Must-try Canadian food and drink

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

From decadent poutine to caribou stew, Canadian cuisine is not afraid to be bold. Using their bounty of local ingredients and inspiration from recipes throughout the ages, Canadians have developed some of the tastiest dishes in the world.

If you are visiting the great white north on a cruise holiday, then read on to discover the local food and drink you have to try.

Maple Syrup

Gracing the nation’s flag, the maple tree leaf is a symbol of all things Canadian. Maple syrup has become one of the country’s most iconic products as farms across the provinces branch out into the art of maple farming. Unlike many industries, the production of maple syrup remains largely unchanged from its traditional past.

There are four grades of maple syrup, each with different levels of taste. ‘Golden’ is a delicate, sweet, buttery syrup with gentle maple undertones, ‘amber’ is a popular and traditional grade with distinct maple flavour and colour, ‘dark’ has a strong maple flavour and holds its taste in cooking, ‘very dark’ is an almost black maple syrup, perfect for glazing meats. You are bound to try maple syrup on your cruise to Canada, so it’s worth sampling various grades to find one that suits you.

Legend has it that an Iroquois chief removed his hatchet from a maple tree where he had left it and set off to go hunting. He did not notice the deep cut the blade had made in the tree, but a colourless liquid ran out of the tree all day, collecting in a birch bark bowl. The next day, the chief’s wife noticed the full bowl and, thinking it was water, used to cook venison stew. The result was a sweet stew, and it’s believed to have started the culinary tradition of maple-cured meats.

Poutine

We can’t talk about traditional Canadian food without mentioning poutine. Originating in Quebec, this indulgent meal is made up of fries, cheese curds and gravy. Over the years poutine has become so popular there are now tonnes of variations, so you’re sure to find one that suits you. It’s the cheese curds that make this food so unique and one of the reasons why trying it in Canada is a must.

This can be street food or something much more, as shown by Au Pied De Cochon in Montreal who serve a version made from duck fat-fried fries, duck-fat gravy and topped with foie gras – fancy.  For something more classic, stop by Willy’s Fresh Cut in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With low prices and a simple, diner-style menu, you can get a great serving of poutine and customise it with add-ons like pulled pork, steak and bacon.

Montreal bagels in St-Viatuer Bagel, Montreal.

Montreal Bagels

For those who are looking for a quick lunch option that offers a local take on something we’ve all eaten, there’s the humble yet delicious Montreal bagel. In contrast to the New York bagel, Montreal bagels are smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser. St-Viatuer Bagel has deep roots in Canada, creating sweet and savoury Montreal bagels at its many bakeries and cafes across Quebec. Flavours range from poppy seed to rosemary and sea salt but don’t just imagine the tastes, you can try the real thing in Montreal on your Canadian cruise from the UK.

Caribou Stew

Caribou is one of the staple ingredients in Nunavut cuisine. Meat-lovers should tuck into a caribou stew at least once during a cruise to Canada. Made with caribou and sometimes other game meats, onion, celery, tomato, carrots, parsnips and any other seasonal vegetables, it’s easy to see why this warming dish is so popular in the Northern Territories.

Beavertails pastry topped with chocolate and banana

Beaver Tails

Not what the name implies, beaver tails are a homage to Canada’s largest rodent and a delicious sugary treat is often referred to as ‘Canada’s doughnut’. Using a dough that requires almost no rising, this dish originated in the 19th century as a quick and easy recipe. In 1978, BeaverTails trademarked the dessert and you can find their locations all around Canada. Whether you opt for a classic topped with cinnamon & sugar or something warmer with apple pie topping, this sweet treat is bound to impress.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are another marvel of Canadian cuisine. Made of a wafer crumb-based layer and a layer of custard topped with melted chocolate, this decadent treat is popular across Canada and North America. It is named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia from where it originated and is perfect with a cup of coffee.

Flight of craft ales from the Tofino Brewing Company, Canada

Craft Beer

As the second-largest country in the world, it’s difficult to home in on specific beers and ales in Canada but it’s fair to say this is a country with a love for craft beers. From hoppy IPAs to golden ales, warming porters to refreshing lagers, Canada creates some exquisite beers, utilising its bounty of local ingredients.

There are thousands of breweries, big and small, creating some remarkable beers across Canada, including the more unusual spruce tip infused ale. One brewery dedicated to producing unique brews influenced by Canada’s natural landscape is Tofino Brewing Company. Based in British Columbia, Tofino Brewing focuses on creating handcrafted beer using high-quality malted barley and Pacific Northwest hops. With a tasty range of seasonal beers, the brewery keeps things interesting by using unusual natural ingredients.

Neil Campbell of Tofino Brewing said: “Inspiration for what we do comes from the small, coastal town we call home. We find ourselves very lucky to live in an incredible part of Canada that is host to immaculate sprawling beaches, forests and lakes, not to mention a community of individuals and businesses that work together to sustain the lifestyle and natural beauty we all enjoy on a daily basis.

“On top of their fascinating charm and aesthetic wonder, the coastal temperate rainforest and vast Pacific Ocean also offer many culinary ingredients. Among these are the Sitka Spruce trees from which we use the tips for our seasonal Spruce Tree Ale. Friends and foragers harvest this local bounty every spring to be an integral part of brewing this smooth, well-balanced golden ale that has become a Tofino favourite over the years.”

After reading this, we hope you’ll see that not only will the stunning landscapes and welcoming atmosphere of Canada impress, but the wide range of delicious traditional Canadian foods will too. So, when visiting on a Canada cruise from the UK, make sure you don’t have a big breakfast so you can take full advantage of the foodie scene here.

Must-try food and drink in Canada:

  • Maple Syrup
  • Poutine
  • Montreal Bagels
  • Caribou Stew
  • Beaver Tails
  • Nanaimo Bars
  • Craft Beer

For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our blog page.