The best and most famous Canadian dishes to try when visiting Canada. Seek out these treats to experience authentic local Canadian cuisine.
Canada is famous for its social programs, free healthcare, universal schooling, and its gorgeous lakes and mountains. However, there are more important reasons to move to Canada than just these things – it also has some amazing food that you must not miss if you plan to live here or visit.
Canada is home to many mouth-watering snacks, meals, and traditional foods. From maple syrup to poutine, smoked meat to lobster rolls, Timbits to sucre à la crème, the country and its residents have shown a passion for delicious foods time and time again. The country has a wide range of cultural influences, which results in some pretty interesting culinary combinations. Canadians love to experiment with different flavours, textures, and preparation techniques to create something new and exciting every day.
Canadians love their food (and we get it)! From the high-end restaurants in Montreal and Toronto to the popular greasy spoons of small towns across the country, Canadians will spend their hard-earned money on food. Food is so important to Canadians that they even celebrate it once a year with an entire day dedicated to nothing but eating. That’s right, we’re talking about National Poutine Day taking place annually on March 5th.
Today, you can find traditional Canadian food everywhere in the world. Okay, maybe not quite everywhere, but you don’t have to go far to find a restaurant serving poutine and maple syrup-drenched pancakes. Foods with distinctly Canadian roots are famous around the globe thanks to Canada’s thriving cultural exports and immigrants from all corners of the country. There are several particularly Canadian meals that you must taste at least once in your life, whether you reside in Canada or are planning a trip anytime soon.
Here is a list of 30 traditional dishes and snacks that will give you an insight into what it means to be Canadian. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
- Popular Traditional Canadian Foods and Dishes
- 1. Poutine (Quebec)
- 2. Montreal Bagels (Montreal)
- 3. Montreal-style smoked meat (Montreal)
- 4. Steamies – Steamed hot-dog (Montreal)
- 5. Split pea soup (Quebec)
- 6. Tourtière (Quebec)
- 7. Pouding au chômeur (Quebec)
- 8. Hawaiian Pizza (Ontario)
- 9. Peameal Bacon (Ontario)
- 10. Nova Scotia donair (Nova Scotia)
- 11. Bannock (Indigenous)
- 12. Canadian Baked beans (Indigenous)
- 13. Saskatoon berry pie (Canadian Prairies: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba)
- 14. Jigs Dinner (Atlantic: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island)
- 15. Lobster rolls (Atlantic: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island)
- 16. Toutons (Newfoundland)
- 17. Fiddleheads (Indigenous)
- Famous Canadian Snacks and Treats
- 19. Maple Taffy (Quebec)
- 20. Sucre à la crème (Quebec)
- 21. Beavertails (Ontario)
- 22. Butter tarts (Ontario)
- 23. Ketchup chips (Ontario)
- 24. Tim Hortons’s Donuts and Timbits (Ontario)
- 25. Persian (Ontario)
- 26. Figgy Duff (New-Foundland)
- 27. Date square (Alberta)
- 28. Bloody Caesars (Calgary)
- 29. Nanaimo bars (Vancouver)
- 30.London fog (Vancouver)
- Which of these famous Canadian foods will you try first?
Popular Traditional Canadian Foods and Dishes
1. Poutine (Quebec)
Naturally, we are going to start with poutine, because nothing truly gets more Canadian than poutine. Poutine — Crispy fries, squeaky cheese curds, and rich gravy all come together to make the ultimate comfort food — is a classic Canadian food, said to have originated in Quebec City during the 1950s. Poutine was created in Quebec City in 1950, and the French-Canadian dish has taken over Canada and is beloved by everyone ever since.
The dish has become so famous that it can now be found all around the world. Whilst the traditional recipe is already tasty, poutines topped with things like pulled pork and bacon, smoked meat and pre-cooked, shredded lobster meat are very popular as well. If you are near downtown Montreal, you should try the poutine from La Banquise – The best poutine on earth according to most people.
2. Montreal Bagels (Montreal)
Bagels from Montreal are the unsung champions of superb Canadian cuisine. Montreal bagels are sweeter, denser, and thinner than their New York counterparts, and are frequently coated in poppy seeds, sesame seeds or salt and are often sold individually.
St-Viateur is a veritable landmark in Montreal’s bagels history, with a wood-fired oven that’s been blazing since 1957. It’s a place of beauty open all day, every day. Another variation that everyone must try at least once in their life is the bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon that can be found in any café.
3. Montreal-style smoked meat (Montreal)
The smoked meat served in Montreal is made from beef brisket that has been salted and spiced for a week before being smoked and steamed to perfection. It’s typically served in a rye bread sandwich with pungent yellow mustard, but it’s also used as a poutine topper.
Dunn’s Famous may be the most popular smoked meat chain in Canada. Dunn’s Famous has been established for almost 90 years and has expanded throughout Montreal and Canada. They have a comprehensive menu that includes a variety of ways to savour their unique smoked pork. With many locations throughout Montreal, you can easily grab a bite to eat no matter where you are.
If you’re in downtown Montreal, Schwartz’s Deli’s smoked meat sandwiches have won international praise, and some enthusiasts consider it one of Canada’s best restaurants.
4. Steamies – Steamed hot-dog (Montreal)
Steamies are steamed hot dogs filled with an assortment of condiments, most often including ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions. Remember the restaurant La Banquise for their famous poutine? Well, they also have one of the best steamies in Montreal.
Make this spot a must in your list and enjoy two of the most famous dishes at the same time. The restaurant was serving hot dogs well before the poutine was invented. Montréal is one of the few Canadian cities with a true hot dog culture, and we can credit the steamie for that.
5. Split pea soup (Quebec)
This hearty soup is perfect for bone-chilling days and has been a Quebec favourite for almost 400 years. For good cause too. Pure comfort is built from components that are simple to store. Yellow split peas, ham hock, vegetables, and thyme are used to make split pea soup, which is typically eaten with toast. Soup made with split peas can be served as an appetizer or as a main entrée.
6. Tourtière (Quebec)
If you are looking for hearty comfort food, look no further than French Canadian Tourtière, a meaty, flavorful pie that is typically enjoyed around the holidays (but is also enjoyed all year long). Tourtière is a Canadian meat pie dish that originated in Quebec, where it is still a traditional part of the New Years’ meals.
A traditional Quebecois meat pie, typically filled with beef, pork, or veal, the Tourtière is the quintessential Canadian comfort food that has a worldwide appeal.
7. Pouding au chômeur (Quebec)
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This Canadian delicacy, literally translated as unemployment pudding, was produced in Québec during the Great Depression, making it one of the most traditional Canadian delicacies on the list. It’s a testament to the principle that less is more, with only a few key ingredients coming together to make a delectable, cosy dessert that’s still popular with Canadians. It’s not as cakey as American versions, but it contains a far more interesting filling than a standard Canadian pie.
8. Hawaiian Pizza (Ontario)
The modern pizza we know today emerged from dishes created in the 18th and 19th centuries in Naples, Italy. Hawaiian pizza is a regional variation of the dish, which typically consists of ham and pineapple, as well as cheese and tomato sauce.
It did not originate in Hawaii, despite the name. The first known Hawaiian pizza was created at a restaurant in Ontario Canada in 1962 by a Greek immigrant called Sam Panopoulos. Inspired by his trip to Naples, he decided to introduce pizza to the menu.
Today at some point in the never-ending debate on whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza, there are two types of people in Canada: those who like pineapple on pizza and those who don’t. You should try it out to find out which group you are in.
9. Peameal Bacon (Ontario)
Originally from Ontario and more commonly known as Peameal Bacon in Canada, but labelled Canadian Bacon in the rest of the world, this is a lean cut of pork loin. Peameal bacon is different from the traditional Canadian bacon, which is smoke-backed bacon made with pork belly — peameal bacon is made with boneless, lean pork loin instead.
Peameal bacon is a very popular meat, often served at breakfast with Canada Fried Eggs. If you would like to experience a classic example of Peameal bacon, go to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto — it is known for its peameal bacon sandwiches. Alternatively, you can make your own at home with this great recipe. The Canadian bacon was made popular in Canada thanks to an English-born Canadian pork packer named William Davis.
10. Nova Scotia donair (Nova Scotia)
Greek or Turkish in origin, also known as “gyros” and “kebabs”, Donairs are Canadian fast-casual foods invented in the 70s in Halifax, Nova-Scotia by chain-owners of the Donair chain which have been featured on Food Network Canada, The National Geographic, and others.
Renowned east coast Canadian comfort meal with a distinct flavour that can’t be found anyplace else! It’s created with seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, and onions, then wrapped in steamed pita bread and topped with a unique sweet garlic donair sauce!
11. Bannock (Indigenous)
Bannock is a bread that was once a mainstay in the diets of Canada’s Indigenous people. It’s delicious and flexible. Baked and fried, varieties of Bannock are two modern variations which are crispy and fluffy on the inside.
Bannock has been increasingly popular in recent years, with new twists and variations sprouting up in bakeries and cafes across the country.
12. Canadian Baked beans (Indigenous)
Baked beans have a long and illustrious history in Canada. With Indigenous variants dating back to the 1800s, the bean’s adaptability and history stretch from coast to coast.
They’re served with a big breakfast in Newfoundland, with Toutons to soak up the sweet savoury juices. They’re thick and sweet with molasses in Nova Scotia; in Quebec, they’re boiled with pork and maple syrup for the famed “fèves au lard,” and in British Columbia, gold rush versions are still served.
Maple Syrup is our favourite, and you can make them at home.
13. Saskatoon berry pie (Canadian Prairies: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba)
The Saskatoon berry pie is known for its sweet and almond flavour, making it an excellent contender for the ultimate pie. Truly, even a small portion of this will transform your life. It’s no surprise that Saskatoon was named after it, rather than the other way round.
The pie originated in Canada’s Prairies region and is frequently served as a dessert with vanilla ice cream. The main ingredients of the pie crust are sugar, cornstarch or flour, butter, and lemon zest/juice. You can create this classic Canadian dessert with this recipe.
14. Jigs Dinner (Atlantic: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island)
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Newfoundland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean and Canada’s easternmost province. Jiggs dinner — boiled salt beef, cabbage, potato, carrot, and turnip — is a well-loved traditional Newfoundland and Labrador dish that is the province’s equivalent of comfort food mostly served at Sunday dinner.
The word ‘Jiggs’ comes from the Jiggs meat firm in New York, whose salt meat was used to make a boiled meal which was transported to Newfoundland in Jiggs barrels, hence the name.
15. Lobster rolls (Atlantic: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island)
One of the culinary gems introduced to Canada from France, this is probably the most distinctive and extravagant of Canadian dishes.
The Canadian hard-shell Atlantic lobster is also known by several other names, such as Atlantic lobster, American lobster, Canada red, northern lobster, and Maine lobster. The name clam-flake is a unique one for Canadian Prairies, those in eastern Canada or British Columbia may not know what this is. A must for all seafood connoisseurs.
16. Toutons (Newfoundland)
Toutons are a classic Newfoundland breakfast dish composed of bread dough pan-fried in butter or swine fat. It’s known as a Newfoundland pancake. Some folks prefer maple syrup or molasses. They have a crispy surface and a chewy middle when appropriately cooked.
They’re usually served as part of a full-cooked breakfast that includes fried eggs, baked beans, home fries, fried bologna, sausage, bacon, or other breakfast meats.
And the good news is Toutons can be made in less than 20 minutes!
17. Fiddleheads (Indigenous)
You have to eat your greens and what better way than Fiddleheads, the furled fronds of a young fern. The Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Penobscot peoples of Eastern Canada have been harvesting fiddleheads and introduced this healthy treat to the first British settlers.
Also called Ostrich ferns or fiddlehead greens, they grow wild in wet areas of northeastern North America in spring, so fresh fiddleheads are available in the market for only a few weeks. However, you can buy them frozen or pickled all year round. The vegetable is typically steamed, boiled or sautéed before being eaten hot, with hollandaise sauce, butter, lemon, vinegar and/or garlic, or chilled in a salad or with mayonnaise.
Famous Canadian Snacks and Treats
Maple syrup, often known as “liquid gold”, in Canada, is a real one-of-a-kind product. The maple leaf, which is made from the sweet sap of the maple tree, even appears on the Canadian flag — but it’s much more than a pancake topping. Packed with nutrients and antioxidants it is used in a wide range of recipes.
In the 1500s, long before European settlers arrived, Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands knew and cherished it. The piercing of a maple’s bark and the use of its sweet water to prepare venison, according to Haudenosaunee legend, was an accident. Maple curing was an Anishinaabe food preservation process that allowed communities to stockpile food throughout the winter months when food was limited.
Though Canada is well-known for its maple syrup, most of the natural product is produced in Quebec — representing 96% of Canadian product export and approximately two-thirds of the world’s maple syrup.
19. Maple Taffy (Quebec)
It doesn’t get much more Canadian than the maple taffy — tyre d’érable in French.
This syrupy delicious candy is made by pouring boiling maple syrup over snow, which hardens it immediately due to the cold [otherwise it sounds like the snow hardens!!]. Then you’re supposed to roll it up with a popsicle stick and eat it right away. The outcome is a delicious snack with a deep maple flavour and a soft, gooey texture.
This dessert to die for is popular in sugar shacks (Cabanes à sucre). This Quebec custom stretches back to the time of the First Nations. The French colonizers adopted the habit of tapping maple trees for sap in the 19th century, taking advantage of the natural occurrence of shifting temperatures. It quickly became a province-wide tradition.
20. Sucre à la crème (Quebec)
Sucre à la crème — Sugar with cream — is a classic Canadian fudge from the province of Quebec. Although the components are minimal and basic, the result is sweet and delicious! It is made with brown sugar, white sugar, heavy cream and butter.
Sucre à la crème can be found at any supermarket or convenience store.
21. Beavertails (Ontario)
The BeaverTail is an authentically Canadian treat. A basic, hand-stretched wheat dough that is deep-fried, crispy and chewy at the same time when served hot, it stands out as a Canadian staple pleasure.
Delving into its history, the beaver is Canada’s largest rodent and symbolic icon, so it’s no surprise that this sweet treat bears its name. Early settlers began to cook their bread over an open fire, taking inspiration from traditional methods of preparing meat over an open fire. It was quick and easy to cook over an open fire, stretched across one or two sticks in the shape of a beaver’s tail, using a dough that required little to no rising.
This bread is known as Bannock and is comparable to the dough used for BeaverTails today. Many consider it to be the beginning of Canada’s archetypal sweet delicacy. BeaverTails Canada Inc. trademarked the dessert in 1978, claiming ownership of its creation and you can find them here.
22. Butter tarts (Ontario)
The butter tart is one of the few Canadian pastries. A butter tart is a small pastry tart made of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg that is put into a flaky pastry shell and baked until the filling is semi-solid and the top is crunchy. You can also find different variations such as walnuts or pecans. This recipe if you are looking to treat yourself.
The origin is attributed to the Filles du Roi (King’s Daughters), a group of roughly 800 young women from France who were transported to Québec to help populate the country between 1663 and 1673. These young girls carried their traditional European recipes with them, but they were compelled to modify them to the available ingredients.
23. Ketchup chips (Ontario)
Ketchup chips and dill pickle chips are also super-popular flavours that are endemic to the Canadian junk food scene. By chips, here we mean the North American term for what we know as crisps in the UK!
Canada’s speciality snacks are oddly addicting and are worth a try. Many brands have tried their own Ketchup flavour with some dividing opinions.
24. Tim Hortons’s Donuts and Timbits (Ontario)
Tim Horton, a legend in the National Hockey League, launched his first store in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1964. Tim Horton and the first franchisee, Ron Joyce, became full partners in 1967.
The Timbit was first released in 1976, and it quickly became a Canadian icon. Tim Horton died in 1974, and Ron Joyce founded the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation (THCF) to honour Tim’s love of children and commitment to aiding those in need. Tim Hortons now operates and franchises 5291 outlets around the world. Canadians can now enjoy their coffee and doughnuts all year in almost every city in the country.
Chocolate Glazed, Birthday cake and Honey dip are some of the flavours available. Here are some good suggestions for what flavour you should try first.
25. Persian (Ontario)
Don’t be fooled: the Persian isn’t Persian. This is unmistakably a North American pastry — from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Its name is said to be derived from John J Pershing, an American general in World War I; however, Danny Nucci, owner of Thunder Bay’s Persian Man bakery, is the closest thing to a primary source.
Persian doughnuts are cinnamon bun doughnuts topped with raspberry buttercream! These doughnuts are a must-try for cinnamon bun fans. With a lovely cinnamon swirl, the dough is light and airy.
This wonderful deep-fried cinnamon bun can be made following this recipe
26. Figgy Duff (New-Foundland)
Newfoundland Figgy Duff is unrelated to figs. In fact, in several regions of the province, raisins have traditionally been referred to as figs.
This traditional steamed bread pudding hails from Newfoundland on Canada’s East Coast, and its quirky name comes from two old Cornish colloquialisms: “figgy”, a term for raisins, and “duff,” another term for pudding. Warm rum is used to infuse the sultana-rich bread pudding, which is then topped with a maple-infused butter sauce.
27. Date square (Alberta)
Originally from Alberta, date squares are a popular Canadian dessert that can be found in almost any coffee shop in the country.
What’s odd is that dates aren’t grown anywhere close to Canada. The crust is made with oats, flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon and the filling is made with pitted dates, water, vanilla and brown sugar. All combined it makes the most delicious comfort food treats.
28. Bloody Caesars (Calgary)
Canada’s national cocktail is Bloody Caesar. Made with vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce, it is the perfect brunch partner.
Restaurants and bars have recently stepped up their garnish game to include items such as an entire roast chicken, burgers, hot dogs, sliders, onion rings, and more, as well as the traditional celery stalk and celery salt rim. It can be found in any Pub.
29. Nanaimo bars (Vancouver)
Nanaimo Bars are a Canadian dessert staple originating in Nanaimo, a town on Vancouver Island, BC. It is made with a chocolate cracker crumb base, a custard icing and topped with a chocolate coating. It can be found at any café and sometimes in convenience stores.
Although Canada is where the Nanaimo bars originated, you can find them in many places around the world these days, but none are better than those found in Vancouver and British Columbia!
30.London fog (Vancouver)
The London Fog is a classic drink made with a carefully brewed cup of Organic Earl Grey, a dab of vanilla syrup, steamed milk, and a sprig of lavender.
The misty plume generated by the warm milk hitting the dark Earl Grey tea turned the colour of a foggy London afternoon, and thus the name was coined. The perfect warm and comforting drink for cold Canadian weather.
Those who aren’t familiar with the Pacific Northwest or Canada’s west coast may not know the London Fog by its various names: the Early Grey Latte, Vanilla Tea Misto, or Vancouver Fog.
Which of these famous Canadian foods will you try first?
When you visit or move to Canada, you can be sure that you won’t go hungry!
Canadian cuisine is bursting with tons of delicious and traditional foods, colourful, delicious, and diverse there are a few that stand out the most. Those 30 traditional and famous dishes and snacks, full of exciting tastes and textures, will wow your taste buds. From poutine to Toutons, split pea soup to peameal bacon, Canada has it all.
The country is extremely proud of its heritage and each day there are dozens of festivals commemorating and celebrating different aspects of that heritage. From maple syrup tasting events to food-related celebrations of Canada’s history, each one of these is worth a try.
However, you may be wondering, where should you start with Canadian food? Well—you should start with poutine because it’s a quintessential Canadian dish. From savoury to sweet, there’s something for everyone. Next up on the list is Montreal bagels — a delicious, crunchy bread where the outside is brushed with a sugary glaze. If you’re craving something savoury, steamies can provide the perfect accompaniment to your meal. Last, but not least, split pea soup is a great option for warm weather and do not forget the London fog!
There is no doubt that Canada has many great things to offer in culinary terms and we hope that this article will help you plan your next trip to Canada!
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