Winters in Canada can be, um, long. Those chilly months are filled with snow, slush and winds that slap you in the face, but we’ve learned to cope, cooking up ooey-gooey suppers and desserts to warm the heart and soul. After a long day of exploring a new snow-covered city, snowshoeing in the forest or skating on a frozen pond, dig into these cozy foods at the restaurant down the street, or cook ‘em up in the hostel kitchen. Here are the most comforting Canadian foods to warm you up this winter.
This beloved Canadian treat will warm cold hands after a day of skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, where they were invented. A long piece of dough is stretched out to look like a beaver’s wide, flat tail, then deep-fried and garnished with a variety of toppings like cinnamon and sugar, hazelnut spread, or try the Avalanche oozing with cheesecake spread, chocolate bar bits, and caramel sauce. Grab one at the winter-only shack on the Rideau Skateway or check out the original BeaverTails location in Ottawa’s Byward Market, or at one of the dozen locations across the country from Victoria to St. John’s.
Sunday dinner in Newfoundland is known as Jiggs Dinner. Potatoes, carrots, turnip and cabbage are all boiled up together in a big pot of salt beef, and there’s usually turkey and gravy, too. If you can’t find someone’s nan to invite you over for a warm-up dinner, follow this recipe for Jiggs Dinner for beginners. For dessert, Figgy Duff, a boiled pudding filled with blueberries or raisins, is a must. Newfoundland food blogger Barry Parsons of Rock Recipes can hook you up—he has dozens of recipes you can whip up in the hostel kitchen.
This is probably the most iconic food, let alone comfort food, in the country, but it truly belongs to Quebec. Piping hot fries smothered in a savoury gravy and squeaky cheese curds will warm up anyone on the coldest of days. You can try it at Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville, Quebec, the diner that lays claim to inventing the delicious mess, or check out La Banquise in Montreal which is open twenty-four hours a day for all your poutine-devouring needs.
Those prairie winds can chill you to the core. Luckily, there are perogies to warm you up thanks to the Polish and Ukranian populations in cities like Edmonton and Winnipeg. Perogies are the perfect comfort food due to their high rations of cheese and dough—these dumplings are typically filled with cheese and potatoes and can be garnished with a range of toppings like caramelized onions, bacon or sour cream (or all three if you’re smart). Devour perogies at Sevala’s Ukrainian Deli in Winnipeg or A Taste of Ukraine in Edmonton where you can also take frozen perogies back to the hostel to feed a crowd.
Smoked Meat Sandwich
Montreal’s iconic sandwich is a delicious way to warm up, piled high with smoked meat and smothered in grainy mustard on rye bread—this sandwich sticks to your ribs. Schwartz’s Deli is the most famous in the city but if you don’t want to face the lineup (and there will be a lineup) on a cold January day, follow the good smells to Main Deli just across the street, or Lester’s Deli in the Outremont neighbourhood that’s been pumping out smoked meat sammies since 1951.
The Maritime provinces have a proud heritage of Acadian cooking and Rappie Pie is one of the most iconic dishes, and definitely the coziest. While this quintessential grated potato casserole might not be the most appealing looking dish, it’s a warm-you-from-head-to-toe kind of meal just made for winter suppers. You can make your own at the hostel with this recipe or pick up a D’Eon’s Rappie Pie pre-made at various locations across the Maritimes.
Anything fried is guaranteed to warm you up, and this iconic Canadian fry bread is no exception; it’s comforting and a great way to warm up after snowshoeing or even winter camping. Typically cooked in a cast-iron frying pan on the stove or over an open fire, the unleavened bread is a favourite for dessert, breakfast or, okay, any time of day. Bannock’s indigenous roots made it a campfire staple, but there are lots of places to try this Canadian delight like the Mr. Bannock food truck in Vancouver or stop by Tea-N-Bannock for a bannock sampler in Toronto’s Leslieville.
Peameal Bacon Sandwich
The smell of cooking Canadian bacon (which is not what Canadians actually call it) is enough to warm the soul and make your mouth water, so why wouldn’t you slap it on a crusty bun and cover it with mustard? The classic peameal bacon sandwich can be found at the renowned Carousel Bakery at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, or you can head to the local deli to pick up some peameal bacon and rolls to make your own at home-away-from-home.
Split Pea Soup
Pea soup is the essential stick-to-your-ribs winter staple in Canada and there are iterations across the country. In Quebec, Habitant pea soup has been warding off the winter chills for more than 400 years using yellow split peas and big chunks of ham hock, and in Newfoundland, leftover salt beef or ham is used in the soup, served with giant “dough boy” dumplings. Try this recipe in your Newfoundland hostel for a bowl of classic pea soup or this recipe for Quebec-style pea soup.
There are few things cozier than street food, and the hot dog is in a league of its own when it comes to warming. But in Vancouver, Asian influences have led to the creation of the almighty Japadog. The comforting wiener-in-a-bun pairs perfectly with Asian flavours like Teriyaki sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes. You can find the original Japadog cart on the corner of Burrard and Smithe Streets near the Sutton Place Hotel or at several stand-alone locations across the city.
So now that your stomach is grumbling, which one will you try first?