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“La Charcuterie” – Vocabulary and How to Eat French Cold Cuts

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jul 13, 2020
French vocabulary charcuterie cold cuts

Saucissons, pâtés, rillettes… : French cold cuts vocabulary “la charcuterie” and find out what’s in your plate and how to eat it.

So here is a pretty traditional French charcuterie mix and the way to eat it with respect to French table manners.

Le Pâté de Campagne – Very Common French Charcuterie


Made from pork meat and fat, and a bit of pork liver.

If you eat it during an informal meal, you usually cut a piece with your knife and spread it over a small slice of “baguette”, which you’ll then eat holding it with your hand in a couple of bites.

If you want to be really proper about it, you should tear off a bite-size piece of bread, then cut a bite-size piece of pâté, place it on the bread with your knife, then balance the piece of bread/pâté to your mouth and eat the whole thing in one bite. Then repeat.

You could also make a sandwich with it, but not in this style of luncheon.

Le Jambon Blanc = Regular Ham = A Charcuterie Essential


You know that one. Eat with fork and knife.

Note that in France, we differentiate “jambon blanc” (the cooked version) and “jambon cru” (the uncooked and smoked/aged versions like proscuitto, parma or bayonne).

The ham may have a greasy edge that you may remove with your fork and knife and leave on the side of your plate.

Le Saucisson Sec = French Salami


It’s somewhat similar to Italian salami.

We usually remove the skin before eating it, alone (fork and knife) or with a bite of buttered bread (delicately holding the bread and piece of salami in your hand).

Actually, if I was a good hostess, I should have removed the skin before serving this. But sometimes the skin is hard to remove, which was the case that day!!! So I left it…

Le Saucisson à l’ail = Garlic Sausage


Pork meat with garlic. I personally eat the skin, I’ve seen people remove it.

You eat it alone or with a bite of buttered bread.

Le Pâté en Croûte = The King of the French Charcuterie


Usually made with pork and veal, but could have other meats, and surrounded by a crust, and usually a bit of savory jelly.

You cut it with knife and fork and eat it like that.

L’Andouillette = Tripe Sausage, an Acquired Taste

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Watch out for that one, it’s quite an… acquired taste :) it’s made with tripes, a French offal, and it has a pretty strong taste.

You usually remove the skin. Eat it alone or with a bite of buttered bread.

We also had…

Du Museau Vinaigrette = Another Weird Cold Cuts: Snout


This one is made with the nose part of a pig, but you wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you.

It tastes like ham and is sold/served in a French Vinaigrette or  dressing.

Eat it with fork and knife.

Des Rillettes = A Sort of Pâté


This is like a shredded pork meat pâté, quite fatty, and you spread it on bread.

The jar comes with a layer of fat on top that you usually remove in your plate.

Spread it over a small piece of bread, then eat it with your hand delicately :-)

To go with all this charcuterie, we served:

Des Asperges Blanches (white asparagus) à la Vinaigrette et au Persil


The tip is very tender, but the end can be quite fibrous, so sometimes you don’t eat the end.

Eat with knife and fork.

Tip: In France, you commonly find these white Asparagus ready to eat in cans or glass jars. My father-in-law (a professional chef) always saves some of the water from the container to make the dressing lighter and tastier!

Du Céleri Rémoulade


Shredded celery with a ton of mayo and a bit of mustard (as fatty as charcuterie if not even worse…). Eat with knife and fork.

Des Radis


Hold on the green part, eat the red and white part: put a bit of salt on your plate, bite the radish, dig it in the salt, bite again (it’s your plate, double dipping is allowed!), you may at the same time take a bite of buttered bread.

Leave the green part in your plate.

And of course, eat “des cornichons” (gherkins) at will with all the charcuterie, and drink a lot of French wine!!

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