Posted on 23 July 2023
Popular ski foods in the French Alps combine rich, hearty, and comforting flavours, deeply influenced by the Savoie region’s natural abundance and cultural heritage. Dining on alpine food highlights the captivating mountain regions. From traditional Alpine dishes to delicious regional eats, the French Alps region is home to mouth-watering cuisine that keeps you coming back for extras.
The foundation of French Alpine food lies in unique environmental factors that influence the taste and quality of local produce. Fertile soil, clean mountain air, and diverse microclimates provide perfect conditions for growing many ingredients and producing dairy products. You’ll soon understand why simple yet delicious dishes are so popular and gain insight into incredible ingredients used throughout the region.
Guide to Popular Ski Food in the French Alps
Culinary Roots of French Alpine Food
The history of popular ski food traces back to ancient times when Celtic tribes and, later, the Romans lived here. These early civilizations used various farming and cooking techniques that laid the groundwork for the cuisine’s evolution. During the Middle Ages, monasteries shaped Alpine food culture by cultivating herbs, fruits, and vegetables into local recipes. They also mastered cheese-making, crafting delectable varieties like Beaufort, Comté, and Reblochon.
Alpine farming practices, like transhumance (seasonal migration of livestock), allowed herders to exploit different grazing grounds at various altitudes, resulting in diverse diets for livestock and flavourful milk for cheese production. While traditional seasonal cooking preserved food for harsh winter months, leading to hearty stews, cured meats, and pickled vegetables. Over time, locals have embraced modern recipes and food, but the old-fashioned dishes still reign supreme. So, let’s look at what you need to tempt your tastebuds with.
1: Fondue Savoyarde – Alpine Holiday Classic
With origins in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions, fondue Savoyarde reflects the area’s historical influences from Switzerland and Italy. In the late 19th century, the dish gained popularity. The critical ingredient of Fondue Savoyarde is Beaufort, renowned for its nutty and slightly sweet flavours. Comté, Gruyère, or Emmental are also commonly used or combined with Beaufort to add complexity. Cheeses are carefully grated and mixed with garlic, white wine, and sometimes kirsch cherry-flavoured liqueur to create smooth, velvety mixtures ready for dipping.
A traditional ceramic or cast iron caquelon is placed over a portable stove, keeping the cheese fondue at the perfect temperature for dipping. Long-stemmed forks equipped with wooden handles are used to spear cubes of crusty baguette or boiled potatoes, which are then generously coated in warm, molten cheese. The smooth, rich cheese mingles with the slight tang of wine and garlic, while the crusty bread adds delightful contrasts in texture.
2: Traditional Tomme de Savoie Cheese
This semi-soft cow’s milk cheese has been made for centuries in mountainous areas of Savoie, which is now part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. The taste of Tomme de Savoie is mild and nutty, with earthy undertones. Still, flavours vary slightly depending on production methods and seasons. The semi-soft to firm texture has natural rustic rinds that are greyish-brown. The interior is pale yellow to ivory in colour, with small holes.
Tomme de Savoie traditionally comes in cylindrical shapes with rounded edges measuring 12 to 20 centimetres and 3 to 6 centimetres thick. The weight of a Tomme de Savoie cheese wheel ranges from 1.5 to 3 kilograms. The cheese, made from raw or pasteurized cow’s milk, is often produced by small-scale artisanal cheesemakers.
This pressed cheese is made from curds placed in moulds and pressed to expel excess whey. Tomme de Savoie is aged for about two to six months in cellars or caves, so flavours develop, and the texture becomes more compact. The cheese melts well or is sliced and served with bread or crackers; it suits dishes like gratins, fondues, and toasted sandwiches.
3: Classic French Alp Dish of Raclette
Raclette cheese, made from cow’s milk, is characterized by creamy, semi-firm textures with slightly nutty and earthy flavours. Large cheese wheels are sliced in half during the Raclette meal, and the exposed side is placed near heat to melt. Traditionally, Raclette grills or machines heat the exposed side of the cheese wheel until gooey and velvety. Once perfectly melted, the cheese is scraped directly onto diners’ plates.
Standard sides include small boiled potatoes, pickles, cured meats, and fresh vegetables. From gourmet cheeses and unique condiments to adventurous additions like grilled mushrooms, seafood, or even sweet toppings, there are endless possibilities to explore and customize the experience to suit individual preferences.
4: Tartiflette – Queen of Traditional Dishes
Originating in France’s Haute-Savoie region, Tartiflette is relatively modern but embodies rustic charm and mountain flavours. Tartiflette was invented in the 1980s to promote Reblochon cheese, produced in the Savoie region. “Tartiflette” derives from the Savoyard word “tartifle,” which means potato. This dish fused traditional ingredients like potatoes, onions, and lardons (bacon) with Reblochon cheese, creating deliciously satisfying meals like Potato gratin.
Thinly sliced potatoes form the foundation. Caramelized onions and savoury lardons contribute a depth of flavour, infusing the dish with rich and smoky notes. However, Reblochon cheese steals the show with creamy textures and a distinctive aroma. The cheese is traditionally sliced in half, the larger half placed on the potato mixture. In comparison, the smaller half is reserved for another use.
The dish is then baked until the cheese melts. Tartiflette is served with a fresh green salad to contrast savoury flavours. Also served with local white wine, which complements the cheese and adds to Ski Alpine dining experiences.
5: Le Farçon – Traditional Savoyard Recipe
Le Farçon’s roots return to rural and mountainous Savoie areas, where this dish was created as a frugal option for local farmers and shepherds. The 19th-century dish takes its name “farçon” from the Savoyard word “farce,” which means stuffing. Le Farçon features simple and readily available ingredients, making it a quintessential peasant but hearty dish.
The core ingredients include grated potatoes, eggs, diced bacon or lardons, onions, and milk. Some recipes incorporate other elements, like prunes, dried fruits, or raisins. First, grated potatoes are mixed with eggs, diced bacon, and sautéed onions. Adding milk helps bind ingredients and gives the dish a moist and custard-like consistency.
Le Farçon is traditionally baked in unique mould or dishes, known as a “moule à farçon” at low temperatures for extended periods. The slow cooking process results in golden-brown crusts on the top. The bacon’s smoky and savoury notes and onions marry perfectly with the potatoes and eggs, creating tastes that celebrate rustic Alpine cuisine. Le Farçon is served in generous slices as a main course accompanied by side salads or as additions to communal spreads during gatherings.
6: The Comforting Dish of Diots
Diots (pronounced “dee-ohs”) are a delectable traditional Alpine dish from the French Savoie region. The term “diots” come from the Latin word “diota,” which means links of sausages. Originally, diots were made to preserve meat during the harsh winter when fresh ingredients were scarce. Over time, they evolved into cherished specialities, enjoyed both as hearty main courses and key ingredients in various traditional Alpine dishes.
The main ingredients in diots are pork and beef, combined with aromatic herbs and spices. The sausages are seasoned with garlic, nutmeg, and black pepper, among other herbs, giving them a distinctive flavour. Natural casings, like pig intestines, add to the authenticity and texture.
While the classic diots are made with pork and beef, variations include other meats like veal or smoked versions that infuse the sausages with added complexity. Additionally, some diots recipes incorporate red wine, which enhances the flavour’s richness.
Diots are cooked in various ways. One popular method is simmering in flavourful broths, often prepared with white wine, onions, and aromatic herbs. The slow simmering allows the sausages to absorb flavours, resulting in tender and succulent meat. Diots can also be grilled or pan-fried, adding a crispy texture to the outer layer while retaining their juicy interior.
They are commonly served with potatoes, polenta, or sautéed cabbage to create satisfying meals. Another famous Alpine dish that features diots is the “Diots au Vin Blanc,” where the sausages are cooked in white wine and onion sauce. Additionally, diots are extra ingredients in casseroles, stews, and pasta dishes, further showcasing their adaptability in various recipes.
7: Pierrade – A Social Affair
Any good French chef will testify to Pierrade as an interactive dining experience from the Alpine regions of France and Switzerland. This culinary delight involves cooking thinly sliced meats, seafood, and vegetables on hot stones, creating an aromatic feast.
One enticing aspect of Pierrade is its interactive nature. When you order a Pierrade meal at restaurants or cook it at home, you get to be the chef! The hot stone is brought to your table, and you can grill the thinly sliced meats, seafood, and vegetables to your preferred level of doneness.
Pierrade features high-quality and fresh ingredients, including tender meats like beef, chicken, pork, and lamb and succulent seafood like shrimp, scallops, and salmon. Alongside the proteins, you’ll find vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.
The beauty of Pierrade lies in its simplicity. With just a hot stone and no need for additional oils or fats, the cooking method retains the natural flavours while allowing them to develop a delicious caramelized crust. This minimalist approach makes it ideal for those seeking healthier dining experiences.
8: Tarte aux Myrtilles
Tarte aux Myrtilles, also called Blueberry Tart, epitomizes French Alpine desserts. With luscious blueberry fillings, buttery crust, and sweetness, this delectable treat captivates your taste buds.
Tarte aux Myrtilles celebrates wild mountain berries. These tiny, plump berries burst with flavour, and the tart showcases their natural sweetness and vibrant colour. At the heart lies a flaky and buttery crust. The delicate pastry is made with flour, butter, sugar, and sometimes almond meal, creating heavenly bases that perfectly complement the juicy blueberry filling.
The star is undoubtedly the blueberry filling. The blueberries are gently simmered with sugar to release their juices and create thick compotes. The filling is then generously spread over the crust, allowing the tart to burst with the delightful flavour of fresh blueberries with each bite. Tarte aux Myrtilles is not only delicious but also visually appealing. The blueberries contrast beautifully with the golden-brown crust.
Tarte aux Myrtilles is served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, enhancing flavours and adding delightful creaminess. Alternatively, enjoy it at room temperature or even chilled for refreshing treats on warm days.
9: Brioche de Saint-Genix Pastry
Brioche de Saint-Genix hails from the tiny French Alp town of Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers. This iconic treat features soft buttery brioche generously studded with vibrant pink praline, making the pastry a unique and indulgent Alpine dessert. The distinct appearance, with striking pink praline scattered throughout the brioche, sets it apart from other pastries and makes it instantly recognizable. The brioche itself is soft, fluffy, and rich. What truly sets Brioche de Saint-Genix apart is the use of pink praline. These small candied almonds are coated in sugar syrups, adding delightful crunches to the brioche. The praline caramelizes during baking, infusing the pastry with its beautiful hue and enhancing the overall taste experience.
10: Le Genepi
Traditional Le Génépi herbal liqueur, particularly popular in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions, is made from the aromatic plant Artemisia genipi, also called Alpine Wormwood, which grows at high altitudes in Alpine meadows. Le Génépi’s distinct and unforgettable flavours capture the essence of Alpine meadows. It combines herbal, floral, and slightly bitter notes. The taste is often refreshing and warming, making it perfect after mountain days out or during cold winter evenings. Le Génépi is more than just a herbal liqueur; it embodies the French Alps and traditions of using local ingredients to create exceptional and memorable drinks.
11: Gateau de Savoie
Gâteau de Savoie, also called Savoy Cake, originated in the French Alps Savoie region. Gâteau de Savoie is renowned for light textures, achieved by skilfully incorporating whipped egg whites into the batter. The egg whites are beaten and gently folded into sugar, egg yolks, flour, and sometimes vanilla or lemon zest.
Gâteau de Savoie is delicate and not overly sweet. Many people enjoy the natural taste, while others add powdered icing sugar or serve fresh fruits and whipped cream. Gâteau de Savoie is versatile. Additionally, transform into delectable desserts by serving with fruit compotes, chocolate ganache, or flavoured syrups. The origins of Gâteau de Savoie date from the 14th century.
12: Rosti – The Perfect Ski Snack
Rösti is not traditionally French but a Swiss dish that originated in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. However, due to its popularity and proximity to France, it appears in French-speaking areas and neighbouring countries, including France.
Rösti, made from grated potatoes, is sometimes called potato pancake or potato fritter. The name “Rösti” comes from the Swiss German word “rösten,” which means “to roast” or “to grill.” The dish is enjoyed as side dishes or for breakfast.
Some recipes may include diced onions, butter, or even bacon, adding flavour and richness. Cheese may also be added to create a “Rösti au fromage,” a cheesy, particularly indulgent and satisfying version. In Swiss cuisine, Rösti accompanies various meat dishes, like sausages, roasts, or veal. In some variations, Rösti is a main dish, especially when combined with other ingredients like cheese or vegetables.
While Rösti is a Swiss dish, it resembles French galettes, a savoury pancake made from buckwheat flour. Galettes are commonly associated with the Brittany region in northwestern France. Rösti and galettes feature pancake-like appearances and are made from simple ingredients, highlighting the main ingredient (potatoes for Rösti and buckwheat flour for galettes).
13: Croûte aux Morilles
Croûte aux morilles showcases the rich and earthy flavours of Morel mushrooms. Traditional Croûte aux morilles combines distinct flavours of mushrooms with butter, cream cheese, and toasted bread. The star ingredient, Morel mushrooms, has distinctive honeycomb appearances and rich, nutty flavours. Croûte aux Morilles is served on toasted or fried slices of bread, often baguette or country-style bread.
Unsalted butter sautées the mushrooms, while crème creates creamy sauces that coat the mushrooms. Lastly, shallots or onions add aromatics and add depth and flavour. Dry white wine deglazes the pan and adds subtle acidity to the sauce. While Croûte aux morilles is traditional, variations include additional ingredients like garlic, herbs, or other mushrooms. Some recipes also call for adding chicken or veal, creating heartier versions.
Other Cold French Hams and Meat in France
Of course, you will also see many other French classics after skiing in the French Alps.
Jambon de Savoie: Jambon de Savoie, also called Savoy ham, is dry-cured ham made from high-quality pork. Seasoned with salt, pepper, herbs and spices, then air-dried to develop distinct flavours, Jambon de Savoie has tender textures and delicate tastes.
Saucisson Sec: Saucisson Sec classic dry-cured sausage is made from coarsely ground pork, garlic, salt, and pepper and air-dried for several weeks. Saucisson Sec is a staple in charcuterie boards and makes for delicious snacks.
Savoie Smoked Ham: Savoie smoked ham, also called “Jambon Fumé,” is a traditional Jambon de Savoie variation. This lightly smoked ham adds a smoky aroma and flavour to the meat, making it delightful in sandwiches and salads.
Saucisse de Montbéliard: While Montbéliard is not in the French Alps, it is located in the eastern part of France, close to the Alpine region. Saucisse de Montbéliard smoked pork sausage made with garlic and spices is often grilled or pan-fried.
Boudin Blanc: White sausage from pork, milk, eggs, and sometimes chicken or veal has delicate textures often flavoured with nutmeg and other spices. Boudin Blanc is commonly served with various sauces or as part of festive meals.
Saucisse de Morteau: Saucisse de Morteau is another sausage from the Franche-Comté region, located near the French Alps. This smoked pork sausage has robust flavours because of traditional pine wood smoking processes. The sausage is simmered in water or wine before serving.
Pâté de Campagne: While pâté de campagne is not specific to the French Alps, it is widely enjoyed across France, including in Alpine regions. This rustic country-style pâté made from coarsely ground pork and pork liver and seasoned with herbs and spices is delicious when spread on fresh bread or crackers.
French Biscuits to Snack On
While on French Alp ski holidays, there are several delicious French biscuits and treats that you should definitely try to enhance your culinary experience. Croquants aux Amandes crunchy almond biscuits are made with almonds, sugar, egg whites, and honey. Also called French gingerbread, Pain d’Épices spiced cake features honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Sablé au Beaufort’s savoury biscuit is made with Beaufort cheese, a delicious Alpine cheese produced in the Savoie region. These buttery biscuits are often served with apéritifs or as a side with soups and salads. Bugnes are delicate and deep-fried doughnuts often enjoyed during the festive season and at local fairs. While not a biscuit, truffles au chocolat (chocolate truffles) are a delectable French confection. Lastly, Caramel aux Noix is caramelized walnut biscuits.
More Dairy Products and Famous Cheese in France
The French Alps are renowned for their exceptional dairy products, thanks to the region’s lush alpine pastures and traditional dairy farming.
Beaufort Cheese: Beaufort French Alpine cheese is protected by AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation. This semi-hard, raw cow’s milk cheese is often used in fondue and gratins and is equally delightful when eaten on its own or with bread.
Abondance Cheese: Another AOC-protected cheese, Abondance, made from raw cow’s milk, is named after the Abondance Valley. The distinct, fruity tastes and semi-firm textures are often used for cooking or enjoyed as a table cheese.
Reblochon Cheese: Reblochon soft, washed-rind cheese from raw cow’s milk has creamy and slightly nutty flavours with characteristic aromas. Reblochon is a key ingredient in the classic Alpine dish, Tartiflette.
Chevrotin Goat Cheeses: Chevrotin goat’s milk cheese produced in the Savoie region has mild and delicate tastes and ages months to develop flavours.
Beurre de Chèvre: Beurre de Chèvre, or goat butter, is often used to enhance the flavours of dishes or spread on fresh bread.
Yaourt de Savoie: Savoyard yoghurt is a creamy and rich yoghurt made from cow’s milk.
Crème Fraîche: Crème Fraîche, commonly used in cooking and baking, adds richness and depth to dishes, making the cream a staple in many Alpine recipes.
French Wine to Pair with Your Alpine Dishes
The French Alps are not known for wine production but are surrounded by several renowned wine regions with diverse selections of wines. Restaurants in the French Alps always stock many varieties so you can taste your way around France, while tasting popular ski foods.
Savoie Wines: Savoie, the region closest to the French Alps, produces refreshing and unique wines. Suggested Savoie wines include Apremont crisp and dry white wine made from Jacquère grapes. This wine’s floral and citrusy notes pair well with local Alpine cuisine. Chignin-Bergeron white wine made from Roussanne grapes offers rich flavours of stone fruits and honey and is an excellent choice with cheese and seafood dishes. Mondeuse red wine from the Mondeuse grape delivers vibrant berry flavours and peppery notes and pairs wonderfully with hearty mountain cuisine.
Jura Wines: The Jura region is not far from the French Alps and is renowned for its unique and distinctive wines. Vin Jaune wine, made from Savagnin grapes, ages at least six years in oak barrels. The wine’s nutty, oxidative character pairs well with regional dishes like Comté cheese. The Jura produces excellent Chardonnay wines with distinct mineral quality. These versatile wines can be paired with various dishes.
Burgundy Wines: While a bit further from the French Alps, Burgundy is a famous wine region in France. Try Chablis white wine made from Chardonnay grapes with crisp acidity. This wine pairs wonderfully with seafood dishes. Burgundy is renowned for elegant and complex Pinot Noir wines, with red fruit flavours and earthy undertones. Enjoy them with grilled meats or poultry.
Rhône Valley Wines: The Rhône Valley is another notable wine region not far from the French Alps. Côtes du Rhône produces red and white wines, offering excellent value and versatility in pairing with various dishes. Cornas red wine from Syrah grapes features concentrated dark fruit flavours and peppery spices. Enjoy the wine with grilled meats or stews.
Delicious French Mountain Honey
French Alp Mountain honey reflects the unique flora and biodiversity. Honeybees collect nectar from wildflowers, alpine herbs, and blooming plants growing at higher elevations. This diverse range of floral sources contributes to mountain honey’s rich and complex flavours.
Like all raw honey, French Alpine Mountain honey Alps contains natural enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants leading to various health benefits, including soothing sore throats and aiding digestion. Additionally, some believe local honey alleviates seasonal allergies due to exposure to local pollen.
Alpine Mountain honey is often produced by small-scale beekeepers who follow sustainable and eco-friendly practices. The flavours and aromas of mountain honey can vary throughout the year, depending on the flowering patterns of different alpine plants. Some beekeepers offer honey from specific seasons, allowing consumers to experience the nuances of each harvest.
Do Try French Bakery Products While in the Alps
Ah, French bakeries are delightful places! They are renowned for their delicious assortment of baked goods, pastries, and bread, all of which reflect the rich tradition and culinary expertise of French baking. Take time out for a bakery morning to sample the local alpine products.
The classic French baguette comes in different variations. Look for “Baguette Tradition,” which follows traditional methods with natural fermentation and crispy crusts. Also, Indulge in buttery and flaky croissants, the quintessential French pastries.
Like a chocolate croissant, “Pain au chocolat” features a rich chocolate filling encased in flaky pastry. A delightful pastry made with laminated dough, pastry cream, and juicy raisins. Pains aux Raisins combines buttery and sweet flavours. Éclairs are decadent cream-filled pastries with a glossy chocolate glaze on top. They come in various flavours, like chocolate, coffee, vanilla, or fruit.
French bakeries often offer a selection of tartlets with different fillings like fruit, chocolate ganache, lemon curd, or almond cream. Delicate and colourful macarons are a French delicacy you shouldn’t miss. These almond-based cookies sandwich a flavourful ganache or buttercream filling. Enjoy buttery and soft brioche, plain or filled with ingredients like chocolate chips or dried fruits.
Traditional Fougasse, similar to focaccia, comes in savoury or sweet varieties. Finally, last, on our list of popular ski foods from the French Alps, ask about the “pâtisseries du jour” or daily pastries. French bakeries often have seasonal or daily specials that are worth trying.
Also about the French Alps
Summer in the French Alps: From winter to spending summer in the French Alps. While the Alps easily ranks for winter sports and ski resorts, the French Alps’ summer holidays also provide fun. Over the last decade, the French Alps have gone to great effort to promote themselves as a year-round destination and the hard work has paid off. From summer resorts with outdoor pools to trail running, and sporting activities, family holidays in the Alps can be great fun.
Popular Ski Resorts in France: So while you are trying all the popular ski food in the French alps, you might like to brush up on your geography. As a prime spot in the French Alps and Europe, some ski resorts count themselves as the world’s best, and they tap into ski domains that offer award-winning terrain for the ultimate skiing experience.