What is the difference between "éplucher" and "peler"? It seems both terms are used for the same thing, e.g.

Éplucher une carotte
Peler une carotte

4 Answers 4


Although both words have a common early etymology in Classical Latin, they have long acquired different meanings and can rarely be used indifferently.

The etymology of peler is from latin pilare (action of removing the hair). In Old French, because of its proximity to pel (la peau, skin), the meaning broadened to mean "remove the skin", skin with hair like that of a fury animal but it began to be used for anything with a skin, including vegetables. So you will use peler for anything that has a skin: a rabbit, an apple, a banana, etc...

Éplucher comes from Old French espeluchier (itself derived from Vulgar Latin pilucare, from Classical Latin pilucare - "remove the skin") and was used not only to mean remove the skin, but remove the vermin, ie all non eatable parts of the animal.
Nowadays it is used for fruit and vegetables as well as for animals, and is used for the act of removing all non eatable parts of some food.

As far as culinary terms are concerned (both verbs can be used for non culinary purposes) éplucher is a far more deeper action that peler.

Peler is when you only remove the outer part of some food, sometimes you don't even have to use a knife but just to lift the skin and pull.

Éplucher means to remove the skin but also to remove all non eatable parts, therefore you will use a knife to get at parts that won't come off by themselves.

If it can be of any help to you, in English one usually uses "clean" for éplucher and "peel" or "skin" for peler.

To get back to your question: yes some people will use peler for carrots, but from my point of view it is highly debatable. I'm not sure it would be used in a professional kitchen since you don't want to serve parts that look bad. It might also depend on what type of carrots we are dealing with. The skin of young spring carrots is hardly blemished and can be eaten, whereas old fully grown carrots have a thick part on the outside that has to be removed.

  • 2
    Eplucher pour un animal ? It is something that sounds both weird and unfamiliar !
    – The Tom
    Feb 17, 2015 at 8:13
  • 2
    @TheTom: Not unfamiliar for anyone used to working in a French kitchen. It's the usual word used for a fish (cooked or uncooked), (lots of hits if you google éplucher un poisson) it means removing more than just the skin or scales. And as you can read in the TLF : [Volaille, poisson] Ôter les parties non comestibles ou inutilisables de. Synon. partiels habiller, parer, trier.L'homme épluchait le gibier; je rôtissais la viande (Taine, Notes Paris,1867, p. 234).Les filles épluchent des carrelets ou des limandes (Bloy, Journal,1899, p. 341).
    – None
    Feb 17, 2015 at 8:29
  • How about oranges? One uses "Eplucher" to remove the skin (possibly by hand) and "Peler" in collocation with "à vif" for the flesh exposing skinning.
    – GAM PUB
    Feb 17, 2015 at 9:55
  • 1
    @GAMPUB As a French person I'd either use peler or éplucher for an orange.
    – None
    Feb 17, 2015 at 11:01
  • 1
    @TCHdvlp To the extent that "éplucher" for animals doesn't work as well for you as it does for me, I would suggest that an animal should be properly "dépouillé" or even "détroussé" before being "dépecé" to avoid having unwanted fur on the smaller pieces.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 17, 2015 at 15:11

Dans le sens d'enlever la peau, "peler" s'utilise pour les fruits et légumes. Pour les animaux on utilise "écorcher". D'où l'expression "écorché vif".

  • +1 for a good alternative for skinning animals. My earlier suggestions of "dépouiller" (or even "détrousser") in a couple of comments met with no success, meaning either that I'm wrong or that all the hunters are out hunting. I hope you have better luck with your good suggestion. I'm not sure why, but somehow the images of "peler un orignal" and even "dépecer un orignal" before the poor beast has been either "écorché, "dépouillé" (or even "détroussé") seem weird to me.
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 19, 2015 at 15:47
  • Sauf qu'à la campagne il y en a qui disent (encore ?) « peler le lapin ». Régionalisme, c'est possible, et ne se trouve pas dans les livres de cuisine et ne se dit pas dans une cuisine professionnelle, mais ça se dit et le lapin est bien un animal que je sache.
    – None
    Feb 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • Il y a une certaine ironie à voir le verbe provenir de "écorcer" i.e. enlever l'écorce; davantage encore à voir qu'historiquement ça s'applique à l'être humain(1155) avant de s'appliquer à l'animal(1160-1174)!
    – user3177
    Feb 19, 2015 at 22:41

Both verbs share the same meaning when applying to a fruit or a vegetable :

Éplucher une orange = Peler une orange

However, they have quite different acceptions when used in a figurative or slang way.

Eplucher un dossier. Peler un dossier. (To examine a folder)

(slang/vulg) Se peler les couilles. S'éplucher les couilles (freeze one's balls)


There is a difference between the two:

Éplucher means: to take off the skin or the parts that cannot be eaten of a fruit or a vegetable

Peler on the other hand can mean: either the same thing or to take off the fur or the skin of an animal

  • 2
    No, peler can be used too with fruits and vegetables. The overlapping is similar but not identical than with skin and peel in English.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 17, 2015 at 7:10
  • Thank you for the remark, I edited my answer accordingly. One could argue though that the first meaning of peler refers to hairs or furs as peler comes from pilus meaning the hair in latin
    – The Tom
    Feb 17, 2015 at 7:17
  • 1
    The meaning evolved in Old French because of the proximity with pel (la peau).
    – None
    Feb 17, 2015 at 7:35
  • It seems difficult to get the animal skinning meaning for "Peler", "Dépecer" is more frequent for this use.
    – GAM PUB
    Feb 17, 2015 at 9:45
  • 1
    @GAMPUB 1- Pour comprendre le sens de peler il faut se référer à l'historique étymologique du mot. D'abord dérivé de poil, il y a eu glissement à cause de la proximité phonétique avec pel (vieux français pour « peau »), le sens d'« enlever la peau » s'est ajouté au sens premier d'« enlever les poils ». 2- Dépecer ne veut pas dire enlever la peau mais « mettre en pièces » (qui se dit aussi d'ailleurs),pièce étant un synonyme de morceau (et que les anglais ont emprunté au français pour donner l'anglais piece.
    – None
    Feb 17, 2015 at 12:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.