We have a love affair with France’s creamy and crumbly cheeses, crusty baguettes with their soft centers, and swoon-worthy fragrant sauces, not to mention their many stunning desserts, from the complicated to the delightfully casual (clafoutis, we’re looking at you). So we hardly need another reason to make some tantalizing French food, but come July 14, we have one: France’s Independence Day celebration, Bastille Day.
Also known as Le Quatorze Juillet (the 14th of July) and La Fête Nationale (the national celebration) in Francophone countries, this day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution, and is a great excuse to pack up a French-inspired picnic.
There are plenty of French dishes you could make to honor the holiday (Salmon en Croûte, Chocolate Soufflé, and Potato-Leek Soup to name a few), but since it’s summer, here are some lighter, travel- (and heat-) friendly dishes ideal for dining in le parc.
You could make a meal of light bites and a refreshing drink to wash them down.
A bottle of wine is fine, but this picnic-perfect drink honors France in the form of Lillet Blanc (and Italy via limoncello). It’s bright, bubbly, and citrusy—and best of all, it can be made ahead of time; just add the club soda right before serving. Get our Corsican Cocktail recipe.
July 14 also happens to be Grand Marnier Day, so an orange-accented cocktail would be appropriate. This is a simple mix of the complex French liqueur and iced tea with some fresh lemon and orange. Get our Grand Marnier Tea Cooler recipe.
This Provençal spin on deviled eggs adds pesto to the filling (you can always make pine nut-free French pistou if you really want to), then tops them with ratatouille for an elegant bite. Get our Pistou Deviled Eggs recipe.
Duxelles spread on top of crostini make a perfect picnic snack that’s simple and packed with the umami earthiness of the French countryside. There’s not much to it, but make sure you don’t over-blend. Little chunks are good, and don’t forget to top it with slices of your favorite French cheese. Get our Duxelles recipe.
Another way to top crostini: that ratatouille again, the classic French melange of stewed summer vegetables. In this recipe, we actually roast them, but you could even grill them the night before and then mix them with the the other ingredients. Pack the bread separately, of course. Get our Ratatouille Crostini recipe.
Palmiers are traditionally sweet, but this savory spin on the delicate French dessert adds prosciutto, tomato paste, and gruyere to the puff pastry (which is store-bought, so this is far easier than it looks). Get our Prosciutto Palmiers recipe.
In another deliciously non-traditional twist, pork is replaced by salmon in this easy French terrine. Smoked salmon, anise-scented Pernod, shallots, and a lemony butter and crème fraîche dressing combine for a silky-smooth spread. Get our Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes recipe.
To complement whatever else you’re bringing along, even if that’s just some good bread and cheese.
Haricot verts are such a tender, delicate-tasting variety of the green beans you see flooding the farmers markets in the summer. Toss them with a top shelf Dijon, shallots, garlic, and capers, and you’ve got a sophisticated side dish for a French picnic. Get our French Green Bean Salad recipe.
Tangy, crunchy carrot slaw would be a simple French side dish for all that bread and cheese. A good country-style Dijon, chives, parsley, and orange zest provide complexity to the shaved carrots. Get our Carrot Slaw recipe.
Skip the bagged potato chips and bring this popcorn for the occasion. It’s tossed with melted garlic butter and herbes de Provence, the fragrant French blend that often includes lavender. Get the Frenchified Popcorn recipe.
If you want something a little more filling, these would make great mains with any of the aforementioned sides and snacks.
A halved sweet baguette spread with fresh fig jam, topped with salty ham and creamy Camembert cheese, and garnished with spicy arugula is a perfectly balanced sandwich for any day, but it’s especially fitting for Bastille Day. (And if you let the salt, pepper, and oil slide, it fits into the five-ingredient picnic recipe category, always a plus.) Get our Ham and Camembert Baguette Sandwich recipe.
To add a little variety to your spread, include a healthy fish sandwich in the mix. Inspired by the classic French salad, this one has caper mayonnaise serving as a briny base that pairs traditional niçoise ingredients such as olives, red onion, and hard-cooked eggs with ahi tuna fillets. If you’re a vegetarian, no problem. Thanks to the addition of protein-rich eggs, this dish is hearty enough without the tuna. Get our Salade Niçoise Sandwich recipe.
Little jars of carrot custard topped with lentils, zucchini, leeks, and chèvre are a mini meal on their own, and an impressive dish to serve at brunch, or of course, on a picnic. Get our French Lentil Terrine with Savory Carrot Custard recipe.
Inspired by the classic French sauce of hard-boiled eggs, capers, cornichons, and fines herbes, this is a piquant update to your usual egg salad. Like all good egg salads, though, it’s messy, so you may want to bring crackers to scoop it up instead of making sandwiches. Get our Egg Salad Gribiche recipe.
A little something sweet is definitely in order.
End your picnic on a sweet note with colorful white chocolate macarons. Even though these are one of the more difficult French pastries to master, Bastille Day is just the reason you need to push your baking boundaries. Bon appétit! Get our French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache recipe.
If macarons seem too daunting, make these easy pots de crème—individual servings of rich chocolate pudding, basically. As long as you wrap them well so they’re totally water-tight and don’t jostle your cooler too much, you can tote them along anywhere. Get our Chocolate Pots de Crème recipe.
All the flavor of Proust’s famed madeleienes, none of the fuss of making them. These rich little numbers with brown butter, almonds, and vanilla bean seeds are made in a mini muffin tin and travel well…if they last long enough to make it to the picnic basket, anyway. Get our Financiers recipe.
Mendiants are sort of like fancy French chocolate bark, usually circular in shape, and studded with dried fruit (including candied peel) and nuts. You can use any combo of ingredients you like, and feel free to make one big piece and break it apart—just eat it fast before it melts. Get the Mendiants recipe.