Fast Food Items You Can Only Find In France

Early 2023, 2018 Miss Universe contestant Eva Colas' throat-ripping scream of her country's name went viral and reminded the world of a simple, eternal truth: Whatever it is, the French do it differently. French cuisine and gastronomic culture are renowned the world over, so naturally, in the globalizing world of fast food, major brands have had to adapt their menus to the defiantly-unique French pallet. Since Pulp Fiction's famous "Royale with cheese" scene, Americans have been hip to the fact that their favorite fast food staples do exist in other countries — often in renamed or rebranded forms — but walking into a French McDonald's or Burger King, the American tourist is in store for whole items, ingredients, and flavors never encountered back home.

In the later days of the Roman Empire, soldiers wrote breathless, terrified missives about the Gallic people and their penchant for beating up occupying Roman soldiers as recreation. Today, the various Burger Empires know they have to use real French-made Emmental cheese if they're going to survive in the Hexagon. This tendency to refuse complete conformity to internationalizing forces means that while seeing a favorite American fast food chain in Paris may bring a sense of comfort to the homesick traveler, traveling through France presents opportunities to broaden one's horizons even in a wholly-familiar, U.S.-born burger joint. So if you find yourself in France and want to thread the needle between American-style comfort food and French local fare, here are fifteen delicious options.

McDonald's: Le 280 Original

The 280, named for its full weight in grams, has gone through various limited-time recipes and variations over the years in France — including versions topped with egg or bacon, or slathered in sauce au poivre. All versions however include a stone-fired ciabatta bun, a thick ground beef (called "steak haché" literally "minced steak" in French) patty, and two slices of tomato. The 280 Original, currently a permanent fixture on McDonald's France's "Best of" menu, includes two pairs of adorning condiments and cheeses. American-style squares of cheddar and Emmental cheese sandwich the patty and melt under its heat, and standard McDonald's ketchup is paired with a "lightly citrusy" sauce taken from the French version of the McChicken.

The 280 may seem like a fairly typical burger all put together, but it's a distinctly European creation; its ciabatta bun harkens back to the creation of the Italian bread in 1982 as a substitute for popular French baguettes. Meanwhile, it's been paired with seemingly every distinctly French sauce under the sun, from a savory Béarnaise to a buttery sauce aux herbes de Provence.

McDonald's: Le McWrap Chèvre

Chèvre is a cheese made from goat's milk, and — while it's one of many originating from France — it's ubiquitous and iconic enough that it won the naming wars and attained the simplest and clearest name, literally: "Goat cheese." It's a soft, lightly-tangy cheese loved the world over, including among U.S. foodies who go nuts for the boldly-flavored versions sold in American retailers like Costco's key-lime version, or Trader Joe's spicy jalapeño variant. McDonald's France, however, leaves the chèvre in its McWrap unchanged on the inside — but melted and enveloped in a crispy crust on the outside.

McDonald's France calls its McWrap Chèvre "vegetarian," but obviously a cheese-based dish is for vegetarians of the "lacto-" variety. The McWrap Chèvre has come, gone, and returned as a limited-time item throughout its existence, and includes a smaller "P'tit" version if a burrito of fried breaded cheese sounds a bit heavy for your tastes.

McDonald's: Le Duo de Macarons

Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) are a quintessentially French dessert. The miniature sandwich-like cookies made from egg whites and almonds come in a kaleidoscopic array of colors and flavors, and, in 2007, McDonald's "McCafe"-branded coffee shops in the Paris area began offering macarons Mickey D's-style. McDonald's has been offering their version of macarons since 2007, but their availability and variety have been limited to select international markets, and many flavors like caramel — a popular macaron variant — have been dropped from French locations over time.

French McDonald's locations still offer "Le Duo de Macarons," a pairing that seems to be leveraging McDonald's American identity by rolling with "brownie" and "cranberry" as the two consistent flavors. Reception has been mixed, as the writers at Budget Travel note; the soft, meringue-like makeup of a macaron gives it a shorter shelf-life than is optimal for a fast food giant's production schedule, so naturally the "McMacarons" have a different chemical makeup than macarons that meet French pâtisserie standards. Budget Travel excoriated McDonald's macarons in contrast to those sold at the bakery of legendary French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. In contrast, however, the writers at Delishably ranked the McDo cookies against those from Ladurée, the pastry giant where the "double-decker" sandwich-style macaron was invented, and still ruled that McDonald's provided an enjoyable, budget macaron option.

Starbucks: Madeleines Chocolat (with real chocolate)

If you're a fan of seminal seven-volume-long French novels, you probably recall that madeleines — the soft, spongy shell-shaped handheld cakes — were the unsung stars of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, triggering childhood memories when Proust's narrator bites into one dipped in tea. And they are perfect for dipping — soaking up whatever drink they're immersed in, making them a perfect addition to your café order, unless you want to get some Italian-style crunch and opt instead for some biscotti.

Your local Starbucks in the States almost certainly has bagged madeleines on the little impulse-buy shelf by the cashier stand, next to the packs of chocolate-dipped espresso beans. You might even be lucky enough to encounter Starbucks' dipped madeleines stateside. What you won't find are madeleines made with real chocolate. In the US, Starbucks offers madeleines "dipped in a chocolaty coating," which Instacart's secondhand ingredients list calls "dark chocolate flavored confectionery" made with processed cocoa powder. In France? Your Proustian reveries are coated with actual dark chocolate.

Subway: Croissants, Beignets, and Pain au Chocolat

Subway's foray into the breakfast sandwich world was tumultuous at best. Starting in 2010 with sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads that were well-received – but put such a strain on operations that the chain retreated from the breakfast game only a few years after it first dipped its toes in. Subway's French operations, however, have benefitted from the nation's robust baking industry — and has held onto a simplified breakfast menu featuring the "Formule DUO" and "Formule TRIO:" one hot drink or espresso, an optional orange juice, and your choice of viennoiserie, or "Vienna-style" pastry. Yeah, those fluffy, flaky croissants and pains au chocolat so beloved in France and associated with French identity? Those are Austrian imports.

Off the breakfast menu, French Subway locations also offer a trio of mini beignets, with either an apple-cinnamon or a Nutella-style chocolate hazelnut filling. If you're imagining New Orleans-style fried fritters with a crispy exterior, think again. French beignets are lighter, fluffier, and chewier than the Cajun-style descendants found in the States.

Burger King: Louisiane Chicken Steakhouse (and Veggie version)

Burger King has had a rocky history in the French market. Launching its first French locations in the 90s, but shuttering them entirely by 1997, the brand made an impression on French burger lovers from neighboring nations Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy, but failed to gain a foothold in the Hexagon. Absence made the heart grow fonder when BK announced its pending return in 2012, and, in the past ten years, has opened over 100 locations across the country. Paul Fedèle, editor of the French fast food news and fandom site Snacking, attributed Burger King's popularity to its exotic American-ness, contrasting with McDonald's, which had long since adapted to French tastes over the course of its uninterrupted tenure in the country.

The Louisiane Chicken Steakhouse is a bold example of how Burger King has maintained its menu's American exoticism to French customers while still adapting to the local pallet. Offering Southern-style fried chicken seasoned and sauced in the fashion of French-descended Cajun cooking, the Louisiane Chicken Steakhouse received high marks from the French burger blog The veggie version – swapping both the chicken and bacon strips for plant-based substitutes — was similarly well-received.

Burger King: Master Bacon Grill

If we're going to take Paul Fedèle at his word, that Burger King's appeal to French diners lies in its "American-ness", then the Master Bacon Grill provides a fascinating example of the contrast in French and American dining sensibilities. Taking its unique ingredients all together, the Master Bacon Grill looks like the kind of upscale sixteen-dollar burger that would appear at an American mid-budget steakhouse, not anywhere with a drive-thru. Brioche, the sweet butter-and-egg bread makes up the bun of the Master Bacon Grill burger, an herb-laden sauce dresses it, the patty sits under a slice of Emmental, a cheese with highly-specific criteria needed to qualify for the name, and the lettuce of choice is arugula, the leafy green that notoriously got a pre-presidency Barack Obama painted as a hoity-toity elitist (that's what we get for not calling it "rocket" like the English).

How does the Master Bacon Grill score to French burger lovers? Alleghri, a French Youtuber specializing in fast food reviews, sampled the Master Bacon Grill in 2022, and he quoted French rapper OrelSan to celebrate the burger as "simple, basic!"

Burger King: Wrap Crousty Chèvre

If you thought you'd seen the last of breaded cheese on this list, think again (you're not even seeing the last of it now). The Wrap Crousty Chèvre is Burger King's corollary to the McDonald's McWrap Chèvre, with breaded chèvre goat cheese wrapped with lettuce and tomato inside a wheat tortilla. Burger King even trusts its French customers to know what a tortilla is, using the word directly on their product page for the Wrap while McDo calls theirs a "galette de blé (wheat)", using a catch-all term that refers to pancakes, crepes, and any other circular flat foot item.

If you're choosing between McDonald's and Burger King for lunch while galivanting across Paris, we won't judge, but we will advise you that the Burger King version of the crusty chèvre wrap includes the same crispy onions Cajun-spiced sauce as the Louisiane Chicken Steakhouse, making it the option that has more zing to it. The French meanwhile will probably just judge you for choosing either.

Burger King: Master Cantal

If you've ever encountered the "It's not X unless it's from the X region of France" meme, you've been exposed to the concept of controlled appellation, the means by which a product is only allowed a regional name if it has been certified to come from the given region — and has been made with approved traditional ingredients and techniques. The wine world is probably more famous for the seriousness of its appellations, but cheeses are equally protected in France by the French government, and by the European Union's own geographical indications register. The Master Cantal includes two slices of Cantal cheese with an EU-backed "AOP" label. The semi-firm cheese named after its region of origin is one of the oldest made in France and is famous for being one of the popular cheese options for aligot, the whipped mashed potato dish you've probably seen stretched to dizzying heights.

Add this pedigreed cheese to a burger with a brioche bun, an old-fashioned-style mustard sauce with whole seeds in it, and both caramelized and crispy onions, and you've got an incredibly flavorful and decadent meal to brag about once you return from your next French excursion. Just be careful! It comes and goes from the menu.

KFC: Crousti' Fromage Emmental

The French KFC menu will look nearly identical to the American version on first blush: Fried chicken, fried fries, fried chicken on a bun served with a side of fried fries — but take a trip to the "Petits Plaisirs" section, and you will see something of a uniquely French beauty. Well, the cheese is originally from Switzerland, but the gooey morsels of it ready to gush out of their breaded shells were proudly made in the good ol' bleu, blanc, et rouge. Emmental cheese served nugget-style is something you probably didn't realize you wanted until just now, but it's here, and it comes in servings of ten and three, for those with small stomachs or who fear enjoying life too much. And if you're ready to indulge in all the Kentucky-fried flavors you can't actually get in Kentucky, order a side of KFC's Creamy Curry sauce.

As a side note, while working on this piece, we did spot a chèvre version of the Crousti' Fromage, and while it may still be visible on delivery sites like UberEats, it's since been scrubbed from KFC France's website, leaving Burger King and McDonald's the reliable options for breaded chèvre.

Domino's: Chèvre-Miel Pizza

Welcome to the real land of milk and honey. Pizza chèvre miel is a popular recipe in France with complicated origins. Despite its French ingredients with contrasting sweet and tart flavors, chevre and crème fraîche alongside the honey, the pizza scholars at Guide.Pizza trace this pizza variation to neighboring Spain. Domino's version uses a low-fat crème fraîche, but this hasn't earned it above a D on the World Health Organization's Nutri-Score meter featured on the pizza's product page, but that's the trade-off for a decadent marriage of sweet and salty, dairy-heavy flavors that French fast food influencers raved about when Domino's launched the chèvre-miel in 2021.

The positive reception for the Domino's chèvre miel may owe a lot to the fact that pizza chèvre miel is so ubiquitous and beloved in France that it's genuinely hard to mess it up for a French pizza lover. The French fast food reviewer on the Youtube channel LeRequin92 mistakenly called the pizza a rarity and was quickly corrected by his fans commenting that they'd never seen a pizzeria in France that didn't serve a chèvre miel. Nevertheless, Domino's has earned an enthusiastic passing grade on the flavor front from French foodies.

Domino's: Cal'z Banane Choco

Chocolate and bananas are a widely-beloved combination of flavors in all kinds of desserts — like chocolate-covered banana pops or chocolate chip banana bread – not least of all when folded together inside some sweet crêpes. So a banana and chocolate dessert calzone isn't much of a leap at all. Across Domino's international operations, the pizza chain has launched sweet calzones before, but France's Cal'z Banane Choco may be the most enticing one they've ever offered in any market. With a dusting of powdered sugar, a compote of caramelized bananas, and a side of a Nutella-like chocolate-hazelnut sauce, this a classic dessert crêpe dialed up to 11, swapping the thin, flat pastry for one with more body, crunch, and doughy thickness to sink your teeth into.

The Cal'z Banane Choco launched in late 2021 as a limited-time offer, but it's still available for order on Domino's France's site. There's no telling how long that will hold, so if you're an absolute fanatic for the best fast food desserts on offer, you may want to jump on that European vacation you said you'd take someday.

Domino's: Cheeky Pizza Kebab

From the turducken to the donut-bunned burger, the United States is the reigning champion of wild and intense mashups of favorite flavors, providing the culinary equivalent of a Girl Talk album. But Domino's French division is coming for the crown with a pizza topped with kebab fries. It may sound like a step too far, but it's easy to see the lineage and sense behind Domino's concoction. Topping fries with pizza fixings is a common way to upgrade them as a delicious party appetizer, flavor-mashing styles of topped fries like carne asada fries show the appeal and power of grilled meat with your potatoes, and since the creation of chili cheese fries, cheese has been an effective way to glue potatoes and toppings together.

Kebabs and other foods from North African and Middle Eastern immigrant communities are beloved by millions of French people, and a contested culture war bête noire among French nativists. With mozzarella and tomato sauce, bell peppers, kebab meat, fries, and a drizzling of a white kebab sauce familiar to fans of the Halal Guys, the Cheeky Pizza Kebab is a mélange of France's favorite imported dishes from over the Alps in Italy or across the Mediterranean in the Maghreb.

Pizza Hut: Pizza Raclette

Raclette is a semi-firm cheese of Swiss origin popular across the Alps, and the star of an equally-popular dish of the same name. Raclette the dish serves the cheese melted with steamed potatoes and an assortment of pickled onions, cornichons, and cured meats. In the Rhineland, raclette can be found served without the potatoes from a market stall on a crunchy baguette. This kind of trans-alpine iteration on a beloved dish has made a pizza raclette a no-brainer, and in adapting its menu for French customers, Pizza Hut has taken note of what has made this pairing of cheese, meat, and heat so beloved across at least three (France, Switzerland, and Germany) of the eight Alpine states.

Like the popular chèvre miel pizza, Pizza Hut's Pizza Raclette uses a low-fat crème fraîche in place of a traditional sauce, holds everything together with typical mozzarella, but then tops it all off with slices of golden potato, hunks of melted raclette, and chunks of lardon, the especially-fatty small-cubed variant of bacon.

Popeye's: Les Boissons Chaudes café selection

Popeyes opened its first French locations in 2023, with plans to expand to over 300 Louisiana-style chicken restaurants over the next seven years. With France already showing some appreciation for fast food with a Cajun twist thanks to the popularity of the Burger King Louisiane Chicken Steakhouse, Popeyes has been taking a proactive approach to adapting its menu to French tastes, such as by ditching traditional American cheddar cheese for French cantal on all its sandwiches. Despite these adjustments, so far the Popeyes French menu is starkly similar to its American counterpart, save one standout difference: All the coffee.

Popeyes in the States caters to Americans' love of iced drinks, and the familiar pairing of a cold soft drink with hot and spicy, summer barbecue-evoking fried chicken. Meanwhile, in the UK, the chicken chain has added sweetened and creamy cappuccinos and lattes to its beverages roster. But only in France can you order your spicy wings and fries with three different styles of espresso – single, double, and a café allongé (the French term for the Italian lungo). Our friends at TastingTable assert that you should absolutely try a café noisette – well, now you can with a side of Cajun fries.