12 classic foods to try while traveling in Australia.
Australia is an incredible country, but it is not famous for its food.
Many local favorites are just adaptations of British food, and the climate and landscape varies so much around Australia that it’s hard to have a consistent national cuisine.
Most of the country is desert, the north is tropical and the coasts are temperate. The best fresh foods and produce are different everywhere you go, and “Australian” cuisine tends to fall short compared to other international cuisines.
Most of Australia’s best restaurants are multicultural, mixing local ingredients with culinary influence from other countries.
Australia also has a thriving health food scene, so some of Australia’s most delicious food comes from vegan or vegetarian cafes.
Either way, the meals served in restaurants around Australia are created using a mix of locally sourced ingredients with the recipes and flavors inspired by different cultures.
But if we’re talking about the most stereotypical “Australian” foods, there aren’t many.
Packaged foods bought in supermarkets, like vegemite and tim tams, are probably the most classic things that come to mind when we think of “Australian food”.
In my experience, as an American living in Australia for a year with no preconceived notion of “Australian food”, these are the foods that Aussies have been excited for me to try.
These are also all foods I hadn’t tried anywhere else prior to visiting Australia.
These are the 12 best foods to try in Australia:
Of course I listed vegemite first.
This is probably the first food item that comes to mind when foreigners think of Australia, though most probably picture a horrible brown paste that makes people gag when they taste it.
This image is accurate, but those who hate vegemite probably aren’t eating it right.
Vegemite is a thick savory spread made from yeast, malt, and a few other flavorings, and it is meant to complement existing flavors.
In other words, it isn’t something you spread in large quantities like peanut butter or nutella.
Properly executed, one would toast a piece of good quality bread, spread lots of butter, then spread a little bit of vegemite, leaving plenty of gaps on the bread.
To take it to the next level, add some avocado on top.
To sound like an Australian, say “avo” instead of avocado.
2. Anzac Biscuits
Anzac Biscuits are named because they were a staple in the diets of Australian and Kiwi soldiers during World War I (ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).
Made with flour, oats, desiccated coconut, golden syrup and no eggs or dairy, these sweet cookies could stay fresh for a long time.
Women at home used to send these cookies to their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons during the war, so though Anzac biscuits taste pretty ordinary they are a lovely part of the history of Australia and New Zealand.
A simple but yummy Australian dessert, Lamingtons can be homemade or sold in packages at the grocery store.
Lamingtons are little sponge cakes coated with chocolate and shredded coconut.
4. Fairy Bread
To be honest, fairy bread is kind of gross and more popular among kids than adults.
But on Australia Day in January, my Aussie roommates made this sweet treat and insisted I try some.
Fairy bread is basically sliced white bread covered in butter with colorful sprinkles scattered over the top.
5. Sticky Date Pudding
One of the most delicious Australian desserts to try is sticky date pudding.
The Aussies seem to have adopted the weird British habit of naming things “puddings” even when they are not pudding-like at all (Ex. Yorkshire Pudding).
So sticky date pudding is actually a sort of cake, not a pudding.
The cake is sweetened with cooked dates and is served warm, with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Cafes sometimes serve sticky date pudding but homemade is the best.
A pavlova is a light but satisfying dessert consisting of meringue, whipped cream and fruit.
Berries and passionfruit are common fruit toppings for a pavlova, though every restaurant, cafe and household has their own special way of making it.
7. Tim Tams
Yes, there are a lot of sweets on this list of foods to try in Australia.
Luckily Australia is full of beaches for running and surfing and mountains for hiking so you can counteract how much sugar you’re eating.
Tim tams are one of the most beloved treats in Australia.
These chocolate sandwich cookies are best enjoyed dipped in tea so the chocolate coating gets nice and melty.
8. Cadbury Chocolate
Like many aspects of Australian culture, Cadbury chocolate originated in the UK and somehow made its way over to Oceania. Though Cadbury is English, it has become the most popular chocolate brand in Australia.
It is rare to attend any sort of social gathering in Australia without someone bringing a few bars of Cadbury chocolate.
At the supermarket you’ll see an entire section of the sweets aisle dedicated to different flavors of Cadbury, though Fruit & Nut tends to be everyone’s go-to.
Another Australian language lesson for you: the common term for chocolate is “choccy”.
9. Savory Pies
This Australian food is also shared with the British, and the first time I had a savory pie was actually in England.
But Aussies love their pies, so they are definitely part of their culture now regardless of where they originated.
Most cafes and bakeries in Australia sell small, personal sized pies filled with savory meat and cheese or veggies. They are served hot, and usually topped with tomato or barbecue sauce.
Most pie shops have at least one vegetarian option. It is more rare to find vegan pies, but if you go to any plant-based cafe or restaurant you’ll probably find some.
10. Local Seafood
With a huge coastline and an active population of fishermen and divers, there is plenty of fresh seafood all around Australia.
Most of the oysters in Australia are farmed in Sydney and parts of New South Wales, also in South Australia and Tasmania.
Barramundi is a fish native to Australia, abalone is a popular mollusk and rock lobsters are small lobsters without claws.
Wherever you go, ask what the local seafood is and give it a try.
11. Local Fruits
Because Australia is so huge, it has different local fruits that thrive in different areas.
In warm climate of the north you’ll find lots of exotic, tropical fruits that have made their way over from Southeast Asia.
In tropical north Queensland, be sure to taste rambutans, mangosteens and durian, in addition to the popular tropical fruits like mangos, papayas, pitayas and passionfruits.
In New South Wales, the climate is a bit drier and cooler so you’ll find a different variety of fruits.
For example, in northern NSW you’ll find crisp, fresh apples during the autumn and along the south coast of NSW you’ll find delicious blueberries in the summer.
Figure out what fruits are specialties of the area you are in, and eat what is local.
If you buy fruit from a supermarket, make sure you take a moment to acknowledge the blood, sweat and tears of the backpackers who probably picked those fruits.
12. Aussie BBQ
Though this isn’t a specific food, having a barbecue is a classic Australian experience.
You’ve probably heard the saying “throw a shrimp on the barbie”, and even though I’ve never heard an actual Australian say that, it does refer to having a barbecue.
I’ve also never seen an Aussie eat shrimp during a barbecue, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. Most Aussie barbecues I’ve attended consist of grilled meat, and sometimes veggies or potatoes.
The most popular barbecue meal I’ve seen is grilled sausages thrown on a piece of white bread with grilled onions and either barbecue sauce or tomato sauce. My Aussie boyfriend refers to this as a “sauso sanga”, so that seems like a pretty good way to go if you want a gourmet, authentic Australian summer meal.
For more travel articles from Australia, check out these links:
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