Lyon is a city in central-eastern France, known for its rich culinary heritage and gastronomic traditions. The city’s cuisine is influenced by its historical and cultural context, as well as by the local produce and ingredients available in the region.
The city is particularly renowned for its culinary specialties, which are recognized and appreciated in France and around the world. It is considered the gastronomic capital of France.
Lyon is also famous for its “bouchons”, traditional restaurants serving hearty, home-style fare. These restaurants and this cuisine were intended for Lyon’s laborers. They needed nourishing dishes to give them enough energy for their working days.
These restaurants are renowned for their warm, welcoming atmosphere and generous portions. Visitors to Lyon can sample a wide variety of Lyonnais culinary specialties, from the simple saucisson to the more elaborate poulet Célestine.
Here’s a list of 21 food specialties from Lyon!
Lyon cuisine is famous for its hearty, flavorful dishes, and starters are no exception. Lyonnais starters are an important part of Lyonnais cuisine, with a variety of mouth-watering dishes to offer.
Read also: Events in Lyon: Do not Miss out!
La Cervelle de Canut
Cervelle de Canut is a culinary specialty from Lyon, often served as an appetizer. It’s made with fromage blanc, garlic, shallots, chives, parsley and pepper. The creamy texture and slightly tangy flavor of Cervelle de Canut make it an excellent option for cheese lovers.
It can be enjoyed as an appetizer or dessert, usually served in a bowl with slices of toasted bread.
La Rosette de Lyon
Sausage (saucisson) is a key component of Lyon’s charcuterie, and rosette de Lyon is one of the most popular varieties. This dry sausage is made from pork (minced meat and pork fat) and seasoned with spices to give it a unique flavor.
For your information, the term rosette is used because the casings in which the meat is fresh give it a slightly pink appearance (rosé in French). You can also try another Lyon saucisson, Jésus de Lyon.
Saint-Marcellin is a “Lyonnais” cheese, named after a village in the neighboring county of Isère. This round cheese is mild and creamy and is often served as an appetizer. It has a soft, bloomy rind and is usually eaten dry.
This cheese is made from cow’s milk and is ideal for cheese lovers who prefer milder varieties. Since 2013, this cheese has been protected by the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) label.
You can find them in many of Lyon’s bouchons, as well as in cheese shops and supermarkets.
Read also: 53 Popular French Cheeses to Try
La Salade Lyonnaise
The French and the rest of the world know the salade niçoise, but most French towns have their own salads. Salade lyonnaise is a staple on the menus of Lyon’s bouchons.
This salad is composed of lettuce, bacon (lardons), croutons and a poached egg. The dressing is often made with red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard to add a touch of flavor.
Perfect to start an aperitif with gherkins and olives, grattons are residues of animal fat and/or melted pork. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper.
Lyonnais Main Dishes
Lyon’s main dishes are a staple of the region’s gastronomy. They include several emblematic dishes from the region, such as quenelles and saucisson brioché.
One of Lyon’s most emblematic dishes is the “quenelle”. This dish, whose origins date back to the 18th century, has become a staple of Lyonnais cuisine.
Pike quenelles are a traditional Lyonnais dish, often served with a creamy sauce. They are made from a paste of flour, eggs, milk, and chopped pike.
Vous pouvez en manger dans un bouchon lyonnais mais également en acheter chez un traiteur ou dans une grande surface à Lyon.
Fun fact: In 1830, there was an upsurge of pike in the Saône. The pastry chef Charles Morateur had the idea of mixing fish flesh with choux pastry. He invented the first quenelle. This version is contested, as a similar version is said to have existed in Germany in the Middle Ages.
Le Saucisson Brioché
Le saucisson brioché (brioche sausage) is another typical Lyon dish. It’s a sausage baked (often with pistachios) in a golden brioche. This dish is often served hot, accompanied by a green salad.
Le Gratin de Cardons
Cardoons are an ancient vegetable from the artichoke family, often used in Lyonnais cuisine. They’re rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, and B9 vitamins… all good stuff!
The Lyonnais dish is prepared as a gratin with a béchamel sauce and grated cheese.
Le Tablier de Sapeur
Tablier de sapeur is a dish based on beef or pork (a piece of double fat) cooked in white wine and stock, then breaded and pan-fried. It’s a bit like an improved version of a breaded escalope.
This dish is often served with a green salad or steamed potatoes.
Le Pâté en Croûte
Pâté en croûte is not specifically from Lyon, but the dish has become a staple of Lyonnais cuisine.
It consists of a puff pastry filled with one or more meats, such as pork, veal, pig, poultry, foie gras, and pistachio (and sometimes mustard). This dish is often accompanied by a green salad.
Sabodet is a traditional pork sausage from the Lyon region, cooked in water. It’s made with pork cheeks and tongue, giving it a soft, chewy texture.
The sausage is served with steamed potatoes and fresh butter (or sometimes lentils). Sabodet can also be served with sauerkraut or pot-au-feu.
Le Poulet Célestine
Chicken celestine is a chicken-based dish cooked with butter, broth, mushrooms, parsley, garlic, pepper, tomatoes and flambéed with cognac, yum! This dish is often accompanied by steamed potatoes ( or pasta or rice).
Fun fact: A saucier chef named Rousselot at the Cercle restaurant in Lyon fell in love with his manager, Célestine Blanchard. To seduce her, he invented this recipe… and it worked!
Les Ravioles du Dauphiné
Ravioles du Dauphiné come from the neighboring county of Drôme. However, if you’re visiting Lyon, we recommend you try them! Ravioles are squares of pasta stuffed with fromage frais, Comté, Emmental, and parsley.
They can be made into a gratin, or you can bake them in the oven, adding cream and cheese on top.
Andouillette is a tripe-based veal or pork sausage with a shallot, mustard, or white wine sauce. The dish is baked in the oven and often served with steamed potatoes.
Les Œufs en Meurette
It’s a regional recipe from Burgundy, popular in Lyon’s bouchons. Eggs en meurette is a dish based on poached eggs, served with a sauce of red wine (from Burgundy), shallots, onions, and bacon.
La Tête de Veau
Calf’s head is a traditional lyonnaise dish, often served as a pot-au-feu. It’s a lean piece of meat, rich in protein!
It is prepared with vegetables (carrots, turnips, broccoli, potatoes) and spices, then served with a gribiche sauce. This is a thick sauce made with mustard, hard-boiled eggs, gherkins, capers, and herbs.
The Lyonnais are known for their love of pastries and sweets, which is reflected in their local cuisine.
Bugnes are lightly sweetened and fried doughnuts, often served as a dessert or for food breaks. Bugnes are often sprinkled with powdered sugar and are perfect for satisfying sweet cravings.
They are particularly popular during Mardi Gras. They are more widely found in southeastern France, from Forez to Dauphiné.
Le Coussin de Lyon
This delicacy was invented by the Lyon chocolatier Voisin. The Lyon coussin is a unique Lyonnais specialty.
It’s a chocolate ganache coated with an almond paste flavored with curaçao liqueur. A must for all chocolate lovers.
Fun fact: Its patented recipe takes four days to make.
La Tarte aux Pralines
Tarte aux pralines is a culinary specialty from Lyon that has become very popular throughout France. In fact, it originated in Roanne, a town 80 kilometers from Lyon.
This tart is made with a sweet pastry, a filling of crushed pink pralines, crème fraîche and heavy cream. Tarte aux pralines is often featured on the dessert menus of Lyon restaurants.
Fun fact: Lyon is host to a specialty from Roanne (Loire), la Praluline. We recommend you visit one of the Pralus patisseries (several stores in Lyon) and try one of their praline brioches. They’re expensive but delicious… not to be missed!
Chocolate specialty from Rhône, the county of Lyon. This delicacy is eaten at Christmas time. It’s wrapped in silver or gold paper, sometimes with a note and sometimes with a tiny firecracker.
Note that this is not a specialty of Lyon, but rather of the region. Faisselle, or fromage blanc (use of the wrong denomination in the region), is a type of yogurt (made from cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk).
The faisselle is served with sugar, crème fraîche or red fruit coulis… try it at a bouchon lyonnais!
All these Lyonnais specialties are available in many of the city’s bouchons lyonnais and restaurants. We recommend a visit to the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, where you can easily discover the diversity of Lyon’s gastronomy.