval of the French National Assembly (FNA). It features traditional regional recipes as suggested by each “gourmand” regional FNA representative. There are 180 ancestral French recipes collected here that range from a pre-French revolution recipe on slow-cooked hare to making sheep cheese and potato pastry.
Some recipes for a Sunday family feast will require a full week’s preparation but for the most part, the provincial recipes don’t require a high degree of skill and are easily adaptable for American home cooking. The pastry recipes, in particularly, do not require much fussiness unlike traditional French baking.
The recipe selection is divided by regions. And there plenty of high definition photos of the dishes. Readers liked the book for its widespread look into the private kitchens of French homes and farms. If you’re inclined towards the French culinary art and politics, this is the book for you.
9. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories [A Cookbook] Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a collection of 100 French-inspired recipes that reflect modern Parisian cuisine. There are some new recipes here but most of them are remastered French classics, which incorporate ingredients and techniques from all around the world.
Recipes are clearly written and are accompanied with very good photos. The selection highlights a lot of delicious and flavorful dishes which are interesting enough for anyone to try making them. Readers also liked the author’s personal anecdotes about his culinary life in Paris which are mixed into the instructions. Come for the author’s witty writing and stay for his interesting Parisian recipes.
10. French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This is part coffee table book and part French cookbook. It details the culinary adventures of the author as she moves to France and renovates an old chateau into a homey restaurant. There are recipes here that are inspired by a lot of the local characters that she meets.
Most of the featured recipes use simple ingredients although beginning cooks might balk at following some of the more advanced ones. The measurements are in US units and there’s a substitution list for occasionally hard-to-find ingredients. There’s also a section in the book that lists suggestions for flavorful food and wine pairings.
One reader liked her cake recipes because it was easy to make and delicious. Another found her coq au vin superb. As long as you approach this book as a food journal with a fine selection of traditional French cuisine, you won’t be disappointed.
BAREFOOT IN PARIS: EASY FRENCH FOOD YOU CAN MAKE AT HOME HARDCOVER – ILLUSTRATED by Ina Garten
This is a good cookbook to have for home cooks who have no interest in taking on an intensive master class-style instruction book like Julia Child’s. It has easy-to-do and flavorful recipes that are distinctively French but don’t require complicated Gallic cooking techniques.
It’s also user-friendly. The book is categorized into six sections: ‘To Start', ‘Lunch', ‘Soup and Salad', ‘Dinner', ‘Vegetables', and ‘Dessert'. There are useful tips on the side margins on how to do each dish and the recipes are pared down to the simplest ingredients. There are also resource sections that teach you how to choose wine, how to set a lovely table, how to choose flowers, cookware, or cheese.
If you’re inclined towards making an occasional French meal or at least mastering a dish or two, this is a great cookbook to get you over your discomfort with the technical fussiness of French cuisine. You might even find a few items to bring along on your next French picnic.