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Last Updated: December 2, 2022

If you’re moving to France from the United States and you’re not sure what American products to bring with you, I’ve got you covered!

I’m sharing my personal list of things that I bring back to France from the United States of America. Every time I’m back in the States, I reference this list so that I can stock up on my favorite food products, ingredients for cooking and baking, personal hygiene items, and pharmaceuticals. This cheat sheet started out as a note in my phone and here it is now, in all its glory!

When I have extra space in my luggage, I pack things that are non-existent or hard to find. Sometimes, my excuse is simply that it’s a whole lot less expensive in the United States. For example, why would I spend $5 (or more!) on a small jar of peanut butter in France when I can get a brand I actually like for much cheaper?

suitcase full of American products to bring to France
This may seem like a lot of stuff, but I’ve never had overweight bags thanks to my electronic luggage scale.

So, this is NOT a list of things that you cannot find in France. The truth is, France, and especially Paris, have become more and more international. French grocery stores have changed greatly over time, with an ever-increasing selection of international foods and imported goods. There are many specialty stores, including “American” stores where you can get just about anything you need. (Yes, even Flamin’ Hot Cheetos!) And if you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, you can often find a suitable replacement.

Read more: French Grocery Stores vs. American Grocery Stores

This list will come in handy  if you are moving permanently or for an extended period of time. Likewise, if you are visiting an American friend living in France, they would probably love it if you packed a few of these things in your suitcase. Some of these items could also make great gifts for French people. Remember to always check the rules on imported products before packing your bags.

A Note on Creature Comforts

On American expat forums, I see these questions come up regularly: What should I bring with me to France? What things are hard to find? What won’t I be able to find at all? What do you miss since moving to France?

Inevitably, someone will respond by saying that there is nothing you need; you should be embracing the new culture and learning to like new things. Ugh. I can embrace having yogurt after lunch and also crave Annie’s Mac and Cheese for dinner. I want good foie gras so I can put together an awesome apéro, and I also want molasses and shortening from America so I can continue to make my family’s favorite cookies.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about wanting things that remind you of home. We are creatures of comfort and habit. It doesn’t mean you aren’t embracing the new culture, and it doesn’t make you less grateful. It makes you human.

Related: 10 Things You’ll Only Understand if You’ve Lived Abroad


I’m an avid baker. I’ve been able to find nearly everything that I need in France, but there are a few things that I’m glad I found room for in my suitcase for the convenience they provide.

  • Baking powder (Baking soda is easily found in a good-sized bag/box, but baking powder tends to come in small packets of about 10 grams—2 teaspoons. Additionally, you are likely accustomed to using double-acting baking powder in the States, but French baking powder is commonly single-acting, which may have an affect on the final product!)
  • Brown sugar (this sugar from Monoprix has the right texture, but Domino brown sugar is the best, isn’t it? You can also find brown sugar in some asian supermarkets. Look for key words like sucre muscovado or cane sugar.)
  • Chocolate chips (The bags from the French grocery store are so small, they’re laughable. These days, I usually just break up a chocolate bar.)
  • Cream of tartar (essential for snickerdoodles)
  • Gluten-free mixes, such as cake mix (gluten-free options are still limited in France, so this is great to offer as a gift!)
  • Molasses (you can find molasses here, but it has a much stronger flavor which you might not like; Grandma’s molasses all the way!)
  • Real vanilla extract (most of the liquid extract you find here is the fake stuff unless you go to an organic store or you can make a switch to powdered vanilla)
  • Shortening (bring a small tub of Crisco if that’s your jam; these shortening sticks are super convenient)


Jonathan and I cook a lot, and we use a variety of spices. Spices in Paris can be pricey, so head to specialty stores to buy in bulk, and you’ll definitely save money.

It is harder to locate spicy seasonings and sauces because French people literally cannot handle the heat. If there is something special that you like to use, bring it with you. I like spicy food, but I’m a baby on the spicy scale.

I’ve had some grocery store disappointments in France and unfortunately, the disappointments have continued with Marks & Spencer, a British grocery store, closing most of its stores in Paris. I used to find a lot of great things there to supplement what I couldn’t find in the regular grocery store (like actually good bacon!), but now the couple of stores that still exist post-Brexit are poorly stocked.

Clearly, I’m missing quite a few things…

  • BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s is obviously the best)
  • Black beans—dried (I’ve found canned black beans by the brand Cassegrain but they are seasoned with lemongrass which can alter the taste of your dish depending on what you’re making. Other options and dried black beans are starting to make an appearance in the capital, but it’s hit or miss. You can also check out asian supermarkets for black soybeans which can be used as a substitute.)
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chili powder (It exists here, but it doesn’t quite have the same full flavor, in my opinion.)
  • Enchilada sauce (Most of the Mexican supplies here are disturbingly sweet.)
  • Hot sauce
  • Maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • Onion powder (I’ve only ever seen dried onion flakes)
  • Peanut Butter (Skippy is readily found, and you can now find natural peanut butter in many stores, but you’ll save some money by bringing your favorite.)
  • Pinto beans—dried (if you want to make refried beans) 
  • Powdered cheddar (don’t bother with bringing boxes of mac and cheese, buy Anthony’s powdered cheddar, use this recipe, and thank me later)
  • Ranch dressing/dip (Hidden Valley packets are very portable!)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Taco/Mexican seasoning
  • Unique spices/mixes, like Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame seasoning blend

Snacks & Candy

Most snacks don’t pack very well, so while there are quite a few American snacks I can’t find in France, I tend to not bring many over. Not to mention, my favorite cereal or a bag of chips in a flavor I really like isn’t going to last very long, so it doesn’t make sense for it to take up precious space in my suitcase. Cut your losses on any food items that fit this description.

Get ready to embrace French snacks and/or pay a premium whenever you have a craving and need to visit one of the American grocery stores or order online. But if you do have a little bit of room…


I don’t even like candy corn that much. But do I want my yearly one piece of candy corn while I’m in France? Yes, absolutely. Bring on all the artificial colors.

Candles tend to be a bit more expensive in France. In order satisfy my obsession, I like to bring over a candle or two. My favorite brand is WoodWick because it makes a crackling fire sound as it burns. My recent purchase of the Sand & Driftwood scent is amazing! Stock up on any of your holiday scents or favorites.


Over-the-counter medications and supplements in France tend to be expensive and the packs usually don’t contain many pills. This is such an easy thing to bring to France, so stock up.

  • Advil/ibuprofen (big bottle!)
  • Allergy Medication
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Big bottles of your go-to vitamins / over-the-counter meds

Personal Hygiene

Until you’re able to test and find something you like, you might want to have some of your favorite supplies on hand.

  • Burt’s Bees’ products
  • Deodorant (most French deodorants are roll-on liquid style, although selections are expanding)
  • Floss (much fewer options available if you’re particular about what you like)
  • Make-up (more expensive in France)
  • Toothbrushes (Alright, this is weird, I know. Obviously there are toothbrushes in France. But I live in Paris, and I find it annoying that for the price of one toothbrush in Paris, I could easily buy a 4-pack of the same brand in the US.)
  • Tide to Go stain remover sticks

As you can see from my notes, most things are not essential and are really just convenience items. If you’re coming to France for just a short period of time, I recommend you only take what you truly can’t live without as there are tons of great products for you to try out here!

Before moving to France permanently, the longest period of time that I lived in France was a school year. Sure, I missed some of these things, but knowing that I’d be back in the States relatively soon, those things ultimately weren’t important, and I didn’t regret not bringing them. When you don’t know when you’ll be back, you tend to cling to the last advil in the bottle a little more dearly.

So, what would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Things I Bring Back to France From the United States
Things I Bring Back to France From the United States
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17 thoughts on “Things I Bring Back to France From the United States

  • February 1, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    Most of these sound like things I would need as well! I am a huge baker so I am on board with all of that. I imagine I would come up with quite the list if I was abroad long-term! And I would definitely need maple syrup. I love gifting little jugs of CT maple syrup and maple sugar candies! When I studied abroad, I did bring a jar of peanut butter with me. A friend gave me an absurdly large rice krispie treat (probably like the size of a half sheet pan) and I loved dipping it in the peanut butter jar.

    • February 2, 2021 at 9:28 am

      Yea, there’s definitely a different mentality when abroad temporarily versus permanently. I don’t think I even brought peanut butter with me when I studied abroad. I wanted to “fully immerse myself” in the culture. Now, I’m like—why would I unnecessarily deprive myself like that?

  • February 4, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Definitely there are things to get from USA. Again, Peanut butter is at top of the list along with floss threaders. For the Peanut Butter, I order from which is out of Toulouse. Much better pricing than getting Jif from Amazon. Also, it flooded in spring of 2016 much worse than now. Been here 5 years on a visiteur CDS and will attempt the carte resident this fall. As total immersion includes having vinegar and mayo on french fries, I fell a bit short of the mark. I hope that is not on my assimilation interview with the prefecture. I prefer my fries straight up, no condiments. I am camped out in the 6eme about 200 meters from the Seine.

    • February 6, 2021 at 12:48 pm

      Who knows what they’ll ask you at the prefecture interview! Maybe they’ll ask you to demonstrate proper cheese cutting techniques? 😆

      Thanks for checking out my post and the tip about My American Market!


  • May 20, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    Coucou Ellen, isn’t “levure chimique” baking powder? Some of my expat friends have complained they can’t find baking powder and were confused by “levure” thinking it’s the yeast. In my experiments this is the ingredient to use when a British or American recipe calls for the baking powder.

    Also, a very detailed list! I do agree especially with the giant bottles of ibuprofen and such. I guess you can buy a lot of spices (and teas) at the market, but we do appreciate a big container of chili powder and some spices from TJ, don’t we 😊

    • May 21, 2022 at 9:21 am

      Salut Elina !

      Quite right—baking powder in French is “levure chimique” or “levure chimique alsacienne,” and as you know, it typically comes in those little packets. Like most of the things on this list, this item is an example of something I bring back more as a matter of convenience. I see from how I wrote my note for it that this is not evident, so I will revise that—Thank you for your feedback 🙂

      Your comment has also given me the idea that I should have a blog post with the French equivalents for baking/cooking!!

      • May 21, 2022 at 11:02 pm

        That’s a fantastic topic to cover! I’ll be looking forward to a post on baking in France. 🍰

      • December 1, 2022 at 8:17 am

        Salut everyone. I would also love a whole post dedicated to baking in France/Europe! Great idea.
        Although “levure chimique” is widely available here in France, I noticed it’s only “single-acting” and most American baking powder is “double-acting” This has affected my baking quite a bit. I would definitely recommend bringing baking powder from the US. I have to agree with earlier mention on the laughable size of chocolate chip bags! And I’ve had great success with muscovado sugar since American style brown sugar isn’t available here. Don’t forget to bring your measuring spoons! I use a digital scale for my larger dry ingredients, but measuring spoons are a necessity in my opinion. Also pack a couple cans of PAM spray and any specialty/holiday shaped Bundt cake pans you love.

        • December 2, 2022 at 9:57 am

          Hi Erica! Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experience. Especially regarding the single-acting versus double-acting baking powder. That’s something that I hadn’t considered! I’ll add a note into the blog about that 🙂

  • October 28, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    What a fascinating list! It is so interesting to see what products differ country to country. <3

    • October 29, 2022 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks for checking out this blog post, Jaya! I’m happy to hear you found it interesting 🙂

  • November 15, 2022 at 8:50 am

    Hi Ellen! I was reading your list because my husband is currently in Texas on business and I want to take advantage of his trip to stock up on a few essentials! I’m Irish but as a cook and a baker, I love trying out North American recipes, especially around this time of year. There are a few random things I have had trouble finding over the years (in addition to your list): allspice/pimento (I don’t think that it exists in France at all), proper marshmallows (I recently found stumbled upon Rocky Mountain marshmallows in Sostrene & Greene!), bagels of any kind but especially cinnamon bagels!, golden syrup, stone ground corn meal, chipotle anything, non-stick spray (more practical than culinary but very useful all the same!), pumpkin purée, and of course pecans which, like chocolate chips, are only available in tiny packets!!

    • November 17, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Ohhh, thanks for sharing, Elaine! I always love hearing what people bring back 👀

  • September 10, 2023 at 6:27 am

    There is no flaming hot cheetos in france guys, ye can only buy the on the internet at an exorbitants price

    • September 11, 2023 at 7:56 am

      Certainly not throughout France, but as mentioned in this blog post, you can find Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in “American” grocery stores. There are a few such stores in Paris. I recognize that that is not an option for everyone, and they do come at a price, as you’ve mentioned!! Thanks for chiming in, Aimon. I hope more options become available wherever you are 🙂

  • December 10, 2023 at 9:02 pm

    We’ve had spray deodorants for decades. Dozens of them. Carrefour sells 92 different ones on their website. Why on earth would you buy deodorant in the US where everything is twice as expensive ?

    • December 12, 2023 at 1:48 pm

      Hi Elise,
      The most popular deodorant type in the U.S. is actually solid or gel deodorant, so the spray deodorant doesn’t cut it either 😉
      I think you might have missed the part where I wrote, “Until you’re able to test and find something you like, you might want to have some of your favorite supplies on hand.” I think it’s quite normal to want something that we’re used to. And I fully support someone bringing over a deodorant that works for them while they test out new ones 😂😂😂
      As far as everything being twice as expensive in the U.S., this is quite dependent on where you live in France and where you used to live in the United States. This hasn’t been true in my experience, but maybe you could supply more context as to how you came to this conclusion?


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