The Best French Cookbooks, According to French Chefs

updated Jul 16, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Pietro Karras/Stocksy

A funny thing happened to me while working on this story, collecting all the very important info that Kitchn readers need to know about French cookbooks: Jacques Pepin, French culinary legend, called me on my cellphone. I did not recognize the number, but I answered and was greeted by Chef Pepin’s very French accent informing me of his whereabouts. He was shopping in the market (if only I knew his grocery list!), but could talk cookbooks with me once he returned home.

When we connected again for real, Chef Pepin gave me a list of his favorite French cookbooks (and graciously spelled out the titles for this non-French speaker, letter by letter). These are the cookbooks that sit on his shelves that he turned to while learning the art of French cooking. And to top off the list, I also scored French cookbook recommendations from renowned chefs Daniel Boulud and Dominique Ansel.

If I ever find myself faced with a French cooking question again, I know what books to turn to … or I could just call Jacques Pepin!

Credit: Amazon

“Anything that has to do with classic French cooking and the nomenclature will be in this book. All of the division of the different parts of the kitchen will be well explained. It’s a very important cookbook for a professional in the kitchen. ” — Jacques Pepin

“This is always a very solid inspirational reference for the beginning of the 20th century.” — Daniel Boulud

One of my favorite French cookbooks is a classic: The Escoffier Cookbook. I still have my copy that I first received more than 20 years ago, when I was still a young cook in France. Reading through it is like taking a step back in history – the book was first published in 1907 – with fine dining recipes and kitchen techniques that you really just don’t see anymore. My favorite sections are the entremets and crèpes, and there’s a section all about different sweet omelettes – from an omelette soufflé to omelette norvegienne. 

If you read through the book, you’ll also notice that many of the recipes don’t even have measurements – the directions (sometimes just a sentence or two long) are more “guidelines” than specifically-measured out ingredients, cooking times, or temperatures. You sort of just have to “feel” it. Looking back, it’s so interesting to see how cookbooks have evolved from a storied classic like this one to a modern-day cookbook.
” —Dominique Ansel

Credit: Amazon

“You can get it in English, but I have the one in French. It is an enormous companion and has everything you want to find — whether that’s a definition or where a dish comes from — so it’s probably the best cookbook for me. ” — Jacques Pepin

Credit: Amazon

3. Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking by Paul Bocuse, from $6

“To me, this book is the perfect reference to the regional cuisine of Lyon.” — Daniel Boulud

Credit: Amazon

“This is a very important book because it’s maybe 4 inches by 6 or 8 inches and it’s not even an inch thick, but it has 7,500 recipes! When I was working in Paris, you’d have that in your back pocket. If someone would ask for something and you’d say ‘What the heck is that again?’ you could pull this out. It is rudimentary.” — Jacques Pepin

Credit: Amazon

5. Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point, from $38

“Fernand Point is considered to be the father of nouvelle cuisine. Ma Gastronomie was a reference to the new generations of chefs following him. This book updates French cuisine in the mid-century into a more personalized one. It focuses on regional ingredients, creating world-famous specialties.” —Daniel Boulud

Do you have any of these French classics? Got any others to add?