12 Must-Try Foods in Quebec
It’s no secret that Quebec has become somewhat of a foodie destination, with a rich culinary heritage, unique dishes, and world-class producers to discover. Its cuisine has been heavily influenced by European colonization, with many of its stand-out dishes brought by early French settlers and evolving over time into uniquely Canadian versions.
If you’re joining one of our Quebec Tours, here are 12 of the dishes you should keep an eye out for on your journey, with options for both savory and sweet tooths.
Quebec’s reputation for poutine extends well beyond its borders and you can’t come to the province without trying this signature dish. It consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy and is served everywhere from street-side food trucks to high-end restaurants. It is believed to have been invented (accidentally) in the town of Warwick when a customer asked for French fries and cheese curds, only to describe what was served up as “poutine” (“mess”). Today, you’ll find poutine with a diverse array of toppings, including chorizo, pulled pork, and foie gras.
These meat pies are a staple in the bakeries of Quebec City, as well as being a standard dish on local tables at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It takes its name from the dish in which it was originally cooked, a tourtière, and is considered French in its origins, although the British (who took control of Quebec in the mid-18th century) influenced its evolution. While tourtières are usually filled with minced pork, veal, or beef, you can also find wild game options. Along the shores of Lac-Saint-Jean, you’ll find seafood-filled tourtières, which usually have a thicker crust than their city counterparts.
Crêpes are synonymous with French and Belgian cuisine and were brought by European explorers to Quebec where they have been given a life of their own. Traditionally made with milk, flour, and eggs, they are cooked on a cast-iron plate before being stuffed with either savory of sweet fillings. For street-side crepes, head to Chez Jules Crêperie in the courtyard of the Holy Trinity Cathedral or dine on duck confit and goat cheese-filled varieties at the charming Crêperie-Bistro L’Escale.
Originally brought to Quebec by Jewish immigrants, bagels are now found on almost every street corner in Montreal. If you’re used to the New York City variety, you can expect a smaller, denser, and sweeter bagel and while the jury is still out, many people claim that the Quebec version is better than those found in the “Big Apple”. One of the joys of walking around Montreal is peering into cafes where bagels are cooked over a wood fire, ready to be served with your fillings of choice. Vying for the title of the oldest bagel shop in the city are St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel.
5. Smoked meat sandwich
While you’re in Montreal, be sure to try another Jewish-influenced snack - rye bread topped with smoked beef brisket and mustard. If that sounds like it’s right up your alley, make a beeline for Schwartz’s Deli, which was established by a Jewish immigrant from Romania in 1928. Want to know the secret to their smoked meat sandwich’s mouthwatering flavor? A 10-day curing time and a brick smokehouse that has been operating for 90 years.
6. French onion soup
Some gourmet historians believe that French onion soup originated in Paris in the 18th century while others believe it has been around since Roman times. Whatever your views, this long-running favorite has made its way to the restaurant menus of Quebec where it is known as soupe à l’oignon. While you can find plenty of different versions, traditionally speaking, it comprises a beef broth and caramelized onions, which are topped with croutons and melted cheese. If you’re a connoisseur, look for French onion soup with a splash of red wine or ale for added richness.
7. Soupe aux pois
Another winter warming dish in Quebec is soupe aux pois, which consists of dried yellow peas cooked with salted pork and a variety of vegetables. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain is credited with bringing the soup to Canadian shores around 400 years ago and it has long since been embraced by families throughout the province. In fact, many will have their own recipe that has been passed down through the generations and appears on the table each year during the holiday season.
Cretons is a pork pâté that is similar to French rilettes. Made from ground pork, onions, and spices (plus marrow to help it congeal) it is usually served on toast as part of a traditional Quebecois breakfast. Cretons was popularized decades ago by lumberjacks working in the woods and is often given a touch of sweetness by adding a dollop of maple syrup.
9. Tire sur la neige
If you’re visiting one of Quebec’s sugar shacks, then be sure to try this local taffy, which is created by pouring hot maple syrup sap directly onto fresh snow. What results is a soft candy that is eaten straight away using long wooden sticks. To try tire sur la neige, you’ll have to coincide your visit with late winter or early spring when the maple syrup harvest has started and the snow is still on the ground.
10. Tarte au sucre
Translating as “sugar pie”, this deliciously sweet dish is popular throughout Northern France and Belgium but has a slightly grainier texture in its Quebecois version. Made using cream, flour, egg, and brown sugar (or sometimes maple syrup), it can be found at bakeries, supermarkets, and restaurants throughout the province.
11. Bûche de Noël
This log-shaped cake is a must-have at any Quebecois Christmas and is believed to have originated from the 12th-century yule log tradition. When sprinkled with oil and wine, it was thought that a burning log would help to ward off evil spirits. Eventually, this transitioned into an edible form of sponge cake that was filled with buttercream before being rolled up and sliced. Today, you’ll find sponge cakes and buttercreams in a variety of different flavors to suit your taste buds.
If you’re a fan of cheese, then you have come to the right place, with this decadent dairy product so celebrated in Quebec that it has its own drive - the Route des Fromages. Much like a wine-tasting tour, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet the makers while sampling a variety of different cheeses in bucolic surroundings. Quebec is particularly famed for its young, raw-milk cheeses made from either cow, goat, sheep, or buffalo’s milk and aged for less than 60 days.