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10 Must-Try Canadian Foods


Canada is known for many things – snow, success at the winter Olympics, snow, extreme politeness, snow...but one thing it’s not renowned for is gourmet cuisine. This isn’t really fair – astoundingly multi-cultural, Canada’s larger cities boast everything from street-side dim sum to five-star dining. But finding truly local cuisine can be challenging, so here are a few hints on what to eat and drink while you’re in the Great White North:


If there’s one dish that’s truly Canadian, poutine is it. In fact, it’s truly French Canadian, but that doesn’t stop the hungry and the hungover from across the country munching on this unhealthy snack. It sounds pretty gross – a pile of fries layered with rich gravy and cheese curds – but it’s actually delicious, if not diet-friendly. You can’t avoid poutine in Quebec but you’ll also find it in bars and cafes from Halifax to Victoria, costing around $5.

Chicken Wings

Not exactly unique to Canada, but you can’t enjoy a pitcher without sampling the nation’s favourite bar snack. Generally a mixture of mini drumsticks as well as wings, they come smothered in an array of sauces – choose anything from the standard spicy marinade to Guinness BBQ or Indian Butter Spice.


Introduced by Canada’s Eastern European population, pierogies are now as much Canadian as they are Ukrainian. These light parcels filled with meat, potatoes or cheese are perfect for warming up in the bitter and seemingly endless Canadian winter. Find them as a cheap appetiser on bar menus across Ontario and Manitoba.

Elk, moose, buffalo and deer

Canada is generally a nation of meat eaters and it’s not too tough to find game meat on a menu. Quebec City in particular boasts plenty of restaurants specialising in unusual meats. It may come as a surprise, but moose meat is not widely sold, though with a bit of research and hunting (of the internet variety) you should find a few places in the western or northern provinces to sample Canada’s oddest looking creature. Game meat in a restaurant will set you back around $20, but you’ll sometimes find butchers that offer elk and deer alongside regular meats. Ask them how to prepare it, then cook it up yourself at the hostel.

Tim Hortons Donuts

Canadians are fiercely proud of their home-grown donut chain and many wouldn’t even consider starting their day without a Timmy’s coffee. Fight your way through the lunchtime crowds and opt for one of the excellent value lunch deals: soup, sandwich, coffee and one of their vast selection of donuts for a little over $5.

Beaver Tails

Vegetarians, don’t navigate away – we’re not talking about munching on Canada’s national animal, just a pastry modelled on its tail. Native to Ottawa, the Beaver Tail is a huge waffle/pancake hybrid usually eaten on the run. The original topping was a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, though now you can choose from a range of rich and tasty accompaniments including maple butter, chocolate spread, apple puree and even melted cheese. Barack Obama made time for a Beaver Tail on his February 09 visit to the capital, so now it’s even more of a must-try than ever. Imitations are out there, but Beaver Tails are a brand name food. Look out for little green kiosks across the country – particularly in winter and at special events, when temporary kiosks shoot up to cope with demand.

Maple Syrup

No-one could leave Canada without sampling its most famous export. Try it first thing in the morning smothered over pancakes and bacon or as a snack in one of its many guises: maple candy, maple butter, maple donuts, maple cotton candy, maple coffee, maple chocolate – even maple barbecue sauce!

East coast seafood

If you make it out to the exquisite east coast, make sure you put seafood at the top of your things to eat list. Nova Scotia is known for its scallops, Newfoundland for its cod and the whole region for sumptuous lobster smothered in butter. It’ll eat into your budget a little, but you won’t regret the splurge.

Kraft dinner

It’s a bit of a joke among Canadians, but Kraft dinner is perhaps the meal closest to many Canucks’ hearts (if not mouths or stomachs). This ultra-processed macaroni and cheese ready meal is definitely worth a try if you’re self catering and don’t fancy eating anything particularly nutritious!

Local brews

You’ll need something to wash down all this rich food and thankfully there’s much more to Canada than the mass produced likes of Molson and Labatt. The entire country is littered with breweries large and small, so check out what’s brewed locally wherever you go. Montreal’s Brasserie Boréale offers a delicious red beer and a very light wheat beer, while Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery produces more than a dozen different beers in its downtown brew pub. Over on the west coast, Vancouver has scores of micro-brewed beers, though sampling one of the Dockside Brewing Company’s ales on its waterfront terrace is a must.

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