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The Must-Eat Foods in Canada

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When you think of Canada, no doubt the first images that come to mind are of snow-capped mountains, turquoise glacial lakes and the country’s extensive catalogue of giant mammals, like moose, grizzly bear and elk. And while experiencing Canada’s magical natural environment is certainly one of the draws of touring the Great White North, there is also an impressive culinary scene to sink your teeth into. And no, the list of foods to try in Canada doesn’t start and end with just maple syrup. Prepare your palates for the tasty and unique food to eat in Canada with the round up below.

Poutine

If you’ve ever wondered what is the national food of Canada, this is it. Poutine. It’s a dish so simple in its elements, yet so tasty as a whole. Poutine consists of potato fries topped with a peppery meat-based gravy and squeaky cheese curds, and can be enjoyed both as a late-night hunger cruncher or as a jazzed up lunch option at many restaurants across the country. This dish originated in Quebec (although the jury is still out on exactly where) and the region produces arguably the best poutine in Canada, so if you’re heading to the east coast, you wouldn’t be blamed if trying this indulgent dish was one of the top things on your to-do list.

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Poutine. Credit: Udaho | CC BY-NC 2.0

BeaverTails

No furry creatures were harmed in the making of this sweet treat! Another simple yet satisfying dish, BeaverTails are essentially a flattened and deep-fried piece of dough. The very first BeaverTails outlet opened in Ottawa in 1979, where people could choose to top their dough with sugar, Nutella or any number of other candies and sweet things. On a wintery night in Canada, a rich and warming freshly fried BeaverTail is the ultimate comfort.

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BeaverTail. Credit: Heather Cowper | CC BY-NC 2.0

Caesar Cocktail

We’ve all heard of Bloody Mary cocktails, but you might not have tried its Canadian counterpart – yet. Meet the Caesar: while technically a drink and not a food, it would be a challenge to find a more filling cocktail anywhere in the world. The core ingredients are reminiscent of a Bloody Mary – vodka, Worcestershire sauce and freshly ground pepper – but the main mixer is Clamato juice, which is a tomato juice featuring dried clam broth. Authentic Caesars also feature a celery salt rim, and many bars will serve them with truly ostentatious garnishes, like onion rings or grilled chicken wings.

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Caesar cocktail. Credit: Albert Lynn | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Butter Tarts

One of the most popular desserts in Canada is definitely the humble butter tart. The treat has a delicate crust with a creamy filling of butter, sugar and egg, although some Canadians claim a true butter tart also features raisins. You can typically find them in cafes, bakeries and at farmers’ markets. Tip: always order more than one, because your first bite is certain to have you wanting more!

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Butter tart. Credit: Nick Harris | CC BY-ND 2.0

Nanaimo Bar

Another popular sweet treat is the Nanaimo bar, named after the town on Vancouver Island’s east coast. The bar is made up of three layers, beginning with a crumb mixture on the bottom, a vanilla-flavoured butter icing in the middle, and melted chocolate topping things off. If you do make it to Vancouver Island, you can make your way along the delicious Nanaimo Bar Trail, which is a self-guided tour of some 30-odd cafes and restaurants that produce their own version of the Nanaimo bar. You’d be hard pressed to hit them all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

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Nanaimo bar. Credit: Edward Kimber | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Maple Syrup

Far from being a cliche or stereotype, Canadians really do love their maple syrup. And considering the quality of the stuff produced, it’s not hard to see why. This sweet liquid gold is a breakfast staple in Canada, generously drizzled over pancakes, and serving as a key ingredient in countless baked treats, savoury marinades and even cocktails. Be sure to fill your checked luggage with bottles on your way home, as the maple-flavoured syrup common here just cannot compare to the true Canadian goodness.

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Maple syrup. Credit: Douglas Sprott | CC BY-NC 2.0

Nova Scotia Lobster Rolls

Nova Scotia is part of the maritime provinces, and therefore it should come as no surprise that it is known for its seafood. While you can’t go wrong with Atlantic salmon, smoked salmon and arctic char, the number one food to eat in Halifax and other Nova Scotia cities is the lobster roll. The lunch or snack favourite sees a fresh baguette or bun filled with a mix of fresh lobster, celery, onion and mayonnaise or butter.

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Nova Scotia lobster roll. Credit: RosieTulips | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Montreal Bagels

Montreal is perhaps the food capital of Canada, and it’s really not hard to see why. There is so much amazing food to eat in Montreal, but when it comes to breakfast, you can’t beat the city’s take on the bagel. Sweeter, denser and thinner than the counterparts you’ll find in New York, Montreal bagels are poached in honey-infused water, baked in wood fired ovens and typically dusted with poppy or sesame seeds. There are innumerable bakeries spruiking Monreal bagels these days, but the two heavyweights remain St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel.

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Montreal bagels. Credit: Chris Goldberg | CC BY-NC 2.0

Tourtière

While you’re in Quebec, you’d be remiss not to try the French Canadian tourtière, which is considered another Canadian national food dish. This savoury meat pie is hearty and homey, and while there are no set rules on what to put in the filling, the most popular option is pork with onions and spices. Perfect for those chilly winter days!

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Tourtière. Credit: Craig Dugas | CC BY-SA 2.0

Montreal Smoked Meat

The Quebecois just keep on giving! The must-try list of what to eat in Montreal is truly endless, but smoked meat is definitely one of the city’s defining options. Traditionally, Montreal smoked meat sandwiches are loaded with brisket, which is marinated for an exceptionally long time. The result is a meal of big, bold and smoky flavours with the meat seriously just melting in the mouth.

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Montreal smoked meat sandwich. Credit: Kirk K | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tim Bits

You can’t go to Canada and not try Tim Bits. They’re iconic. A staple of every Tim Hortons, Tim Bits are little deep-fried balls of dough doused in a range of flavours. Order them alongside a double-double: the classic Canadian coffee featuring two creams and two sugars.

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Tim Bits. Credit: Geoffery Kehrig | CC BY-ND-SA 2.0

Ketchup Chips

A perplexingly popular snack in Canada is a packet of ketchup chips – found in almost any supermarket. While the thought of ketchup-flavoured chips may have some turning up their nose, Canadians far prefer these crisps to the acidic flavours of salt and vinegar varieties, and that puts these chippies on the to-try list you’re in the neighbourhood. Alternatively, another favourite chip option is dill and pickle. Try at your own risk.

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Ketchup chips. Credit: fw_gadget | CC BY-SA 2.0

Hero image: Bagels at Saint Viateur, Montreal. Credit: Garrett Ziegler | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Maddison is a freelance writer specialising in adventure travel. She has written for titles in Europe, Asia and North America, and is currently planning her next escape to somewhere mountainous.

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