Iconic Canadian Food

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When most people think about countries with great cuisine, Canada is a country that is often dismissed as simply being home to maple syrup, bacon, and some great seafood.

However, there is a lot more than that to the cuisine of this great country, and there are many dishes that can’t be found anywhere else outside of Canada.

ALSO READ: 99 Essential Nova Scotia Foods

From unique brands of candy and desserts through to wonderful street food and ingredients that are widely available throughout the country.

There are plenty of options if you want to try something that you won’t have tasted before during your visit to Canada, and here are some of the most popular.

 

Traditional Canadian Food

Typical Canadian food called poutine, gravy and cheese on fries on a blue plate

Poutine

This dish is one that has been a staple at outdoor events and at the end of nights out in Canada for decades, and there are plenty of stores that specialize in providing a variety of different types of poutine.

The basic version is simply made by topping a serving of French fries with cheese curds and a generous serving of gravy.

The cheese curds are cooked to give them a tangy flavor, while the gravy is usually chicken or turkey based, and completes the dish wonderfully.
 
 

 
Canadian food called chicken bones often served at Christmas

Chicken Bones Candy

These candies have been made in Canada for 130 years, and are the treats that so many Canadians have grown up with.

The center of bittersweet chocolate is surrounded by a hard candy coating, while the distinctive spicy cinnamon flavour makes it a very interesting candy that is quite different to most of its rivals.

The Canadian tradition is also shown in the bilingual labeling, that is seen on the packaging of the product.

 
Nanaimo bars a Canadian dessert on wax paper.

Nanaimo Bars

Originating in the city with the same name, the Nanaimo bar is a dessert or snack where a base layer of wafer crumbs is topped with a butter icing before finally being covered with a thin layer of chocolate.

The fact that there is no baking required and that it only needs to be stored in the fridge to set after preparation means that it is easy to make as well as being popular, and it is now available in most bakeries and coffee shops across the country.

Smarties

Small round chocolates covered in a colorful and crispy shell, Smarties are one of the iconic treats that anyone growing up in Canada will be very fond of.

Small enough to be shared among a group of friends, and tasty enough that you want to finish off the rest of the box, these are definitely one of the treats that have helped to define childhood in the country.

If you are traveling south of the border in the USA and come across the Smarties there, remember they are completely different, and don’t have any chocolate at all.

Canadian rappie pie on a plate with tomato and coleslaw

Rappie Pie

Originating in Acadia and Nova Scotia, this dish is not strictly a pie, but rather it is made with layers of grated potatoes that have been squeezed to remove excess fluid.

This is then layered with chicken before being covered in chicken broth and baked. Rappie Pie is certainly one of the most popular types of comfort food across much of Canada.

 
Maple syrup on snow.

Manitoba Maple Taffy On Snow

While there are versions of this sweet treat found in many different areas, Manitoba Maple taffy is the most distinctive and is made by boiling maple syrup, which is then poured directly on to a layer of fresh snow.

The swift cooling means the syrup thickens quickly, and can then be chewed after it has cooled enough to be picked up.

Kraft Peanut Butter

As one of the biggest food companies in North America, Kraft has plenty of brands that are international and can be found elsewhere, but their peanut butter is one that is yet to make the transition to other markets outside the country.

Available in smooth, crunchy and a variety of other styles, this peanut butter is a real comfort food that is a great taste of home for Canadians.

 
Beaver Tails a traditional Canadian food

BeaverTails

These simple pastries are found across the country, and for those who have a concern for wildlife, you can rest at ease because they gained their name for looking like beaver’s tails, and no actual beavers are harmed.

The fried dough is topped with a variety of different toppings, and they have been so popular that even President Obama made a detour in order to get one of these delicious treats before returning to the United States.

Coffee Crisp

Layers of wafer covered in a light coffee flavoured filling which is then smothered in chocolate, this bar was originally made in the UK. But was adopted by the Canadians who took to the snack even more than the Brits.

Now only available in Canada, an attempt to expand into the US failed, meaning that for Canadians craving this particular treat, they will have to head home.
 
 

 

montreal bagel shop st.viateur

Montreal Bagels

Almost as iconic as those that are found in New York, the distinctive Montreal bagels have a sweet dense dough and usually have a layer of poppy seeds as a topping to the bagel.

These bagels aren’t usually cut and filled like their counterparts in New York, and most people will enjoy the bagel by itself.

Canadian cereal Shreddies on a shelf.

Shreddies

Breakfast cereals change wherever you go in the world, and one of the most popular ways to start your day in Canada is with a bowl of Shreddies.

These square bites look like a very small grid, and are made with whole grain wheat, and along with the standard version, many people will have fond memories of holiday breakfasts when they were allowed the frosted, honey or chocolate versions of the cereal.

 

Canadian tourtiere pie

Tourtiere

Often eaten during the Christmas and New Year celebrations, this meat pie is usually prepared with pork, beef or veal, and will often have game meat included to enhance the flavor.

There are regional variations found in Quebec, Montreal and Acadia, but each one has the distinction of being cooked in the tourtiere dish, which is what gives the pie its name.

Canadian food called chicken bones often served at Christmas

Kraft Dinner

This simple to prepare meal is one of the most popular meals that is prepared in Canada, and is a serving of macaroni and cheese that arrives dried in a packet, which is then prepared quickly to make a meal that serves four people.

This is one of the great staples of Canadian food, so much so that on average 3.2 boxes are eaten for every person in Canada each year.

 
Canadian food donair.

Donairs

One of the most popular foods for those who would like a snack after they have been enjoying a few drinks, the donair is very popular in the city of Halifax, but can be found across the country.

Similar to a doner kebab, the spiced meat is cooked on a spit before being cut into strips and seared and then served in a pita bread with some salad and the distinctive donair sauce, which has a recipe that is a secret kept by the restaurant owners.

Canadian pemmican

Pemmican

This dried meat snack is one that dates from the era when Canada was still being explored and people discovered the food being cooked by the Inuit, and it is made of dried meat that has been slow cooked until it is of a similar texture to jerky, which is then crushed and blended with fat and dried berries.

While it may not be the most tasty snack of all in the country, this is a sustaining food that has been a big part of the exploration story in Canada.

Images (c) Kayepants, are you gonna eat that, Edward Kimber, Ben Crowe, H.L.I.T., Caribb, Asif A. Ali, TMAB2003, Al Pasternak, Paul Brady, David Simmer II, Paulo O, Jeff Christiansen

Join the Conversation

  1. This sounds like a fun reason for a road trip, and Southampton looks so cute. I love butter tarts, and I know the debate on filling can be intense for some people (I’m not a runny filling person either).

  2. But did you eat the crust?!! Southampton is a really great little town with a great beach. Port Elgin and Sauble beach also make it a great weekend getaway destination. It’s all about small town Ontario.

  3. Melody Preston says:

    I loved your story. I live here in Southampton and it is so nice to see other people loving our small town. I just walk one minute to get the best butter tarts around from Offshore Bakery in Southampton I just love the very fast going flax bread. Hope you come back again

  4. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon says:

    What’s wrong with four hours? I’d travel that long. When I was in Hong Kong, I walked all over the city trying to find Wife Cakes. I did eventually find them. Anything cool is worth effort.

  5. Those are the day trips I love to do. It does look a little like NS. I am going to see if Cambridge Bakery has any Wild Yeast Sourdough! What was the song we used to sing when we traveled down Point Aconi road?

  6. I’m not much of a sweet tooth but Butter Tarts are so tasty I could eat them 3 squares a day. Great location up in Bruce County. Have visited Kincardine many times.

  7. Ann Willauer says:

    Going to Toronto for the CCA meetings in the Fall, so your travel notes might be helpful. Thanks for sharing!
    How about geting Rosemont Bakery to do a Wild Yeast Bread??

  8. Katie @ The World on my Necklace says:

    Sounds like a great mini trip! I love butter tarts,they are one of my favourite Canadian foods along with poutine, Tim Horton’s donuts and ginger cookies 🙂

  9. Hey Ayngelina,

    I recently just returned to Canada and have made some crazy trips to get some of my favourite Canadian food. Butter tarts were one that I hadn’t even really realized were a Canadian delicacy until I left the country! Many of my friends didn’t even know Caesars were born in Calgary.

    The delicious food and correctly-cooked (i.e crispy) bacon are definitely highlights of coming home!

  10. CM Justice says:

    The quintessential Canadian(ok BC) dessert has to be the Nanaimo bar. No beer involved.or bacon.
    Numerous friends have asked me about Canadian cuisine. I have to laugh, What is it? My experience as west coaster is: some seafood and a lot of fusion recipes incorporating everything from perogies to tamale pie. K dinner never! I await your expert opinion and possibly a description or list of recipes.
    Many blessings
    CM, now in Helsinki where I’m enjoying the food.

  11. Diana Edelman says:

    Ayngelina — this was such a great little story. I love that as we age we start to notice things we never did before. I, too, love the small towns and charm, and discovering that sometimes the things which we find so endearing about other worlds can be found in our own, too. As for the butter tarts — YUM. I’ve never heard of wild yeast sour dough, but that sounds like something I should probably try. Too bad I won’t be able to score that in Thailand!

  12. I would travel FAR for some good desserts (queen of sweets right here) but ugh, Google Maps. They drive me nuts when they do that!

  13. Canadian food…even that name sounds unusual…

  14. Definitely a fan of those small towns and Texas is full of them!

    Cute post!

  15. Angie Away says:

    I’m ashamed I have never been to Canada – and now the list of reasons to visit has gotten that much longer. Butter tarts nomnomnom.

  16. Canadians really know their butter tarts!! My favourite Canadian cuisine is still Beaver Tales 🙂 So tasty and delicious.

  17. Food is always a great reason (excuse?) for a road trip. Still, my favorite Canadian food is good old Poutine. 🙂

  18. Kristin Addis says:

    I might travel 4 hours for a butter tart…

  19. Montreal and Toronto are both on my foodie lists to visit. I hear how shows like No Reservations (well, now “Parts Unknown”) and “Bizarre Foods”, along with so many other foodie blogs, rave about it.

  20. Hammerson Peters says:

    Now you need to fly out to the Island and try a Nanaimo bar.

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