There has never been a better time to eat in NL, a true foodie adventure with local cuisines that reflect the province’s diverse natural and cultural landscapes. Below are 8 traditional NL foods everybody should try at least once. In the interim, be sure to also check out Rock Recipes for tonnes of NL culinary ideas and recipes.
NL’s cold waters have long established it as a preeminent seafood destination. No matter where you travel throughout the province, fish serves as the dietary staple.
In Newfoundland, cod is king, just as it has been since 1497 when John Cabot came ashore. There are countless delicious ways to prepare cod and little goes to waste. Other popular fish selections include salmon, halibut, trout, and capelin.
In Labrador, arctic char, trout, whitefish, smelt, sculpin, and inland salmon are all popular choices. The Inuit, Labrador’s indigenous people, are great hunter-gatherers too who can teach us a thing or two about eating local and sustainable. Inuit have also made a delicacy of fish, preparing it by smoking and drying (called Pitsik).
Opportunities also abound in Labrador for wilderness fishing, where countless outfitters provide exhilarating fishing excursions to remote rivers teeming with some of the world’s finest fish. Labrador has even been a favorite fishing destination of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
Equally popular as fish in NL is shellfish with lobster, crab, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and clams all personal favorites here. Whelk (called winkle) or sea snails are also popular among the Inuit in Labrador.
NL’s seal hunt is one of the most humane and sustainable harvests on the planet, a model for other industries to emulate. Sealing also serves as a critical source of income for thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Sealing has been practiced for centuries by NL’s European ancestors and for thousands more by its non-indigenous people, it is an indelible part of their cultural and social identity.
Seal flippers are extremely popular, whether bottled, baked, or in a pie, that is right, seal flipper pie. One little known fact is that seal is not only delicious, but also a heart healthy meat rich in omega fatty acids (no surprise here since a seal’s main diet consists of cod fish).
The Seafood Experience
While seafood never comes cheap, you do not have to break the bank when exploring NL. Dining out is always enticing given the province’s burgeoning foodie scene (countless spots have put a creative twist on these culinary delights), but so too is eating in at your ‘home away from home’ stay. This is particularly attractive to budget travelers and for those in guest house or Airbnb accommodations. Besides, what better way to experience NL and get to know ‘the locals’ than to dine with them.
There are plenty of seafood markets, trucks, and plants operating around the province. This is one of the friendliest destinations in the world, so do not be shy, just ask a ‘local’ and they will happily point you in the right direction.
How about getting out on the water and catching your own meal, visiting NL is all about the adventure right? There are tons of boat tour operators around the province that will gladly take you on your foodie hunt on the high seas.
NL is a pristine natural habitat with an abundance of wildlife that provides delicious cuisine. On the island, moose and rabbit top the list of culinary delights. In Labrador, moose is increasing in popularity but Labradorians (as is the case with seafood) have a much broader palette, with favorites that include white partridge (ptarmigan), spruce partridge (grouse), hare (arctic and snowshoe), geese and duck (and eggs), and even porcupine.
Jigg’s dinner (also called cooked dinner) is a Sunday staple in many areas of the province. Salt beef (or salt riblets) serves as the flavoring base, which is boiled in a pot along with potatoes, carrot, turnip, cabbage, and turnip greens. Slight variances do exist, turkey and dressing (made with savory from Mt. Scio Farm) always accompanies your meal but roast pork is commonplace too.
Rounding out the dish is pease pudding and/or figgy duff. Pease pudding consists of yellow split peas and figgy duff is made of flour and raisins. Both are cooked in pudding bags immersed in rich vegetable and meat broth. Finally, a light gravy made from the remaining juices of the cooked turkey or pork roast serves as dinner drizzle. Jigg’s dinner is, to say the least, a delicious stick to your ribs meal.
Pea Soup & Dough Boys
Pea soup holds a near and dear place in the hearts of many Newfoundlanders with fond childhood memories of weekends and summers at Nan and Pop’s (NL terms for Grandmother and Grandfather) helping them prepare this yummy, hearty soup.
Pea soup is very easy to make too, consisting of yellow-split peas, root vegetables, and either leftover ham bone or salt beef. Dumplings, called ‘dough boys’ in NL, always accompanies pea soup.
Fish & Brewis
Another Newfoundland favorite is Fish and Brewis (pronounced bruise) which consists of salt cod and hard bread (hardtack). Tack is a highly non-perishable food used for centuries, most recently by Irish and English fisherman who were engaged in Newfoundland’s migratory (seasonal) fishery.
To prepare brewis, tack is soaked overnight to soften and expand, and then pan fried with scrunchions (small pieces of fried salted pork fat) and bacon. Butter and sugar are also popular condiments for flavoring.
Toutons (tau-tens) are one of Newfoundland`s favourite comfort foods usually served at breakfast or brunch. They are essentially pancakes made of bread dough that are fried in a pan with butter or pork fat. Dark molasses or corn syrup serves as the condiment. Toutons are ready to eat once they puff up, turn golden brown, are crispy outside, and slightly chewy inside.
NL is blessed with an abundant variety of wild berries. In the past, pies and cakes served as the traditional berry dessert, but today, NL’s burgeoning foodie scene is bringing berry desserts into a whole new stratosphere with ice-creams, jams, jellies, syrups, crumbles, and crisps.