An entrée (French, literally meaning entry or entrance) is one of several savory courses in a Western-style formal meal service. Its traditional definition, still used in Europe and Australia, refers to a smaller course that precedes the main course; however, in North America, the disappearance in the early 20th century of a large communal main course such as a roast as a standard part of the meal has led to the term being used to describe the main course itself.


In the United States and English Canada the entrée is a synonym for the main course. In 1970, Richard Olney, an American living in Paris, gave the place of the entrée in a full menu: "A dinner that begins with a soup and runs through a fish course, an entrée, a sherbet, a roast, salad, cheese and dessert, and that may be accompanied by from three to six wines, presents a special problem of orchestration". In 1967 Julia Child and her co-authors outlined the character of such entrées, which— when they did not precede a roast— might serve as the main course of a luncheon, in a chapter of "Entrées and Luncheon Dishes" that included quiches, tarts and gratins, soufflés and timbales, gnocchi, quenelles and crepes.

Today, what is called an entrée elsewhere is called the first course, appetizer, or starter. In Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, chapter 40, bills of fare for a grand dinner for eighteen, January 1887, follow two kinds of fish and two kinds of soup with four entrées: Ris de Veau, Poulet à la Marengo, Côtelettes de Porc and a Ragoût of Lobster. Guests were not expected to eat of each dish, of course, for the entrée was followed by a Second Course and a Third Course, of game and fruit.

In its use outside of North America, an entrée is more substantial than hors d'œuvres and better thought of as a half-sized version of a main course, and restaurant menus will sometimes offer the same dish in different-sized servings as both entrée and main course.


The word entrée is French. It originally denoted the "entry" of the main course from the kitchens into the dining hall. In the illustration from a French fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript of the Histoire d'Olivier de Castille et d'Artus d'Algarbe, a fanfare from trumpeters in the musicians' gallery announces the processional entrée of a series of dishes preceded by a covered cup that is the ancestor of the tureen, carried by the maître d'hôtel. The entrée will be shown round the hall but served only to the high table (though it does not stand on a dais in this hall), where the guests are set apart by a gold-and-crimson damask canopy of estate.

In traditional French haute cuisine, the entrée preceded a larger dish known as the relevé, which "replaces" or "relieves" it, an obsolescent term in modern cooking, but still used as late as 1921 in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire.

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