Canadian cuisine might not be number one on the list of reasons why people visit the Great White North, but perhaps it should be. Canada has given the world a number of unique and delicious dishes and no visit would be complete without sampling a few. Drawing on inspiration from the food of indigenous Canadian peoples as well as from the European ancestry of the country, traditional Canadian food has been described as “a collage of cuisines”. The result? Truly mouth-watering. Get your eTA online application form filled out, grab your passport, and head to Canada for a unique culinary experience!
Poutine – one of Canada’s national dishes
If there’s one dish that is synonymous with Canada, it is poutine. This fast food gem originated in Quebec and is now a national favourite, served everywhere across the world’s second-largest country. This uniquely Canadian spin on French fries adds a peppery gravy and cheese curds to your chips.
Poutine can be a side or a meal in itself and can be found everywhere in Canada, from cafés to food trucks and from high-end restaurants to McDonald’s. It is the perfect warming, high-energy dish to power you through the snowy Canadian winters and it goes down pretty well in summer too!
Bannock – a delicious native Canadian bread
Bannock is a tasty and surprisingly versatile bread that comes from the indigenous people of North America, including Canada’s First Nations. Although the name comes from a type of Scottish flatbread, the Canadian bannock is distinct.
In modern times, there are many variations, including dense baked versions and fried versions with crispy exteriors and fluffy insides. It can be served in a number of ways, but for a hearty Canadian meal, try some traditional peameal bacon (see below) on top.
Butter tarts – Canada’s favourite pastry
Canadian butter tarts are simplicity played to perfection. Crumbly pastries with a filling of butter, egg, and sugar make for a sweet treat that can be found at bakeries and coffee shops across Canada.
Ontario is the home of the butter tart, which is thought to date back to the 19th century. Believe it or not, there is a Butter Tart Tour in Kawarthas Northumberland and a Butter Tart Trail consisting of 18 bakeries around the rural community of Kenilworth. There are plenty of excellent butter tarts in Toronto as well if you’d prefer a city break.
Split pea soup – keeping Canadians warm in winter since the country was founded
Another classic Québécois dish, split pea soup dates back to the foundations of French Canada. Eaten by early explorers, the original version of the soup was made using cured meats and dried peas brought with them from France, combined with vegetables grown in Canada itself.
Split pea soup has stood the test of time, with modern versions blending peas, pork, and herbs into a delicious creamy mix. This Canadian dish is perfect for warming you up after a day of skiing in the Rockies or ice-fishing in Quebec.
BeaverTails – one of Canada’s best loved franchises
Calling BeaverTails a “traditional” food might be pushing it a little, but there is no denying that these sweet pastries have been a staple of Canadian culture for decades and are something that no visitor should leave without trying.
BeaverTails are essentially a large wad of deep-fried dough, similar to a donut. There is no hole, however; the shape resembles, well, a beaver’s tail. Topped with sugar, nutella, peanut butter, or a variety of other things, they can be found at BeaverTails® restaurants up and down the country.
The recipe for BeaverTails is said to have been passed down for generations through the Hooker family, who started selling them commercially in 1978 and started one of Canada’s most beloved food franchises.
Nanaimo bars – a classic dessert from the Great White North
This triple-layered dessert is a must for all visitors to Canada with a sweet tooth. Nanaimo bars have a crumb base, a middle layer of either custard or vanilla butter icing, and a chocolate ganache to top it off.
Named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia, where it is alleged to have been invented, the Nanaimo bar has been called “Canada’s favourite confection”.
Canada is well-known for its history as a frontier country. Settlers from Europe expanded to the west and north, with many becoming hunters and trappers. The country is home to many large species of deer and big game meat has been a staple of Canadian cuisine for centuries, from venison to caribou and even moose. Game meat can be served in many different ways — you can even try moose tacos!
Saskatoon berry pie – not named after the city!
A truly Canadian pie, this delicious dessert is made using native Saskatoon berries. With a sweet flavour that bears a similarity to almonds, these berries are the perfect ingredient for a pie.
A piece of extra berry trivia: the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after the berry and not the other way around.
Canadian bacon – a unique, lean take on breakfast
Also known as “peameal bacon”, Canada’s version of bacon is a cut of lean pork loin rather than meat from the belly of the pig, as with bacon in most parts of the world. The cut is then brined and rolled in cornmeal (historically in yellow peas, hence the name) as a preservation technique.
This makes Canadian bacon a unique and delicious food to have with breakfast, on a sandwich, or paired with a bannock (see above).
Tourtière – for the perfect Christmas in Quebec
As you might have guessed from the name, tourtière is a French Canadian dish, whose roots date back to the 1600s. This savoury pie is traditionally a festive food eaten in Quebec around Christmas and New Year.
A flaky pastry packed with ground meat (there are beef, pork, game, and even fish varieties), herbs, and spices, this hearty pie is a winter favourite among the Québécois.