What Spices Are Used in French Cooking?

“In France, cooking is a serious art from and a national sport.” – Julia Child

The art of French cooking is sophisticated, intricate, and requires mastering difficult techniques and flavors. There’s a reason this style of cooking is so appreciated around the world. It isn’t for amateur chefs, but chefs who are passionate and excited by cooking.

How does one achieve a delicious French dish with such a complex flavor profile? It’s all in the spices that are used.

French cooking uses seven important spices in order to create such delicious and intense flavors in dishes. If you have these spices in your cabinet, then you’re one step closer to cooking your first French meal.

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence is a mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, dill, fennel, bay leaves, and sage. The herbs are dried, crushed together, and sold in small clay pots. Originating from the Provence region, Herbes de Provence is found in a lot of Mediterranean cooking as well.

Organic Dry Herbs De ProvenceThis spice is best used as a rub for grilled or roasted meats and to flavor soups and stews.

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni is literally a bouquet of fresh herbs consisting of sage, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorn tied together with a butcher string. The flavor profile of this unique bouquet is quite bold and works well to flavor stock and French soups.
A bouquet garni of fresh-picked herbs


You may be familiar with nutmeg, especially when cooking a seasonal pie. The spice is also quite popular in French cooking due to its warm and nutty flavor.

Fresh ground nutmegIt’s most commonly used in desserts and pastries. However, it is most notable for being used in creamy sauces such as Bechamel, one of the mother sauces of French cooking.


Known as one of the most expensive spices in the world, saffron’s beautiful vivid red threads are a staple spice in French cooking. With a sweet floral and earthy flavor, saffron is most commonly found in seafood dishes.

Raw Organic Red Saffron Spice in a BowlMost notably, saffron is used in Bouillabaisse, a traditional fish and shellfish stew originating from Marseille in the south of France.


Vadouvan is also referred to as French curry. This unique spice is a mixture of shallots, onion, cumin, garlic, turmeric, cardamom, curry leaves, black mustard, black pepper, and fenugreek.

It often has a coarse texture as these ingredients are combined by smashing them. It can actually be made at home if you can’t find it in the store.

Vadouvan is often used in French dishes with poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

Fine Herbs

Tarragon, chives, chervil, and parsley make up what is known as Fine Herbs in French cooking. These herbs are typically fresh and chopped together in fine pieces.

Provence Herbs and a rustic bouquet with salvia, lavender, dill, rosemaryFine Herbs have a very delicate taste and should always be used at the end of cooking to give the dish a little extra flavor.


This essential herb in French cooking has a licorice-like taste to it. Tarragon is used to flavor items such as vinegar and mustard, as well as in cooking.

TarragonWhen used in dishes, tarragon goes well with chicken, fish, and egg dishes. It is most famous for being included in Bearnaise sauce, a child of the popular Hollandaise sauce.

Master French Culinary Techniques and More

Are you fascinated by French cooking and the technique that goes into sophisticated dishes and cuisines?

You can now take online cooking classes and learn the French traditions and culinary secrets, along with other cooking techniques from professional Chef Instructors, right in your own kitchen!

Or, consider upgrading your cooking skills to another level and complete a culinary or pastry program at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

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