Canadian cuisine is rich in European influences, with specialties that stems from the gastronomic flavors of France, Italy, Ireland, and Scotland, but which are then expertly mixed with excellent local ingredients. Canada has a very large territory where different ethnic groups and traditions coexist and this is reflected in the country’s cuisine. In every area you visit, there will be some typical dishes of that area: in the towns of Québec, for example, dishes with refined French touch dominate, while in Montreal and in the big cities of the English-speaking part there is a strong imprint of American cuisine.
Canadian cuisine has a lot of fish, salmon and Kobe beef. Another typical product is maple syrup, which recurs in various recipes, both sweet and savory. In this guide, I would like to point out some of Canada’s most traditional and famous dishes and foods, which you should definitely taste.
When the truck driver Fernand Lachance stopped in a Québec inn in the 1950s, ordering a plate of French fries served with cheese, he did not imagine that this would become the most famous national dish in the world. Although the name suggests some French refinement, it actually consists simply of fragrant french fries, flavored with a smoked meat sauce and served with diced typical fresh cheese.
This is the traditional recipe, but over time more refined versions have been created, for example, a foie gras poutine, which also changes according to the areas of Canada, combining different types of cheese and meat: in Toronto, for example, it is also prepared with chicken. The Poutine can be served as a main course or as a side dish to a meat dish or a sandwich and you will find it in any type of restaurant, from the most elegant to the pubs and fast food.
This variety of bacon differs from the classic bacon because it is produced by boned loins of the pig, a less fat part compared to the belly from which the bacon is usually obtained. Sweet and tasty, the Canadian bacon, known as “peameal bacon”, can be found in many dishes especially for breakfast and brunch with eggs, bagels, and maple syrup, but also in sandwiches and hamburgers.
Canadian Style Pizza
Canadian pizza is distinguished by its thin crust and creative fillings: Cronenberg Crash includes ingredients such as tofu, mango, peanut, and pesto, while Weayne Gretzy is prepared with feta, mozzarella, and cheddar, salami, speck, chili, onions and sausages. All, of course, can be seasoned with a “cascade” of maple syrup.
A symbolic product of the country, the maple syrup is used for many recipes, both as an ingredient and as a condiment : there are numerous desserts, biscuits, cheesecake and other delicious delicacies that are prepared with maple syrup, but you can taste it pure, pouring over pancakes, meat, bacon, and even pizza. It can be said that practically almost all dishes in Canada can be easily combined with maple syrup.
This quiche has its origins in Québec, prepared with different types of meat (beef, veal, and pork) and potatoes. Depending on the area of the country you can find various fillings and addition of different spices to flavor this cake; in the places along the coast, you can also find it in the version with salmon. Obviously, you can then season with plenty of maple syrup.
Canadian red salmon
Canadian salmon can be offered in many ways: grilled, fried, dried, smoked or caramelized with maple syrup. You can taste it almost anywhere, especially in the restaurants of the coastal resorts but also in the city. As the name suggests, it has a very intense color and its flesh is soft and very tasty.
Montreal smoked meat
It is the Canadian version of the New York pastrami and in the traditional recipe a longer marinade is expected and is much spicier. At the time of cutting the slices are made much thinner and is very soft. It is perfect to eat in the classic sandwich, usually served with side dishes of pickles, fries, and vegetables.
This specialty is a Canadian variant, or rather of Québec, of the English Shepherd’s pie. The paté chinois is composed of 3 layers arranged horizontally: the first is made of minced meat, which is then covered with a soft cream of corn and then finish with a layer of a potato puree. In addition to the traditional recipe, there are many variations that include the addition of onions, peppers, mushrooms or other vegetables. There is also a thread of ketchup on the garnish. It is one of those dishes that Canadians call “comfort food”, that is, those homemade recipes that are also used in home cooking.
Fish and Brewis
Typical of the coasts of Canada, this recipe was designed for sailors and is therefore genuine but very substantial: it is based on cod or another fish, bread and pork fat.
Canadian Cheese Soup
Excellent for warming up if you travel in winter, this cheddar soup is tasty and very original: the particularity of the recipe is the addition of a little beer! In addition to cheese and beer, vegetables can be added to the soup, such as broccoli, potatoes, carrots and other ingredients.
As in the United States, bagels are also a must for breakfast in Canada, but this country has its own particular recipe and the shape is slightly different. There is no salt in the dough of the Canadian bagels, and the eggs are added, while the water used to make them boil a few minutes is sweetened with honey: this makes the Canadian bagels sweeter. The shape is thinner and the donut hole a little bigger.
The bannock is a soft bread, similar to a focaccia, which was introduced to the country many years ago by Scottish immigrants. You can find it in all ovens and cafes, but also in food trucks, can be baked or fried and you can eat it alone or stuff it (it is also used as bread for hamburgers).
Despite being called ” beaver tail”, this specialty has nothing to do with meat! They are in fact donuts that have the same dough of donuts but with the shape similar to a beaver tail and without the classic hole. They are thinner than traditional donuts and can be covered with sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, chocolate cheese or other seals that make them really appetizing.
This delicious dessert of Scottish origin is excellent at any time of the day: at breakfast, as a snack or as a dessert, it is perfect to combine with a coffee. A butter tart is a small tart with a soft heart made of butter, eggs, and sugar, which combines with toasted nuts, raisins or dried fruit.
Nanaimo Bars is a simple but very caloric and energetic dessert, which does not require the use of the oven; takes its name from the homonymous city in British Columbia. It has a square shape similar to a cremino and is formed by three layers of different color and consistency: the base is crunchy due to the presence of walnuts, the central layer with vanilla is creamy while the top layer is composed of chocolate icing. There are several versions, which change according to the taste of the intermediate layer, which can be based on mint, coffee, maple syrup, peanut butter, etc.
Timbits are fritters similar to the donut but are distinguished by the sphere shape. They are available in various flavors: apple, blueberry, honey, chocolate, etc. and they are excellent to be enjoyed as a snack or dessert accompanied by tea or coffee. They are sold by the franchise chain Tim Hortons, which is a bit like the Canadian Dunkin ‘Donuts.
Among the oldest and most popular recipes in Canada, there is this ” pudding of the unemployed “, born during the economic crisis when only a few ingredients were available. And in fact it is a very simple specialty: it is a butter cake that is covered with a syrup of sugar and water. Today you can find it in many restaurants and cafes and it is often served hot accompanied by a scoop of ice cream or maple syrup.
Cidre de glace or Ice cider
The harsh winters of Canada have led to the birth of some of the most famous beverages in this country. If you love apple or sweet drinks, you should definitely try the “ice cider”, a natural drink obtained from frozen apple juice, picked in winter after the snow. It can be combined with desserts but also with savory dishes and is excellent as an aperitif along with cured meats, cheeses, and meat.
Like ice cider, ice wine is also produced in winter, after the cold has frozen the grapes in the vine. A sweet dessert wine with an intense flavor is obtained.
It is the Canadian variant the Bloody Mary and was conceived in the late ’60s by Walter Chell, bartender, and manager of a Calgary restaurant. The originality of his recipe was the introduction of a clam broth then mixed with tomato juice, vodka, Worchester sauce and a mix of pepper and salt with which the glass is garnished.