Eating Snails In France: Do You Know Which Type To Order?

France has many delicacies such as macarons, ratatouille, and frog legs. But what about eating snails in France? I discovered many years ago (the hard way) that not all snails are alike. They come in many various forms and are served in different ways. Edible snails are often on a French menu. So that you know what you’re getting yourself into, here are a few anecdotes.

[Updated December 16, 2019]

1. Eating Snails In France

The French word for “snail” is “escargot”. Not all snails are edible and it is the land snail that is most often eaten. So do people eat snails? Oh ya…and a ton of them.

I read somewhere that over 500 million snails are eaten in France every year. They are popular hors d’oeuvres for sure. Why do people even eat snails? It likely goes back to prehistoric times when animals provided protein and snails were easy to catch. Through time, they have become a delicacy and are often part of a bigger dish. 

Just be sure you order the right snails in France. In addition to the traditional escargot in garlic butter, there is also the bulot, and cargolade.

2. Traditional Serving Of Snails In Garlic Butter

Traditional escargot in garlic butter and parsley (J. Chung)
Traditional escargot in garlic butter and parsley (J. Chung)

Usually in France and most places in the world, when you order “escargots” as an appetizer at a meal you get 6 or 12 snails in or out of their shell. They have actually been taken out of their shells, cleaned (thank goodness) and cooked. The classic Burgundy Snail recipe (”Escargots à la Bourguignonne”) has them cooked with garlic butter, parsley or thyme. The snails are then put back into their shells with the escargot butter.

3. How To Eat Snails

Escargot snails with croutons
Escargots with croutons

If the snails served in their shells, they are often placed on tin trays made especially for serving escargots. They are served with an escargot tong (to securely grasp  the snail shell) and a snail fork (to pry it out of the shell) and lots of bread to soak up the melted butter.

Snails not served in their shells are placed on tin trays or ceramic dishes with indents for each snail. They are usually surrounded by melted butter. The snail fork is still used to eat the escargot. You can make it into a meal by ordering more than 6 or 12. I’ve been known to have a whole dinner of just escargots—2 dozen with lots of bread and wine.

4. Escargot In Puff Pastry

Escargot snails served in Burgundy
Escargots served in Burgundy

One of my most memorable escargot appetizers was in Burgundy and they were served in a sauce in a ceramic dish. The dish was covered with a large topping of puff pastry. It was a very large appetizer and simply delicious. 

There are other types of “escargot” that you might not be as familiar with: bulots and cargolades.

5. Bulots

Snails bulots

In a previous post, “Definitely An Experience Eating These Foods” I wrote about my surprise with the bulots I had in Honfleur. I wanted escargots but the waitress recommended bulots and said they were snails, like escargots. I ordered them and was disappointment to discover not only were they NOT served in garlic butter, but they were big and chewy. They were also served with garlic mayonnaise. A much different experience than the traditional “escargots”.

I ordered them and was disappointment to discover not only were they NOT served in garlic butter, but they were big and chewy. These bulots are sea snails or whelks. They are traditionally served with a garlic mayonnaise.  It was a much different experience than the traditional “escargots”.

6. Cargolades

Cargolade snails at Le Jardin in Collioure, France
Le Jardin Collioure France

When I visited Collioure, our hotel recommended we go to one of the few restaurants open in early January, “Le Jardin de Collioure”. It had paella on its menu as well as something that was new to us: cargolades. 

Cargolade snails in Collioure
Cargolades in Collioure

Cargolades are a specialty of this southern area of France. Collioure is very close to the Spanish border and the dishes in the area are strongly influenced by the Catalan culture. Cargolades are French snails again. These are grilled in their shells on cast iron and when you order a dish, you get about 25 of them!

Once again, they were lacking the garlic butter but on the side was aioli. They were a different experience again. However, I’ve decided (as you can tell from my disappointment in dishes lacking garlic butter) that I prefer the traditional escargot.

7. Snails In Paris

Every time I’m in France, I make the effort to have escargots. In Paris, there is a restaurant that I still want to visit. It specializes in this French delicacy and gets excellent reviews. You can order the traditional Burgundy Escargots—6, 12, or 36 snails in garlic butter—or one of their unique dishes (ie. 36 snails served three ways-with garlic, curry, and roquefort).

“L’Escargot Montorgueil” -38 rue Montorgueil, located just north of Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement.

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8. Can You Make Your Own With Garden Snails?

By the way, if you’re wondering if you could just use those snails you find in your garden to make your own “snails in garlic butter”, I’d suggest you make sure they’re safe to eat. Remember, only some land snails are used in cooking!

If you’re interested in trying more unusual foods in France, check out this post: Definitely An Experience Eating These French Foods.

Check out my growing list of unique experiences in France for more ideas: Top 100 Experiences

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  1. Great article.
    I applaud your curiosity to try all these different preparations.
    As I like to say, opinions are more interesting when you have actually tried it.

    1. And, my favourites are still the traditional snails with butter and garlic!

  2. michele peterson says:

    Everything tastes better with garlic butter doesn’t it? I’ve eaten snails in Mexico and Spain ( in paella) but never in France. Next time!

    1. Garlic + butter = heaven.

  3. Donna Janke says:

    I was reluctant for years to try escargots. The idea of eating snails put me off. When I did try them, I discovered they were quite tasty, although I don’t think I am as big as fan as you are. I would try bulots and Cargolades, but not sure they’d be my first choice.

    1. I’ll be passing on the bulots and cargolades the next time I see them on a menu. Regular escargots for me!

  4. Jackie Smith says:

    Can’t do it. Having lived in Seattle where snails and slugs are regulars in the gardens, I am unable to do it. No matter the presentation. But I do appreciate the wonders that chefs can create from those little critters. An interesting post though and the photos are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks. I just try not to think about what I’m eating. I think it’s the garlic and butter that’s most appealing anyways.

  5. Have to confess, Jan, snails by any name are just not my cup of tea! (especially when it comes to texture, I can be a real fussy food person – one of the reasons I would never make it on Amazing Race!) But for those that love these little critters, this is the post for you!

    1. I guess I thought most people liked escargots! Yes, one needs to ignore the texture (which really isn’t that bad) and just soak up the…..butter and garlic!

  6. I’m in agreement – the garlic-butter ones are my faves! You’ve made me hungry just reading about them…

    1. And you have to add a baguette for sure! Now I’m hungry too.

  7. Cathy Sweeney says:

    I now have a real interest in giving escargots another try. I must confess that I’ve only had them once — they were in garlic butter and I had a nice glass of wine to help get them down. Didn’t really enjoy the experience. But maybe I’m missing something, especially if I could have the escargots served in Burgundy — looks delicious.

    1. Yes, definitely with wine! I also think the sauce and puff pastry on the escargots in Burgundy made it more like a meal.

  8. Marilyn Jones says:

    I’ve tried the traditional way they are served and don’t care for them, but I’d certainly try the ones served in a sauce in a ceramic dish. Interesting!!

    1. I had had a dish like that in the past…just a little puff pastry on top. But never that big!

  9. Kristin Henning says:

    I love escargot..or is it the garlic butter I love? Can’t wait to celebrate National Escargot Day (now that I know it exists); I’ll be in Paris that day! Happy travels on your upcoming trip.

    1. Thank you! Hopefully we can meet up in Brittany.

  10. Suzanne Stavert says:

    I have had them a few times and I thought… When in Rome! (or Paris) I love garlic and butter but would probably rather have it on bread. I just don’t think I was meant to eat snails. Loved your fun post!

    1. Thank you. Try the escargots again. Give them a chance!!

  11. When in France …! It’s been years since I’ve tried escargot but I’ll make sure to put it on my “to do” list for when we visit France. One of my favorite things about travel is trying the different traditional and novelty dishes. And anything with garlic butter would get my vote for sure!

    1. Seems everyone prefers the garlic and butter combination!

  12. Sue Reddel says:

    Wow! I haven’t seen that many different presentations of snails before Jan! I guess I have a lot more tasting to do. Thanks for the info!

    1. I’m sure there are even more types of snails that I’ll have to discover too.

  13. I’ve tried to look everywhere in Toulouse and couldn’t find a restaurant that have escargot. T.T
    Do you have any recommendations?
    Thank you very much

    1. Unfortunately I don’t know of any. I asked one of my contacts who lives there and she couldn’t think of a place either. So sorry I couldn’t help you out.

  14. Stephen Chu DDS says:

    The flavor of land snail without garlic butter is horrible, spit it out! But the flavor of white Bulot is like fried clam strips at Howard Johnson’s 1966. Just don’t eat the green Bulots. You’ll be sick.

  15. Stephen Chu DDS says:

    Bulots in Normandie are about 1 USD per pound, at the docks. Bulot in Honolulu is 17 USD per pound. One reason I sold at Waikiki, and keep my residence at Cote d’Azur…..