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Canadian Foods

In a multi-ethnic, restaurant-heavy country like Canada, it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to define what exactly counts as “Canadian food.” In general, most Canadians eat a largely “western” diet broadly similar to the diet of Americans and Europeans, with a heavy focus on processed grain and dairy products, farm-grown beef and chicken, certain cooked or fresh fruits and vegetables, and questionable amounts of salt and sugar.

The Canadian Diet

Canadians usually eat three standard meals a day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — each of which is quite distinct.

Breakfast is eaten first thing in the morning to provide fuel for the day ahead. Unfortunately a lot of Canadians tend to be too rushed in the morning to give the meal much effort, and as a result it tends to be the most widely skipped or half-hearted meal. Traditional breakfast foods in Canada are cooked eggs, fried pork sausages or bacon, fried or deep-fried potatoes, toasted bread, pancakes (or egg-battered French Toast) and syrup, cereals, or hot oatmeal. For those in a rush, a breakfast may only consist of one of the above; for those who take it seriously, it’s not uncommon for a “hearty” Canadian breakfast to contain almost everything mentioned.

Lunch can often be a light meal as well, as it’s traditionally eaten on or around noon, a time when most Canadians are still at work. Traditional Canadian lunch foods have tended to be those which are portable or easy to make, such as sandwiches, soups, or salads. On occasions when more time and effort is available (for instance, on the weekend or when visiting a restaurant), lunch meals can be largely indistinguishable from dinner meals.

Dinner is almost always the largest and most well-prepared meal of any Canadian’s day, something one looks forward to enjoying after a long day of labour. This desire to make the meal enjoyable and satisfying means Canadians tend to have a lot of different things for dinner, however, and it can be hard to summarize a “traditional” Canadian dinner food as a result. Broadly speaking, Canadian dinners will usually feature a large meat entrée of some sort, such as chicken breast, steak, pork chop, hamburger, or ground beef, cooked vegetables (most commonly carrots, peas, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, or corn), and a grain or starch-based “side” such as rice, pasta, potatoes, or bread.

A Selection of Typical Canadian Foods

Because a lot of Canadians tend to define their culture in contrast to the United States, many lists of “Canadian foods” only focus on relatively minor snacks that can’t be bought in the U.S., or other obscure foods Americans would be unfamiliar with. In an attempt to get beyond that limited perspective, the following list combines such “exclusively” Canadian foods with less exclusive ones that are nevertheless a common part of the broader North American diet.

Staples

Cheese

Over a thousand varieties of cheese are produced in dairy farms across Canada. The most popular variety is standard cheddar, though Quebec's higher-class soft French cheeses are quite beloved as well.

Canola

The canola flower — once known by the less flattering name, "rapeseed" — is Canada's most profitable crop, grown all across the Prairie provinces. It's made into oil that can be used for cooking and frying food.

Corn

Native to the continent, corn is one of the staple foods of the North American diet. Canadians eat corn on the cob directly or serve the kernals as a side dish.

Beef

Canada has an ample domestic beef supply thanks to Alberta, the country’s thriving capital of cattle ranching. Canadian steaks and burgers will often brag about being “Alberta-fresh.”

Bread

Canada is home to enormous fields of wheat and rye, which have been harvested for centuries to make high quality breads. The most iconic Canadian bread is “Canadian-style” rye, known for its light, fluffy texture.

Fish

Canada is one of the largest fish-producing nations on earth, with a wide variety of species harvested on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, including snapper, halibut, haddock, tuna, and — most famously — salmon.

Fruit

Warmer parts of Canada — particularly the interior of British Columbia — are home to large fruit orchards. Popular crops include apples, peaches, grapes, and a wide variety of berries.

Lobster

Harvested from Canada's Atlantic coast, boiled lobsters are considered a delicacy in Canada, and usually quite expensive as a result. A symbol of wealth and luxury.

Milk

Canada produces a lot of dairy products, particularly the province of Quebec. In the eastern provinces, milk is often sold in plastic bags which Americans find fascinating.

Potatoes

Potatoes thrive in winter climates and have remained another popular staple crop of farmers across the country. The tiny province of Prince Edward Island is known for little else.

Entrées and Side Dishes

Burger

Beef patty sandwhiches are a staple of Canadian restaurant dining and home barbeques. Common toppings include cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions, and bacon.

Hotdog

Beef weiner served in a special bun, topped with mustard, ketchup, pickle relish and onions. Popular at barbecues, picnics, and sporting events.

Fried Chicken

A popular fast food, but generally too complicated to cook at home. Breaded breasts, wings, and legs deep-fried in oil. Not the healthiest of meals.

Rotisserie Chicken

Slow-roasted chicken cooked in a rotisserie, an oven that uses a rotating spit. There are a number of popular chain restaurants that sell this sort of chicken, particularly in Quebec.

Pancakes

An incredibly iconic Canadian food served with an even more iconic one: maple syrup. Traditional Canadian pancakes are thick and doughy. Though they seem more like a dessert, they're often eaten as a breakfast meal.

Canadian Bacon

Canadian-style bacon, also known as circular, back, or peameal bacon, is a style of ham coated in cornmeal and thickly sliced. Many foods described as being served "Canadian-style," such as burgers or pizza, will feature back bacon.

Poutine

Probably the single most famous “Canadian food,” poutine is a rather unhealthy dish produced by smothering French fries with gravy and lumps of white cheese curd.

Onion Rings

Rings of deep-fried battered onion. A beloved salty accompaniment to burgers, and particularly beer.

Fish and Chips

A traditional British meal, now common in Canada. Deep-fried fish with French fries. Can be any species, but most common is haddock, cod, or halibut.

Pizza

Though originally from Italy, American-style pizza is now its own thing. A very common food to get delivered to your door when you don't feel like making dinner. Despite its name, Hawaiian pizza — with ham and pineapple — originates from Canada.

Garlic Bread

Thick cuts of white bread slathered with melted butter and garlic. Usually an accompaniment to Americanized "Italian" food like pasta or pizza.

Tourtiere

Another French-Canadian favourite, tourtiere is a savoury pie made with ground beef and spices. They come in both group and individual sizes.

Smoked Beef Sandwich

Combine beef and rye and you get a favourite offering of Montreal delis. Thick, peppery slices of spiced beef cold cuts served on equally thick rye bread.

Corn Dog

A hotdog on a stick, deep-fried in a corny batter. The sort of thing one normally eats at outdoor carnivals.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A cheddar cheese sandwich that's been cooked in the frying pan, or, increasingly, a special sandwich-grilling contraption.

Chili

A hearty stew made of beans, tomato, beef, and spices. First enjoyed by cowboys on the Prairies.

Mac and Cheese

Macaroni noodles covered in melted cheddar cheese. Though high-class varieties exist, Canadians are known for preferring the cheap, boxed kind.

Nachos

Fun to share with friends at the pub. Mexican corn tortilla chips baked with cheese, jalapenos, diced tomatos, olives, and onions making a deliciously gooey mess.

Snacks and Sweets

Donut

Sometimes a breakfast food, sometimes just a sugary snack, these fried, sugary dough rings are available in an enormous rainbow of flavors and fillings.

Timbits™

Bite-sized, round balls of donut batter. Available in all the same flavors as the real thing. Also known as "donut holes."

Apple Pie

One of the most traditional deserts in North America. Sugar and cinnamon-glazed apples in a flaky crust. Often served with vanilla ice cream. Or chedder cheese.

Cupcakes

Though just a muffin-sized cake with thick frosting, recently these things have become a trendy food known for unusual flavors and stylish decorations.

Butter Tart

A flaky pastry shell filled with a rich, sugary mixture of buttery baked cream and raisins. Delicious!

Cinnamon Bun

A large, swirled bun filled with cinnamon goo and covered in cream cheese icing.

Nanaimo Bar

Originating from the British Columbian town of the same name, these treats are made from a thick, buttery cream sandwiched between two kinds of chocolate.

Bread Pudding

A somewhat old-fashioned desert made from cut-up bread and raisins softened with milk.

Cotton Candy

Also known as candy floss, cotton candy is simply flavored sugar spun into a sitcky cotton-like substance through a special machine.

Jos. Louis™ Cakes

According to a recent newspaper poll, these store-bought snack cakes are one of Canada’s favourite foods. A chocolate frosted cake with white icing inside.

Syrup Taffy

Maple syrup taffy is a simple-to-make treat that's been popular in Canada for centuries. All you do is pour fresh syrup on cold snow, then scoop up the semi-hardened goop on a stick.

Maple-flavoured Sweets

The national symbol you can eat! Along with the ubiquitous maple syrup, Canada is home to all sorts of maple-flavoured cookies, candies and treats.

S'more

The iconic snack of Canadian campers. Made by smooshing a campfire-toasted marshmallow between two graham crackers and a few squares of chocolate.

Beaver Tail

A thick piece of deep-fried dough, often covered with cinnamon and sugar or chocolate spread and banana slices. A popular treat at tourist-heavy areas.

Popsicle

Fun for kids in the summer months, popsicles are made of frozen fruit juices, cream, or chocolate. Often sold from the back of a touring ice cream truck.

Chips

Potato crisps are perhaps Canada's most common snack food. Available in a vast variety of flavors including sour cream, barbecue, pickle, "all-dressed," and ketchup.

Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a standard, somewhat classy desert made out of copious amounts of sweetened cream cheese sitting on a crust of cookie crumbs.

Drinks

Glacier Water

Canada is home to some of the largest freshwater reserves on earth, due to an abundance of lakes and glaciers. "Glacier fresh" Canadian bottled water is sold just about everywhere.

Beer

Homegrown beers, particularly lagers, are perhaps the single proudest Canadian drink. Mega-corporations Molson and Labatt's dominate the market, but most major cities have their own local breweries as well.

Wine

Canadian winemaking has undergone a bit of a renaissance in recent years, mainly in warm regions of B.C. and Ontario. Chardonnay, Cabernet and Pinot noir tend to be standard fare.

Ice Wine

A delicacy of many cold countries, ice wine is produced by pressing grapes while they're still frozen. The result is an extremely sweet wine usually drunk as a dessert.

Whisky

Rye whisky has long been Canada's most famous hard liquor, with Canadian Club and Crown Royal among the most well-known brands.

Caesar

Dubbed the "only truly Canadian cocktail," the Caesar is a mix of Vodka and Clamato juice, sometimes accompanied by various other spices and garnishes as well.

Ginger Ale

Ginger ale is a somewhat bitter, ginger-flavoured soda invented by a Toronto pharmacist in 1919. Canada Dry™ remains the leading brand.

Spruce Beer

At one time, spruce beer was literally beer made of fermented shoots from spruce trees, brewed by desperate Canadian pioneers. Today, it's a soda with a mild, pine-like taste.

Root Beer

Root beer is another odd soda with a taste that's hard to describe — something like a mix of licorice and vanilla. Many Europeans find it gross.

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate, or cocoa, is a hot drink made out of some form of chocolate powder that's mixed with heated milk (or for cheaper folks, water). For extra deliciousness, top it with whipped cream.