15 Iconic Canadian Dishes with History and Origins

From poutine and maple syrup to butter tarts and smoked salmon, Canada boasts a deliciously diverse culinary landscape that reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage and natural bounty. In this article, we’ll explore 20 of the most popular foods in Canada, each with its unique history and flavorful description.

Here are 20 of the most iconic foods in Canada, along with a brief description of each dish and its history:


Pictured above, poutine is a classic Canadian dish made of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Its origins are disputed, but it is widely believed to have originated in Quebec in the 1950s.

Nanaimo bars

A dessert bar made of a crumbly chocolate and coconut base, custard filling, and chocolate topping.

It originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, in the 1950s.


Caesar cocktail

The Caesar, a cocktail that was invented in 1969 by bartender Walter Chell at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Calgary). Legend says he was inspired by the Italian dish spaghetti alle vongole, which uses clam juice in the sauce.

Typically, it contains vodka, tomato juice and clam broth, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime.

Montreal-style bagels

This style of bagel was brought to Montreal by Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia in the early 20th century. Smaller and sweeter than New York-style bagels, these are boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven. It is known for its sweet and chewy texture, and is often enjoyed with cream cheese or lox.


While ketchup is not a Canadian invention, it has become an integral part of Canadian cuisine. Canadians consume more ketchup per capita than any other country in the world, and it is a popular condiment for dishes like french fries, burgers, and meatloaf.

Ketchup-flavored Lays

A variation of the popular Lays potato chip brand, this flavor is only available in Canada and is a nod to the country’s love of ketchup-flavored snacks.


B.C. salmon

British Columbia is known for its abundant and high-quality salmon, which is often enjoyed smoked, grilled, or cured.

Smoked salmon is a popular Canadian seafood that has been a traditional food of Indigenous peoples for centuries. It’s typically cold-smoked and served on bagels, crackers, or as part of a breakfast or brunch spread.


Bannock is a type of bread that has been a staple food for Indigenous peoples in Canada for centuries. It is made with flour, water, and sometimes animal fat and can be cooked over an open flame and is often enjoyed with savory or sweet toppings.


A savoury meat pie that originated in Quebec and is traditionally eaten during the holiday season. It is typically made with a mixture of ground pork, beef, or veal, and is flavored with spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

It is so delicious that we like to eat it anytime of the year. Pure comfort food!


Jellied moose nose

A traditional Indigenous dish made by boiling a moose’s nose until the meat falls off the bone, then mixing it with spices and setting it in a gelatinous broth. It is considered a delicacy by some Indigenous communities.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is a sweet syrup made from the sap of maple trees. Indigenous peoples in Canada were the first to harvest maple sap and make maple syrup. It has since become an important Canadian product, and Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world.


Beaver tails

The Canadian doughnut, this pastry was created in Ottawa in the 1970s by a husband and wife team who were inspired by the shape of a beaver’s tail. It has since become a popular Canadian treat, especially at winter festivals. The dough is deep fried to perfection in hot oil — crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — then covered in cinnamon sugar. This Canuck crowd-pleaser has become an emblem of Canadiana – especially because the beaver is Canada’s national animal!

Butter tarts

A sweet pastry filled with a mixture of butter, sugar, and eggs. It’s a Canadian dessert that’s said to have originated in Ontario.

Sadly, it is a disputed dessert in Canada and it all comes down to one question: raisins or no raisins? This puts a smile to our faces because it reminds us of one of the food debates in Spain – the mighty tortilla de patata – onions or no onions?

Montreal-style smoked meat

This deli meat originated in the Jewish community of Montreal in the early 20th century. It was inspired by the pastrami and corned beef of Eastern Europe, but is cured and smoked with a unique blend of spices.

Lobster rolls

A popular seafood dish that originated in the Maritime provinces of Canada, particularly Nova Scotia. It consists of lobster meat mixed with mayonnaise and served in a hot dog bun.

Jiggs dinner

This traditional Newfoundland meal originated in England and was brought to Newfoundland by British settlers. It typically consists of salt beef or corned beef, boiled vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and turnips, and boiled potatoes.

Peameal bacon

Also known as Canadian bacon, this is a type of bacon that is wet-cured pork loin from the back of the hog that has been trimmed of fat and rolled in cornmeal, creating a yellow crust. Originally, it was rolled in crushed yellow peas, hence the name peameal. 

William Davies, Toronto pork packer who came to Canada from England in 1854, is credited with its development.


Alberta beef

Cattle farming has been a cornerstone of the Alberta’s economy for over 100 years and the diversity of breeds raised and farms passed down from generation-to-generation has led the province of Alberta to become one the most well-known regions in the world for our quality livestock.

Known for its high quality, Alberta beef is a popular dish in Canada and is often used in dishes such as steak and burgers.

Alberta Wagyu is Alberta’s equivalent of Kobe Beef.

Known for its extreme marbling, resulting in almost melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, wagyu beef has been adored by Canadian chefs since the Japanese heritage breed of cow made it’s way overseas in the early 1990s.

Split pea soup

Split pea soup has been part of the Canadian cuisine for more than 400 years, starting in Quebec, then spreading to the Maritimes and across the country. The staple ingredients necessary for pea soup, yellow split peas and pork, were easy to transport and to store so it was as good for sailors as it was for fur traders, and like most dishes from this period, it was easy to carry, cheap to make and calorie-rich.

Interestingly, some say that pea soup was introduced to New England in the early 19th century by French Canadian mill workers.

Saskatoon berry pie

A dessert pie made with Saskatoon berries, a fruit that is similar to blueberries but has a nuttier flavor. It is a traditional prairie dessert that originated in western Canada.

Overall, Canadian cuisine reflects the country’s diverse cultural influences and its rich natural resources. From savory meat pies to sweet butter tarts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

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