What to Eat in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Cuisine

What to Eat in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Cuisine

When you think of Canadian food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Probably maple syrup.

But our cuisine is so much more than that! We have so much variety to offer our visitors, but most never go beyond the souvenir maple syrup.

While researching this post, I discovered food I’d never even heard of – and I’m a born and raised Canadian. Canada is so large that some regional food never makes it across provincial borders.

I’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on what to eat in Canada for new visitors (or Canadians looking to try more of our national food). Take a look for some inspiration for your next trip to Canada.

 

National Food

Maple Syrup

What would a list of Canadian food be without maple syrup?

We are known worldwide for our maple syrup.

What to Eat in Canada

Maple sap was first tapped from trees by Canada’s indigenous peoples. In the 17th and 18th century, maple syrup began to be used as a sweetener.

Now, it is a common household item in Canada. It can go on your pancakes, in your muffins and even into your cocktails!

As kids, we used to go to maple syrup farms on school trips. Stereotypical Canadians like me even bake their salmon and carrots in it! Maple syrup is such a part of our culture that the maple leaf is our national symbol.

There’s really no way to describe the taste of maple syrup without the words “sweet” and “maple.” So, I’ll leave you to imagine it until you get to try the real stuff on your next visit to Canada.

You can buy maple syrup at any tourist shop in the country.

For variations of maple syrup, try maple sugar candies, maple cookies and “tire d’érable sur la neige” (maple taffy on snow).

Maple taffy on snow is a treat most common in Ottawa and Quebec. The maple syrup is poured over sticks on ice and allowed to slightly harden. Then, you suck the thickened syrup like a lollipop.

It was my favourite treat as a kid when we went skating on Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

What to Eat in Canada

Timbits

Canadians are obsessed with Tim Hortons. Even those that claim they don’t like it feel a sense of national pride for our chain that is now expanding outside of Canada.

The chain restaurant was started in Hamilton, Ontario by a famous hockey player named Tim Horton and Jim Charade.

Timbits are donut holes branded by Tim Hortons. They come in half a dozen flavours. The classics are chocolate, old fashioned and honey-dipped. Recently, they’ve released jelly-filled timbits that give me intense nostalgia.

Getting a box of timbits for a work meeting or a class party is tradition in Canada. If you want to bribe someone to like you, give them a timbit!

What to Eat in Canada

 

Double Double

Tim Hortons doesn’t just have our sweets; it also has our caffeine.

Ordering a coffee at Tim Hortons has a sort of secret code. A “double double” is a coffee with two milks and two sugars. Similarly, a “single single” is one of each. A “triple triple” is three of each.

I’m not sure if it actually speeds up ordering or is just a Canadian quirk.

Give it a shot when you pick up your morning coffee from Timmies.

What to Eat in Canada

 

Beavertails

Before you get worried, no they aren’t actual tails from beavers!

Beavertails are a Canadian classic. They’re thin, fried sheets of dough that have grill marks matching the pattern on a beaver’s tail. They are usually sprinkled with sugar and then topped with any assortment of sweets.

I love Nutella and banana or cinnamon sugar on my beavertails.

“Beavertails” is also the name of the chain of stores that sells these treats. They opened in 1978 in Ontario.

Search their website for locations around the country.

 

Canadian Chips

There are three flavours unique to Canada.

(I always thought everyone had these chips options, but apparently not.)

Ketchup chips have a red-tinge to them from the flavouring. They don’t actually taste like ketchup. They taste more like sweet vinegar from the mix of tomato powder, garlic, onion and spices on it.

All dressed chips are a mix of ketchup, salt, vinegar, BBQ, sour cream, onion and other ingredients. They’re basically every chip flavour rolled into one! (I probably should have guessed that fact from the name, but I’d never considered it.)

The chips taste a bit sweet with an acidic tinge at the end. It’s hard to describe, but they are really delicious!

Hickory sticks were my favourite at school pizza lunches.

They look like a shredded chip, dusted with a hickory BBQ flavour. The flavour isn’t as strong as BBQ chips and have a salty aftertaste. They’re messy and hard to eat since you can’t pick them up as easily as a chip, but they’re totally worth the stained finger tips!

Grab a bag of any of these chips for a grocery or convenience store to give them a try.

 

Canadian Candy

Like every other country, we have candy you can’t get anywhere else.

We’re known for having excellent chocolate bars. The ladies of My Favourite Murder often praise Canadian Kit Kats for being more delicious than those in the U.S. I’m not sure how true that is, but we’ll take it!

Other great chocolate bars are: Coffee Crisp, Aero, Smarties (candy coated chocolate buttons – not the crushed sugar U.S. type), Crispy Crunch, Caramilk, Glossettes and Mr. Big.

You’ll find all of these across the country.

What to Eat in Canada

 

Ice Wine

Ice wine is a dessert wine, made when the grapes are left to freeze on the vine. This creates a sweeter wine with high acidity. The acidity keeps the wine refreshing, and the lower alcohol content mean you can savour an extra one (or two) after dinner.

Canada is the world’s largest ice wine producer, although you can find it in Europe, Japan and the U.S. as well. We claim ice wine as Canadian since the first two sellers of ice wine were from Canada: Inniskillin in Ontario and Walter Hainle’s winery in British Columbia.

You’ll find ice wine at liquor stores and airport gift shops.

 

Tourtière (QC) and Acadian Meat Pie (NB)

Canada has a famous pie that goes by two names: tourtière and the Acadian meat pie.

Tourtière comes from Quebec. It is made with minced meat of some kind and potatoes. There aren’t really any rules as to what goes in it. Toss in whatever meat is local and mix it with potatoes.

The name “tourtière” refers to the tourtiere vessel that is used to slow cook the deep dish pie.

In Acadia (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), the dish is known as a pâté à la viande. It is often made with chicken, hare or beef in this area.

Either version of this hearty pie will warm you to your toes on a cold day.

 

West Coast Food

Nanaimo Bar (BC)

Nanaimo bars are a treat I never really got into, but they are a Canadian classic.

These no-bake sweets are named for Nanaimo in B.C.

The bar has three layers: a coconut and wafer base, a custard centre and a chocolate top. (The coconut is the reason I wasn’t a fan.)

They’ve grown in popularity and can be found outside of B.C. now. They’re easy to make if you want to give them a shot, or head to a bakery for some premade goodies.

What to Eat in Canada

Prairies Food

Caesar Cocktail (AB)

A Caesar is a cocktail is very similar to a Bloody Mary. It is made with vodka, clamato juice (a mixture of clam and tomato juice), hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and served in a celery-salt rimmed glass. It is often garnished with a pickled bean or a celery stick, and served with a lemon wedge.

The drink was invented in Calgary and became hugely popular.

I know a number of people who drink it without the vodka. I find it too salty, but maybe you’ll love it!

Pair a Caesar with brunch on a patio for a true Canadian experience.

 

Saskatoon Berry (SK)

People often assume that this berry is named after Saskatoon, a major city inthe province of Saskatchewan. Actually, the city is named after the berry!

The berry was named by the native Cree people of the region. The Cree have long eaten the Saskatoon berry in fresh or dried form. They also added it to pemmican: a traditional aboriginal dried meat bar.

Nowadays, the berry is popular in pies, jams, alcohol and as a dried sweetener in snack foods like trail mix.

I’ve never actually had a Saskatoon berry, but I’m told they are sweet with a slightly nutty taste.

They can be hard to find outside of the prairies. If you see some, make sure to take the opportunity to try them!

What to Eat in Canada

 

Flapper Pie (Prairies)

Flapper pie is a dessert from the Prairies (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan). I’ve actually never tried it before, but think it sounds so delicious. It is most popular in Manitoba, which makes me want to go to Manitoba as soon as possible to try it!

The pie is made with a graham cracker crust, topped with a creamy vanilla custard and a layer of meringue or whipped cream.

It was named for the flappers of the 1920s. Initially, the pie was often referred to as a “graham cracker pie” due to the crust.

Look out for this pie during your time in Canada (and let me know how it is!).

 

Quebec Food

Poutine (QC)

Poutine is probably the best-known Canadian food, after maple syrup of course.

Poutine comes from Quebec (thank you, Quebec!). This dish is made up of French fries covered in cheese curds and topped with gravy.

It’s warm and greasy and delicious! It is always a go-to food after a night out.

It was also my favourite food to beat the winter blues.

Some brands, like Smokes Poutine get creative with their poutine, offering additional flavours like pulled pork or nacho poutine.

 

Montreal Bagels (QC)

What is Canadian about a bagel, you may ask? The way it’s made!

Montreal bagels are always baked in a wood-fired oven. They have a larger hole than other bagels and are thinner, denser and sweeter. The bagels are boiled in honey-sweetened water before they are baked.

The most popular varieties are poppy seed and sesame seed.

What to Eat in Canada

Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought the bagel to Canada. It is unclear who was the first to bake them in Montreal, but soon there were numerous shops selling this specialty. (And numerous customers devouring them!)

The shops have spread, and you can now find Montreal bagels across Canada. The best ones are still in Montreal, but Ottawa has some pretty good contenders!

 

Montreal Smoked Meat (QC)

It’s unclear if Montreal smoked meat actually started in Montreal, or even in Canada. But that doesn’t stop it from being a true Canadian food!

Montreal smoked meat is similar to pastrami, but it’s less sweet. It is cured in savory seasonings and made with a brisket cut of meat. The brisket is marinated for over a week, then is hot smoked and steamed until it’s ready to be enjoyed.

The traditional way to enjoy Montreal smoked meat is to throw it on a sandwich of rye bread and yellow mustard.

It’s a messy, delicious sandwich that you can find across the country; however, the best ones are still in Quebec.

What to Eat in Canada

 

Oka Cheese (QC)

With all of our diary farming, it’s no wonder we have a famous cheese!

Oka cheese comes from a town in Quebec called Oka. Monks created the cheese at Montreal’s agricultural school after coming to Canada from France.

The cheese is firm with an orange rind. Oka has a nutty flavour that melts on your tongue. It’s a great addition to any cheese board or picnic basket.

You can find oka cheese at any cheese store in Canada.

Ontario Food

Peameal Bacon Sandwich (ON)

Peameal bacon is so Canadian it is often known as “Canadian bacon.”

The name “peameal” came from the practice of rolling a cut of back bacon in ground yellow peas to preserve it for transport. Later, peameal bacon started being rolled in yellow cornmeal, giving it it’s characteristic yellow edge.

Peameal bacon sandwiches are the official food of Toronto. They consist of peameal with mustard (and sometimes honey) on a Kaiser roll. It is the perfect blend of salty, fatty and acidic.

Even when I was a vegetarian, I craved a good pemeal bacon sandwich!

The best peameal sandwich comes from Carousel Bakery at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

View this post on Instagram

Travel Pro Tip: If Anthony Bourdain tells you to try something, you try that thing. Which is exactly why I headed to St. Lawrence market in Toronto to try the Peameal Bacon Breakfast Sandwich from the Carousel Bakery stand! This breakfast sandwich features a fried egg, cheese, and Peameal bacon, a type of cured pork loin rolled in cornmeal and then fried. — Toronto used to be so well known for its pork products that at one point it was nicknamed Hogtown. Call me crazy, but I do think the name Toronto is a little more appealing… The nickname Hogtown no longer exists, but this sandwich is still considered the city’s signature dish. Anthony Bourdain, you never fail to steer me wrong 😋

A post shared by Alexandria | Global Recipes (@theforeignfork) on

 

Butter Tarts (ON)

How does the rest of the world not have butter tarts?

These were one of my favourite treats growing up (only if they didn’t have raisins!).

Butter tarts are a sweet tart filled with butter, sugar, syrup and egg. You bake them until the filling crystalizes, then you eat enough to send you into a sugar coma! I prefer them room temperature, so the insides are a bit wobbly, but they can also be eaten cold.

Top them with pecans for an extra crunch or get them with raisins.

They are similar to pies from many other areas, like the U.S. pecan pie or the British treacle tart. However, butter tarts are unique to Canada. They were prominent in pioneer cooking in the English-speaking provinces. The first butter tart recipe was published in Barrie, Ontario in the 1900s.

 

East Coast Food

Garlic Fingers and Donair Sauce (NS)

Garlic fingers are basically a garlic cheese pizza with a thin crust. They don’t have a tomato sauce base. Unlike a pizza, it is cut into strips or “fingers.”

What to Eat in Canada

Garlic fingers are common in Atlantic Canada. I learned about them at university and became completely hooked.

They are best dipped in donair sauce (a cold sauce of garlic, condensed milk, vinegar and sugar). You can also have them with marinara sauce or add bacon bits on top.

We typically got them as a side to go with our pizza. Who needs salad when you can have garlic fingers?

 

Donair (NS)

Donair is an adapted version of the Middle Eastern doner kebab. It’s a pita filed with shaved meat (usually beef or lamb), tomatoes, onions and smothered in donair sauce. The meet warms the garlicky sauce, making it the perfect late-night comfort food (or hangover cure).

You’ll only find donair in Atlantic Canada, where it has now been voted the official food of Halifax, Nova Scotia. There are designated donair shops throughout the region, but to be sure to find one, head to Pizza Corner in Halifax.

 

Lobster Roll (NS)

Lobster rolls can be found on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada. They’re made with cold lobster meat inside a hotdog-style bun. The meat is mixed with lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper. Some places change this recipe and add mayo or celery.

I love eating a lobster roll in the Maritimes, where the lobster is as fresh as can be. Pair a buttery lobster roll with kettle chips or French fries. If you’re looking for a “healthier” option, try some coleslaw on the side.

But really, who needs to be healthy when they can be eating a lobster roll?

What to Eat in Canada

 

Blueberry Grunt (Maritimes)

I first heard of this dessert in a Canadian crossword and had to investigate.

A “grunt” is a term for a cobbler-like dessert. It is a dish of fruit covered in dough dumplings and baked (or cooked in a pot atop the stove).

In Eastern Canada, a grunt is traditionally made with blueberries as the fruit. Ergo, a blueberry grunt!

Baking the blueberries really brings out their flavor, and turns the grunt a lovely purple colour.

I’m dying to make my own blueberry grunt (mostly so I can eat the entire thing).

 

I broke up the Canadian foods based on where they originated. I think it’s important to pay homage to where the food came from (and to help people figure out where to find it).

Like I said, Canada is big. Not all of the food can be found nation wide.

It was impossible to include every Canadian food without making this post a novel. As it is, it’s my longest post to date.

I tried to stick with the traditional food of each region, to highlight the diversity and culture of my native country.

Have fun eating your way around Canada with my comprehensive guide on what to eat in Canada.

 

 

I’m salivating just writing this post! All the pictures of the yummy food I grew up with is making me seriously homesick (or foodsick, at least. Is that a thing??).

Think I missed any key Canadian foods? Let me know!
 

  

 



60 thoughts on “What to Eat in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Cuisine”

  • YOU’VE HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. WHEN I EMIGRATED HERE IN 1951, I DISCOVERED SUCH GOODIES AS KIT KAT AND SMARTIES. TO THIS DAY, WHILE WAITING AT THE CHECK OUT, I PICK A KIT KAT, OR SMARTIES, OR BOTH.

  • Wow, I have not tried all the foods you have listed, and I have been living in Canada for well over 30 years now. I need to get out more and explore Canada. Thank you for reminding me how beautiful Canada is.

    P.S. while Peameal bacon sandwich is a great sandwich, my heart is with the Montreal Smoked meat on Dark Rye 😉

  • I couldnt resist my taste buds while reading this blog, that I went on to search for Canadian cuisine restaurants in my place.

  • Oooh yum! That maple snow taffy looks wonderful. Great to see lots of things that I can try (coeliac) too; there’s plenty to look forward to on my next trip to Canada. I have nostalgic pre-diagnosis memories of a Coffee Crisp, and I’m tempted to try and make my own Blueberry Grunt – it looks like the kind of pud to be enjoyed after a long chilly walk.

    • I think you could definitely adjust a lot of these to be GF if you made them at home – even the timbits! I know lots of people do make their own. Not sure about coffee crisp though. Blueberry grunts look pretty simple to make – as long as you have access to blueberries!

  • Ok, you have me seriously hungry right now. I’d love to try the two pies, the meat/potato one and also the Flapper pie. They both sound amazing. And I must admit, I only really thought of maple syrup when you say Canadian food, but it seems they have so much more to offer!

  • Didn’t think that the smarties in Cananda would be different from the ones in the US. What I really want to try is Poutine, I have heard so many times, including your post, that it is highly recommended after drinks/late night/hangover food, hah

    • I didn’t realise the difference either. Apparently American Smarties are our Rockets. Smarties for us are more like M&Ms.
      I highly recommend poutine!

  • Reading about your cuisine especially salmon and carrots baked in Maple syrup, I think my kids are going to love the food there 😉 The Blueberry grunt made with handpicked blueberries is making me drool 😛 LOL this post is full of Sweet Temptations 😉

    • Kids will definitely enjoy the sweets! I’m fascinated to try a blueberry grunt. I’m going to have to make it soon!

  • Very much enjoyed reading this as we love to try new food on our travels! We haven’t yet been to Canada but it’s high on our list. We heard a lot about poutine and eventually tried it a year ago in Melbourne – love it! That smoked meat sandwich looks incredible too 🙂

  • I LOVE maple syrup. It’s hugely expensive in my part of the world and difficult to find so I always look for it when I travel. The maple taffy looks delicious as well. I guess that I will have to go to Quebec to try that 🙂

    • That’s too bad 🙁 I know it can be hard to find good stuff abroad. When I lived in Glasgow I got severely depressed by the lacklustre maple syrup :p

  • I want to buy maple syrup right now and add it to everything. Don’t know anything about Canadian food, so it’s an insighful post for me. Thank you for sharing.

  • I went to Canada last year and I missed a few of these food items but I definitely did get addicted to Timmy Hortons. I even started walking down the street with my coffee, just like a real Canadian!
    Nanaimo bars were definitely a highlight too! So goooood! And I know exactly what you mean about kitkats not being great in the USA, I thought exactly the same!!!! I guess it is because they are produced by hersheys.

    • I didn’t know Kitkats had a different producer in the US. Ours are definitely delicious. I’m really missing timmies being abroad!

  • As a fellow Canadian, I absolutely love your post! Also love how you’ve divided up the food according to the region it originates from and paid homage to its origins. Very nicely done. Although I’ve traveled all over the country, there are some foods on your list I haven’t tried yet, time to fix that!

    • Thanks so much! It is weird how the food can’t really be found outside of its region, but it gives us a reason to travel more!

  • Maple syrup, peameal bacon sandwich, lobster roll, Beaver Tail and ice wine – check!! Still a few to go.

    P.S. I believe Smarties (the choc button style) originated in the UK and are available in many countries including Australia.

    • Oo that’s good to know, thanks! I know chocolate buttons of various types can be found around the world. I’m gonna have to go on a hunt for smarties around the globe now 🙂

  • We live just across the border and I used to do gymnastics in Canada six days a week. It never ceases to amaze me how long the lines at Tim Hortons can get in Canada! We have them here in Michigan too but the lines are nothing like they are in Windsor!!

  • what a great guide – The only food I know about is Poutine and Lobster Rolls. I would definitely want to try those chips!

  • Very enjoyed reading this post . As I move to read full post I felt like mouthwatering. Definitely will try them

  • All I can say is YUMMY! I’m planning a trip to Canada soon hopefully and I was so excited to try real Canadian maple syrup. Now I have a list of many more delish food to eat <3 I'll be saving this!

  • Globalization has brought in almost everything near our home even in the other part of the world. However the Oka Cheese looked very different and would love to try it someday 🙂 Besides, Canada is breathtaking anyway

  • I went to the Canadian Rockies last summer and we did try Timbits (so good!) and garlic fingers but we missed so many of the ones in your list! I’ll have to try and sample some more when I go back to Vancouver in the summer! 🙂

Care to comment?

%d bloggers like this: