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Reading a recipe in French: Recipe instructions

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First things first: Should I read recipes in French?

Yes. Reading recipes in French doesn’t only have the potential to improve your cooking skills but can be a great way for you to polish your French, too. Recipes have plenty of good stuff, both in terms of French grammar and vocabulary.

(Not to mention that they are about, well, food, which is a nice topic to think about. Even if you don’t feel like picking up a wooden spoon this very instant).

Diving into a recipe will give you plenty of opportunities to learn the French imperative. Recipes are essentially a series of instructions, and many of them will be written in the imperative. Other recipes will feature verbs in the infinitive, because that’s also a possible way of formulating short instructions in French.

Other than that, recipes include an impressive range of food- and cooking-related words and expressions. You’ll come across must-know nouns, such as flour, eggs, oil, etc., or stuff that’s a bit more special like pomegranate, spinach, or balsamic vinegar, depending on your chosen recipe.

Spices in French? Check. Kitchen tools and utensils? Check. Cooking-related verbs? Check. Metric cooking measurements? Check. Cooking units in French? Check! Find something you like, be it a quick snack or Sunday dinner, and have fun building an awesome food-related French vocabulary.

One quick tip before we start, though: make sure the instructions are crystal clear for you before diving headfirst into the cooking process. This is just to make sure you’ll end up with something edible a truly enjoyable meal at the end!

If you’re still not sure whether this post is for you (it is), please answer the following short questions:

  1. Are you learning/ planning to learn how to cook?
  2. Do you like cooking?
  3. Is French cuisine your thing?
  4. Are you a gourmet? (Note: not gourmand, that means something else.)
  5. Are you a gourmand? (Note: not gourmet, that means something else.)
  6. Do you live in/ are you planning to move to a French-speaking country?
  7. Do you feel like reading any further?

If your answer was “yes” to any of these questions, you’re exactly where you should be, which is on the internet, reading this post. If not – feel free to click away. (I guess you could click here, here or maybe here.)

For those of you who are still there, let’s cut to the chase!

Reading a recipe in French in 6 simple steps

Step 1: Find a recipe in French

This one’s evident: you’ll need to choose a recipe. Think of something you like, look up its French equivalent in the dictionary if you don’t already know it, and google it. Alternatively, you can check out recipe sites like cuisineAZ.

la recette = recipe

If you’re just starting out with French, I would recommend searching for a relatively simple and short recipe to avoid biting off more than you can chew—you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) frustrate yourself with stuff that’s too challenging too early. There’ll be plenty of time to do that later, so don’t sweat it! If you’re an intermediate French speaker, feel free to pick something more complicated.

Most recipes indicate difficulty, typically with the following categories:

  • très facile = very easy
  • facile = easy
  • intermédiaire = intermediate
  • difficile = difficult
  • très difficile = very difficult

If you’d like to specifically search for an easy/vegetarian/ sugar free etc. recipe in French, we have you covered! Some search recommendations:

  • recette îles flottantes faciles= easy floating islands recipe
  • îles (f, plural) flottantes = floating islands
  • recette gâteau au chocolat sans sucre= sugarfree chocolate cake recipe
  • sans sucre = without sugar
  • recette Kinder Bueno maison = homemade Kinder Bueno recipe
  • maison/ fait maison = … at home/ homemade
  • recette boulettes végétariennes = vegetarian patties
  • la boulette = meatball/ dumpling/ patty
  • végétarien, végétarienne = vegetarian
  • recette … traditionnelle = traditional … recipe
  • un/une … inratable = a failproof … recipe
  • une mayonnaise inratable = failproof mayo

Step 2: Print or copy

Print the recipe, if possible. It will give you the opportunity to add your own comments and translations. It will also provide the context to new words and expressions. (The whole recipe will be right there, not only single words in a notebook, meaning that you won’t have new information hanging in the air). That’s more useful than you realize, so don’t skip this step if you have a working printer!

If you don’t, you can always go the old-fashioned way with a notebook and a pen. If you’ve chosen a short recipe and don’t mind this type of stuff, you can copy it into your notebook. That’s always a nice way of practicing French spelling, which can be pretty challenging sometimes.

Step 3: Scan

Skim through the recipe. Concentrate on what you already understand. It’s probably more than you realize.

Step 4: Circle

Read it through again and circle words and expressions you don’t know yet.

Proceed sentence by sentence. Think about which category each word falls into: is it a cooking unit (e.g. tablespoon – la cuillère à soupe)? A type of ingredient? A noun, a verb or an adjective? Having a general understanding of parts of speech comes in really handy in a wide range of situations. Most importantly, though, recognizing which category a word belongs to right away will let you understand sentences more quickly. That’s by helping you recognize typical sentence structures.

Try to determine which words belong together in a sentence to get a better understanding of its structure. If you find an expression made up of multiple words, circle the whole thing, not only one word – this will make it way easier for you to remember the expression later.

For those learning a new language, doing this can be a massive life-saver! (A very decent time-saver at minimum.) Your path to French proficiency will be a great deal smoother if you start reading French this way.

Step 5: Check glossaries

Check your new words against Frenchanted’s baking and cooking words list. This will probably save you quite some time. Who needs a dictionary anyway? (Just kidding, you do!)

Step 6: Look up words & convert

Look up remaining stuff in the dictionary. Convert measurements if necessary. That’s it, you’re done!

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