Dishes You Have to Try from the South of France (And Where to Find Them in Toulouse)
For food enthusiasts, there are few places more enticing than the south of France. The region’s culinary prowess is renowned worldwide and for good reason.
From the bold flavors of Provencal cuisine to the mouthwatering ingredients of Toulouse’s culinary scene, there’s no shortage of delectable dishes to discover.
In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through southern French cuisine as we select some of our favorite dishes that you have to try when exploring this beautiful region. We’ll also suggest where to find each dish in Toulouse, one of France’s great foodie capitals.
Let’s dive into the exciting and flavorful world of southern French cuisine!
And if you’re in Toulouse and would like to experience the city through the eyes (and stomach) of a local, consider joining us on one of our delicious Toulouse Walking Tours.
(Source: Aligot BAR)
Aligot is a heavenly combination of mashed potatoes and a LOT of cheese (normally Tomme de Laguiole or Tomme d’Auvergne) resulting in a silky-smooth, stretchy, and delicious concoction. It hails from Aubrac, in the southern Massif Central.
According to legend, the dish was originally served to pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It was said to have begun life as a frugal meal that mixed cheese and leftover bread rather than potatoes.
Whatever the truth of the matter, we’re delighted that the dish evolved into the masterpiece we know it as today! This Occitan specialty is hearty and comforting and ideal for a chill autumn or winter night.
In restaurants, you’ll often find it as an accompaniment for another Toulouse specialty, the saucisse de Toulouse.
To try this dish in Toulouse, head over to Aligot Bar and prepare to be amazed.
Cassoulet is one of the most quintessential dishes from southwest France, combining other several Toulouse specialties – saucisse de Toulouse and duck confit – with white beans and broth to create a rich, satisfying meal.
In the time-honored practice of making cassoulet, it’s customary to deglaze the pot from the previous batch, creating a rich foundation for the next one.
This ritual has given birth to enchanting tales like the one recounted by Elizabeth David, who references Anatole France, spinning a yarn about a mythical cassoulet that has been perpetually rejuvenated and relished across generations, even for decades.
When in Toulouse, we recommend savoring this delightful dish at Le Genty Magre, which won the 2023 World Championship of the Cassoulet de Toulouse.
Read our Typical Foods to Try in Toulouse blog to discover more about cassoulet and other iconic Toulouse dishes (and where to eat them)!
Gateau des Rois
The Gateau des Rois, or King’s Cake, is a southern French take on a traditional Epiphany celebration dessert.
Unlike the more famous northern French version that features layers of buttery puff pastry filled with almond cream, the southern version features a ring of fluffy brioche flavored with orange flower water and topped with pearl sugar.
You will also find a version called the “Limoux” which adds candied fruit to the brioche.
While you can find both versions in Toulouse each January, the brioche Kings Cake is more traditional in Provence and Occitanie – and all of the vrai Toulousains (real Toulousains) know where the best ones are found in the city.
Enjoy it year-round at La Bonbonnière, which offers the “pomponette,” an individual-sized brioche perfect for snacking.
(Source: Poissonnerie Bellocq)
Tielle Sétois is a spicy seafood pie hailing from the small coastal town of Séte, the birthplace of legendary French singer-songwriter Georges Brassens. The main ingredients are octopus or squid and tomatoes, with the quality of the tomatoes selected being absolutely essential for the success of the pie.
The word tielle comes from the Italian word teglia, the name of the type of pan used to mold the pie’s pastry. And this etymology hints at the dish’s multicultural design.
Italian immigrants brought this now much-loved seafood staple to France, and the Italians, in turn, had learned the recipe from Spanish immigrants to Italy in the 16th century.
To sample this tasty dish in Toulouse, visit Poissonnerie Bellocq at the Marché Victor Hugo, where they serve an exquisite version of this coastal delicacy.
If you’d like to experience the delights of the Marché Victor Hugo, join Taste of Toulouse on our Victor Hugo Market Guided Tour.
Black Perigord Truffle Dishes
Black Perigord truffles are a luxurious ingredient that can elevate simple dishes like omelets, scrambled eggs, or pasta. They are the second most expensive truffle after white truffle and can cost between 1,000 and 2,000 euros per kilogram.
The cost, however, is justified by the magic that these truffles can add to a dish. Keep the dish simple when preparing food with them, and let the truffles shine through to truly appreciate their flavor!
Fresh truffles can be found at various vendors in Toulouse’s markets when in season. For a decadent treat during the Christmas season, look for cheeses such as brie and Brillat Savarin stuffed with a layer of truffles.
A more sophisticated version of ratatouille, Provençal Tian is a stunning dish made with layers of vegetables, famously showcased in the movie “Ratatouille.” It’s commonly enjoyed as an accompaniment during the summer months and early autumn when fresh produce is in its prime.
A plethora of variations also abound, encompassing recipes that artfully weave in elements of cheese, meat, and seafood.
In Toulouse, finding tian might be challenging, as it’s a highly seasonal dish that relies on perfectly ripe produce and isn’t regularly featured on restaurant menus. Keep an eye out for this exquisite dish and seize the opportunity to try it when available.
(Source: Le Cabanon)
Oysters from Aquitaine or Languedoc-Roussillon
The south of France is known for its incredible seafood, and oysters from Aquitaine or Languedoc-Roussillon are among the best seafood to be found in the country.
Oysters are, in fact, something of a French obsession, with the country being Europe’s largest exporter and producer of the delectable shellfish.
Prunes in Armagnac
This boozy dessert combines two local specialties: prunes from Agen and Armagnac, a grape-based spirit aged in oak. Often served with a scoop of ice cream, this indulgent dish is a perfect way to end a meal.
(Source: Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne)
Jambon de Bayonne
Jambon de Bayonne, a dry-cured ham, is the south of France’s answer to the Spanish jamon serrano.
Bayonne ham carries a protected status and the regulations surrounding its production are stringently enforced, encompassing the designated region from which the pork originates, the stipulated dietary protocol for the animals (which forbids steroids, fish oils, and antibiotics), and the mandate that each animal be distinctly and unmistakably marked with a tattoo.
The taste of the ham is mildly sweet and delicate, making it an excellent choice for pairing with delicious local cheeses.
This delightful charcuterie can be found at many fine charcuterie shops around Toulouse – especially at the covered markets – so don’t miss out on the chance to try it.
If you want, you can read more about the 5 Best Food Markets in Toulouse.
Salade Niçoise is a classic French salad, also hailing from Nice. The salad features a combination of lettuce, tomatoes, boiled eggs, tuna, anchovies, and olives, with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
You can find this refreshing salad in many cafes and restaurants around Toulouse, but we recommend trying it at Le Bibent. This historic brasserie offers an exquisite version of this iconic dish. As big fans of Le Bibent, we recently featured it in our recent blog on Toulouse’s Best Vintage Bars and Restaurants.
Bouillabaisse is a traditional fish stew that originates from Marseille, and it’s a must-try dish when visiting the south of France. The stew typically includes a variety of fish, shellfish, vegetables, and spices, and it’s traditionally served in two courses.
First, the broth is served with little toasts or croutons and a side of rouille, garlic, and saffron aioli. Then, the seafood is eaten separately.
Being a Marseille specialty, Bouillabaisse won’t necessarily be easy to find in Toulouse. However, the Brasserie Les Beaux Arts has an extensive menu of classic seafood dishes prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Their list of starters features a fish soup served with croutons and rouille, which harkens back to the first course of the bouillabaisse.
This brings our list to an end. If you’re a food lover, the south of France is a must-visit destination, and Toulouse is a fantastic city to begin your culinary adventure. From cassoulet to jambon de Bayonne, and everything in between, there’s a wealth of delicious regional dishes to try.
Remember, if you want to explore Toulouse’s rich food scene with an expert local food guide, don’t hesitate to book your place on one of our Culinary Walking Tours of Toulouse.
If you have any questions, get in touch.