Gastronomy is a serious business throughout France and les Bordelais make no exception. Nestled between ocean, countryside, and mountains, the Bordeaux region’s prime position produces some of the country’s finest fare. With great importance placed on terroir (the balance of climate, soil, and environment), Bordeaux cuisine celebrates local and seasonal produce from the land and sea.
Boasting the highest number of restaurants per capita, it’s no wonder the capital of the southwest was crowned the best food city in France. Bordeaux is a veritable haven for food lovers, from refined Michelin-starred establishments to humble family-run bistros.
Whether you’re into hearty stews, delicate fruits de mer, or crave desserts, Bordeaux has the goods. And what better way to uncover the essence of a city than through its food?! If your mouth is already watering, come with me for a degustation of 10 must-try Bordeaux specialties!
Before we start!
One of the best ways to discover local specialties is by taking a food tour. If you’re time-limited, you can create your own guided tour by following this list and the articles about Bordeaux’s main market and the foodie streets of Bordeaux. All that information will help you build your gastronomic journey in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux specialties you must try
Just an hour away from Bordeaux lie the glittering waters of the Bassin d’Arcachon and the Cap Ferret peninsula. This area of the Atlantic Coast is home to hundreds of farms that make up one of France’s major oyster-producing regions.
Oysters are generally enjoyed au naturel throughout France, with maybe just a spritz of fresh lemon to enhance the taste of the ocean. For a great day out, visit one of the many cabanes à huîtres (oysters huts) located in and around the bay. Their menu usually includes not only the famous oysters of Arcachon meaty prawns and squishy whelks too.
Of course, you can also find oysters in Bordeaux seafood restaurants such as Le Petit Commerce in the Saint-Pierre area or La Cabane Cent Un in Chartrons Square. Or for more rustic vibes, slurp up these briny delights at the Marché des Capucins or the Marché des Quais.
Another water-based delicacy produced in the Bordeaux area is caviar. Centuries ago, sturgeon were naturally abundant in the Gironde and were caught widely for their meat. A lack of knowledge on how to prepare caviar meant the eggs were discarded.
This all changed during the 1920s when a Russian princess (says the legend) informed some local fishermen of the error of their ways. This chance encounter led to the boom of caviar production in France.
The demise of the wild sturgeon population due to demand for these black pearls saw France ban the capture of sturgeon in 1982. The rise of aquaculture has since taken off as a result, with some of the biggest names such as Sturia and Caviar d’Aquitaine to be found in the region. Their range of luxury products can be found at many of the épiceries in town.
Some farms welcome visitors; one of these is the beautiful Caviar de Neuvic, where you can experience delicious tastings and a behind-the-scenes tour of caviar production. Or you can head over to their chic caviar bar in town
Located just 50 kilometers north of Bordeaux, the town of Blaye is renowned for its magnificent UNESCO-listed citadel that overlooks the Gironde estuary. Its other, lesser-known claim to fame, is that of white asparagus, les asperges du Blayais.
With its rich black sandy soils and mild humid climate, the Blaye region has been growing asparagus since the 15th century. According to legend, this delicate vegetable was introduced to Louis XIV’s court by the Marquis de Vauban, the man who constructed the town’s medieval citadel.
Synonymous with spring, the appearance of these sweet and tender spears heralds the turning of the season. Only harvested from the end of February until June, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for them at restaurants and markets in Bordeaux and the region.
One place that makes the most delicious white asparagus dishes is Tutiac, Le Bistro Vignerons, which happens to be one of the best wine bars in Bordeaux.
Cèpes are widely used in French cooking and are the most consumed mushroom throughout the country. With its small cap, large base, and ability to grow up to 40cm, the cèpe de Bordeaux (Boletus edulis) is hailed as the king. Sprouting from the fertile undergrowth of oak, pine, and chestnut forests, these juicy porcini mushrooms are loved for their slightly nutty flavor and fleshy texture.
A seasonal delicacy, the Bordeaux cèpe makes its appearance towards the end of August and usually grows through to November. Throughout the season you’ll find them gracing the tables at restaurants. Commonly found in omelette aux cepes or sauteed simply in butter with parsley, cèpes are often used in wine sauces to complement robust meat dishes.
If you like cooking, in Autumn you’ll find them at every market and you can even join mushroom foraging tours offered in the region.
Calling all meat lovers! Some of the region’s finest beef comes from the area around the town of Bazas, about 60 kilometers south of Bordeaux. Bazadaise cows roam free in pastures and are fed on grass and grains. The delicious meat has a subtle hint of hazelnut and is exceptionally tender, thanks to its marbled and aromatic fatty flesh.
With its protected geographical status and “Label Rouge” (a sign of quality assurance), boeuf de Bazas is only available to buy from 13 approved butchers. Keep an eye out for the sticker signaling this approval. It can be found on the menus of Bordeaux’s finest steakhouses, including Brasserie Bordelaise.
Better still, visit the Fête des Boeufs Gras de Bazas in February, where the prized cattle are paraded through the streets, decorated with flowers and ribbons. Dating back more than 7 centuries the festival is held on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. The event, which attracts visitors from all over the region, celebrates cows, epiphany, regional traditions, and gastronomy in one fell swoop.
Foie Gras / Duck products
Whilst it was the ancient Egyptians who discovered it, Foie Gras is considered an institution in the south-west of France. The Dordogne region, bordering the Bordeaux region, is renowned for being the capital of this gourmet product, which is often served on special occasions.
The name foie gras means “fatty liver” which is exactly what it is; the fattened liver from a duck or goose. The production of foie gras in France dates back centuries and is legally protected to ensure the high welfare of the birds.
It is typically eaten as a starter, with its rich and buttery goodness found in various forms; cut into thick slices and seared, mi-cuit and served on individual toasts or even whipped up in a mousse.
Luckily for us, It is not just the liver that is revered. Duck is considered a specialty in itself too, with the breasts, legs, and wings all claiming their rightful place at the table. The breasts (magrets de canard) are grilled to perfection whilst the legs and wings are preserved in the fat and served confit-style; both are a staple in Bordeaux bistros.
Little known outside the region, Grenier médocain is a special charcuterie that originates from the Medoc area. Back in the days when wine from the Medoc was not as popular as it is now, families kept a couple of pigs to ensure their supply of meat for the year. In making use of the whole animal, the stomach was used as the main ingredient for Grenier médocain and it became a popular dish often served during the grape harvests.
It is also rumored that General de Gaulle was a huge fan and had it delivered to the Élysée Palace every week!
So what is it you ask? Pork stomach is seasoned generously with salt, pepper, garlic, and a blend of spices, then rolled up into a ball, sewn together, and braised in vegetable stock. Once cooked, the dish is thinly sliced and typically served cold as part of an apéro or as a starter.
I’ll admit it doesn’t look overly appetizing the first time you see it at the butcher or the market (a bit like the inside of a brain!) but if you’re adventurous, give it a try! Your tastebuds will thank you for it.
Canelés are petite, cylindrical pastries with a crispy, caramelized shell that give way to a sweet, chewy interior. With a history dating back to the 18th century, canelés are reported to have originally been created by nuns using leftover egg yolks from winemaking. Nowadays, they are often enjoyed as a sweet treat with a cup of coffee or as a sophisticated dessert after a fine French meal.
The secret to their unique flavor lies in the combination of vanilla and rum, infusing each bite with a delicate sweetness and a subtle hint of warmth. Traditionally baked in copper molds to achieve their signature caramelized exteriors, canelés boast a contrast of textures that culminate in a harmonious marriage of crispy and creamy.
Canelés are readily found in boulangeries across Bordeaux and every Bordelais has their favorite place to buy local pastries. But two main producers in Bordeaux specialize solely in these little fluted treats, Canelés Baillardran and La Toque Cuivrée (my personal favorite!). Here you will find them in a variety of sizes, from bite-sized morsels to larger, more indulgent versions. You are also going to get them on any food tour you’ll take in the city.
If you have a sweet tooth you should also check my article about the best sweet specialties in the region.
Les Guinettes Bordelaises
Les Guinettes Bordelaises are bite-sized delights combining velvety dark chocolate, tangy cherries, and a dash of alcohol. Whole ripe cherries are immersed in a bath of Kirsch (cherry brandy) for several months before being individually dipped in sugar fondant and then enrobed in a dark chocolate case. After popping one into your mouth, you have two options – either crack the chocolate shell immediately or let it melt slowly – to release the fragrant liqueur and the juicy cherry.
You can discover other chocolate shops in my article about the best chocolatiers in Bordeaux.
Puits d’amour translates to “wells of love” in English and the pastries themselves are just as sweet as their name. A small choux pastry shell is filled with chiboust cream, a pastry cream mixed with an Italian meringue. The addition of this meringue creates a light and airy texture which contrasts beautifully with the delicate crackle of caramelised sugar on top.
(if the above trio of petites gourmandises have left your sweet tooth wanting more, be sure to check out more goodies here.
Of course, no Bordelaise feast would be complete without a glass (or two) of the region’s most well-known and loved product… le vin! Whether it’s a bone-dry white to wash down your oysters or a full-bodied red to pair with a rich meat dish, Bordeaux wine has got you covered.
There are a myriad of places in the city to sample the mighty Bordeaux grape; I have compiled a a list of places that offer wine tasting. If you don’t really need any explanation and simply want to sip some wine, check out my list of the best wine bars in Bordeaux.
And if you fancy getting out to see where the magic happens, take a look at my detailed guide on the different regions and how to visit them.
Where to try local food in Bordeaux?
So now you’ve read about all these mouthwatering dishes, where can you get your hands on them?!
Several restaurants in Bordeaux specialize in dishes typical of the region, such as Cochon Volant, Le Noailles, and Big Bistrot Girondin. Other two Bordeaux gastronomic institutes include La Tupina and Brasserie Bordelaise.
If you want to try cooking up a storm yourself, head to one of Bordeaux’s bustling markets to pick up some wonderful produce.
You can also discover many of these delicacies if you take a food tour in Bordeaux.
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via Lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂