Last Updated on February 7, 2024 by April Verge
Marseille Food is naturally tasty and flavorsome. I recently spent an afternoon eating my way through this delicious French city.
Nestled along the sun-kissed coast of the Mediterranean, Marseille stands as a beacon of culinary diversity. This bustling port city, the second largest in France, is not just a gateway to the picturesque Provence region but also a melting pot of flavors deeply influenced by a rich tapestry of cultures.
I invite food enthusiasts and culinary adventurers to embark on a gastronomic journey through Marseille. We’ll explore traditional dishes that have stood the test of time, hidden culinary gems, and the best spots to indulge in the flavors that define this extraordinary city. So, grab your fork and let’s dive into the heart of Marseille’s culinary scene.
Psst! This blog post contains affiliate links in it which sends me a bit of extra money if you use them… at no extra cost to you. Merci!
Craving an authentic Marseille dining experience? Join a local food tour and savor the city’s best dishes. Book your culinary adventure here!
If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of Marseille food:
The Rich History of Marseille Cuisine
Marseille’s culinary identity has been shaped by a fascinating mix of influences over its long history. Founded by Greek mariners in 600 BC, the city became a melting pot of Mediterranean and French culinary traditions. The Greeks introduced olives and olive oil, essentials in Mediterranean cuisine, while later Roman influence brought vineyards to the region.
The city’s status as a major port ushered in a diverse array of ingredients and spices from across the globe, particularly during the French colonial era. This period marked the introduction of exotic flavors from North Africa and the Middle East, now integral to Marseille’s food culture.
A key figure in the city’s culinary narrative is Jean Baptiste Reboul, whose 1897 cookbook “La Cuisinière Provençale” is a treasure trove of traditional Provencal recipes. These recipes, featuring fresh seafood, aromatic herbs, and olive oil, are a testament to Marseille’s rich history and continue to influence its contemporary cuisine.
What to Eat in Marseille
Fish Soup & Bouillabaisse
Bouillabaisse, the quintessential Marseille seafood dish, has humble origins as a fisherman’s stew but has evolved into a refined culinary masterpiece. This rich, aromatic stew is made with a variety of local fresh fish and shellfish, simmered in a broth flavored with saffron, fennel, and herbs. Traditionally, it’s served with rouille, a spicy garlic dipping sauce, and crusty bread. Each Marseille chef has their own secret recipe, making every Bouillabaisse experience unique. This dish is not just food; it’s a celebration of Marseille’s maritime heritage and a must-try for any visitor.
Chichi Frégi is a beloved Marseille street food, akin to a doughnut but with a unique Provençal twist. Made from a simple dough, these treats are fried until they puff up and are then sprinkled generously with sugar. Often flavored with orange blossom or anise, Chichi Frégi embodies the sweet simplicity of Marseille’s street food culture. Found at beachfront kiosks or local markets, they are best enjoyed hot and fresh, offering a delightful contrast to the savory flavors of Marseille’s seafood-dominated cuisine. This snack is a sweet interlude in your culinary journey through the city.
Fried Baby Squid
In Marseille, the succulent fried baby squid is a simple yet sublime dish that celebrates the Mediterranean’s bounty. Freshly caught squid are lightly battered and fried to a golden crisp, served with a wedge of lemon to accentuate their delicate flavor. This dish is often enjoyed at seaside eateries, where the salt air complements its fresh, briny taste. It’s a perfect example of Marseille’s culinary philosophy: fresh ingredients, simply prepared, allowing natural flavors to shine through.
Navettes are a charming and historic sweet treat from Marseille. These boat-shaped biscuits have a light, crunchy texture and are subtly flavored with orange flower water, giving them a delicate, floral aroma. Traditionally made for Candlemas, navettes are now enjoyed year-round, often accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea. Their unique shape is said to represent the boats that brought the Holy Marys to the shores of Marseille, adding a layer of local lore to their enjoyment. These cookies are a delightful nod to Marseille’s history and a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth exploring the city.
Anchoïade is a testament to Marseille’s love for bold, Mediterranean flavors. This traditional Provencal spread is made from anchovies, olive oil, and garlic, blended into a smooth, savory paste. It’s a versatile accompaniment, often served with a medley of raw vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, or crusty bread. Anchoïade is not just a dip; it’s a celebration of the Mediterranean’s robust flavors, bringing a salty, umami-packed punch to any dish. It reflects the simplicity and richness of Marseille’s culinary palette, where even the simplest ingredients are transformed into something extraordinary.
Panisse, a beloved street food in Marseille, offers a taste of the city’s simple yet flavorful cuisine. Made from chickpea flour, water, and olive oil, this mixture is cooked, cooled, then cut into thick slices and fried. The result is a crispy exterior with a creamy, soft interior. Often seasoned with salt and enjoyed hot, Panisse is a popular snack found at street vendors and local eateries throughout Marseille. This dish is a testament to the city’s affinity for humble ingredients, transformed into delicious snacks that perfectly capture the essence of Mediterranean street food culture.
Pistou Soup is Marseille’s answer to the Italian pesto, a vegetable soup enriched with a generous dollop of pistou – a blend of basil, garlic, and olive oil. This dish is a celebration of Provence’s bountiful harvest, featuring a medley of fresh vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini. The pistou adds a fragrant, herby dimension, transforming a simple soup into a bowl of comfort and flavor. It’s a staple in Marseille’s homes, especially in the summer months, reflecting the city’s penchant for dishes that are both nourishing and bursting with fresh, garden-grown flavors. Marseille Food Guide:
Pieds Paquets is a dish that truly encapsulates the rustic and hearty nature of traditional Marseille cuisine. This dish, a combination of sheep’s feet and stuffed tripe, is a culinary adventure not for the faint-hearted. Slow-cooked in a savory broth of tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, Pieds Paquets is a rich, flavorful meal that showcases the region’s nose-to-tail eating philosophy. It’s a tribute to Marseille’s butchery traditions and a must-try for those looking to experience the authentic, unvarnished side of Provençal cooking. This dish embodies the history and resourcefulness of Marseille’s culinary past.
Poutargue, often hailed as the ‘Mediterranean caviar,’ is a delicacy unique to Marseille’s culinary landscape. Made from the roe of mullet or tuna, it’s salted, pressed, and air-dried, resulting in a firm, amber-hued loaf. Sliced thinly and drizzled with olive oil, poutargue offers a burst of intense, briny flavor. It’s commonly enjoyed as an appetizer, paired with a crisp white wine, or used to add depth to pasta and risotto dishes. This specialty is a nod to Marseille’s historic relationship with the sea, offering a taste of the Mediterranean in its most unadulterated and luxurious form.
In Marseille, Madeleines are a delightful expression of the city’s pastry tradition. These small, shell-shaped sponge cakes are soft, with a buttery, lemon-infused flavor. Marseille’s version often includes a hint of orange or anise, adding a local twist to this classic French confection. Enjoyed as a light dessert or a sweet accompaniment to coffee, Madeleines in Marseille are a testament to the city’s ability to put its own spin on French classics. They offer a moment of sweet indulgence, a perfect counterpoint to the savory richness of the city’s seafood-heavy cuisine.
In Marseille, Aïoli is more than a condiment; it’s a culinary staple. This creamy emulsion of garlic, olive oil, and egg yolks is akin to garlic mayonnaise but with a distinctly Provençal character. It’s often served as the centerpiece of ‘Le Grand Aïoli,’ a meal where the sauce accompanies an array of boiled vegetables, fish, and eggs. The dish is a celebration of simplicity and flavor, showcasing the region’s love for garlic and olive oil. Aïoli is a versatile sauce, adding a rich, garlicky kick to a variety of dishes and epitomizing the rustic charm of Marseille’s cuisine.
North African Food
The influence of North African cuisine in Marseille is a reflection of the city’s vibrant multicultural tapestry. Dishes like couscous, tagines, and harira have become integral to Marseille’s food scene, bringing with them a burst of spices and flavors. These dishes, often served in family-run eateries and street markets, showcase a blend of aromatic spices, vegetables, and meats, mirroring the city’s diverse cultural landscape. North African cuisine in Marseille is not just about food; it’s about the sharing of culture and traditions, adding yet another layer to the rich culinary mosaic of this Mediterranean port city.
Pastis, an anise-flavored spirit, is synonymous with Marseille’s café culture. This aperitif, typically diluted with water, turns a milky hue and is enjoyed chilled, often as a prelude to a meal. Pastis embodies the relaxed, sociable lifestyle of Marseille, with locals sipping it leisurely at outdoor cafes, basking in the Mediterranean sun. Its licorice-like flavor is both refreshing and invigorating, making it a beloved local favorite. Pastis is not just a drink; it’s an integral part of Marseille’s social fabric, a symbol of conviviality and the laid-back charm that defines this vibrant coastal city.
Top Marseille Food Restaurants
Marseille is home to a plethora of dining destinations that cater to every palate, offering an array of dishes that embody the city’s rich culinary heritage. If you are looking for what to eat in Marseille, here are some top restaurants that are a must-visit for any food enthusiast:
- Le Miramar – Located near the Vieux Port (old port), Le Miramar is one of the best seafood restaurants and renowned for its authentic Bouillabaisse. This restaurant offers a traditional Marseille experience, complete with a view of the bustling harbor. Their fish stew is prepared following age-old recipes, providing a genuine taste of this iconic dish.
- L’Épuisette – For a more upscale dining experience, L’Épuisette offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea along with an exquisite menu. Their dishes, especially the seafood selections, are a creative blend of traditional flavors and modern culinary techniques.
- AM par Alexandre Mazzia – For those seeking a modern, Michelin-starred experience, Restaurant AM offers a creative and artful menu crafted by Chef Alexandre Mazzia. This restaurant is a gastronomic adventure, blending local ingredients with unexpected flavors such as orange blossom water and textures.
- La Kahena – Offering a taste of North African cuisine, La Kahena is a popular spot for couscous, tagines, and Tunisian specialties. It’s a vibrant reflection of Marseille’s multicultural culinary scene.
Tips for Food Tourists in Marseille
Visiting Marseille is a delightful experience for any food lover, but knowing a few tips can enhance your culinary journey in this vibrant city. Here’s some advice to help you make the most of your gastronomic adventure:
- Best Time for Food Tourism: While Marseille is beautiful year-round, the best time for a food-focused visit is late spring through early autumn. This period offers the freshest seafood and the widest variety of local produce.
- Navigating Menus: Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations or explanations of menu items. Many restaurants in Marseille are proud of their local dishes and happy to share their knowledge with curious visitors.
- Exploring Beyond Tourist Spots: While Vieux Port offers a plethora of dining options, exploring off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods like Le Panier or Cours Julien can lead to discovering hidden culinary gems.
- Street Food and Markets: For a quick, authentic taste of Marseille, don’t miss the street food and local markets. Places like Noailles Market offer a vibrant atmosphere and a variety of foods that reflect the city’s multicultural influences.
What’s your favorite traditional Marseille food? Drop a comment below with your top pick!