What is Canadian Food Culture?

We take a look at the mosaic of influences that make up Canadian Cuisine.
Published July 3, 2017

Canadian food culture is a changing landscape that has been heavily influenced by many different traditions and recipes from around the world. Every regional cuisine in Canada has their own unique take on food, whether it’s the adaptability of Canadian Chinese food or the pervasiveness of Quebecois poutine, food is and always will be the important common denominator that links us all together as a country.

Indigenous cuisine

Indigenous cuisine is finally getting its long overdue place in the spotlight, offering a wide range of dynamic dishes that focus on locally and ethically sourced ingredients which are then used in traditional recipes with a modern twist. Restaurants serving Indigenous cuisines are popping up all over Canada with menus that reflect the local geography and terroir of the environment, look for dishes such as Ojibwa tacos that use bannock in place of corn tortillas or braised or shredded free range buffalo ribs with organic local greens.

Canadian Chinese cuisine

Canadian Chinese food restaurants can be found in almost every Canadian city, even small towns in very isolated areas of Canada will often have a Chinese restaurant. During the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway the thousands of Chinese workers who had been hired found it impossible to acquire traditional ingredients for cooking and as a result Canadian Chinese cuisine was born and spread all across Canada. Larger cities will often have more regional options such as Szechuan or Taiwanese. Classic examples of Canadian Chinese cuisine include lemon chicken, ginger beef, and egg foo young.

Maritimes cuisine

Maritimes cuisine is heavily influenced by Irish, English, and Acadian culture and cuisine and varies according to province. Seafood is a mainstay of Maritime cooking due to close proximity to the Atlantic and can be found on almost every menu in the area. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island produce the largest amount of potatoes each year in Canada and include them in traditional recipes such as hash browns and potato gratin. The Maritimes is celebrated for its blueberry season and there are several blueberry festivals held each summer and these seasonal berries can be found in everything from pies to homemade ice cream. 

Montreal cuisine

Montreal is home to one of the oldest Jewish populations in Canada, meaning that its fantastic fare is heavily influenced by Jewish cuisine. Smoked meats, bagels, and smoked salmon are all but a few of the contributions to choose from, there is a wealth of Jewish-owned bakeries and restaurants to explore in Montreal. Poutine might be known as Canada’s national food, but in reality this food belongs to Quebec; thought to have originated somewhere in rural Quebec in the 1950s poutine has grown in popularity to become a Canadian favourite.

Prairie cuisine

The cuisine of the Canadian prairies is primarily influenced by Ukrainian, German, and Polish food thanks to a surge in settlers between 1891 and 1914. Pierogi is a regional specialty that can be found traditionally and freshly prepared in both restaurants and grocery stores with a large variety of fillings from savoury potato and bacon to blueberry and pressed dried cottage cheese. Saskatoon berries are unique to the prairies and are used to produce jams, pies, ciders, beers and wines that are a boon for the tourist industry as well as local cuisine.