Canadian cuisine

Canadian cuisine
A small sampling of Canadian foods. Top to bottom, left to right: Montreal-style smoked meat, Maple syrup, Canadian peameal bacon, Butter tart, Poutine, Nanaimo bar
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Canadian cuisine varies widely depending on the regions of the nation. The former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark has been paraphrased to have noted: "Canada has a cuisine of cuisines. Not a stew pot, but a smorgasbord."[1]

The three earliest cuisines of Canada have First Nations, English, and French roots, with the traditional cuisine of English Canada closely related to British and American cuisine, while the traditional cuisine of French Canada has evolved from French cuisine and the winter provisions of fur traders. With subsequent waves of immigration in the 18th and 19th century from Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe, and also from China, the regional cuisines were subsequently augmented. Canada is the world's largest producer of Maple syrup.[2]


Cultural contributions

Since the beginning, Canadian food has been shaped and impacted by continual waves of immigration, with the types of foods and from different regions and periods of Canada reflecting this immigration.[3] The traditional cuisine of the Arctic and the Canadian Territories is based on wild game and Inuit and First Nations cooking methods; conversely bannock, which is popular across First Nations and Native American communities throughout the continent, is a method for making pan-fried bread introduced to their culture by Scottish fur traders.

The settlers and traders from the British Isles account for the culinary influences of early English Canada in the Maritimes and Southern Ontario (Upper Canada)[3], while French settlers account for the cuisine of southern Quebec (Lower Canada), Northern Ontario, and New Brunswick[3]. Many of the more south western regions of Ontario have strong Dutch and Scandinavian influences, while German, Ukrainian, and Polish cuisines are strong influences to the cuisine of the western Canadian provinces. Also noteworthy is the cuisine of the Doukhobors, Russian-descended vegetarians.[3]

The Waterloo, Ontario, region has a tradition of Mennonite and Germanic cookery.

The Jewish immigrants to Canada during the late 1800's also play a significant role to foods in Canada. The Montreal-style bagel and Montreal-style smoked meat are both food items developed by Jewish communities living in Montreal.

Much of what are considered "Chinese dishes" in Canada are more likely to be Canadian or North American inventions, with the Chinese of each region tailoring their traditional cuisine to local tastes.[3] This Canadian Chinese cuisine is widespread across the country, with great variation from place to place. The Chinese buffet, although found in the U.S. and other parts of Canada, had its origins in early Gastown, Vancouver, c.1870 and came out of the practice of the many Scandinavians' working in the woods and mills around the shantytown getting the Chinese cook to put out a steam table on a sideboard, so they could "load up" and leave room on the dining table (presumably for "drink").[4][5] Ginger beef is a popular Chinese food purportedly originating in Western Canada.

The cuisines of Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces derive mainly from British and Irish cooking, with a preference for salt-cured fish, beef, and pork. Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia also maintain strong British cuisine traditions.

National food

Common contenders as the Canadian national food include:

According to an informal survey by the Globe and Mail conducted through Facebook from collected comment, users considered the following to be the Canadian National dish, with Maple syrup likely above all the other foods if it was considered:[11]


While many ingredients are commonly found throughout Canada, each region with its own history and local population have unique ingredients. These regional ingredients in turn and made into region dishes.

Ingredients and Defining dishes by Region
Ingredient Defining Dish Pacific Mountain Plains Ontario Quebec Atlantic Northern
Caribou Caribou stew X X X X
Saskatoon berries Saskatoon berry jam X X
Fiddlehead ferns Boiled fiddleheads X X X
Cloudberry Bakeapple Pie X X
Maple syrup Everything X X X
Dulse Dulse chips X
Harp seal Flipper pie X X
Sockeye Salmon Salmon Jerky X
Atlantic Cod Fish and brewis X X
Winnipeg goldeye Smoked goldeye X

Wild game of all sorts are still hunted and eaten by many Canadians, though not commonly in urban centres. Venison is eaten across the country and is considered quite important to many First Nations cultures.[12] Seal meat is eaten, particularly in the Canadian North, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Wild fowl like partridge and ptarmigan are also regularly hunted. Other animals like bear and beaver may be eaten by dedicated hunters or indigenous people, but are not generally consumed by much of the population.

Wild Chanterelle, Pine, Morel, Lobster, Puffball, and other mushrooms are commonly consumed. Canada produces good cheeses, many successful beers and is known for its excellent ice wines and ice ciders. Gooseberries, Salmonberries, Pearberries, Cranberries and Strawberries and gathered from wild or grown. Whipped Soapberry "Indian ice cream", known as xoosum (HOO-shum) in the Interior of British Columbia in most of the Interior Salish languages, whether in ice cream form or as a cranberry-cocktail like drink; known for being a kidney tonic. Called Agutak in Alaska (with animal/fish fat)

List of Canadian foods

Savoury foods

Although there are considerable overlaps between Canadian food and the rest of the cuisine in North America, many unique dishes (or versions of certain dishes) are found and available only in the country. Some are more commonly eaten than others.

Dishes by Region ("O"= Originating and "X"=found)
Dish Description Pacific Mountain Plains Ontario Quebec Atlantic Northern
Ginger beef Candied and deep fried beef, with sweet ginger sauce. X O
Roast beef with yorkshire pudding Common Sunday dinner in English Canada, especially amongst Canadians of British ancestry. X X X X X
Roast Turkey North American roast turkey X X X X X X
Baked Beans Beans cooked with maple syrup or lard X X X X X
Jiggs dinner A Sunday meal similar to the New England boiled dinner O
Back or peameal bacon called Canadian bacon in the US X X X
Tourtière A meat pie made of pork and lard X O
Montreal-style smoked meat Deli style cured beef X X O
Pâté chinois Known as "Chinese pie", which is a Québécois shepherd's pie O
Bannock A fried bread and dough food X X X X
Bouilli Québécois ham and vegetable potroast O
Cod tongues and scrunchions Baked Cod tongue and deep fried pork fat O
Yellow pea soup Split pea soup eaten by settlers such as the Habitant X X
Poutine A dish of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy X X X X O X X
Pierogis Dough filled with various fillings X X X O X X
Oreilles de crisse The Quebec version of scrunchions, or fried pork fat X X
Montreal-style bagels A firmer and sweeter version of the US bagel O
Pemmican Ground dried meat, fat, and berries X X
Cheese curds Raw cheese with a squeaky texture X X X X
Oka cheese Monk cheese X O
Flipper pie Pie made with harp seal flipper O
Hot chicken/turkey sandwich Meat sandwich doused in gravy and peas X X X X
Toutins Fried bread from Newfoundland O
Fish and brewis salt cod and hardtack, with pork cracklings
Rappie pie Grated potato and meat casserole O
Cretons pork spread containing onions and spices O
Poutine râpée Grated Acadian stuffed potato dumpling O
Inuit bannock fried bread  
Calgary-style Ginger Beef  
Fish and brewis: salted cod and hard tack  
Canadian peameal back bacon  
Québécois poutine is made with french fries, curds and gravy.  
Rappie pie: grated potatoes and meat casserole.  
Oreilles de crisse: Deep fried pork skin and fat  
Bacon from the Yukon  


Traditional Nanaimo Bars
  • Pets de sœurs (lit. "nuns' farts")—pastry dough wrapped around a brown sugar and butter filling
  • Matrimonial cake and pork pies (date filled desserts)
  • Maple syrup, especially tire d'érable sur la neige, also as flavouring, for example in Maple leaf cream cookies
  • Jam busters (prairie jelly doughnuts)
  • Apple pie
  • Various black licorices
  • Bumbleberry pie (Bumbleberry is "a mixture of fruit, berries, and rhubarb".)
  • Nanaimo bars – most common in British Columbia
  • Butter tarts – said to be invented in Eastern Ontario around 1915 . The main ingredients for the filling includes, butter, sugar and eggs, but raisins and pecans are often added for additional flavour.
  • Beaver tails, also known as Elephant Ears, Moose Antlers or Whale Tails
  • Sugar pie
  • Persians—somewhat like a cross between a large cinnamon bun and a doughnut, topped with strawberry icing, unique to Thunder Bay, Ontario.
  • Sucre à la crème—Québécois sweet milk squares.
  • Nougabricot, a Québécois preserve consisting of apricots, almonds, and pistachios.
  • Candy apple—also known by the British term "toffee apple", candied apples are far more popular than in the United States, where the caramel apple is common.
  • Moosehunters (Molasses cookies).
  • Figgy duff – a pudding from Newfoundland
  • Flapper Pie (Wafer Pie in Manitoba) – A custard pie popular in Western Canada

Commercially Prepared food and beverages

Canadian bread is heartier than regular white bread, and has a thicker consistency
Coffee Crisp Mocha


A bottle of aged Canadian whisky



  • Maple liqueur: Sold bottled as Sortilege, this drink combines Canadian whiskey and maple syrup
  • Caribou: A mix of red wine, maple syrup, and Canadian whiskey. Consumed during winter festivals in Quebec.
  • The Caesar, originally called the Bloody Caesar, is a cocktail made from vodka, clamato juice (clam-tomato juice), Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, in a salt-rimmed glass (table salt or celery salt), and garnished with a stalk of celery, or more adventurously with a spoonful of horseradish, or a shot of beef bouillon. The Caesar was invented in 1969 in Calgary, Alberta, by bartender Walter Chell to mark the opening of a new restaurant Marco's.[13]

Street food

While most major cities in Canada (other than Montreal, due to local by-laws) offer a variety of street food, regional "specialties" are notable. While poutine is available in most of the country, it is far more common in Quebec. Similarly, hot dog stands can be found across Canada, but are far more common in Ontario (often sold from mobile canteen trucks, usually referred to as "fry trucks" and the hot dogs "street meat") than in Vancouver or Victoria (where the "Mr. Tube Steak" franchise is notable and the term "smokies" or "smokeys" refers to Ukrainian sausage rather than frankfurters). Montreal offers a number of specialties including Shish taouk, the Montreal hot dog, and dollar falafels. Although falafel is widespread in Vancouver, pizza slices are much more popular. Vancouver also has many sushi establishments. Shawarma is quite prevalent in Ottawa, and Windsor, while Halifax offers its own unique version of the Döner kebab called the Donair, which features a distinctive sauce made from condensed milk, sugar, garlic and vinegar. Ice cream trucks can be seen (and often heard due to a jingle being broadcast on loudspeakers) nationwide during the summer months. Recently, the city of Toronto has allowed street vendors from around the world to sell their food. Because of this, Kebab, Falafel, Shawarma and other Halal foods are also a very popular street food.


  • Chinese Smorgasbord: though found in the U.S. and other parts of Canada, this term and concept had its origins in early Gastown, Vancouver, c.1870 and resulted from the many Scandinavians working in the woods and mills around the shantytown getting the Chinese cook to put out a steam table on a sideboard, so they could "load up" and leave room on the dining table (presumably for "drink").[4][5]
  • Lumberjack's Breakfast, aka Logger's Breakfast, aka "The Lumby": a gargantuan breakfast of three-plus eggs; rations of ham, bacon and sausages; plus several large pancakes. Invented by hotelier J. Houston c 1870, at his Granville Hotel on Water Street in old pre-railway Gastown, Vancouver, in response to requests from his clientele for a better "feed" at the start of a long, hard day of work.[4][5]

See also


  1. ^ Pandi, George (2008-04-05), "Let's eat Canadian, but is there really a national dish?", The Gazette (Montreal),  Also published as "Canadian cuisine a smorgasbord of regional flavours"
  2. ^ "Maple Syrup." Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Accessed July 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jacobs, Hersch (2009), "Structural Elements in Canadian Cuisine", Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures 2 (1), 
  4. ^ a b c From Milltown to Metropolis, Alan Morley
  5. ^ a b c Early Vancouver, J.S. Skitt Matthews
  6. ^ Trillin, Calvin (2009-23-11), "Canadian Journal, "Funny Food,"", The New Yorker: 68–70 
  7. ^ Wong, Grace (2010-10-02), Canada's national dish: 740 calories -- and worth every bite?, CNN, 
  8. ^ Sufrin, Jon (2010-04-22), "Is poutine Canada’s national food? Two arguments for, two against", Toronto Life, 
  9. ^ Baird, Elizabeth (2009-06-30), "Does Canada Have a National Dish?", Canadian Living, 
  10. ^ DeMONTIS, RITA (2010-06-21), "Canadians butter up to this tart", Toronto Sun, 
  11. ^ Allemang, John (2010-07-03), "We like our symbols rooted in the past, and in Quebec", Globe and Mail, 
  12. ^
  13. ^

Further reading

External links

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