Typically foreigners think of the food of France as classic French cuisine. To say that this styles likes cream and butter is a bit of an understatement. Is there many other types of restaurants that don't have this dairy focus. Where could a lactose intolerant person eat in France?

It is definitely an allergy. I'm violently ill and can feel my chest closing up when I consume it.

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    OK to everyone I made an edit. It is an allergy.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:23
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 16:08
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    I rejected an edit to the question as it would make existing answers 'wrong'. The current edit is enough, does not cleaning up.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 17:22
  • Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/55601/…
    – FluidCode
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 16:41

9 Answers 9


The answer below was written when the question concerned lactose intolerance in general. For allergies or very strong reactions to dairy products, like all other allergies, the general advice is that you need to be careful and never assume, so ask restaurants specifically regarding what they can serve you without any dairy products and with proper allergen controls (including butter). I don't have specific advice for France in this respect.

Where could a lactose intolerant person eat in France?

Anywhere really. Most lactose intolerant people can eat cream and butter in the quantity used in most dishes. Ice creams sell as well in China or Japan as anywhere else really.

If that amount still poses a problem to you, most if not all restaurants certainly have dishes that do not use cream and butter or use them in an extremely limited amount, e.g. salads and steaks and many other baked meats and vegetables. They can certainly serve them without sauce if you ask. You can also ask the restaurants if they offer alternative sauces or gravies without or with less butter and cream.

If you have problem with even sautéing with butter or a tablespoon of heavy cream though, that's way beyond the lactose intolerant category.

Of course, international chain restaurants (McDonald's) and "ethnic" restaurants or stands (Chinese, African, Turkish, etc.) are also not hard to find in cities.

If you have a very strong reaction to lactose, or an allergy to dairy products (which are rarely caused by lactose but more commonly by certain proteins), where mere presence of lactose or dairy products poses a significant issue for you, you need to cook yourself or individually verify with specific restaurants. Like for all other severe allergies, you cannot trust others on cross-contamination based on type of restaurants alone, especially if there are language barriers.

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    Most restaurants will be able to feed you with a vegan salade, with oil and vinegar or something like that, avoiding all options of milk, but that is going to the extremes which will hardly ever be needed. In most cases they can adjust some of their dishes if they have non on the normal menu. And unlike what many people expect, English is spoken quite a bit these days.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 15:08
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    OK, I have made an edit to the question to be more correct.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:24
  • @FluidCode For the overwhelming majority of people with lactose intolerance, what I write is applicable. If you have strong reaction to sautéing butter, then I also wrote in the last paragraph you need to treat it like an allergy, and you should also get advice from a medical professional on other possible causes like IBS, protein intolerance or other allergies.
    – xngtng
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 11:24
  • @FluidCode You'd also see that my advice is very similar to yours for the more lactose intolerant people, salad and steak served without sauce.
    – xngtng
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 11:25
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    @Willeke nice in theory, but more often than not kitchens use prepackaged ingredients and don't really know what's in them (and not all vegan products really are, some include bulk agents like wey powder and then hope customers don't notice).
    – jwenting
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 10:19

You can always look for Kosher restaurants that observe traditional Jewish Kashrut rules. Kosher restaurants are either serving dairy products or meat dishes as mixing these two categories is forbidden by Kashrut. So if you look for Kosher restaurants serving meat you can be quite sure their kitchen has never seen any dairy product, but you won't find any pork meat or shellfish there neither. Sometimes they may be slightly more expensive than average restaurants due to their more strict rules, but it is definitely worth the experience and not restricted to Middle Eastern cuisine as you can find Kosher restaurants in practically all styles. The only restriction is a geographical one: they are almost exclusively located in bigger cities.

A useful website that lists those restaurants is TotallyJewishTravel

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    You do need to make sure it is truly Kosher and not "Kosher style". That is somewhat regional - pretty strict in Israel but in some other places you need to know what to look for to see that a "Kosher" restaurant truly is Kosher. Classic example of "Kosher style" is a delicatessen-restaurant that sells chopped liver and bagels with lox & cream cheese side-by-side. Commented May 30, 2021 at 21:43
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    Great advice, but if you expect really sever reactions do be careful mishaps can happen even in kosher restaurants
    – Rsf
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 14:44
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    Note: fish doesn’t count as meat in this context, so Kosher restaurant serving fish is quite possible not dairy free.
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 20:10
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    And technically there can be exceptions. I remember a package of chocolate candy for Passover that was Kosher for Passover (no wheat, no peanuts, no all kinds of things) and Pareve (no meat or dairy) but had allergen statement for "milk" and "peanuts" with an additional statement that "This has no Halachic significance" - meaning that the level was so low (which means no known contamination and certainly no actual dairy or peanut ingredients) as to be irrelevant under Jewish law but due to liability/safety concerns the manufacturer was listing everything as having possible allergens. Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 2:01
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    As a sidenote, the Jewish culture is not that widespread throughout France, barring specific districts, so it is not very frequent to see kosher restaurant or places advertising kosher dishes. When it's not advertised, people might not even know the details of what kosher implies. So asking about dairy products directly would definitely be safer. All cooks have mandatory training on allergens and cross contamination.
    – spectras
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 11:46

Typically foreigners think of the food of France as classic French cuisine. To say that this styles likes cream and butter is a bit of an understatement.

You seem to have the wrong idea about classic French cuisine. Cream definitely is not used that much. There are clearly dishes with lots of cream, especially in some regions (mostly northwestern France), and there are a few classics which can hardly be cooked without cream, but there are a lot more dishes that don't incorporate any cream at all.

Butter is quite frequent, but a lot less so in southern France. But butter contains very little lactose anyway (about ten times less than milk or yogurt), and except a few marginal exceptions, it's only used in small quantities when cooking. So unless you are not intolerant but actually allergic, it shouldn't matter at all.

Is there many other types of restaurants that don't have this dairy focus.

There are very very few restaurants which would qualify as having a "dairy focus". Just look at the menu before selecting your restaurant, dishes using cream should be quite obvious (and very few and far between).

Where could a lactose intolerant person eat in France?

Anywhere. Remember that a lot of adults are lactose intolerant (actually, worldwide, a majority is). The proportion varies by region, but it's about the same in France as in the US for instance. Estimates vary between 15% and 50% of the adult population. If french cuisine was a problem for that many french people, I think we would know about it!

Just don't drink a glass of milk and you should be fine! And even then... There's special milk for lactose intolerant people.

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    OK I realise my terminology was flawed. I get violently sick if I consume dairy. I did not realise that is a allergy not an intolerance. I will edit my question.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:17
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    @NeilMeyer If you can't eat butter it's almost certainly a casein allergy and not lactose intolerance. It's important to determine this with an allergist. You might otherwise end up eating something "lactose free" that you think will be safe but which could still have casein and trigger a dangerous reaction.
    – J...
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:22
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    @NeilMeyer If you are getting violently sick when eating something and only self-diagnose instead of going to a medical doctor, you should be much more worried about your own approach to the disease than what will happen when you go on holiday. Based on what you are writing here, that seem to be the case. Commented May 30, 2021 at 12:37
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    @Matt You have obviously not read the history of the question. I am not talking about treatment here, but about diagnosis. OP believed to be lactose intolerant and when it was pointed out that the symptoms he described does not match lactose intolerance, he has now decided, obviously again on himself without consulting anyone, that he has an allergy and is not just being lactose intolerant. If he has not been diagnosed and knows what he reacts to, he does also not know what to avoid and if he does not know why he is reacting, he can't even know if it is an allergy or some other condition. Commented May 31, 2021 at 13:49
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    @Matt I want OP to have his problem diagnosed because psycosomathic, imaginary and self-diagnosed food allergies and intolerances are becoming such a great problem in industrialized countries that it leads to malnutrition. I know people who have been terminally ill because they have adapted their diet to an imaginary allergy. Research in Norway has shown that less than 10% of people claiming to have a food allergy or intolerance actually has one. If you have a doctor, who just tells you to avoid onions because you think you get ill when eating onions, you should find another doctor. Commented May 31, 2021 at 14:43

Most restaurants not specialized in cheese-centric dishes such as pizza have some lactose-free options. I'm lactose intolerant and have managed to avoid being inadvertently served meals with lactose in most countries. Do look at what you get because sometimes, they will serve you some anyway. This happens most often when you choose an option that appears lactose-free without telling the server about your lactose-intolerance and he brings the bread-and-cheese basket or an appetizer on the house.

The good news is that French cooking tends to have few ingredients and they know their food. So, it will be easy to get served a lactose-free meal by following this advice:

  • Some European printed menus mark the allergens with a number besides each item. You may have to look for the legend on the back of the menu. Many French restaurants do not have printed menus and instead write items to that they can change frequently.
  • Look through the menu for items that can be normally made without lactose. Avoid anything mentioning cream, cheese stuffing, Bearnaise, Bechamel, Hollandaise, etc.
  • If every item looks like it possibly has lactose, then choose some were it is used as an garnish (garni de fromage), side sauce (servi avec sauce...) or last resort covered with cheese (au gratin).
  • Once you find a few items that seem possible without lactose, tell the waiter you are lactose-intolerant and ask about your choice in order of preference. If none can be made without, the waiter is very likely to offer some alternatives.

Only a handful of times, I had to leave the restaurant because nothing could be made without lactose. This only happened in restaurants that serve quick meals that are mostly pre-made ahead of time, never at a full-service restaurant.

You are right that cream is prevalent but butter is even more and generally much more difficult to spot on the menu since it is used frequently instead of oil. Luckily my level of intolerance allows me to eat some butter (a teaspoon or two). That is why it is important to specify when ordering and not just select something that does not mention a dairy ingredient. That being said, there are many dishes made without cream and cooked with olive oil, stewed in broth (some stews are thickened with cream - so, again, ask).


By law all european restaurant are required to inform customers on ingredients that people may be allergic to*. I am not sure specifically of how this works out in France, but typically the menu will indicate with symbols for each dish what potentially allergic ingredients it contains. In rare cases I have seen a notice on the wall that gives a blanket statement on what ingredients any of their meals might contain.

So in principal you should be able to visit any restaurant and inspect their menu to see what they offer that doesn't contain milk.


* the potential allergic ingredients that must be warned for are:

celery, cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

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    The law in France says the information on allergens should be written, plainly visible and legible. In practice, you can put the list on the front door or at the entrance rather than on every menu. If such a list isn't obviously visible, the first thing to do is ask for it before you're placed. Commented May 31, 2021 at 9:37
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    In many places "the list of allergens is available on request".
    – jcaron
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 9:56
  • Yes, just ask. It is a normal thing to do, waiter will usually be able to answer immediately. In the worst case they'll go check with the cook.
    – spectras
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 12:00

Typically foreigners think of the food of France as classic French cuisine. To say that this styles likes cream and butter is a bit of an understatement.

Actually, this is only true of part of France. The dairy-rich cuisine you describe is typical of Paris and the North. The South has traditionally had a very different, Mediterranean cuisine.

People even speak of the "Butter Border", an imaginary line between the North, where people cook with butter (the so-called "cuisine au beurre"), and the South, where people cook with olive oil (the so-called "cuisine à l'huile").

Of course, nowadays, you will find all kinds of restaurants and bistros in all regions, and it should not be too difficult to find food to your liking, especially if you have an intolerance but not an allergy, i.e. if a little dairy is not a huge problem.

  • OK I have a allergy. I realise that now.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:19
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    @NeilMeyer In that case, the good thing about France is that most places (not just the expensive ones) serve food that is freshly prepared by people who know what they're doing, so asking about the ingredients, or requesting a dairy-free version, should work better than in some other countries.
    – guest
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 17:30
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    @NeilMeyer If you have an allergy, which sounds likely, it’s not to lactose. Lactose intolerance is not an allergic reaction. I suspect you may have a casein allergy, but I’m not an expert, and you should probably consult one.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 5:09

Since 2015, french restaurants have the obligation to list the 17 major allergens present in their dishes (gluten/dairy/egg/fish/etc) for non-wrapped foods. In reality, the card is not always available.

Get the application "Avec Plaisir" it is an app designed to list allergen friendly restaurants. It's just a map with hearts beside the appropriate eating places:

(translate this page) enter image description here

here is the app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avecplaisir.avecplaisir&hl=en&gl=US

The law is called "décret n°2015-447 du 17 avril 2015"

You can contact restaurants first and ask them "J'aimerai manger chez vous, Pouvez vous SVP m'envoyer une liste des allergenes present dans vos plats, par mail ou MMS ou sur place? J'ai une allergie au lait.... Voici mon email... et mon Mobile:...."

There's lots of guides written in french already, search them on google and translate them:

law info

apps, information, formus for people like you in France

You can help us by describing/getting a proper diagnosis for your condition, so that we can answer properly: Are you allergic to all cow's milk and goat's milk? Cow milk allergies can be: IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy Non-IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy Mixed allergic reaction

2/3% of babies have this, and only 0.4 of those keep it as adults.

I'd suggest that you photocopy a small card or an A5 print with an image of milk and cheese and a frowning smiley, with appropriate words, which I can't provide because you don't state any symptoms.

i.e.: "Bonjour, J'ai une allergie mortelle aux produits laitiers, s'il vous plait soyez en conscient, Merci"

And learn a spoken form of the same phrase which describes you specifically, i.e: "Bonjour, j'ai une allergie immunologoique sévere aux produits laitiers, s'il vous plait vérifiez de ne pas me nourrire de lait et de fromage, merci"

I would give you other examples of phrases pertaining to your condition in France if i had other info about your allergy.


Contrary to the reputation of the French as irredeemable carnivores, Paris has many vegan restaurants, serving various dairy-free and meat-free cuisines, ranging from regular European-style food, burgers, etc, to vegan Chinese and other world cuisines. Happy Cow has extensive listings. Vegan cuisine refuses to use dairy (and meat) for reasons of animal cruelty, and a 100% vegan restaurant should not have any dairy on the premises; a vegetarian restaurant (one serving eggs, dairy, honey, and other animal products) will often be able to cater for the interests of vegans but you should check if they fully segregate their cooking facilities.

Other parts of France cater less well for vegans, but in a big city like Lyon you should find options. In rural locations, maybe less so, although as other answers say, you can ask.

  • You've seriously misread the question... Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 20:14

French here: in almost any restaurant you will find something in the menu, even if they are specialised in cheese (for example from Savoie). You can use this sentence: "Je suis allergique aux produits laitiers, pourriez-vous m'indiquer quels plats de votre carte conviennent à mon régime ?" translated as "I am allergic to dairy products, could you tell me which dishes on your menu are suitable for my diet?"

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