When people think of Canadian cuisine, sometimes it's hard to get past the stereotypes of crispy bacon and sweet maple syrup — believe it or not, we've even seen the two go hand-in-hand.
We're so fiercely proud of our quirky culinary traditions that even the clichés are whole-heartedly embraced. Still, that doesn't mean we lack imagination, or an endless variety of ingredients. From Montreal's smoked deli meat to Prince Edward Island's world-famous potatoes, Canadians have a huge choice of local foods to experiment with, and they're often available year-round.
But when does food actually become "Canadian"? Being invented here is a start. In the 1950s, Quebecers reportedly invented poutine, though even that has been debated. Sushi pizza on the other hand, which is popular in Toronto, isn't really "Canadian-made" but has become somewhat of a staple for the city's sushi lovers.
Canadian restaurants are also embracing all things local. According to a recent survey from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, the locavore movement is not going away, and is still a top trend to watch out for in 2013.
Other surveys have found that Canadians like to eat healthier and ethnic foods, while trying to balance their love for baked goods and other comfort foods at the same time.
So now that we know what we like to eat, what are the most popular so-called Canadian foods? We've rounded up some of most iconic foods across the country — including those never-to-be-forgotten stereotypical ones. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
LOOK: 50 of the most Canadian foods:
Poutine — French fries generously slathered in gravy and cheese curds — is a classic Canadian treat that is said to have originated in Quebec in the 1950s. Since then, it has been adapted in many weird and wonderful ways from gourmet versions with lobster and foie gras to —believe it or not — a doughnut version. It's also inspired a crop of trendy "poutineries" and a "poutition" to make it Canada's official national dish.
There are some snacks that define a nation, but not many that taste good to only those who live there. What do we love? The fact they leave our fingers dyed red after we've had a whole bag. Ketchup has never tasted so salty, non-tomatoey and outright good. Our U.S. friends may go nutty over Doritos, but we love our ketchup chips.
Did you know that Lay's dill pickle and Munchies snack mix are also exclusively Canadian?
What could be more Canadian than syrup that comes from the maple tree, whose iconic leaf has come to symbolize Canada and its national pride? Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, accounting for about 75 to 80 percent of the supply. Maple syrup — recently elevated to "superfood" status — is a classic sweet topping on pancakes and waffles. Still, that hasn't stopped some people from thinking of surprising savoury pairings such as maple-bacon doughnuts.
It's no secret that Canadians are obsessed with bacon. The delicious cured pork product can be made oh so many ways, including ever popular strip bacon and peameal bacon, often referred to as "Canadian bacon" abroad. In fact, Canadians are so passionate about their favourite food that many would probably choose it over sex.
A butter tart is a classic Canadian dessert made with butter, sugar, syrup and eggs — filled in a buttery (yes, more grease) pastry shell, and often includes either raisins or nuts. They can be runny or firm — so it's hard to mess them up when you're baking. Also, they never seem to go out of style.
BeaverTails, or Queues de Castor in French, is a famous trademarked treat made by a Canadian-based chain of pastry stands. The fried-dough treats are shaped to resemble real beaver tails and are often topped with chocolate, candy, and fruit. These Canadian delicacies go hand in hand with skiing, and even gained White House recognition during U.S. President Barack Obama's 2009 trip to Ottawa.
These legendary Canadian no-bake treats originated in (surprise!) Nanaimo, B.C., and are typically made with graham-cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts, vanilla custard and chocolate. Need we say more? Common variations include peanut butter and mint chocolate.
No one likes to think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as dinner, but game meat is abundant in Canada and can be found in butchers, restaurants and homes across the country. Among other popular Canadian game is boar, bison, venison, caribou and rabbit.
B.C. Pacific salmon — commercially fished or farmed — includes many different species such as Chinook, Chum, Coho, Sockeye, Cutthroat, Steelhead and Pink. They can vary in colour and taste from Atlantic salmon, and are found in fishmongers and restaurants across Canada.
Believe it or not, Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of wild blueberries, also known as “lowbush blueberries,” mostly grown in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.
Blueberry Blossom Honey:
Bees also love our blueberry shrubs! Pollinating blueberry shrubs with honey bees more than doubles the potential yield of this very Canadian berry, according to Dutchman's Gold, which makes its honey from acres of blueberries growing in Ontario and New Brunswick. Although this honey is not actually blueberry flavoured, it does have a subtle aftertaste of the fruit.
Canadians can enjoy fresh oysters 12 months of the year. These famous little aphrodisiacs are plentiful on Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts, from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" may be an old English saying, but this nutritionally perfect food is quintessentially Canadian. Some of the most popular domestic varieties are McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious. According to Agriculture Canada, apples were first brought over to the country by European settlers in the 17th century.
P.E.I. potatoes (such as Russet, White, Red and Yellow) are famous across Canada and around the world. Prince Edward Islanders have been growing potatoes since the late 1700s! Apparently they're superior because of the land's ideal growing conditions, including red, sandy soil that is rich in iron.
Nova Scotia Lobster:
The Atlantic province of Nova Scotia is world-renowned for its tasty crustaceans. They have some of the most fertile lobster fishing grounds on the planet.
The popularity of Alberta beef might have been a little tainted by the unfortunate E-coli outbreak at XL Foods in 2012, but the province's AAA beef is considered among the best. Alberta is the cattle capital of Canada and according to the province's farmers, it has the fourth largest cattle herd in North America, behind Texas, Kansas and Nebraska.
You can call them the New York bagels of Canada, but Montreal bagels are often smaller and sweeter in taste. These O-shaped baked breads are paired deliciously with lox and cream cheese. Calorie-wise, bagels are equivalent to about three or four slices of bread, but you still might want to eat more than just one.
Arctic char is a freshwater fish species raised across Canada, in the Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon Territory, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Arctic char is a part of the salmon family, and looks similar to a salmon but is more genetically linked to trout.
Bannock takes its name from a traditional Scottish flat bread, adopted by North American Natives, including Canada's Innuit. It's recently received some gourmet treatment in the culinary world, as a focaccia-like substitute for sandwiches.
Yes, Kraft Dinner is also Canadian. This dorm room staple and processed-cheese masterpiece has been dubbed a Canadian classic. And really, if you haven't tried a bowl of the instant comfort food yet, we recommend skipping the milk and going straight for the butter.
No, it's not a "Saved by the Bell" reference. Screech is a type of rum made in Jamaica, and bottled and aged in Newfoundland. It has a storied history dating back to early trade between Newfoundland and the West Indian island (when salt fish was shipped to Jamaica in exchange for rum.) We hear it tastes like any other rum, but it has an awesome name, doesn't it?
Tourtière is a traditional spiced and savoury meat pie from Quebec, made with diced or ground pork, veal, or beef. This French Canadian delicacy is typically made around Christmas time, but eclectic foodies enjoy it all year round.
Very similar to blueberries (but a fascinating alternative), Saskatoon berries are native to the Canadian Prairies, British Columbia and Northern Canada. They're also rich in antioxidants and considered one of the world's "superfruits."
Tim Hortons "Double-Double":
A "Double-Double" has become somewhat of a popular slang term for Canadians. It refers to a coffee with two teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of cream. How popular is it? In 2011, Tim Hortons even released a "Double-Double" flavoured ice cream.
Fiddleheads are curly, edible shoots of fern, often consumed in many provinces seasonally across the country. And like your mother always told you, eat your greens: Fiddleheads are high in potassium and vitamin C.
Swiss Chalet Sauce:
Canadian chain restaurant Swiss Chalet's rotisserie chicken and grilled ribs get a fair amount of attention, but there's always been something special about that secret sauce that people love to pour all over their food. What's in this sauce, you wonder? People have debated this point for a while and we're not exactly sure either. But we can assure you there are no milk, egg or fish products in it, (cue the vegetarian sigh of relief). But if you'e still not convinced, try making your own knock-off version.
Montreal Smoked Meat:
Besides bagels, Montreal is also known for its kosher-style smoked meat. Schwartz's in particular has been using the same recipe of marinated spices and herbs in their smoked beef brisket for over 80 years. If you've never been, go early — the deli shop is usually packed with long line-ups.
This classic East Coast late night food "is to Halifax what the banh mi is to Saigon, the jambon-beurre to Paris," says the Globe and Mail. Evolved from the Turkish doner kebab, it's typically made of spiced ground beef that has been shaped and pressed into a large loaf and then roasted on a spit, like shawarma and gyros. It's then usually served on flatbread with fresh tomatoes, raw onion and a sweet, garlicky sauce.
If you live in Newfoundland, you probably already know why cod tongue is a local treasure. Cod tongue is usually made by sautéing cod tongue with milk and flour, according to The Globe And Mail.
Kind of like jerky, pemmican is a type of dried meat often made from bison or moose. The meat is usually pounded into a powder and mixed with melted fat, berries and other edible bits.
Red Rose Tea:
Canadians drink more than nine billion cups of tea every year, according to the The Empire Of Tea. If you've ever visited a Canadian hotel or even spent enough time at your grandparents' house you've probably seen Red Rose tea bags. How Canadian is Red Rose? They even have a Canadian-blended version.
As controversial as it is, Canadian foie gras, particularly from Quebec, is a hot commodity. Foie gras, French for fat liver, is made of liver of a duck that has been through a process called gavage (force-feeding.) But some foie gras is made more ethically.
Oka cheese, a Quebec classic (named after the small village of Oka), is a semi-soft pressed cheese made with cow's milk. Oka's rind is often dark orange and has both a nutty and fruity flavour.
Sugar pie or tarte au sucre, is a common dish found in Quebec. These desserts are made with a flour pie crust and are often filled with butter, flour, cream and maple syrup. They can also be topped with fresh fruits and English cream. Check out this recipe from Canadian Living to make your own.
B.C. Spot Prawns:
Wild B.C. spot prawns are actually the largest of seven species of shrimp found on the West Coast. These prawns are known for their sweet flavour and firm texture. Another fun fact: these prawns are often a reddish-brown colour but turn bright pink when cooked.
When it comes to food, Canadians concede there's far more selection in the U.S. but we're fiercely proud of the candy bars that can only be found here. Coffee Crisp is a great example. Consisting of a crunchy wafer, milk chocolate coating and slightest hint of coffee flavouring, the chocolate bar is true to its marketing slogan of making 'a nice light snack' and is adored by all moms and seniors. Rumour has it they've been spotted in a few U.S. border town convenience stores. We want proof!
It's the ideal summer drink and hair of the dog when you're hungover. The Caesar, Canada's favourite breakfast, lunch and evening cocktail is essentially a Bloody Mary with Clamato instead of tomato juice. Think of Clamato as a spicy tomato-clam juice. It's typically served with celery and lime in a celery salt-rimmed glass, and it's pretty amazing. (Pleaes don't call it a Bloody Caesar, because that's just wrong.)
Sushi pizza, a mini pizza-like creation of a fried rice cake topped with raw fish and spicy mayo, is commonly found in Japanese restaurants in major Canadian cities. Who actually started this trend? We'd love to know. We've heard restaurant owners and forums say Toronto — but sushi pizza has also been popping up in California.
This popular Novia Scotia dessert is made from blueberries and flour dumplings — it's basically like a blueberry pie without the crust. Check out this recipe to make your own.
This two-in-one chocolate and surprise (talk about a win-win situation) wasn't really "invented" in Canada, but you won't find Kinder Surprise eggs in countries like the United States. In fact, even if you're thinking about smuggling some south of the border, you shouldn't. Last year, two men spent two hours in a detention centre after trying to bring these chocolate eggs illegally over the U.S. border. These treats have been banned in the States because of the potential choking hazard of the small toys.
Girl Guide Mint Cookies:
Chocolate-covered mint cookies have come a long way for the Girl Guides of Canada. In 1995, this popular treat was first introduced to all provinces across the country and in 2003, they were produced in a nut- and peanut-free bakery. And sure, you can find mint cookies anywhere, but these cookies are certainly a Canadian tradition.
Rappie pie is a traditional Acadian dish made from shredded potatoes, and sometimes, with meat and onions. Popular in Nova Scotia, this dish dates back to the 1700s.
These cherries, also known as wild black cherries, are found in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Newfoundland. They are related to plums, peaches and apricots, and are commonly used in making juices, jams, jellies and wine, according to the Government of Manitoba.
Who knew that Saskatchewan is the world's largest exporter of green lentils? This nutritious little legume grows in pods and is one of the oldest cultivated crops on earth. They are often found in French, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and are perfect for wintry soups and stews.
Sourdough In The Yukon:
Sourdough bread is particularly popular in the Yukon. But up north, sourdough is made both into flapjacks and bread. In fact, the territory even celebrates a Sourdough Rendezvous festival every year with a bread baking contest and winter activities.
Garlic, which belongs to the onion family, is a cool-season crop and grown across Canada, but the purple varieties — found in Ontario and British Columbia — are more rare.
Mussels cultured in the cool water surrounding Prince Edward Island are famous across North America. Cultured mussels are grown in mesh stockings that are suspended from ropes in the water, never touching the ocean floor. According to P.E.I. Tourism, this creates conditions ideal for growth, while giving these cultured mussels a sweet taste and tender, plumper consistency free of ocean grit.
There are few brands in Canada as reliable as President's Choice. Mr. Christie thinks he makes good cookies but nothing tops the Decadent, the brand's answer to Chips Ahoy. Kraft Dinner, in its familiar blue box, pales in comparison to PC's White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. It also doesn't hurt that nerdily-handsome Galen Weston (heartthrob of Canadian suburban housewives everywhere) is the pitchman for this iconic line of Canadian products. Why yes, Mr. Weston, I'd like some more Memories of Morocco Sweet And Spicy Sauce...
Canada is the largest exporter and the second largest producer of
mustard seed in the world, accounting for 75-80 per cent of all mustard exports worldwide, according to the Canadian Special Crops Association. Who knew? Apparently, Canada's climate provides ideal growing conditions for the spicy crop.
It completes your morning bowl of cereal, can quench thirst and is the perfect companion to chocolate chip cookies. Milk, dear readers, is an all around amazing drink. And grabbing a glass of the white stuff in Canada is unlike anything you'll be able to experience in many other countries. That's because there are no unnatural hormones in our dairy products (so concerns about negative side effects simply doesn't exist), and we serve the beverage in a plastic bag, which, frankly, is far more convenient and environmentally friendly than cardboard containers (the baggies can be reused as makeshift lunch bags!). (Photos Shutterstock)