The typical French breakfast: choose your team!

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What is a typical French breakfast? What do French people have for breakfast? Do they really eat what you can find in touristic cafés for breakfast? Are the restaurant menus really authentic?

I share with you what I have for breakfast and the main tendencies. What I see my relatives and friends having. Also, you should know that there are TEAMS when it comes to breakfast habits!!! Let’s see which team is yours!

Of course, you will always find other habits and specificities. But I believe this will already give you a pretty good idea of what to expect if you are having breakfast at a French home.

French breakfast disclaimer

First, the first unspoken rule is that a French breakfast should be a 100% sweet breakfast. You won’t find any meat, cheese, eggs or anything salted on a French breakfast table. 

This is the case in many Meditarean countries, each one at the degrees and influence.

The first time I travelled to the UK during school I was shocked by the red beans and sausage at breakfast… I had a psychologically prepare myself for savoury food at breakfast for many years when I was overseas (and I still can’t have the read beans for breakfast).

Also, breakfast is only for breakfast. Dinner breakfast only exists in American movies for us. Or at very desperate times when there is only cereal and milk in the fridge.

Monday to Friday typical French breakfast

The most typical French breakfast to have during the week in France is toast with butter and jam with a hot drink.

French people don’t eat that much for breakfast since our main meal of the day is lunch.

You will also find several variants of toast and hot drink breakfast that I will detail a bit further here.

Weekend breakfast in France

The weekend is the perfect time anywhere in the world to take the time to have a nicer breakfast. French people will mainly switch the toasts for some croissants or pain au chocolat and different types of bread. 

But we still prefer to keep some space for our lunch.

Unless we decide to have a brunch, which became very popular in the past few years. This would be the only occasion to have savoury food for the first meal of the day.

Salted butter team vs unsalted butter team

First, your toast should be with butter. Toast without it would be boring and we don’t even want to hear about margarine unless you are on a strict diet for serious medical reasons. I bit of good quality butter won’t harm anyone as long as it is in moderation.

Now, France is divided into 2 very distinct teams, the salted butter regions (beurre demi-sel or beurre salé) and unsalted butter regions (beurre doux).

Brittany uses primarily salted butter for everything even when it comes to eating a toast with a sweet jam.

You may have deduced that I’m from the unsalted butter team, but I love the salted butter caramel on a good crepe!!!

Jam versus Nutella team

French people love Nutella. I think it is Italian, but the French definitely honour this chocolate and hazelnut spread! Maybe as much as Americans would love peanut butter.

This is a very hard one to pick.

I was with no doubt a Nutella team as a teenager but now, I prefer good homemade jam and sometimes a Nutella toast.
Now if we’re talking about creps, I’d choose Nutella without hesitation!

Mug versus bowl team

Before I get into the hot beverage main choice, the choice of recipient is very important, you will soon understand why.

I didn’t find numbers to differentiate the mug versus bowl team to drink the breakfast hot beverage, but it is really 50/50 among my relatives and friends.

So, it is always better to have a few mugs or mugs if you are from the opposite team.

I switch from the bowl team to the mug one when I was a teenager. And I stopped having my traditional cereal bowl. But many adults keep using the bowl for a very practical reason. Can you guess which one? Let me reveal the answer once you’ve figured your teams out.

Tartine versus croissant team

Croissant is without any doubt the most famous French breakfast pastry. I know that some people have croissants for breakfast almost every day. And also the croissant and black coffee are considered to be the most traditional French breakfast internationally.

However, I’d say that a very small portion of French people would have croissants as their typical French breakfast for 2 reasons. 

First, it is a budget. Croissants are about 4 times more expensive than a baguette if you consider one baguette weight about 4 times a croissant.

And then, well, it has much more butter than the thin spread you could cover a toast with.

So, if you are in the croissant team, watch out for your long-term health and your wallet!

I’m more of a croissant team over some weekend breakfasts only. 

Tartine versus cereals team

I’d say this one is more an adult versus kids breakfast for the majority. Of course, there are some adults that will have kids’ cereals or muesli for breakfast. I love having chia seed mixed with muesli and nuts for example. 

But overall, when I live in France I’m more of a toast team.

And when I say toast, I mean with natural bread like a fresh baguette or cereal loaf of bread. Not industrial sandwich bread.

Coffee vs tea vs chocolate team

Another very subjective response on the beverage French people favourite.

You will mainly find people having coffee for breakfast. Mainly black coffee with or without sugar. Coffee with milk is less common. And other elaborated coffee mixes are only influenced from overseas. Not a French cultural habit.

Hot chocolate is favourite for kids and teenagers for breakfast. 

typical French breakfast

The French weird breakfast habit

So could you guess why some French adults use bowls and not a mug to have their breakfast hot drink?

Many French people like to deep their toast of butter and jam (or even Nutella) in their hot drink. And it is way easier to do in a bowl than in a mug!

I don’t do that much, but most foreigners I’ve seen witnessing this French breakfast habit were shocked. Before I didn’t realise it could be seen as something weird. Do you?

One Comment

  • Susannah

    Dipping tartine (or toast) is not so foreign to me – I’m American-born but my parents are from the Netherlands. We dunk tartine and cookies in hot beverages all the time. Actually in my home a good cookie is determined as much by how it takes to being dunked as taste! LOL!

    This was a terrific article. I didn’t know that it’s only sweet things for breakfast in France. I’m kind of a toast with butter or cheese for breakfast type, but I’d be willing to adjust! 😉

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