For rural Canadians, annual community festivals help to instil a sense of hometown pride. For out-of-towners, these events are a great excuse to explore communities — and to discover a smorgasbord of eating options.
Here’s our definitive ranking of the best fair food across Canada—and where to find the best versions.
10. The food: Oliebollen
Where to find it: Brighton Applefest
Even if you can’t place Brighton on a map, we guarantee that if you’ve ever driven between Toronto and Ottawa, you’re familiar with the town’s iconic “big apple.” Head here in late September to sample oliebollen. Also known as a “dutchie,” these traditional Dutch/Belgian doughnuts are deep-fried right on the street for maximum deliciousness.
9. The food: Perogies
Where to find it: Smoky Lake Pumpkin Fair & Weigh-Off
Fall marks festive gourd season. However, skip the pumpkin pie and get straight to the good stuff—authentic Ukrainian food, including perogies and borscht. This festival has it all, owing to its location within Alberta’s “Ukrainian bloc,” an area inhabited by the largest mass of Ukrainian-Canadians in the Prairies.
8. The food: Lobster Roll
Where to find it: Shediac Lobster Festival
Every year, Shediac’s Chamber of Commerce attempts to break the world record for the longest lobster roll. (For those curious, the current record is over 120 feet.) While it’s not exactly the most exciting spectator sport, it’s probably one of the tastiest.
7. The food: Butter Tarts
Where to find it: Midland’s Butter Tart Festival
There are very few foods that can be defined as “Canadian national foods,” which is perhaps why we hold butter tarts in such high esteem. For one day in June, enthusiasts gather in Midland, Ontario to sample the 150,000 tarts and related products on offer at the Butter Tart Festival.
6. The food: Saskatoon pie
Where to find it: Saskatoon Berry Festival in Mortlach, Saskatchewan
If there’s nothing more American than apple pie, does that mean there’s nothing more Canadian than saskatoon pie? You can be the judge at the Saskatoon Berry Festival in Mortlach (just outside Moose Jaw), where 5,000 people gather each July to celebrate the indigenous berry-like fruit.
5. The food: Nanaimo Doughnut Holes
Where to find it: Western Fair in London, Ontario
Haven’t heard of this fair food? That’s because it was only introduced in 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th birthday. It’s a marriage of two quintessentially Canadian sweets, and the kind of union no one would ever object to.
4. The food: Peameal Bacon Sandwich
Where to find it: Festivals throughout Ontario
The peameal bacon sandwich is Hogtown’s trademark dish, but it can be harder to find in Toronto than you might think. That’s why we suggest heading out of town and scouring the small town food trucks until you find one of these savoury treats.
3. The food: Maple cotton candy
Where to find it: At festivals across Ontario and Quebec from February to April
In Ontario and Quebec, maple syrup festivals mark the arrival of early springtime. Maple taffy cooled in fresh snow is an obvious go-to, but it will be the maple cotton candy that you’ll remember best.
2. The food: Frybread (or Bannock)
Where to find it: Grand River Pow Wow
Looking for bannock? We suggest checking out a pow wow to get the goods. Sometimes referred to as frybread, this traditional snack can be combined with savoury or sweet toppings.
1. The food: Poutine
Where to find it: The Drummondville Poutine Festival
C’mon — is any introduction needed for poutine? Ubiquitous at events across Canada, there’s no need to explain why there’s an entire festival in Quebec devoted to it — or why it tops our list.