There`s never been a better time to eat in Newfoundland and Labrador. Here you will discover a true foodie adventure, local cuisines that reflect our province’s diverse natural and cultural landscapes. Below are 8 traditional NL foods everybody must try at least once.
Cold waters have long established NL as a preeminent seafood destination. For the record, it is the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the island of Newfoundland and the Labrador Sea off mainland Labrador.
No matter where you travel throughout the province, fish serves as our 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 of fish in “The Big Land”.
The Inuit, Labrador’s indigenous people, are great hunters and gathers 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 here for wilderness fishing. Countless Labrador 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 for former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
Equally popular as fish in NL is shellfish. Lobster, crab, mussels, scallops, shrimp and clams are all personal favorites.
Whelk (called winkle), which we only recently learned about, are sea snails popular among the Inuit. These delicious morsels are a bountiful and sustainable catch 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 our European ancestors and for thousands more by our non-indigenous people, it is an indelible part of our cultural and social identity.
Seal flippers are extremely popular, whether bottled, baked or in a pie, that’s right seal flipper pie.
One little known fact is that seal is not only delicious, but is 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 don’t have to break the bank when exploring NL. Dining out is always enticing given our burgeoning foodie scene (countless spots have put a creative twist on our culinary delights), but so too is staying in at your “home away from home”.
This is a particularly attractive to budget travelers and 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 also plenty of fish (seafood) markets, trucks and plants operating around the province. This is one of the friendliest destinations in the world, so don`t be shy, just ask and we 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 a foodie hunt on the high seas.
3. Wild Game
NL is a pristine natural habitat with an abundance of wildlife that offers delicious cuisine. On the island, moose, and rabbit top our list of culinary delights.
In Labrador, Moose is increasing in popularity but Labradorians (as is the case with seafood) have a much broader palette.
Favorites include white partridge (ptarmigan), spruce partridge (grouse), hare (arctic and snowshoe), geese and duck (and eggs), and even porcupine.
4. Jigg’s Dinner
Jigg’s dinner (we call it cooked dinner) is a Sunday staple in many areas of the province.
Salt beef (or salt riblets) serve 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 accompanied our 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 the rich vegetable and meat broth.
Finally a light gravy, made from the remaining juices of the cooked turkey or pork roast, serves as the dinner drizzle. Jigg’s dinner is, to say the least, a delicious stick to your ribs meal.
5. Pea Soup & Dough Boys
Pea soup holds a near and dear place in the hearts of many Newfoundlanders. Our fond childhood memories include weekends and summers at Nan and Pop`s (NL term for Grandmother and Grandfather) helping Nan prepare this yummy, hearty soup.
Pea soup is very easy to make too. It consists of yellow-split peas, root vegetables (see Jiggs Dinner above) and either leftover ham bone or salt beef.
Dumplings (called dough boys in NL) always accompany Pea Soup.
6. Fish & Brewis (Pronounced Bruise)
Another Newfoundland favorite is Fish and Brewis which consists of salt cod and hard bread (hard tack).
Tack is a highly non-perishable food that’s been 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. It is 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 and turn golden brown. They are crispy outside and slightly chewy inside and are delicious.
8. Berry Desserts
So how about your sweet tooth? Well NL is blessed with an abundant variety of wild berries. Our berry list here, while far from exhaustive, includes many of our personal favorites.
In the past, pies and cakes served as the traditional berry dessert. Today our burgeoning foodie scene is bringing berry desserts into a whole new stratosphere including ice-creams, jams, jellies, syrups, crumbles and crisps.