Foie Gras Terrine vs. Pate vs. Mousse: Taste the Difference

Terrine, pate, and mousse are the three classic forms of preparing foie gras – goose or duck liver at its best. Mostly in these forms you can discover the delicacy at the Marky’s online store or at your local groceries. The package or the tag on the charcuterie counter states clearly that you’re buying a terrine or pate, or mousse. But what exactly hides behind these beautiful French words? Will the difference – if any – between the three specialties have an impact on your choice?  We’ll define what terrine, pate, and mousse is, highlighting the specifics of each form of foie gras. So, you can decide what you prefer to serve for a family lunch or Friday party. But let’s start with similarities.

Why Do Terrine, Pate, and Mousse Seem the Same Thing?

The short answer is because they do share a few common features. Terrine, pate, and mousse really are similar treats. But if there was no difference between them, there would rather be only one word to name them all. Interestingly, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, the authors of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing, suggest using the terms “terrine” and “pate” interchangeably. However, not every terrine is pure pate. We’ll talk about it below. Speaking of similarities between foie gras terrine, pate, and mousse, we should check out

• the list of common ingredients

• preparation methods

• foods that perfectly pair with each of the three treats

• the ways of serving the delicacies.


The basis of terrine, pate, and mousse is ground meat, organ meat, poultry, or fish flavored with herbs and spices. Terrine may also be cooked with vegetables, while pate may contain some milk and egg. A terrine, pate, and mousse of foie gras are probably the less expected yet the most impressing and scrumptious variations of charcuterie that you can serve for the lunch or party. With foie gras as the main ingredient, these treats are highly prized for their soft, silky texture as well as for the rich meaty and creamy flavors.

Basic cooking approach

For the terrine and pate, the pieces of foie gras are layered in the mold and baked with seasonings, and a spoonful or two of Sauternes or Armagnac. For the mousse, the cooking method is different. Foie gras is pureed and whipped to make a smooth airy paste.

Food pairings

What will flavorfully complement a foie gras terrine, pate, or mousse? The list of pairings is the same for each treat. Choose for your taste.

• Fresh crusty bread

• Cheese

• Nuts

• Olives and gherkins

• Boiled eggs

• Raw vegetables

• Fresh or pickled fruit, or jam.

Ways of serving

Serve foie gras terrine, pate, and mousse chilled to enjoy the textures and flavors at their best. And here is the list of ideas for serving. What about trying a couple of them for lunch today?

• On a large charcuterie board

• As filling or spread for sumptuous sandwiches

• As topping for bite-sized canapes

• As stuffing for pasta.

Now, let’s move on to the differences.

Terrine – Prepared in a Terrine Dish A foie gras terrine is cooked in a terrine. And this isn’t wordplay. Originally, a terrine is a ceramic, cast iron, or glass cooking vessel – a deep rectangular mold with straight sides and a lid. Probably, because the terrine as a piece of cookware has a remarkable shape, every dish you cook in it should be called a terrine too. The appearance of this dish does make it stand out of the rest of treats on your table. As a food, the terrine looks like a long rectangular meat (or fish) log. As a cooking vessel, the terrine also implies a special preparation method. What’s cooked in the terrine, is cooked in a water bath, then cooled and served either sliced or right inside the mold. The ready dish usually features a more robust, chunky texture. And the texture sets the fundamental difference between the terrine and pate.

Pate – A Fine Blend of Ingredients The most obvious thing about a foie gras pate is that it isn’t cooked and served in a terrine dish. What else? First, the ingredients are pan-fried. Then they are blended until the pate becomes smooth like thick heavy cream. And then you serve the ready treat in a mold. This mold may look like a terrine. But because pate isn’t cooked inside the terrine dish, technically, a pate shouldn’t be called a terrine. Truth be told, these names of cookware pieces may be confusing. But what will really help distinguish pure pate from terrine is the texture. “Pate” means “paste” and appears remarkably softer and more spreadable than terrine. You can slice the pate, but the slices are unlikely to keep their shape for long. So, you’d better smear your pate on bread or serve something dippable along with it.

Mousse – As Light and Airy as a Souffle A foie gras mousse is silky, smooth and light. Its texture is similar to the texture of souffle. The list of ingredients for the mousse may also include milk, eggs, and even fat. Foie gras is sauteed, cooled and blended with the other ingredients. Then everything is thoroughly whipped and sieved to achieve that perfect consistency of thick cream sauce. A standard mousse shouldn’t be sliceable unlike terrine, but it may be quite spreadable like pate. And if you don’t want to serve it in a package, you’ll rather get a nice serving bowl. Conclusion You can see that foie gras terrine, pate, and mousse have a couple of essential features in common: the ingredients, food accompaniments, ways of serving, and even the basics of preparation. But different cooking methods turn these ingredients into three different yet scrumptious treats.


What do you prefer? Chunkiness or smoothness? Sliceable and standalone or spreadable charcuterie? At Marky’s you’ll find your favorite delicacy, as well as the large collection of other delicious meat options to try and enjoy. Shop now and get your decadent order in just one business day.