Canadian Classics: What Is Poutine And How To Find a Good One

Canada, known for its breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, and rich cultural diversity, has more to offer than just its natural beauty.

Enter poutine, the iconic Canadian dish that has captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and visitors alike. This delectable combination of crispy fries, gooey cheese curds, and savory gravy has become a culinary sensation, earning its place as a true Canadian comfort food.

what is a poutine

What is Poutine: The Origins

The origins of poutine are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Several theories claim to be the true source of this indulgent dish. One popular legend attributes its creation to rural Quebec in the late 1950s.

There, a restaurant owner named Fernand Lachance is said to have spontaneously combined the three key ingredients to satisfy a customer’s request. The name “poutine” itself is French-Canadian slang for a mess, reflecting the informal and comforting nature of the dish.

The Components of a Classic Poutine

At the heart of any authentic poutine is a harmonious trio of ingredients: golden brown French fries, fresh cheese curds, and rich, flavorful gravy. The fries, ideally double-fried to achieve that perfect crispiness, form the foundation of the dish.

what is a poutine
Image: Unsplash

Next comes the cheese curds, which should be fresh and squeaky, offering a delightful contrast in texture to the fries. Finally, the pièce de résistance – a generous drizzle of hot, savory gravy, ensuring each bite is a symphony of flavors.

Note: in the case of vegan poutine the gravy is most commonly made using mushrooms, miso, onions and/or other veggies. It can be just as hearty and satisfying, if not more!

Regional Poutine Variations

what is a poutine
Source: Unsplash

While the classic purist poutine remains a beloved staple, Canadians have embraced the opportunity to put their own spin on this iconic dish.

From Montreal’s upscale versions featuring smoked meat to the Maritime provinces’ seafood-infused variations, the dish has evolved into a diverse culinary canvas that reflects the unique flavors of each region.

poutine canada

One of our favorite twists is mixing Polish and Canadian cuisine. Surprisingly, quite a few establishments tend to fuse the two. It is not uncommon to find poutine either topped with the Polish pierogi, or alongside pierogi on the menu.

Also, if you ever visit the popular Canadian dessert shop Beaver Tails, be on the lookout for their newest savory addition to the menu: PouTails! Just when we thought that a classic poutine was already comforting enough, now you can have a portion of poutine loaded onto another Canadian classic: beaver tail (deep fried dough). Make sure to hike it off!

poutails, canada poutine

Health Conscious & Vegan Options

In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards healthier alternatives to the traditional poutine. Some establishments offer baked sweet potato fries, vegetarian or vegan gravy options. There are even gluten-free alternatives, making this Canadian favorite more inclusive and accommodating to a variety of dietary preferences.

We have tried numerous vegan poutines and one thing to note is that oftentimes the cheese will be grated. One might argue that the whole appeal of poutine as a comfort classic is the squeeky cheese curds. Therefore, when vegan poutine hunting, make sure the venue uses curds instead of grated cheese.

vegan poutine, fern cafe victoria bc canada

One of the best vegan cheese curds we’ve ever tasted were in Victoria, British Columbia. Head to Fern Cafe and Bakery to try their irresistible cashew cheese curds. They even have a vegan poutine with BBQ pulled jackfruit!

Poutine’s Global Appeal

Beyond Canada’s borders, the dish has garnered international attention and admiration. Food enthusiasts around the world have embraced the concept. Restaurants from Paris to New York are putting their own creative twist on the classic dish. Poutine has become a symbol of Canadian culture, recognized and celebrated globally.

what is a poutine

Canadian Culinary Classic

Canadian poutine is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary experience that encapsulates the warmth and hospitality of Canada. Whether enjoyed on a chilly winter day or as a late-night snack after a lively celebration, this dish continues to win hearts with its simple yet irresistible combination of flavors and textures.

So, the next time you find yourself in the Great White North, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the savory magic of Canadian poutine. It’s a true testament to the country’s rich and diverse culinary landscape.

what is a poutine

Where was the best poutine you’ve ever tasted? Let us know in the comments below or tag @eightyflavors in your poutine post on Instagram!


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