Nova Scotia Food: The 99 Essential Eats

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If you’re planning a trip to the Maritimes you’ll probably been told to try the seafood and have heard of this mysterious meat dish we call a donair.

But Nova Scotia food is far more than lobster rolls and spiced ground meat.

For the last year I’ve been compiling a list of traditional food in Nova Scotia, or food that you can only find in Nova Scotia.

Originally I wanted the list to be 99 essential eats but I’ve only landed at 73 items.

But I consider it a work in progress, so help me get to the coveted 99 by sharing what is missing from this list!

I’ve also included wine pairings for these Nova Scotian foods.

I loathe that when people suggest wine that they say white for fish and red for beef. It’s a bit more complicated than that!

Nova Scotia Food Classics

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    So I went to the Nova Scotia wineries with this list of food and asked them to tell me how to pair wine with seafood and other food in Nova Scotia.

    I loved their enthusiasm as we laughed at some of them (rappie pie) and others (mostly Lunenburg sausage) I had to explain what they were.

    But hey sometimes you just want to chew on some dulse and sip on a glass of local wine, right???

     
    Nova Scotia lobster dinner ayngelina

    Lobster Dinner

    So many people ask me where to eat a lobster dinner in Nova Scotia. The truth is Maritimers eat lobster at home. 

    It’s simply too expensive for us to justify eating out when we can buy it directly from the fishermen and boil or steam it at home. We spread out the newspaper and go crazy.

    If you’re in the Annapolis Valley the place to go is Halls Harbour Lobster Pound.

    You can choose the size and sides (coleslaw and potato salad for me) or they also have other seafood options.

    Lobster quesadilla and lobster poutine is very popular.

    It’s at Halls Harbour, a working harbour that hasn’t just been created for tourists to visit. If the tide is out you can walk along the beach and check out the tidal pools. 

    Outside the Valley, The Shore Club next to Hubbards beach has been a family owned lobster dinner joint for over 80 years.

    It’s also a dance hall at night so you can stay for a dinner and dance.

    Although they only serve lobster (with the option of a turf menu as well) there are free mussels and a salad bar.

    This is a small lobster in my hand. While some people think bigger is better, I would never order anything above 2.5lbs as the meat gets tough. 2-2.5lbs is the sweet spot.

    Brown bread

    This brown bread is made with fancy molasses and a bit sweet.  I also love oatmeal brown bread and am happy to eat it with just a bit of salted butter.

    Although it’s so simple and delicious it’s easy to eat half a loaf…

    Suggested wine pairing: Mercator Compass Rose, Planter’s Ridge Riesling

    Mackerel

    A fish commonly found in Atlantic Canada, although stocks are down in recent years.

    It’s a slightly oilier fish with lots of great omega 3 fatty acids. Because of the oil it is often fried, smoked or barbecued.

     
    Typical Nova Scotia food, lobster roll on red picnic table with craft beer

    Lobster Roll

    While Nova Scotians don’t eat lobster dinners outside their home, the lobster roll is so popular there’s even a McLobster.

    Some places like to get fancy but I think lobster with mayo on a white dog bun that is buttered and toasted is perfect.

    Nova Scotia food is simple and doesn’t need truffle oil and all the other things outsiders do to “improve” lobster rolls.

    Although I’ve never turned down a lobster roll because it was too fancy…

    Suggested wine pairing: Avondale Sky Cheverie, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7

    19 DELICIOUS:
    Yarmouth Restaurants

    Brother’s Pepperoni

    We owe this pub dish to two brothers who immigrated from Poland in the 50s.

    You can buy it at the grocery store in the deli department. Also, it’s a popular dish at pizza shops and pubs where it’s deep fried and served with honey mustard.

    Suggest wine pairing: Luckett Vineyard Leon Millot

    Fat Archies Cookies

    Soft molasses cookies from Cape Breton island that often have cinnamon and raisins.

    It was also sometimes made with bacon fat, perhaps that’s the reason they are called Fat Archies.

       

    Molasses has been in east coast households for centuries, and we used it even after the rest of the world shunned molasses when refined white sugar was available.

    There’s something about the depth of molasses that neither maple syrup nor sugar can replicate.

     
    Digby scallops from Ed's Take Out

    Digby Scallops

    An iconic Nova Scotia food, scallops from Digby are known around the world. And while you can get great scallops all over Nova Scotia.

    ”There’s nothing like eating them the same day they were harvested out of the Bay of Fundy.

    Scallops can be cooked many different ways. Pan-seared, bacon wrapped, deep fried and even raw at Half Shell in Lunenburg.

    While I normally avoid deep fried food, there is no better place to eat scallops than at Ed’s Take Out in Digby.

    It’s a small family-owned roadside joint with only 2 tables inside and picnic tables outside. 

    But the lightly battered scallops are like butter melting in your mouth. It’s worth a drive to Digby for these scallops alone. Bring cash as they don’t accept debit.

    Runner up is Crow’s Nest in Hillsburn just outside Annapolis Royal, which also brings in fresh seafood each morning.

     
    Wild blueberries and cherries from Nova Scotia.

    Wild Blueberries

    I love Nova Scotia blueberries. It’s the only thing that makes the end of strawberry season bearable.

    Most of the blueberries in Nova Scotia are cultivated in either British Colombia or Nova Scotia. Ontario and Quebec don’t really grow much outside local demand.

    And while I grew up picking u-pick blueberries at Blueberry Acres, and still do today (so much cheaper) I have to say wild blueberries are completely different.

    You don’t have to go foraging for them yourself. Lots of the farmers markets will have them.

    They are much different from cultivated berries. They are smaller and more tart and worth trying, I think they make a great road trip snack.

     
    Rappie pie being cooked on the stove at the Tusket Island Tours in Yarmouth Nova Scotia

    Rappie Pie

    A traditional Acadian dish, this is a Nova Scotia food you’ll either love or hate. 

    But I think it really depends on who makes it. It can taste like wallpaper paste or a comforting casserole.

    I’ve had both.

    My advice is if you’re at someone’s home, take just a small portion to try it first. Also, ketchup helps.

    Somewhat like a shepherd’s pie, yet not at all. Rappie pie is made by shredding potatoes, pressing them to remove the moisture and then adding meat and broth to the dish.

    If it’s not crispy it can be tough to eat.

    You can find rappie pie in many restaurants along the Acadian shore but it’s most well regarded at Red Cap restaurant in Pubnico.

    Suggested wine pairing: L’Acadie Vineyard Passito, Domain de Grand Pre Champlain

    Molasses Sandwich

    An old school treat, molasses spread on bread and eaten as a sandwich. Easy peasy.

     

    Nova Scotian food Summer savory in a bag

    Summer Savory

    I grew up with summer savory being a common ingredient in our kitchen. It wasn’t until I tried to make turkey dressing for a Thanksgiving in Toronto that I realized it was a Nova Scotia food. 

    Despite all the places to buy herbs and spices in Toronto, the closest I could get was winter savory.

    Little did I know that I could buy summer savory on Amazon.

    Summer savory is a Mediterranean herb that European settlers brought. Similar to thyme or marjoram, but more peppery and fragrant. There is no real substitute.

    While it’s more commonly known as an ingredient for food in Provence, it somehow adapted to our tough Maritime climate.

    When it grew stronger, it also developed a more intense flavour.

    While summer savory is synonymous with Acadian food where it is known as sarriette d’été Ancienne d’Acadie it is prevalent throughout all Nova Scotia cuisine.

    Lunenburg Pudding

    It doesn’t look the most appetizing as it’s grey. A German-style sausage that is similar to a pâté, pork, liver and beef is boiled and them combined with onion, coriander and summer savory.

    Victor Greek of Greek’s Quality Meats created the sausage in the 1940s and became so popular the shop was selling 1500 pounds a week.

    Although Victor retired and sold Greek Meat’s in 2018, the shop continues to use the original recipe. You can also find it at the local Foodland in Lunenburg.

    Suggested wine pairing: Blomidon Estate Winery Riesling

    Lunenburg Sausage

    A fresh sausage variant of the Lunenburg pudding. 

     

    Creamed lobster on a plate in Nova Scotia.

    Creamed Lobster

    Oh how many ways can we eat lobster!

    But this one is absolutely a treat. It’s not often on menus so if you find it you must order it!

    Lobster cooked in cream and butter, it is one of the most decadent open face sandwiches you’ll ever have.

    Tancook Sauerkraut

    Produced on Tancook Island, this Nova Scotia sauerkraut has been produced for nearly 200 years.

    It is made from smaller cabbage that are shredded by hand and fermented in wooden barrels.

    You can buy it in most supermarkets, often in the meat department.

     

    Fried clam strip and cesar salad

    Quahog Clams

    The most popular way to serve clams is fried. But you can find this Nova Scotia food in chowders, soups, seafood boils and clam bakes.

    But if you’re looking for great fried clams check out the foood truck at Foote Farm Market in Centreville, Seaside Seafoods in Hunt’s Point and John’s Lunch in Dartmouth.

    Blueberry Soup

    Served chilled, blueberries are cooked with spices and served with a dollop of cream. It’s a nice light dessert. 

    The Main Street restaurant in Ingonish, which is well known for seafood always receives rave reviews for its chilled blueberry soup.

    Smoked Eel

    Long before the English or French arrived in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq indigneous people lived here.

    Known as kat in Mi’kmaq, eel is an underrated delicacy. It was not only eaten but eels had medicinal uses and would bind tools. 

    While it may be difficult to find eel on a menu, you can find smoked eel in markets throughout the province.

    Haddock

    If you don’t have haddock in Nova Scotia you haven’t eaten.

    While haddock fish and chips or haddock chowder is fantastic, you can’t beat a pan fried haddock.

     
    Nova Scotian storm chips on white background

    Storm Chips

    Storm chips are a recent phenomena that I have not yet experienced. But when Hurricane Dorian was coming our way everyone went looking for storm chips.

    Not simply potato chips that you eat during the storm. This is a food ration specifically to get you through a snow storm.

    In Nova Scotia, you can be stuck inside for days during a storm. The power may go out and hopefully you have a wood stove or generator. 

    But most of all, you must have snacks.

    Storm chips started as a joke, a way to celebrate a storm by having a treat. But then a company in New Brunswick was smart enough to make them.

    You can now buy bags of storm chips that have four different flavours all in one bag: ketchup, dill pickle, sea salt and vinegar and barbecue. 

    Donair

    Most people I know don’t eat donairs on a regular basis. It is definitely a late night after drinking food, next day hung over food, or a special treat.

    While Nova Scotia has a long history of English/Irish/Scottish descendants, there were also a number of Greek and Lebanese immigrants.

    And thank gawd, because we needed to diversify Nova Scotia cuisine.

    Donairs are similar to gyros. Spiced ground meat cooked on a spit and then shaved. It is served on a Greek-style thick pita topped with onion and tomato, from afar donairs look like gyros. 

    But Donair sauce is like nothing you’ve ever seen and it’s an acquired taste.

    Some love it and others think the mix of sweetened condensed milk and vinegar is repulsive. Others make it with evaporated milk, icing sugar and vinegar.

    As a Nova Scotian I adore it.

    Locals love their donair sauce so much that they couldn’t enjoy it solely on donairs.

    Garlic fingers are popular throughout North America, but it’s only in Nova Scotia that you’ll find people dipping them in donair sauce!

    Pro tip: Go to the grocery store and stock up on a few bottles of donair sauce while you’re in town!

    Donairs are so engrained in our culture that we just need a reason to eat them.

    When Hurricane Dorian was approaching someone realized Dorian had the same letters as donair.

    Instagram was filled with Nova Scotians enjoying Hurricane donairs while the power was out and trees were crashing down.

    Donairs are the official food of Halifax. There are fancy spots now like Johnny K’s, but if you’re in Halifax go to the OG.

    King of Donair (or as we call it, K.O.D.) and get the small, even if you are splitting. 

    Suggest Wine Pairing: Avondale Sky Winery Sparkling Rose, Planter’s Ridge Riesling

    Boiled Dinner

    I did not grow up eating this. But boiled dinner is exactly what it sounds like, a boiled dinner.

    Well I should say it is a braised meal, with meat, root vegetables and spices.

    Sometimes it includes salted brisket, a bone-in ham or some African Nova Scotian families used pigtails – which frankly I think sounds like the tastiest option of the three.

    Mustard Pickles

    Cucumbers, cauliflower and bell peppers pickled with dry mustard and turmeric. It’s a traditional condiment from Cape Breton.

     

    Classic Nova Scotia food, fish and chips on a grey picnic table with view of the ocean

    Fish and Chips

    If you think you’ve had good fish and chips outside the Maritimes you better think again.

    It’s such a simple dish but you need a hot fryer, fresh haddock and great fries.

    Vicky’s is known for excellent fish and chips but I have to give my top pick to Islandview Restaurant just outside Mahone Bay. You can get their fish breaded or battered,

    It’s a little roadside spot that has been family owned since the 1960s. It’s also a great bakery.

    It must also have great soup as I saw tons of people ordering the soup of the day.

    I’d skip the dining and head outside as the view at the picnic tables is as good as the food.

     

    Nova Scotian food dulse

    Dulse

    You can’t eat all seaweed but you can eat this red seaweed from the Bay of Fundy. It has a salty umami flavour and is great as a dried snack on its own.

    But it’s also really good to crumble and add to soups even savoury shortbread cookies.

    Suggested Wine Pairing: Benjamin Bridge can of Nova 7

    Smoked Fish with Cream Egg Sauce

    Originally a dish from Scotland, it made its way to New Scotland. There are many variations of this dish. My grandmother made a version of this as a milk sauce with regular haddock. 

    This is a dish often cooked in people’s homes and occasionally found in cafes that serve home cooking.

    Suggested Wine Pairing: Mercator Sauvage, Luckett Vineyard Ortega

    Solomon Gundy

    The peculiar sounding Nova Scotia food is actually herring pickled with onion and spices. 

    It’s said the name originates from an English salad that contained anchovies, called salamagundi.

    Interestingly, Solomon Gundy is found in the Caribbean and is a typical Jamaican food

    On the South Shore you may find pickled herring wrapped around cucumber and onion. This pinwheel was considered to be a reliable hangover cure.

    Suggested Wine Pairing: Avondale Sky Nirvana, L’Acadie Vineyard Sparkling Rose

    Digby Chicken

    It’s not chicken nor does it come from Digby, in fact this strong flavoured Nova Scotia food is cured herring.  

     

    Nova Scotia Mussels on Plate

    Mussels

    Mussels in Nova Scotia are a no brainer. They are great in pubs, formal restaurants and even better at home.

    If you like mussels don’t miss the cream of mussel soup at The Knot Pub in Lunenburg.

    Haddie Bits and Fries

    Haddock is popular in many many forms. Haddie bits are ends of haddock deep fried and served with fries.

    If you’re on Highway 1, or as locals call it – the old highway, stop by Pearle’s in Paradise for Haddie Bits and ice cream for dessert.

     
    Cape Breton snow crab cooked on a cooking sheet

    Snow Crab

    Snow crab from Cape Breton is shipped all over the world.
     

    EASY RECIPE: Snow Crab Cakes

     
    Our cold waters make for very flavourful crab meat that you don’t get in the warmer waters where you typically get crab.

     
    Nova Scotia seafood chowder

    Seafood Chowder

    Pretty much any self-respecting local restaurant in Nova Scotia has chowder.

    The one constant in Nova Scotian chowder is that it is milk/cream based. Even Le Caveau’s version which is a riff on Spanish ajo blanco and uses ground almonds – still has some cream in it.

    But other than dairy, Nova Scotian chowder recipes can vary.  Some use clams, others do not.

    If you’re lucky there will be lobster, but others are haddock and potato only.

    Some recipes use cream although chowder in Nova Scotia tends to be less thick.

    Chowder is so diverse that I have three chowder recipes on this site including: mussel chowder and this seafood chowder from Prince Edward Island.
     

    MY GRANDMOTHER’S RECIPE:
    Nova Scotia Seafood Chowder

     
    Some spots thicken with flour – which, I don’t like at all. But it’s also dangerous for celiacs and those with gluten intolerance.

    Crystanny’s in Canning is the first 100% gluten-free restaurant in Nova Scotia and offers a great haddock chowder.

    A true local spot, will even offer the option for a cup of chowder with a half-sandwich. This is a classic Nova Scotian lunch.

    Suggested Wine Pairing: Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay, Benjamin Bridge Vēro 
     

     
    Traditional Nova Scotia food, fish cakes in a take out container on a unfinished picnic table.

    Fish Cakes

    A common dish to have at home or in a restaurant. Fish cakes are a comfort food in Nova Scotia.

    Simply made with salt cod, onion and mashed potatoes. They can also include fresh herbs, celery, spices and sometimes bacon. 

    It’s common to have them at home or with a salad at a restaurant. If we don’t have fish we simply make potato cakes.

    Popular spots for fish cakes are at the Old Triangle in Halifax, Union Street Cafe in Berwick or Bluenose 2 in Halifax, which has been around since the 1960s.

    Periwinkles

    It’s not common to find snails on menus across Nova Scotia but they are delicious with garlic butter.

     
    Nova Scotia dragons breath on sweet potato

    Dragon’s Breath cheese

    Pairs beautifully with Domain de Grand Pre Ortega. It is most often described as similar to a Chardonnay.

    Creamed Peas on Toast

    A throwback to our roots in English cuisine.

    Tourtiere – Meat Pies

    From the Acadians, shredded or ground meat under a pastry crust.

    Green Tomato Chow Chow

    Sometimes Nova Scotia food is heavy, especially the cream or potato dishes so condiments are key. 

    Chow chow is made from pickling everything from green tomatoes, to beans – basically any fresh summer vegetable that is available.

    It’s used similar to a relish so it’s a great condiment for fish cakes or even on top of a hot dog.

    Locals make their own chow chow but you can also find it at farmers markets.

     
    Nova Scotian oysters on the half shell at a restaurant

    Oysters

    While oysters are considered a PEI food, we can hold out own in Nova Scotia.

    Nova Scotian oysters range from salty and meaty to having a mushroom taste and a sweet finish. It really depends on where they were cultivated.

    You can find PEI oysters in Nova Scotia along with New Brunswick oysters.

    But if you’re looking specifically for Nova Scotian oysters see if they have the following:

    • Aspy bay 
    • Belon 
    • Bras D’Or
    • Cap-Breton
    • Chedabucto
    • Eel Lake
    • Fox Island
    • Lady Chatterly
    • Little Harbour
    • Merigomish
    • Pugwash
    • Rocky Side
    • Ruisseau
    • Shan Daph
    • South Lake
    • Sweet Point
    • Tatamagouche
    • Thrumcaps

    Pictou County Pizza

    Specifically Acropole Pizza, I had no idea that Pictou had a pizza so great that so many people would recommend it. 

    It turns out that it’s because of the brown sauce on the pizza. It’s so beloved that Sobey’s grocery store now stocks it in the frozen pizza section.

     

    Nova Scotia Hodge Podge - soup made of a mixture of various ingredients.

    Hodge Podge

    Best described as a vegetable chowder. This Nova Scotia food is a summer dish as it features summer fresh vegetables like wax beans, green beans, potatoes, carrots and peas. 

    MAKE IT AT HOME:
    Easy Hodge Podge Recipe

    If you see “hodge podge” on the sign of farmer’s market it means they are usually selling the mix of vegetables so that you can make it at home.

    It’s made by gently boiling the vegetables and adding butter, cream, salt and pepper.

    Suggested Wine Pairing: Mercator Vineyards Sauvage, Gaspereau Vineyards White Rock

    Chicken Fricot

    A type of stew, this is another Acadian dish that is often made with leftover chicken or turkey (although this Christmas pizza is also a great idea).

    The broth is made with the carcass, root vegetables are added along with summer savory and dumplings.

    Stew and Doughboys

    Similar to Acadian fricot, stew and doughboys are dumplings dropped into a beef stew. It’s also common to find this in Newfoundland.

    Haskap Berries

    We’re an agriculture region and so we can grow a lot of interesting berries. I didn’t grow up with haskap berries but now Nova Scotia is famous for them. 

    Also called, blue honeysuckle and sweetberry honeysuckle. They are common in Japan, and it turns out we have a similar climate.

    Haskap berries look like wonky oblong blueberries and taste like somewhere in between a wild blueberry and a raspberry.

    They are so popular that it’s sometimes hard to find them fresh unless you know someone who grows them in their backyard.

    But keep an eye out for jams and Grand Pre winery also sells a haskap sparkling wine.

     

    Raw Organic Green Fiddlehead Ferns Ready for Cooking

    Fiddleheads 

    Fiddleheads are young ferns before they unravel their frond. Found early in the Spring, they are a delicious green vegetable that tastes fantastic pan fried.

    There are so many great fiddlehead recipes. I love this deep-fried fiddlehead recipe, as it’s easy to master the first time cooking this foraged plant.

    BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO:
    Foraging Spring Plants

     
    Fiddleheads are so commonly foraged that you don’t need to go out in the forest to scope out the wet grounds yourself.

    You can find them in most farmers markets in the spring, around the same time as ramp season.

    Red and Green Pepper Jelly

    Nova Scotia is a province of preserving to get through the winter. Hot pepper jelly is very popular here. Both red and green pepper jelly is common in Nova Scotia, often served on fresh bread. 

    Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

    It’s not from Nova Scotia, but it certainly is a popular meal here. Since we have such great producers here it’s a local favourite.

    Foraged Food

    It’s becoming more common to see foraged food, especially from the sea, at farmer’s markets.

    Keep your eye out for Bay of Fundy sea lettuce, sea asparagus, rose hips and ramps.

     
    Jonny's Cookhouse in Berwick Nova Scotia.

    Nova Scotia’s Fast Food Favourites

    When I put the call out on Facebook for Nova Scotian food I was surprised at how many people gave me specific things to eat at specific places.

    These are not traditional food in Nova Scotia per se, but definitely local favourites so I wanted to include them.

    They really do reflect our quirky culture as the food is diverse and sometimes questionable in the best way.

    Donair Egg Roll

    We love donair any way we can get it. Not only is it available as a pizza, but you can also get it as a egg roll.

    The Hantsport Kwik Way convenience store is known as one of the best spots for this quirky Nova Scotia food.

     

    Nova Scotia sweet marie burger at Johnny's Cookhouse

    Sweet Maria Burger

    Jonny’s is a cookhouse featuring burgers, hot dogs and poutine. The burgers are ground in house and made on buns made daily.

    It’s also a dairy bar with indoor and outdoor seating and it’s always crowded, but its usually with takeaway food and after dinner ice cream.

    The Sweet Maria has bacon, pineapple, sweet chili sauce and mayo. If you’re feeling hungry splurge on the Jerry, which includes these toppings on two patties.

     

    Fried Chicken

    An agricultural area, Nova Scotia raises a lot of chicken.

    While we may not have the famous name of Kentucky or even the spiciness of Nashville Hot Chicken we do have great fried chicken. A & K Lick a Chick in Little Bras D’or is the place to go.

    Fries from Bud the Spud

    Sure you can get great fries everywhere but everyone knows where Bud the Spud is. And it’s often used as a point to give directions.

    This chip truck has been on Spring Garden Road in Halifax before food trucks were trendy.

    They used to cook the potatoes in lard, which made them delicious. But I’m not sure if that is still true.

    Jimmy Dogs 

    Raising the bar to what we think hot dogs. Made from naturally raised pigs without antibiotics, Jimmy Dogs are from Meadowbrook Farm Meat Market.

    There is no gluten, whey, soy, dairy, MSG, artificial dyes or animal by products.

    It’s just pure muscle meat making these hot dogs stand above the rest.

     
    The Chickenburger restaurant in Bedford Nova Scotia

    The Chickenburger

    The oldest drive-in diner in Canada, it still uses the same recipe for chicken on a bun that it did in 1940.

    If you feel like hamburgers have gotten too crazy in the last few years and yearn for simpler burger times then you’ll love the hamburgers here.

    Pizza at Pizza Corner

    A rite of passage for anyone going out drinking in Halifax. Nothing tastes better than a slice of greasy pizza at 2am with donair dipping sauce.

    Peanut Butter Burger 

    If you ever wondered what a peanut butter would ever taste like on a burger that already had bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese then head to Darrells restaurant.

    With gourmet burgers, fries and milkshakes you’ll wonder how you’ve survived without peanut butter as a burger topping.

     

    The Lunenburger hamburger at the Grand Banker in Lunenburg Nova Scotia

    The Lunenburger

    Served at The Grand Banker Bar & Grill in Lunenburg, this is a burger like no other. 

    Not only does it have 6 ounces of beef, but it also has:

    • smoked mozzarella
    • smoked bacon
    • baby spinach
    • garlic aioli
    • topped with Nova Scotia lobster knuckle and claw meat with tarragon butter sauce
    • local artisan bun
    • topped with a bacon-wrapped scallop

    Garlic Fingers with Donair Sauce

    While I’ve already explained what a donair is, the truth is the sauce is what makes this Nova Scotia food unique.

    Pizza dough, garlic butter topped with cheese. We order it alongside pizza and it’s cut into thin strips or “fingers”

    You can get it as a dipping sauce from pizza and instead of marinara sauce, it’s more common for Nova Scotians to get donair sauce.

    If you love it like I do, you can grab a bottle for home.

    Head to the deli department of a grocery store and they’ll have a few by the pizzas and garlic fingers to-go.

    Smelts

    When I grew up smelts were considered a poor man’s fish. But with the focus on eating sustainable fish, and people getting over their snobby selves, smelts have made a comeback.

    Fried whole, most joints will take the head off for you. You could try to eat around the bones, but they are so small I usually just chew through them.

     

    Slice of strawberry shortcake with white chocolate shavings.

    Nova Scotian Desserts + Sweets

    Nova Scotians love dessert, so much so that I probably could have written a list of 99 Nova Scotian desserts. 

    Strawberry Shortcake

    We didn’t invent strawberry shortcake but we do eat a lot of it. Strawberries are everywhere in Nova Scotia over the summer.

    My first job was picking strawberries and it’s my favourite season.

    Blueberry Grunt

    A traditional Nova Scotian dessert, blueberry grunt is cooked blueberries cooked with dumplings.

    It’s often served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

    Egg Tarts 

    Nova Scotia may seem small to some, but even we have our regional foods. Egg tarts are mostly found around Digby, particularly around Digby Neck.

    Traditionally they were only on Brier Island and Long Island, but mainlanders needed to make their own.

    Absolute musts are a homemade pastry shell, never frozen and a good custard filling. Brier Island is famous for tempting visitors with its unique recipe that also uses vinegar.

    It sounds odds but if you think egg tarts are too sweet the vinegar helps balance the sweetness.

    Coconut Cream Cake

    While coconut isn’t a local ingredient, the cafe at Wheaton’s furniture store has been serving coconut cream cake for so long that it’s become a Nova Scotian mainstay.

     

    Moon mist ice cream on grey background

    Moon Mist Ice Cream

    The original unicorn coloured dessert, moon mist is a mix of banana, grape and bubblegum ice cream.

    The colourful treat is meant for children. But I can’t resist ordering moon mist ice cream even if it’s just once each summer.

    The flavours aren’t natural tasting but they are delicious.

    I’ve heard you can get it out of the Maritimes, but it’s rare. But there’s nothing like eating it at home.

     
    Oat cakes on a white plate at Cedar House in Baddeck, Cape Breton Nova Scotia

    Oat Cakes

    Originally from Scotland, it’s a common Nova Scotian dessert or just a sweet for tea time. 

    Oatcakes can be served plain, but many bakeries in Nova Scotia make them with drizzled chocolate for an extra treat.

    Fruit Pie

    Friends gave a long list of pie suggestions including strawberry rhubarb, apple, blueberry and even coconut pie.

    All using seasonal fruit, except the coconut as they will never grow in our cold climate.

    The place to go for pie in the Annapolis Valley is Stirling’s.

    This is a very misleading piece of advice because while all the local’s call it Stirling’s, that was its original name and changed decades ago to Evangeline Motel and Inn Cafe.

    But Maritimers are persistent. Visiting Stirling’s in the summer for pie is a tradition. And if you can’t make it here’s their berry crisp recipe.

     

    Barrett's Privateers ice cream

    Privateer’s Bounty Ice Cream

    This ice cream may be newer but has a nod to our history, and certainly Nova Scotia’s unofficially song, Barrett’s Privateers.

    Most by the scoop shops will have Privateer’s Bounty, which has black licorice ribbons and crunchy pieces of butter toffee.

    Apple Crisp or Pie

    Being home to an apple valley we grow over 35 apples in Nova Scotia. While the Cortland is the most popular apple to cook with, every home cook has their own opinions. 

    Apple pie is always available, but there’s nothing like a good homemade apple crisp.

     

     
     
     
     
     
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    A friend brought me treats from home #NovaScotia #EastCoast #ClearToys #barleycandy #ChickenBones #CinnamonandChocolate Forgot how much I loved these.

    A post shared by Chantelle Muise (@chantellemax) on

    Barley Toys

    These hard candy treats are popular at Christmas.

    Made from barley sugar and water, you can buy bags of this red and white sugar candy, which come in odd shapes like a rooster or rocking horse.

    Chicken Bones

    The most bizarre Christmas candy, my mother loves them. They are rose pink cinnamon flavoured candy with a chocolate interior. 

    Strawberry Freezer Jam

    My family jokes that my grandmother would live off tea and toast (with jam).

    In the summer we would finish dinner and then the whole family would go to a strawberry U-Pick patch. It was a mandatory post-dinner activity because my grandmother would make enough jam for the entire year. 

    Berries aren’t cooked in freezer jam so it tastes more like summer with fresh berries.

    But as it’s not processed in a water bath like regular jam it must be kept in the fridge or freezer.

     

    Gaspereau Vineyard Tidal Bay wine

    Nova Scotian Drinks

    Nova Scotians fall on the spectrum from teetotalers to rum drinkers. It simply reflects our past.

    And today we still drink a lot of tea and a lot of rum, but a few other drinks you should keep an eye out for.

    The Good Cheer Trail is Nova Scotia’s winery, craft brewery, cidery and distillery trail. It outlines 35+ great spots to have a local drink in Nova Scotia.

    Tidal Bay Wine

    Nova Scotia’s appellation wine, you can only grow it here. It’s so popular with locals that wineries don’t have enough to export much of it.

    Nova Scotia is a newer wine region but has really evolved into defining what the region is all about. In 2012, Tidal Bay was launched as the wine of Nova Scotia.

    It is made by 11 wineries in Nova Scotia and while the flavour varies of each winery’s interpretation, it falls within a spectrum. It’s a cool climate white, which means it’s aromatic, with great acidity and pairs well with seafood.

    Beep

    If you grew up in Nova Scotia, you drank beep as a kid. It wasn’t 100% juice, but this sugar mix of orange, pineapple, plum, apricot and prune was so delicious.

    Why it was taken off the shelves in 2010 is beyond me, but probably the best for the next generation.

    Every once in a while they bring it back seasonally and we all rejoice in the cavities we’ll get from it. 

     
    Nova Scotia hard cider from Elderkins Farm Market

    Cider

    As an apple valley, cider is found everywhere but it’s not all the same as it can be made from a variety of apples.

    Spots like Elderkin’s farm market has tastings and we finally have an alcoholic cider house in Wolfville.

    Annapolis Cider Company is a fantastic spot to try a bunch of cider, but it’s best to go mid-day or during the week as it’s popular enough for the second location (hint hint).

    Tea

    Linking back to our English/Irish/Scottish roots, many people drink tea in Nova Scotia.

    There are lots of fun tea shops for afternoon tea. The Tangled Garden Tea Room in Grand Pre with its vintage china is beautiful.

    Although, really we just drink it everywhere, including our homes.

    What other Nova Scotia food should be on this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

    Pin it For Later: Nova Scotia Food

    Blueberries in a white bowl.
     

    Disclosure: This post is part of a paid series with Tourism Nova Scotia. I had the idea to write this post a year ago but it remained an unfinished draft until this program. I’m so thankful to great partners who make posts like this possible.

    Join the Conversation

    1. Shree Dhordo Gram Pravas Vikas says:

      Wavooo Yummy Food

    2. Margaret VanBlarcom says:

      Loved this post, Ayngelina. So many great spots I want to try now. Nice to have the wine pairings as well when entertaining! Thanks!

      Sweet Maria burger — here I come!!!

    3. Christine Robart says:

      Grape-nut Ice Cream
      Orange Pineapple Ice Cream
      Boiled Icing
      Lazy Daisy Cake

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Ooh these are interesting. Grapenut ice cream and orange pineapple you can find elsewhere – can you believe I had orange pineapple in Havana – although it wasn’t great.

        Boiled icing? Is that the recipe on the back of icing sugar? My Nanny always made that.

        And what’s a lazy daisy cake? Sounds like a great contender!

        1. Christine Robart says:

          I mentioned Grape Nut as my grandmother used to make it using a hand-cranked machine in the early 20th century as a Saturday Social in Harmony Kings Co. NS. I thought it was unique to the eat coast. Orange Pineapple is my oldest daughter’s favorite and she could never get it in BC or ON!

          My mother always made boiled icing on chocolate cakes…it is almost meringue-like and a co-worker from Cape Breton said recently it was his grandmother’s specialty but his mother never could make it the same.

          My mother always made Lazy Daisy cake from an old war cookbook as it was made with a simple boiled milk batter with a coconut caramel topping all baked in one step in one square pan…hence…lazy. I know sometimes see it at NS potlucks!

        2. As you know, grape nut ice cream is made from grape nut cereal. In Canada it’s definitely a maritime treat. My favourite ice-cream and in Canada is only available here at home, though it’s become popular in Jamaica and a few other places. “The cereal made its way into Canada, where according to one origin story, it fell into the hands of Hannah Young, a chef at the Palms restaurant in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. In 1919, Young reportedly ran out of fresh fruit to add to ice cream and reached instead for Grape-Nuts, according to an account written by her grandson, Paul.”

    4. Christine Robart says:

      *east

    5. Yummy!
      Thanks for sharing..

    6. The Granary Kitchen says:

      Outstanding Experience.
      Yummy…………..!

    7. I enjoyed reading your post so much! Plus, your pictures are making me hungry even if it’s just morning 🙂 . We will definitely consider the list of recommended foods and places when visiting Nova Scotia!

    8. Food is an important part of travel for me. I haven’t visited Nova Scotia yet but when I do…I definitely know all the things I want to try now .

    9. Bernice Hill says:

      I’m sitting in a local food hall right now, having just finished my first ‘Halifax style’ donair and I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed. Now I’m not a donair expert by any means but I feel like it could have been better.

      Now I know where to get my East coast recommendations from, should I ever travel eastward for the real thing!

    10. Wow! Who knew Nova Scotia had so many unique foods!!! While I’m familiar with (and love) donairs, I’ve never had blueberry soup or many of those delicious seafood dishes. NS is now on my travel bucket list for the food and the wine!!!

    11. Wow! What an excellent comprehensive list! I’ll definitely be using this as a reference when I take my dream trip out to the East Coast!

    12. Fouzia Husainy says:

      I have bookmarked some of the foods to eat that you have recommended for our next trip to the Maritimes. And I love your suggestion of purchasing the lobster directly from the fishermen and enjoying it at home. I want to take my own spices with me next time and try that out. Thanks for sharing your amazing list.

    13. Excellent list!!
      Living in Ontario, I would say coffee icecream is unique to Nova Scotia. Here they always try to call is Mocha with something added to it… not the same.

      Steamed carrot pudding for Christmas is not typical here. Is that a Nova Scotia thing?

      And the best Oat Cakes come from the Lahave Bakery.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I’ve never had steamed carrot pudding, or heard of it? But I did a quick search and can see recipes on PEI sites, so maybe it’s an islander food?

        I agree Lahave is amazing. Everything they make there is good but I’m going to make a note to try the oat cakes.

    14. Lorraine LeLievre says:

      You haven’t experienced meat pie from my neck of the woods- L’Ardoise, Richmond County. A Christmas treat, folks would chow down after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. We called it pate, though it is definitely not spreadable. It’s stewed meat in a pie crust. In the past, the meat would be game – rabbit, deer, whatever could be trapped or shot. Nowadays, it’s generally a mix of beef, pork and chicken. Sooo good. (You have to lift the top crust and spread a good gob of mustard in there first.)
      Another childhood favourite was dewberries. They resemble raspberries, but they were very glossy, not dusky like raspberries. I don’t know if they still even exist. 🤷🏼‍♀️
      A current favourite of mine is haskap gin. Mmm mmm.
      There is a shop in Kentville that sells Beep-scented candles.

    15. qualifyfoods says:

      Nice article that was…keep it up
      Thanks…& Good luck

    16. We toured Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, and PEI and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I actually dream about a seafood casserole I ordered frequently. Most places had a version, and each one was excellent. It had a cream based thick seafood layer topped with a “lightly breaded” thin kind of crust. I have looked for recipes, but none seem like that from my dream lunch menu. Do you happen to know of a recipe????

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I don’t have a recipe on the site but what your describing sounds like this

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.food.com/amp/recipe/maritime-canada-seafood-casserole-288470

    17. I am now living in Montreal,but from Nova Scotia…
      I visit once a year and the first place i go is to Brothers meat market.
      When i was 3 years old i met a young girl called Margaret..
      She was the daughter of the original owner.
      I had my first deli sandwhich with their children at lunch time and loved it.
      They are the only deli i will buy from…their pepperoni is to DIE for.
      If you haven’t tried it…
      You have never tasted real deli.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        You know I’ve had the pepperoni so many times as it’s a staple here but I’ve never actually been to the deli. What sandwich did you get? Maybe I’ll go and try it!

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