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A Guide to Eating Your Way Around Canada's Eastern Provinces

Exploring the foods of their destinations is a primary joy for many travellers, including me. My road trips through the eastern provinces of Canada led me on a delicious adventure. as I savoured fresh seafood by the Atlantic coast and relished traditional Acadian dishes.

Officially, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are considered the "Maritime provinces," but when Newfoundland is added, this grouping is known as the "Atlantic Provinces." This region is rich with natural resources and a blend of Indigenous, French, British, and Irish culinary influences, focusing on seafood and locally grown produce. Come meander with me to discover tasty treats as you eat your way around Canada's eastern provinces.


Eating in Eastern Canada: An Overview

The region's cuisine is heavily influenced by the abundant natural resources, with each cultural group adding their special touches and flavours.

Indigenous Influences

Before European settlers arrived, the Indigenous people hunted, fished, and gathered various foods, including fish, shellfish, game, berries, and roots. Popular dishes included corn, beans, squash, and sunflower seeds. Food was preserved for use throughout the year by smoking, fermenting, and drying. Many establishments offer menu items highlighting smoked and fermented dishes.

French and Acadian Influences

The first European settlers to the area were the French who introduced stewing and baking techniques and an appreciation for dairy products. Acadian dishes like rappie pie, a grated potato and meat pie, and poutine râpée, a boiled potato dumpling filled with pork, are still popular with locals.

British and Irish Influences

When the Brits and Irish arrived, they brought a taste for potatoes, cabbage, and oats, as well as canning and pickling techniques. Settlers in Newfoundland developed fish and brewis (made from salted cod and hard bread) and Irish stew. Many restaurants and pubs in the area offer dishes such as corned beef and cabbage, bacon and cabbage, bangers and mash, and fish and chips,

Exploring Eastern Canada, One Bite at a Time

My trips to the area have all been road trips, visiting multiple provinces in each trip. In New Brunswick, I discovered the fusion of French and English menus. I indulged in poutine and lobster rolls. I will never turn down a lobster dinner or a bowl of seafood chowder in Nova Scotia. Scanning menus and sampling the "daily catch" or "farm-fresh" specials will become a ritual. In Prince Edward Island, potatoes and oysters are king. Newfoundland continues the seafood theme, with cod being an essential staple on every menu.

Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of choices. Locally grown vegetables, grains, dairy products, and fruits are used to create stunning vegetarian and vegan options. Great pride is demonstrated in promoting the growing foodie culture, which attracts innovative chefs who focus on locally produced ingredients.

Unique Eastern Canadian Eats

Seafood is vital in the Maritimes and is prepared in many ways. Lobster rolls, lobster dinners, and seafood chowder are the most common. Seafood chowder recipes are flexible depending on the daily catch and produce available but will usually include shellfish, white fish, and vegetables in a creamy potato base served with bread. Travellers with smaller appetites will find a bowl of chowder is a full meal. Lobster dinners usually include a whole steamed lobster served with salad, bread, and melted butter. A lobster roll is a buttery bread roll over-stuffed with tangy lobster salad. Oysters are a popular Prince Edward Island delicacy.
a whole steamed lobster with melted butter, lemon wedges, and a potato salad
Lobster Dinner

Poutine is a Québecois specialty that has become a favourite of Canadians across the country. The basic recipe is a plate of French fries sprinkled with cheese curds melted with a thick and savoury gravy. Additional toppings, such as meats and vegetables, can be added to make it a truly spectacular treat. My favourite poutine topping in Eastern Canada is lobster.
The Acadian poutine râpée is a slow-simmered potato dumpling usually stuffed with salted pork, traditionally served as a main course. A dessert version is a sweetened potato dumpling covered with brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup.
Rapée/rappie pie is an Acadian poultry dish. made of grated potato, onion, and chicken served with a broth sauce.
Dulse is a purple-black seaweed that grows along the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia coasts and has a flavour similar to bacon. Some Maritimers eat dried dulse as a crunchy salty snack, like potato chips. You'll see it used as a side dishes, appetizers, and as an ingredient in stews, casseroles, and soups, Check out the dulse, lettuce and tomato (DLT) sandwich the historic Saint John City Market.
Potatoes are a mainstay crop in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Hash brown casserole made with potato, cheese and cream, and potato pancakes are popular breakfast dishes. Expect delicious potato salads, soups, baked potatoes, frittatas and fries.
Maple sugar is a traditional sweet used in syrups, candies, and cookies that tastes delicious and is very important to the Canadian economy. A treat during the winter months is to pour hot syrup onto a bed of clean snow, creating a warm, soft maple chew.
Ice Cream: Canadians are very fond of ice cream. Look for small shops with long lines. Cow's Ice Cream is an artisan ice cream (and T-shirt) company from Prince Edward Island with locations nationwide. Make sure to add some Cow Chips (chocolate-covered potato chips) to your order. You'll have to make multiple trips because there are so many delicious flavours. My favourite is Cownadian Maple, with maple ice cream, swirls, and cookie bits.
Grunt: Wild blueberries are abundant in the Maritimes. They are smaller than commercially available blueberries but are more sweet and tangy. They are often used in an Acadian dumpling/cobbler-style dessert called blueberry grunt.
Hodge Podge: The Nova Scotian dish called hodge-podge or hodegy-podegy seems to be on every menu in the Annapolis Valley. This vegetable stew/soup highlights fresh seasonal vegetables such as small baby potatoes or new potatoes, fresh peas, green beans, wax beans, and carrots. It is cooked in a milk broth that contains butter, pepper, and salt. This summer dish is often served accompanied by corned beef.
Lady A Pickles Lady Ashburn was a popular high-society patron in Fredericton during the early 1900s and is credited with developing the homemade mustard pickle recipe that has become a regional delicacy and an essential part of holiday meals. The homemade mustard pickles are sold at locally owned supermarkets and farmer's markets.
Jiggs Dinner When visiting Newfoundland, many establishments offer a Jiggs Dinner (also known as a boiled dinner). This is a traditional Sunday dinner consisting of salt beef, boiled with root vegetables and greens. Condiments usually include Lady A pickles, pickled beets, cranberry sauce and a thin gravy. It is often served with pease pudding, a savoury mushy pea side dish) and followed by a dessert of figgy duff (a steamed pudding similar to English spotted dick).
Craft Brews There are many small craft breweries in the Maritimes, including the flagship Maritime breweries of Nova Scotia's Alexander Keith, Prince Edward Island's Gahan House and Newfoundland's Dildo brewery (it's the town name!). The major cities throughout the Atlantic region have popular brewery areas and tasting trails, allowing visitors to explore a wide range of small-batch artisan brews.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to put Atlantic Canada on your travel bucket list, including historic sites, outstanding hospitality, stunning landscapes, and an expanding foodie scene. Whether you are looking for inexpensive street food and cafés or elevated dining experiences, you will find a culinary adventure sure to please both your tummy and taste buds.

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What a fabulous post and I'm very much regretting not having eaten before reading because I'm extremely hungry now! There are so many delicious dishes to try. Bookmarked for our forthcoming trip to Nova Scotia. We were planning to eat our weight in lobster and poutine but there are some dishes, such as grunt and hodgepodge, that we didn't know about and will definitely want to try.

Great to learn about the craft beer scene too. Getting very excited about our trip.

Mitch & Colin from 

Lyn (aka Jazz)
Lyn (aka Jazz)
3 days ago
Replying to

I just learned about "Strawberry Suppers" which are big in Nova Scotia right now! I have missed those in my past visits but will need to schedule my next trip for June!

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