Sandcastles, lighthouses and PEI food make the memories that keep us coming back to the island.
I’m sure for many outside the Maritimes, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia could be combined into one province.
We shared an area code (902) for decades and we’re both small. And yet the cultures are similar but also different.
It’s not just the red sands, it’s the local slang and even the food in Prince Edward Island.
We may share some ingredients and yet the food is different. It is known as Canada’s Food Island, because of its wealth of quality ingredients.
And that’s why Nova Scotians go to PEI for a vacation. It’s familiar but also different enough that it feels like a holiday.
From the time of family vacations when we were young to adulthood, Prince Edward Island is a time to relax, enjoy and indulge.
It’s BUD the SPUD from the bright red mud
Goin down the highway smiling –
The Spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig
And they’re from Prince Edward Island
– Stompin’ Tom Connors
Prince Edward Island is one of the few places in the world where potatoes are discussed so much.
Perhaps only in Dublin or Peru would locals so vehemently debate where to find the best potato dish or who has the best french fries.
The single most important PEI food is the potato. This little island produces 25% of Canadian potatoes, are exported internationally and bring in roughly a billion dollars.
It’s also a good excuse to splurge and get a side of fries instead of salad with your meal.
And if you really want to splurge get the salty sweet Cow’s chocolate covered potato chips.
Another iconic PEI food you absolutely cannot miss. Oyster season is all year long and if you’re not sure if you like oysters, a trip to PEI will change everything.
The most famous are the Malpeque oyster, which are from Malpeque Bay but actually all oysters in PEI are the Malpeque species.
It takes at least two years to farm a single oyster – some take many more years.
They are usually generalized as sweet and briny. A few years ago at the International Shellfish Festival I tried 24 different kinds grown around the island.
I can tell you the taste varies depending on where they are cultivated.
PEI chowder is similar but different from Nova Scotia chowder or what you’ll find in New Brunswick.
This is because chowder reflects where it is made. And so in PEI it is made with its best ingredients.
In PEI chowder tends to be a bit thicker, and also has more potato.
You can find a typical seafood chowder, or a more specific potato mussel chowder.
I have also heard that the lobster chowder at the Seafood Shack in Morell beside the gas station is incredible.
One of the most well known knows of “Anne with an E” is when she invites her best friend Diana over for tea.
She serves what she thinks is raspberry cordial, but doesn’t have any herself as she isn’t feeling well.
Diana loves the cordial and remarks it doesn’t taste like Mrs.Lyndes. But that is because Anne mistakenly served currant wine.
Diana gets drunk her family blames Anne for the misdeed.
I spent a day in Souris this summer and it was my favourite day.
Not only were there lots of things to do, the people were so friendly and it is home to some of the best PEI food.
There is not only one but two Oh Fudge PEI Potato Fudge shops in Souris, one downtown and one at the beach…and you can also buy potato fudge at the Canadian Potato Museum on the western coast of Prince Edward Island.
Recipes vary but essentially it is a fudge made with mashed potatoes, unsweetened chocolate, sugar and other flavours.
It’s surprisingly delicious and worth a try!
Although Prince Edward Island is known for its amazing seafood, that doesn’t mean you should ignore its beef.
Restaurants in Saint John
Due to the nature of being a small island, most cattle is raised on smaller land owned by families.
They are often free range, because there is no where to go and feeds on the grass salted by the ocean, and usually eat potatoes along with grain.
PEI beef on the whole is high quality so it may just be the time to splurge on a steak dinner.
Dairy is a season business in Prince Edward Island. ADL (Amalgamated Dairies Limited) has been around for almost 70 years and sponsors a dairy bar crawl in each of the counties.
And there’s also the famous Cow’s Creamery (above) with shops in Charlottetown.
On the east side, Cherry on Top Creamery operates out of the East Point Lighthouse. It is a small batch handmade ice cream, run by a chef who once worked with Chef Michael Smith.
And in Summerside Holman’s Ice Cream not only makes their own ice cream, but the waffle cones too.
If you’re looking for soft serve on the western side check out Dairy Royal, a local favourite.
Clam digging in the red sands of Prince Edward followed by a clam bake takes this iconic seafood experience to a new level.
Bar or surf clams, quahaugs and soft shell clams are commonly found on PEI menus.
Clam harvest season is April through December. And locals also make homemade bottled bar clams, if you’re lucky enough to know one.
CHEESE + BUTTER
Although Cows is famous for its ice cream, where it really shines is the Avonlea Clothbound cheddar and also the butter.
If I want to splurge on butter (like in this whipped chive butter recipe) I always get Cow’s Creamery.
It is probably as good as you’re going to get anywhere unless you go to Ireland. But even the regular regular ADL cheese is great
And if you like Gouda DO NOT miss Glasgow Glen Farms.
Formerly known as the Gouda Cheese Lady, if you don’t love gouda this spot will change your mind.
Locals have told me that PEI lobster, vs lobster in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick is sweeter and has a more pronounced flavour.
They say it’s because the water around PEI is more shallow and warmer than the North Atlantic.
To be honest, as a Nova Scotian, I don’t know if that is true.
However, I do love eating lobster in Prince Edward Island. A few years ago I wrote a seafood guide and tried to eat all the lobster rolls I could.
Skip eating them in Charlottetown. The best lobster rolls are outside the city.
While lobster is available all year round, PEI had two lobster seasons:
- May to June
- August to October
FRIES WITH THE WORKS
Fries with the works, also known as FWTW is a unique PEI food that I have never seen anywhere.
It was invented in 1975 at Pat’s Take-Out in Unionvale, which has since closed.
It is made with four key ingredients:
- french fries
- ground beef
- canned peas
This is not to be confused with a similar dish of Newfoundland fries that has fries topped with stuffing, peas and gravy.
You can find it all over the island. And today there are numerous toppings.
One of the most underrated PEI food, the island produces 80% of all mussels in Canada.
You’ll find them in many restaurants, streamed often with wine or beer. It’s a great afternoon snack.
Although the PEI Handpie Company is located near Confederation Bridge, you can find their products all over the island.
These flaky pastries have a number of savoury fillings, favourites include pulled pork and Acadian tourtiere.
There are also several vegetarian options available.
While you can get beer anywhere, it’s worth visiting a few or all of the craft breweries:
- Copper Bottom Brewing, Montague
- Bogside Brewing, Montague
- PEI Brewing Company, Charlottetown
- Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown
- Gahan House, Charlottetown
- Evermoore Brewing Company, Summerside
- Moth Lane Brewing, Ellerslie
- Barnone Brewery and Hope Farm, Breadalbane
Made with Irish moss seaweed, this is actually a sweet dessert.
It could be described as similar to cheesecake, but not as sweet. You can find it in the Country Kitchen inside the Canadian Potato Museum.
This PEI food is originally from the town of Miminegash at the very northern tip of the island, which was once considered the Irish moss capital of the world.
This pie was once made in Miminegash at the Seaweed Pie Cafe, which has now closed, and Irish moss is no longer harvested commercially.
And while it may seem odd that a cheesecake is made with this sea plant, it isn’t really! The thickening agent carrageenan, common in many of our foods, is made from Irish moss.
If you think PEI food is bland with just potatoes think again. I saw an extraordinary amount of local hot sauce sold.
I couldn’t buy it all but I did pick up a bottle of Maritime Madness Candied Habarero from their Montague shop.
I also bought Souris Sauces Siren’s Hot Sauce because I loved my time in Souris and I hoped the sauce would be as good as the little town.
What PEI food did I miss? What do you think I should try next time?
Pin it: Food in PEI
This post about PEI Food is in partnership with Tourism Prince Edward Island. Although I have enjoyed PEI many times. I returned this summer with their recommendations, but also the freedom to go where I chose and recommend what I loved.