French Café au Lait

French cafe au lait recipe

The Spruce / Nita West

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 5 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 drink
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
63 Calories
2g Fat
6g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 63
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 62mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 151mg 12%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 287mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In France, equal parts of steamed milk and strong hot coffee are combined to make the perfect mellow beverage known as a café au lait.

Prepare this easy recipe at home, and serve it at a traditional French breakfast with flaky croissants, or as an after-brunch coffee with a single square of dark chocolate. Your guests will think they've been transported to a sidewalk café in Paris.

This recipe makes one serving, but the proportions can be increased for multiple cups of this gentle pick-me-up. 

In Spain, this identical drink is known as café con lechewhile Germans call it milchkaffee. Vegans need not feel left out of this café au lait recipe. For those who like to eat their coffee for dessert, don't miss this café au lait crème brûlée.

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"Every morning I start my day with a version of a café au lait—it’s my absolute favorite coffee and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves! The combination of freshly brewed coffee and steamed milk is just divine. This recipe will help transport you to a French cafe without leaving home." —Tracy Wilk

French Cafe Au Lait Recipe Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 part hot strong coffee, French roast

  • 1 part milk, steamed

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for café au lait

    The Spruce / Nita West

  2. Into a large cup, pour equal parts of strong hot coffee and steamed milk, reserving the foam.

    Pour coffee and milk in cup

    The Spruce / Nita West

  3. Stir.

    Stir café au lait

    The Spruce / Nita West

  4. Spoon reserved foam on top and serve hot.

    Spoon foam on top

    The Spruce / Nita West

  5. If you're artistic, you might want to try your hand at using the steamed milk to create latte art, or simply give it a sprinkle of cinnamon.

    Serving café au lait sprinkled with cinnamon
    The Spruce Eats / Nita West 

How to Make Steamed Milk Without an Espresso Machine

You don't need a fancy steam wand or an espresso machine to make steamed milk at home. Here's a foolproof technique that produces great results.

  • Pour the desired amount of milk into a glass jar (a Mason jar works well).
  • Screw on a cover and shake the jar hard for 45 seconds. This will incorporate air (similar to what happens when heavy cream is whipped). Stop shaking when the milk has doubled in volume.
  • Unscrew the cover and place the jar in a microwave and heat on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Watch it carefully. If the milk gets too hot, the air you've shaken into it will deflate. A good rule of thumb is to heat until the jar is hot to the touch but not so hot that you need a pot holder.
  • Remove from the microwave and move the foam on top to a side while you pouring the steamed milk into the coffee. Then, spoon that highly prized foam on top.

Café au Lait vs. Café Latte

Café au lait uses equal amounts of steamed milk and coffee, while café latte is 2 parts steam milk to 1 part espresso.