Givens its northern location and typically temperatures colder than most of the US, Canada has an ample amount of comfort foods. Rich snacks like poutine, which is French fries, gravy, and cheese curds, hits the spot on those chilly Canadian days and nights. It’s actually considered “Canada’s national dish”. If there’s a food that’s not sweet enough for you, when in doubt, douse it with local maple syrup.
Canada is a nation famous for its kind hospitality, cold winters, and beautiful natural surroundings. While Vancouver’s towering mountains and Ontario’s majestic Niagara Falls are awe-inspiring, there’s one area where the country might deserve more credit – its food. With influences from the French, Indigenous peoples, and the many immigrants that have made the country …
Top Foods & Drinks in Canada
Canada is the second-largest country by surface area, so there’s a lot of variety from east to west. Add in the longest coastline in the world, 243,042 kilometers (including mainland and islands), and you have a lot of fish and seafood to sample. There are so tasty beverages to try as well, such as imbibing a local Molson or Kokanee beer.
Guide to the Best Local Food in Canada
If mapping a culinary tour of countries around the world, Canada may not be at the top of many foodies’ lists—but that’s because they don’t know Canadian cuisine. This far-north country, one of the largest geographically in the world, has a spread of iconic traditions as wide as the vast Alberta plains. These foods come from a myriad of culinary backgrounds, largely due to Canada’s unique history.
Over the last few centuries as Canada grew, First Nations witnessed not only French and Scottish settlers but seafood-loving Nordic explorers. There were also Spanish and Caribbean settlers from the south as they moved up from the United States.
Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine also spread throughout the Great White North, as Canada has long had a reputation for welcoming immigrants from around the world. Today, major urban hubs like Montreal and Vancouver are unmatched hotspots for gastronomic diversity.
Bottom line? If what you know about Canada is poutine, Tim Horton’s or maple syrup, your horizons are about to be greatly expanded. With so many delightful foods and drinks, the sooner you start sampling these dishes, the happier you’ll be!
First Nations have thousands of years of experience living off the land that became Canada. Take Saskatchewan berries, or prairie berries as they’re colloquially called. Though they’re actually closer to the apple family, these have long been a staple for Indigenous groups. Many Canadians enjoy them in Saskatoon berry pie.
The beavertail is another Canadian classic, adapted from the First Nations’ staple of—yes—actual beavers’ tails, roasted over an open fire and stuck between spears to better get at the meat.
Today this fried-dough variation has near endless variations, from a classic cinnamon and sugar dusting to maple syrup, Nutella, Reese’s pieces, whipped cream, or even jellybeans. Savory toppings are not hard to find, either, like the trembling Mt Blanc with ham, cheese or steak, or the Pacific variety loaded with cream cheese and capers.
Atlantic and Maritime Provinces
The Atlantic and Maritime provinces of Canada include Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Labrador and Newfoundland.
As the natural first landing point of many Europeans, and with abundant cold, rugged coast, this region is understandably known for two things: simple dishes of meat and seafood. Try rappie pies with any variety of fillings, and protect yourself from the coastal chill with a maritime favorite, clam chowder.
Jiggs dinner is a perhaps the most well-known Newfoundland tradition, a hearty Sunday dinner of salted beef, peas, and root veggies often served with mashed potatoes and the northeast’s beloved sweet mustard pickles. Slow cooker hodge podge is another dearly beloved dish (the name says it all), as are lobster rolls.
The key here in this land where you never know what hand the weather will deal you is this: simple, hearty, and satisfying.
Say Montreal, and anyone who knows food will instantly light up. This largest city in the province is simply crazy for food. In fact, Montreal was recently ranked as #1 for highest number of restaurants per capita—in the world! This beats out both Paris and New York by a healthy margin, and even its westerly counterpart, Vancouver, well-known for its impressive concentration of Asian restaurants, breweries, and cafes.
Specifically, Montreal has laid claim to smoked meat, as well as their beloved, one-of-a-kind wood-fire bagel (distinguished from its NYC rival because it is denser, sweeter, and typically much chewier).
They also have a special claim to night life. The city is alive with markets, nearly endless choices of Japanese izakayas lining the blocks, and wee-hour menus that boast everything from lobster pasta and salmon tartare to shawarma and doner kebabs.
Peameal (wet-cured lean pork back rolled in cornmeal) is one of the most well-known dishes in Ontario. The classic peameal sandwich is perhaps the most common way to enjoy this.
As you dig in, you can also feast on this fun fact: Ontario’s largest city Toronto earned its historic nickname “Hogtown” due to the many years that it served as the pork packing and processing capital of Canada. It’s no wonder then that other meat-main dishes are quite popular throughout Ontario, like rolled ribs, meat pies (also called tartare or tourtiere), and Ontario’s own take of Montreal smoked brisket.
Of course, you can readily find sweet treats if you prefer: butter tarts are a must-try here, as are the famous deep-fried Persian roll cinnamon buns from Thunder Bay.
Canada’s prairie provinces are pitted against some next-level culinary scenes to the east and west. It might not immediately jump out as a foodie mecca, but there are some unforgettable foods that distinguish this often below-the-radar region.
Manitoba is passionate for their honey dill sauce as a sweet accompaniment to chicken fingers, and fries. You’ll also immediately note the culinary influence from Iceland around Lake Winnipeg, with a huge Icelandic diaspora in towns like Gimli. Satisfy your stomach with Icelandic sweets like the plum-based vinarterta, skyr, or plokkfiskur (fish stew classically slow-cooked with bone marrow and hearty cream for stick-to-your-ribs power for combatting the cold).
While in Alberta, home of the world-famous Calgary Stampede, you’ll have to try a grilled steak or burger with pesto butter and summer vegetables like asparagus. And you’d better not miss schmoo cake or Saskatoon berry pie to complete your prairie experience!
British Columbia/Western Canada
As you know by now, Vancouver is a dream destination for anyone with a hankering for…well, any kind of food ever. But the rest of British Columbia has its delights you’ll end up daydreaming about, too. Smoked salmon is at the top of the list, while teriyaki salmon, spot prawns, sushi, Dungeness crab, and halibut all take a close second.
You’ll also hear a lot about Nanaimo bars, a famous sweet from their namesake town on the southeastern edge of Vancouver Island. The true origin of these custardy, chocolatey bars remains clouded in mystery like a dense BC winter mist, but their taste is even bigger than Vancouver Island itself.
Last but certainly not least, fruit-lovers rejoice! Peaches, berries, nectarines, apricots, plums, and the beloved cherry all grow in extraordinary abundance in the lush, wet British Columbia clime. Don’t forget about BC wines, either!
Territories (Yukon, Northwest, Nunavut)
This may be one of the loneliest parts not just of Canada but of the world. In any given year, more human beings orbit the planet than visit the vast northern reaches of Canada.
But the Indigenous of these far far northern territories of Canada have survived here for thousands of years, finding delicious ways to survive the long Arctic darknesses. Additionally, the unspoiled tundra and wilderness is fertile ground—literally—for countless traditional recipes.
This means natural foods at their best like northern fish (walleye, pike, whitefish and Arctic char, among many others); cranberries; birch or maple syrup; spruce tips; fried bannock; and muktuk. Say this again? Yes, muktuk!
This is the Inuvialuit way of surviving the winters when nutrient-rich foods are short in supply. Muktuk, also spelled maktaaq, is simply blubber of the beluga whale, devoured still encased in its skin, either raw, boiled, dried, or frozen.
Hungry and hankering for a trip to Canada by now? We are too. You’re still free to stop by Tim Horton’s, but we hope your horizons—and your taste buds—are open to the marvelous local foods that Canada has to offer. Bon appetit, eh!