Canadian food doesn’t exactly have the cultural identity that Italian dishes, Moroccan food or Greek cuisines have with their countries. But Canada has been building on its food identity over the years and we’ve now carved out a little niche up here in the Great White North.
If there is one word to define Canadian cuisine, for me it is quirky. We like to have fun with our Canadian dishes and have used our multicultural heritage to add a twist to staple foods from around the world.
Nobody ever says, “Let’s go out for Canadian Food tonight.” We as Canadians often say “Do you want Thai food today?” What about Korean or Japanese? Other foods around the world have a clear distinct theme and flavour, not Canada. Canadian food a mishmash and that’s the way we like it!
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Canadian dishes don’t have anything that really makes it stand out from the rest of the world except its quirkiness and influence from other cultures. You name a country, we have the food. Even in small towns across Canada, you will find a wide variety of international cuisine. So when you think about it, that is exactly what makes Canadian Food so unique. We are diverse in every aspect of life in Canada and food is no exception.
We do have a few favorites that the rest of the world may or may not know about, so I thought that I would share a list of foods that are unique to Canada.
I think that the world is starting to adopt our little secret known as Poutine. It used to only be a strange food that Canadians ate. French fries draped with cheese curds and gravy is sinfully delicious. It’s the ultimate comfort food and our go-to snack when we have a hangover.
We have recipes for poutine all over Canada with different toppings for the Poutine. The basic poutine recipe is cheese, gravy, and fries, but on the East Coast, they love making Lobster Poutine. In Alberta, it’s beef poutine. The more you load it with the tastier it gets! It can be found across the country. As a matter of fact, Poutine is often thought of as Canada’s national dish!
2. Maple Syrup
What tourist doesn’t leave Canada without a bottle of Maple Syrup in tow? The maple tree is a national symbol of Canada and the syrup that it produces is scrumptious.
Come to Canada in the dead of winter and you can take a tour out to the woods and watch them tap a Maple tree for fresh syrup. Bring it home and smother it over pancakes and french toast, sausage, or bacon. Maple syrup makes anything taste better.
3. Nanaimo Bars
Named after the town Nanaimo in British Columbia this a popular dessert in Canada. Nanaimo bars are made of a wafer crumb-based made of almond and walnut layered with vanilla butter icing and covered in another layer of melted chocolate. They may be called a different name somewhere else, but rest assured, Nanaimo Bars were invented in Canada. Check out The Best places to Visit in British Columbia
4. Beaver Tails
Head to any tourist destination and you can be sure to see people munching on Beaver Tails. No, they are not what you think they are. Beaver Tails are delectable treats are made of fried dough shaped in the form of a beavers tail.
It can be topped with anything, but we like the original sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Other toppings include ice cream, whipped cream, or jellies.
5. Butter Tarts
These are still a favorite dessert of mine. If I go to a buffet and butter tarts on the table, you can be sure that I will grab a couple.
Butter tarts are small pastry shells filled with butter, maple syrup, brown sugar and raisins creamed together to a delectable desert. I am seeing a pattern of very unhealthy foods here. Time to change gears a bit.
6. Bloody Caesar
The Caesar is definitely Canada’s national drink. A Bloody Caesar is a lot like America’s Bloody Mary except we use Clamato Juice over tomato juice. Clamato juice is a mix of Clam and tomato juice, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s delicious.
A lot of work goes into a caesar from rimming the glass properly to adding just the right amount of Worcestershire sauce and tabasco sauce. Garnish with a celery stick and you have a delicious treat! Check our recipe here
7. Back Bacon
Speaking of bacon, peameal bacon or back bacon is world-famous. Americans like to call it Canadian bacon, but we call it Back Bacon. Even Bob and Doug Mackenzie (aka Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) sang about back bacon for their 12 days of Christmas spoof.
It is part of our national identity. Even if you don’t eat it, (like me) Canadian Bacon is still a huge part of Canadian food identity.
8. Kraft Dinner
The Barenaked Ladies (a famous Canadian rock band) even sang about Kraft dinner with ketchup. “Little dijon ketchup” While many places in the world have macaroni and cheese, only Canada has KD. We Canadians love Kraft Dinner, when Covid-19 spread, people were buying up these boxes of goodness almost as quickly as toilet paper!
9. Maple Taffy
In winter tourist destinations, you’ll always find someone rolling fresh maple syrup over snow to create a delicious maple lollipop. You gotta try it, it’s delicious.
10. Tim Hortons Doughnuts (Donuts for our American Friends)
I know everyone loves doughnuts, and we’ve tried them around the world but nothing compares to Tim Horton’s doughnuts. In fact, eating at Tim Hortons can be a Canadian culture and food identity post all to itself. People are hooked on Tim Horton’s coffee. For some reason, everyone orders a double-double (double cream / double sugar) with an apple fritter or chocolate-dipped doughnut.
11. Smoked Salmon
Our airports are filled with boxes of the stuff and ooh, we just love the smoked sockeye salmon. Eat it on its own or add some capers and goat’s cheese on some crackers. Oh, my mouth is watering as I write about it.
12. East Coast Lobster
Other countries eat lobster I know, but in the Maritime Provinces on Canada’s East Coast, Lobster is a way of life. And the lobster that comes from the East Coast of Canada is among the best in the world. Check out Best Things to do in Nova Scotia – The Ultimate Travel Guide
13. Canadian Beer
It is a meal where we come from! Canadians like to think that their beer is superior to their southern neighbour’s watery brew. As a matter of fact, we think that their beer is superior to everyone’s. Canadians just can’t figure out why the rest of the world doesn’t feel the same way. While many people think that we only drink Molson Canadian or Labbatt’s, we actually have a very large microbrew scene. You can drink beer from all over Canada in small batches around the country.
Honorable Mentions – Canadian Cuisine
14. Montreal Bagels
Montreal Style bagels are as popular in Canada as New York Bagels are in America. What makes these bagels so special? Unlike other bagels, they have a larger hole but the bagel itself is thinner, denser, and sweeter than regular bagels. Because they are baked in wood fire ovens the outside is crispier too!
15. Ketchup Chips
We love our potato chips. Lays are the popular brand for Ketchup chip lovers. Ruffles is our favorite ridged chip brand here in Canada. While I personally don’t like Ketchup Chips and lean more towards salt and vinegar chips, I found out that Ketchup Chips are a Canadian thing.
I believe we pioneered the trend of flavouring our chips here in Canada. We really do take it all to a whole new level from other countries. All-dressed or dill pickle anyone?
I remember once upon a time having a hard time finding salt and vinegar chips while traveling. We do love having variety here in Canada.
16. Pea Soup
We ate a lot of pea soup as a kid. I didn’t realize this was a “Canadian foodie thing” until doing research for this article. Perhaps it’s my french Canadian background that influenced my family eating a lot of pea soup. But apparently, Split Pea Soup is a Candian dish that comes from French Canada. There you go, I just learned something about my own country that I never knew until today!
And there you have our unique foods to Canada.
Canada is a land made up of immigrants, and settlers of this country make it a true melting pot of cultures and cuisine. Just like our national identity, Canadian food is also a blend of the best of every land on the planet.
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29 thoughts on “Best Canadian Food to Try in Canada”
Yes poutine is technically Canadian, but i think it is important to say that it is from Québec and there you can find fresh cheese curds and good poutine. For having crossed canada 5 times and tried so many on my ways, i can say that 🙂
Thanks for the clarification. very true, it all started in Quebec. Thanks Quebec for the delicious treat!
I would definitely say Alberta beef is distinctly Canadian. you may think that beef is the same all over, but it’s not. ours is different then even Montana beef that’s only a couple hours away. Another thing we have in alberta is a Blackfoot taco. So yummy! It’s fry bread topped with ground (alberta) beef and other taco fixings. We also have Saskatoon pie, and bison burgers. also wild game is pretty Canadaian. Someone usually has some Moose or Elk in their freezer, of course deer too, but other country’s have that as well. I think you guys need to spend more time out west (Not Vancouver) we are very different then Ontario. Our milk even comes in plastic jugs not bags. I have never even seen a bag of milk before.
Great additions. I need to update this post because I do believe since writing it, Canada has developed an identity. Thanks!
Not that berries are unique to Canada (but neither are lobsters so :P), but people in B.C. and the Yukon are big blueberry/blackberry/cranberry/raspberry people 🙂
I remember I used to live in a place where on the way to take the bus to Uni I could stop off and have a nice feast of blackberries…I hope no one owned the bush haha
Mmmm, I love berries. We used to have a strawberry bush in our backyard growing up.
Good read. Just thought I’d mention, the beaver tails are actually a hungarian food known as langos 🙂
Hi Jen, thanks for the food lesson. Yes, that is what makes Canada, we take other people’s ideas and turn them into our own. Like I said, we have a lack of identity when it comes to our food
You forgot Nanimo bars.
Hi Cathy, Actually Nanaimo Bars are number 5 on our list. We love them!
I loved this post! I missed it when it first posted since I was in Mexico at the time, but this was so much fun to learn about a few foods I had not heard of (I am SO going to try that Pork Pie recipe!). We do have something similar to the Beaver Tails but down here it’s called Indian Fry Bread and you can find it at any fair or festival, at least in the west. Have to admit, I like the name “beaver tails” better though 🙂
Oh and I really love Canadian beer too – you’re right, it’s much better than what’s produced down here in the states….
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Hi Trisha, thanks for the comment. Wow Mexico nice! I am not sure if our beer is better, but like I said, as Canadians we all like to think so:) Beer and hockey that is our National Pride:) I have to try that pork pie recipe myself. Sounds yummy!
Jodie the Legal Nomad brought poutine to my attention, and I think I’ll be trying it during my stay here in NYC. Hard to go wrong with potatoes, gravy and cheese. 🙂
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Hi Dave, so true. How can you go wrong with that combination. Anything that is smothered in gravy and cheese is fine in my books.
I had my first beaver tail this summer in Ottawa! We don’t have them in NL. They were AMAZING. And I agree on all points about the beer.
P.S. Shared some link love with you on my new site. 🙂
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Don’t forget “Pork” Pie from Nova Scotia. A favourite dessert, especially during the Christmas holidays. Yes, we said dessert. There’s actually no pork, just lots of dates. Folks do things differently in the Maritimes.
Here’s a recipe so your readers can make it at home:
Thanks Authentic Seacoast, Great to hear about other foods from Canada that we didn’t know about. Our country is so big, that we learn new things every day. It sounds heavenly.
Audrey, We get the same question all the time about what is American food. We try to explain that because America is a land of immigrants, we adapt others’ food to reflect American tastes. A good example of this is pizza because Chicago style and New York style pizzas are very different than Italian pizza. Similarly, Indian food made for Americans is quite different than Indian food made for Indians. We also point to steak and potatoes as a traditional American meal.
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When I saw the title to this, poutine was the first thing that came to mind. Beer..got to love Molson and Moosehead among my favorites.
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Hey Adam, yep always about the beer eh?! Love the poutine, I love that we have poutine in Harveys another thing that the rest of the world doesn’t have. Harveys have great hamburgers.
I think our Canadian food identity is much like the local culture, a mishmash of multiculturalism and ethnicity.
I can venture out into the streets of Toronto or Vancouver and sample a countless number of cusines, and dishes, all amazingly delicious. Take a brief stroll down Toronto’s Yonge street and you’ll find North Chinese, South Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Western, Indian, Tamil,Italian, Greek and dare I say British culinary fare. What else would you expect from the World’s most multicultural city?
We are a nation of immigrants (dare I use the term cultural mosaic), and our national cuisine reflects the broad landscape of our immigrant population (and it sure is delicious).
Hi Sam, you are absolutely right. That is what I love about Canada, we get all of the best foods from around the world. I always say that people have brought the best from their country and left the not so good behind. So as Canadians, we get to sample delicious foods. I love Toronto for that exact reason also. Every night the question is what food do we feel like. And having traveled the world quite a bit, we find that it is always very authentic.
From Quebec, I would also add Montreal-style smoked meat, Montreal-style bagels (both now getting a nod in NYC) and tourtière meat pies. Fun post, and makes me miss those deliciously Canadian specialties even more. Travel safe in India! Jodi
Hey LegalNomads, for sure Montreal smokes meat. Mmm mmm good and I agree, the bagels in Montreal are awesome. I haven’t had the tourtiere meat pies, but I will try one the next time I am there. Thanks for sharing.
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your top 10 because I’m one of those people who has no idea what kind of Canadian food there are.
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That is a fair assessment, but having researched the issue I wanted to add in my two cents… There is a very distinctive french canadian cuisine, which extends well beyond poutine. They are known for dishes such as pea soup (with lard), beans (with lard), pouding chômeur, tourtière (three ground meats: weal/pork/beef with savoury), tarte au sucre, as well as a vast array of venison dishes, from caribou sausages to rabbit ragout, all made with whatever happened to be available to the settlers when they first landed on the shores. Beyond Quebec, I think we canadians can claim blueberry pie as our own too…
Hi Nathalie, You are right. Not being from Quebec myself, I didn’t know a lot of the distinct foods, but thank you so much for adding them to the post. My parents love pea soup. We ate it all the time as kids. All of the food that you listed sounds delicious. Can’t wait for our next trip to Quebec. Cheers.
We are constantly asked, “So what is American food? Hamburgers?” While there are a lot of hamburgers consumed in the United States, after spending months in South America I’m convinced the per capita consumption here is much higher.
We usually explain that since the United States is a nation of immigrants, our food reflects that – like in Canada – so we can have a choice of Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Persian, Mexican, etc. People usually get very confused by that concept…so sometimes we just talk about Thanksgiving dinner as a traditional American meal.
Audrey and Akila, you are so right. Canada and the U.S. are so similar in the fact that we are made up of immigrants. I love having choice. We never get tired of eating. Good piece of information about South America. Who knew that others could eat as many hamburgers as we all do.