Seeing a foreign travellers reaction upon entering a Canadian junk food aisle is typically a funny experience. Eyes bulge, curious hands grab, shake, and squeeze packaged goods that they’ve never seen nor heard of. Its not long before they’re laughing or shaking their head as they think aloud “Who would think up that flavour of crisps…” – I typically correct them and inform them that in these parts, those are chips, and those flavours just so happen to rock! Yes, its true, the junk food in Canada is very much similar to American junk food, with one exception. We have brands & flavours Americans only wish they had dreamed up.
Canadian Potato Chips / Crisps
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An oddly Canadian flavour of chip, Dill Pickle Chips vary in strength, flavour, and “Creamyness”, depending on the brand. They’re a little more tangy than your average chip, but incredibly awesome in any form.
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Ever since I was a kid I wondered how the chip scientists thought up new flavours. Potatoes and ketchup go great together, so why wouldn’t they be a hit everywhere in the world. Apparently us Canadians are the only hosers to think putting that experience in chip form is clever. Whatever you think, they’re incredibly popular. But be warned, they leave your fingers red. So lick those fingers hard, and lick often.
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The All Dressed chip. Easily one of the weirdest Canadian flavours of chip. It is the bastard child of every chip flavour. It’s very popular in these parts. I’m personally not a huge fan, but some people go hog wild over this one.
Picture chips that have been julienned. Thin, little strips of chips that taste of Hickory Smoked BBQ. They come in a very retro brown coloured bag. If you’re after a true “chip” experience these may not have the oomph you’re looking for. But if you’re the type who jams a handful of chips in your mouth at a time, you may have just found a new best friend.
Canadian Chocolate Bars
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The Eat-More is a Canadian Chocolate bar filled with chewy dark toffee, crushed peanuts, and chocolate. Peanut allergies be warned, this Chocolate Bar will kill you, but not before you experience eating one of the best tasting chocolate bars ever invented. Look for the bright yellow wrappers.
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The Coffee Crisp has a long history with Canadians, and probably has one of the largest “cult” followings. Expatriates from all over the world cry themselves to sleep on occasion thinking of this Coffee Flavoured Chocolaty Wafer Treat. Several coffee flavours, including “French Vanilla” and “Triple Mocha” have existed; however, if you ask me the Classic Coffee Crisp is still the best.
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The Crispy Crunch Bar is another one of those chocolate bars Canadians have found on the shelves for decades. While it was invented in the late 1920’s, it still has that youthful flaky peanut crunch many look for in a good chocolate bar.
The Big Turk is one of the few chocolate bars that I’ve never tried. I have heard of it, and even seen some people eat it, but they’re definitely not seen nearly as often as some of the other chocolate bars mentioned here. These bars are filled with Turkish Delight & covered in Milk Chocolate.
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I was having a conversation with one of my duel-citizenship friends the other day (She’s an American/Canadian). While eating a Blizzard from Dairy Queen she told me how she once ordered a Smarties blizzard while in the States, and the workers there thought she was insane. For those who don’t know what Smarties are, they are basically M&M’s, only better. Candy coated, chocolate “oblate spheroids” that come in a rainbow of colours. I’ve seen them in the UK before too, but have yet to “eat the red one last” in the States. Easily one of the most popular types of Canadian candy.
If you’re from anywhere in the world besides the United States, there’s a strong chance you’ve seen these. A milk chocolate egg that has a toy inside the hollow of the egg. For some reason, they were banned from the States due to safety concerns. I understand the choking hazard and all, but Kinder Surprises are synonymous with childhood memories. For many people, these chocolates have become the ultimate obsession in terms of collecting toys.
While not exactly a “Chocolate bar”, this “Chocolate Desert” comes in bar format. Named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia (Located on Vancouver Island), the Nanaimo Bar is made up of a crispy crumby wafer base, a layer of Vanilla or Custard flavoured butter icing, with a slab of chocolate on top. While there are many variations to this recipe, they’re all pretty darn good, and great as a post-meal treat. You can actually find these outside of Canada as well, care of the Starbucks franchise.
While the name may conjure up thoughts of people huffing nitrous oxide, Whippets in Canada can also refer to these fluffy chocolate treats. Pictures a marshmallow covered in chocolate with a crumby cookie base. While there are several immitations all around the world, I haven’t found one that comes close to the Whippets.
Not exclusive to Canada, but many countries don’t have these tasty golden sugar covered wafers of goodness. Definitely worth a try if you’ve never had a try. One of the few cereals that stay pretty crunchy throughout the whole milk-dousing process.
Canadian Fast Food
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What started as a small burger joint in Lethbridge Alberta quickly expanded in western Canada as the best place to grab a “burg”. Unfortunately when the big American take-out restaurantes found their way into Canada, Burger Baron was left clinging on for dear life. They faught back and survived. You can find them in all over the Edmonton area as well as in my hometown of Regina SK. Their mushroom burger could stop wars.
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While more popular in Western Canada, Mr Sub is a Canadian sandwich chain that puts Subway to shame. They’ve got a lot of the same items on their menu, with a few alternatives (Whats up Louisana Chicken!?) – Highly recommend giving these guys a try if you’re irking for a 30cm sandwich. These sandwiches you won’t find in America, at least not under this name brand.
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Mmm, Harveys. While not nearly as popular as the big fast food chains, Harveys is well worth a stop on the highway if you see one. Delicious angus beef, fresh buns, and your choice of toppings. They treat their burgers the same way Mr Sub does. Harvey’s is probably my favourite fast food you can only get in Canada.
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Ever wonder what Donut Shops do with the middle of their donuts? Open up a box of Timbits and find out. While I wouldn’t say Canada is the only place to do this, I like to think the folks over at Tim Hortons played an important role in their invention. Timbits come in a variety of flavours of spherical balls of donut. Healthy? Absolutely not! Tasty? You freakin’ bet!
EDIT: Special thanks to Lee Carter for reminding me of the incredible awesomeness that is Poutine. Not sure how forgot that.
EDIT 2: Mega high five goes out to @cborys for mentioning my favourite Halloween treat, Hawkin’s Cheezies. I completely missed them as I was scanning the junk food aisles in my brain.
French fries, cheese curds, and a ridiculous amount of gravy. A true Canadian dish that is best served hot, with a bit of booze in your system from earlier that night. To read more about all that is awesome about poutine – check out my post on Chez Ashtons – what I feel might be the best poutine in Canada.
Bonus: Hawkins Cheezies
The word “Cheezie” in Canada encompasses pretty much all Cheese snacks in Canada; however, the folks at Hawkins were the ones who started it all. These Canadian Snacks are crunchy, aged cheddar salty chips not only taste good by the handful, but the Cheezie residue left on your fingers is where you really make your mom proud. You can’t help but scrape it off with your teeth and angrily wish you had more!