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Cuisine of Quebec

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Poutine was created in Centre-du-Québec.

The cuisine of Québec (also called "French Canadian cuisine" or "cuisine québécoise") is a national cuisine in the Canadian province of Québec. It is also cooked by Franco-Ontarians.

Québec's cuisine descended from 17th-century French cuisine and began to develop in New France from the labour-intensive nature of colonial life, the seasonality of ingredients and the need to conserve resources. It has been influenced by the province's history of fur trading and hunting, as well as Québec's winters, soil fertility, teachings from First Nations, British cuisine, American cuisine, historical trade relations and some immigrant cuisines.

Québec is home to many unique dishes and is most famous for its poutine, tourtières, pâté chinois, pea soup, fèves au lard, cretons and desserts such as grands-pères, pouding chômeur and St. Catherine's taffy. Québec's unique dishes are the traditional fare of the holidays, as well as the temps des sucres, a time in March where families go to sugar shacks.

Québec is known for being the biggest producer of maple syrup on the planet, as 72% of the maple syrup sold in the world (and 90% sold in Canada) originates from Québec.[1] The province is also recognized for having created over 700 different kinds of cheese, some of which have won international contests.[2]

Food critic Jacob Richler wrote that Québec's cuisine is better defined than that of the rest of Canada, due to its language barrier with the dominant culture of the United States and having had more time to develop. Conversely, Québec's cuisine and Acadian cuisine have much in common due to proximity and a shared language and history.



The cuisine of Québec evolved from that of 17th-century Northern France. It also retains some heritage from Poitevin cuisine: many Québecois make pâté marmite; soupe aux gourganes, which is based on gourgane beans, a strain of fava bean;[3] and soups based on other legumes.[4] Charentaise chowders (chaudrées charentaises) have evolved into the quiaudes of Gaspesia[5] and the tourtes salées of Poitiers into tourtières.[6][7]

Other foods that originate from France are pot-au-feu; blood sausage (boudin); head cheese (tête fromagée); plorine sausages; ham hock stew (ragoût de pattes de cochon); rabbit stew (civet de lapin); French toast (pain perdu or pain doré); and pastries like crêpes, beignets, croquignole biscuits, and tarts. As in France, pork is the most popular meat.

Québécois workers collecting and processing maple sap to create maple syrup.

From the moment they arrived in the early 17th century, French colonists always preferred their native cuisine. However, they learned some culinary techniques from the Algonquins, Atikamekw and Iroquois. The most important ones were l’acériculture (the process of harvesting maple sap and creating maple syrup), ice fishing, and boucanage (in which fish or other meat is smoked for preservation and flavour).11

Food preservation was always important in pioneer times, due to long winters and to the frequent voyages of coureurs des bois. Butter, herbs, and lard were used for seasoning and salting. Pork and fish were boucanés(smoked), while other meats and vegetables were preserved in vinegar. These techniques are still practiced today, though not for survival. As game was so plentiful, pioneers and their descendants always hunted and fished for sustenance.

By the 1670s, a substantial agrarian population had emerged in the region of Québec City, and French habits dominated. Meals almost always featured soup, bread, meat, and wine.[8] Since the climate made it difficult to grow grapes, wines were always imported from France.[9]12

The Conquest of New France in 1760 brought some culinary changes to Québec. One of the immediate effects was the elimination of wine, as it could no longer be imported from France. Another major change was the importation of the potato, which, in only a few decades, became a staple ingredient in Québec, dethroning bread in popularity. Sugar consumption also increased. Finally, the British imported many recipes like mashed potatoes, crumble, and meat pies.

The selling of pork in marché Bonsecours in 1926.

Because tensions with the young United States alleviated, the period following the Aroostook War in 1839 saw increased interaction between Québec and New England. Some recipes inspired by the cultural exchange included fèves au lard, ketchup maison, and date squares.[10]4 The socio-economic standing of French Canadians also fell to deplorable levels; the intense poverty pushed them to simplify their meals. Recipes for bouillon were now almost nothing more than warm water. Alcoholic beverages were rarely consumed, and butter was either used sparingly or absent. Some famine foods like ploye emerged during this period.

By the early 1900s, conditions had improved somewhat, though French Canadians were still poor. Most families would often eat a mix of potatoes and pork on their plate, which is still a staple combination today. During this period, the passenger pigeon, called tourte in French, also became extinct. Because this bird's meat had been used to fill the pie-like dishes known as tourtières, the tourtière recipe had to change. Farm-raised meats like beef and pork were usually chosen as the substitutes.3[11]

The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the creation of new recipes like pâté chinois ("Chinese pie") and pouding chômeur ("unemployed man's pudding") that were delicious and cost-conscious.5 Immigration after this period diversified; immigrants no longer came only from the British Isles but also from other parts of Europe. Jewish specialties like bagels and Eastern Europe-style smoked meat became popular, resulting in the creation of Montréal-style smoked meat and Montréal-style bagels.17

The 1950s saw many changes in the eating habits of the Québécois for a variety of reasons: many American fast-food restaurants expanded in Québec, raw milk was banned, and many fruits and vegetables became available year-round thanks to refrigerators and larger supply chains. As a result, the homemade pain de ménage was replaced with store-bought sandwich bread6; many old cheese recipes were abandoned and new ones created; and spaghetti, pizza, turkey, bacon, sausages, industrial cheeses, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, coleslaw and lobster rolls all become popular.

In the late 1950s, these changes brought about the creation of poutine—arguably the most famous Québécois dish—as well as other dishes, like hot chicken and guédilles.

The Quiet Revolution of the 1960s to 1970s greatly improved the socio-economic standing of French Canadians. This allowed them to have a more diverse diet. It also set the stage for high-quality products to be created in Québec and for the emergence of Québécois restaurants, for example Lafleur, Valentine, La Belle Province or St-Hubert.

From the 1980s to today, a desire for higher quality foods, more spending power, and an influence by immigrants from Europe —particularly Italy, Greece, France and Portugal— has led to the rise of the creation and production of high-quality cheeses and alcoholic beverages across Québec, as well as a return to recipes of the terroir.13 Immigration from Greece has popularized gyros and brought about slouvaki pitas.[12] Immigrants from Lebanon have popularized shawarmas which has created shish taouk.[13] Finally, NAFTA and the new culture of Quebecers vacationing south has resulted in the adoption of Americanized sushi and Tex-Mex dishes like nachos, fajitas, salsa, chili and burritos.[14][15]



Game, seafood, and fish


Historical poverty led many families in Québec to hunt for substenance until the mid 20th century.19 Tourtières were stuffed with the meat of the tourte, or passenger pigeon, which used to be common and easy prey. But, by the early 20th century, the passenger pigeon became extinct due to overhunting, deforestation, and the Allee effect.11 Families had to replace the meat with whatever they had. As a result, most modern tourtières are filled with beef or pork.

Today, the consumption of game remains a tradition, although game is not sold in grocery stores. When available, Québécois eat meat from moose, deer, hares, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, waterfowl and more rather than that of livestock.[16] Game is also sometimes given as a gift.

Lobsters fished in Gaspesia that are ready to be sold.

As for seafood, lobster and crab are caught in Gaspesia, la Côte-Nord, and the Magdalen Islands to be sold to the rest of Québec. Shrimp is often marketed as crevette de Matane after the shrimp-processing factory in the town of Matane. However, the shrimp themselves are caught in several villages on the Saint Lawrence River estuary. Mussels, oysters, scallops, and whelks (bourgots) are also caught.[17]

Salmon and trout are the most popular fish in Québec. The brook trout is nearly ubiquitous, salmon is farmed and can be caught in 118 different rivers, and Arctic char is present across nearly 100 lakes.[18] Other fished species include lake trout, yellow perch, walleye, muskellunge, Northern pike, micropterus, rainbow smelt, Greenland halibut, mackerel, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, Atlantic cod (Eastern Québec), Atlantic herring (Eastern Québec), American eel (between Trois-Rivières and Cap-Chat), ouananiche (a kind of freshwater salmon; Lac Saint-Jean),2 frostfish (Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade), deepwater redfish (Saguenay fjords), capelin (coastal villages), and brown bullhead (Îles de Sorel).

Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade holds a world-renowned festival every December to February called La pêche des petits poisons des chenaux, where ice fishers catch tomcods. Historically, starving French colonists learned ice fishing techniques from the Atikamekw—a privilege, as the technique was kept a secret from neighbouring First Nations.



Pork is the meat used most often in Québécois recipes. Beef is also commonly used but has been losing popularity in recent years. In summer, beef commonly features in barbecues.

Québécois pigs are mostly hybrids of the Duroc, Yorkshire, and American Landrace breeds.[19] The cattle are also hybrids of many breeds; the Aberdeen Angus, Charolais, and Limousin are the most common.[20] Despite the large cattle population, Québec imports most of its beef from the Canadian West, using its own cattle mostly for dairy. Milk production is dominated by the Holstein, but Jersey or Brown Swiss cows are also milked.[21]

Poultry is commonly consumed. Chicken is the most popular by far, but turkey and duck are also consumed.[22] Chicken eggs are very popular and mostly used at breakfast and to make pastries. Turkey is traditionally served at Christmas and Thanksgiving with croutons and sage.[23] The Estrie region has produced duck since the early 20th century. Québec is also the only producer of foie gras in Canada, as well as its largest producer in North America.[24]

Horse is eaten very marginally- by less than 1% of Quebecois. Its consumption is taboo.[25]

Other meats include lamb, veal, rabbit, bison, elk and frog legs (from American bullfrogs and leopard frogs).[26][27]

Spices, sweeteners and cereals


Spices common in traditional recipes are linked to local production and historical commerce: salt, savory, cloves, cinnamon, parsley, thyme, sage, nutmeg, quatres épices, chives, garlic, oregano and bay leaf.411 Thanks to globalisation, a wider selection of international spices are available today, like turmeric, curry powder, allspice, cumin, cayenne pepper, etc. In recent years, chefs have attempted to create excitement for the flavours of the boreal forest; among them are green alder pepper, sweetfern, caraway seed, sweetgale, and juniper berry.

Ancestral bread oven of Québec in Saint-Damien-de-Bellechasse.

The types of sugar used are white sugar, brown sugar and maple sugar. Maple syrup is used to sweeten breakfasts, meats, and pastries. Honey is almost exclusively used for desserts, but it is also used as toast spread. Molasses and raisins are common ingredients in traditional recipes because of historical commerce with the Antilles and Brazil.11

Traditional and most common cereals are wheat, rice, oat and buckwheat.[28] Buckwheat became popular because it could grow well on the Canadian Shield.1 Nowadays, a few other cereals have managed to gain a small presence: quinoa, wild rice, chia seeds, and barley.

Fruits and vegetables


The most commonly used vegetables in traditional Québécois cuisine were those that can easily be preserved to last throughout the winter, either kept in a cool storage area like a root cellar or brined in jars. These vegetables are potato, onion, carrot, beet, pumpkin, squash (butternut, spaghetti, accorn, etc.), zucchini, beans, cabbage, turnip, and corn. In modern times, Québécois also cook with store-bought tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, lettuce, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, avocado, microgreens, radish, shallot, spinach, parsnip, eggplant, artichoke, kale, leek, rutabaga, sweet potato, celery, lentil, peanut, soybean, chickpea and others. Rhubarb is typically grown in backyard gardens. Fiddleheads are gathered from the wild in the spring.

Frequently eaten berries are the blueberry,2 strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, grape, cherry and cranberry.[29][30] The goldenberry is uncommonly imported from South America. Cloudberries only grow in the wilds of the boreal forest, but are still gathered seasonally in northern communities. Finally, as these plants were banned on the continent in the early 20th century and were, with time, forgotten, all types of gooseberries or currants are virtually unknown to Quebecers.[31][32]

Other important locally-grown fruits are the apple, pear, plum, cantaloupe and watermelon.[33][34] The most eaten imported fruits are: banana, orange, lemon, lime, kiwi, coconut, mango, clementine and pineapple. Other imported -but less popular- fruits include: pomegranate, grapefruit, starfruit, papaya, dragonfruit, passionfruit, fig and others.

Mushrooms have long been absent from Québec's traditional cuisine. However, they are present now, and almost always of the cremini variety. In recent years, morchella, chanterelle shiitake and enokis mushrooms have gained a small presence.[35]

Examples of unique dishes


Entrées or sides


Main course






Poutine variants


Poutine is arguably the most famous Québécois dish.[citation needed] The classic poutine is composed of fresh French fries and fresh cheese curds topped with hot brown gravy in a shallow bowl. The cheese curds are usually at room temperature to prevent them from melting and losing their elasticity or "squeakiness". Poutine emerged in the Centre-du-Québec area in the late 1950s. Its precise origins are uncertain as there are several cities and towns claiming to have invented the dish.

For many years, it was perceived negatively by English Canadians and mocked in English Canada.20 It was even used by some to stigmatize Québec society. But, it later became celebrated as a symbol of Québécois culture and the province of Québec. It has long been associated with Québec cuisine, and its rise in prominence has led to its popularity in the rest of Canada, in the northern United States, and internationally. Poutine has been called "Canada's national dish" though many believe this is cultural appropriation of Québécois and Québec's national identity, especially since Canada has mocked Québec for it, in the not-so-distant past. 2016

Because variants on the classic poutine have become widespread, many now consider poutine to be a dish class of its own. Some of the most commonly seen variants include: chicken poutine (chicken is added), hot dog poutine (hot dog is added), pulled pork poutine (pulled pork is added), smoked meat poutine (Montréal smoked meat is added), galvaude poutine (adds peas and turkey, and is associated with maritime Québec), all-dressed poutine (adds ingredients to imitate an all-dressed pizza), "Italian" poutine (which replaces gravy with bolognese sauce), and lobster poutine (lobster is added and gravy is substituted). Menus who list variants on the classic poutine can vary wildly between restaurants. Establishments who specialise in poutines usually offer many variants and are called poutineries.[60][61][62]



When Canada was part of the French Empire, colonials used their Canadienne cattle to create a variety of soft, semi-soft and soft-ripened cheeses to eat.[63] Following the Conquest of New France, the British began importing hard cheeses like Cheddar.15

In the 1960s, the banning of crude milk made most of the old cheese-making techniques and recipes, which up to that point had been successfully passed on for centuries, disappear and become forgotten. Only a few recipes remain. The Saint-Pierre, produced on l'île d’Orléans, has the honour of being the oldest North American cheese. It is a soft-ripened cheese sold under the forms of la Faisselle, le Paillasson or le Raffiné.[64][65][66] The Cailles cheese, a cheese made from fermented milk and typically used in salads, also used to be quite widespread. It now only exists in the Charlevoix and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean regions. Nowadays, there are attempts to diversify the ways in which Cailles is consumed.[67]

There are some cheeses that were created by priests. Towards the end of the 19th century, a group of trappist monks were expelled from France and moved to Oka. One of them, who originated from Notre-Dame-du-Port-du-Salut, created a paste which was eventually used to mold the first Oka cheese. Benedictines were responsible for creating l’Ermite, a blue cheese, in 1943 at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac.[68]

Today, Québec creates over 700 different kinds of cheeses and is the biggest cheese producer in Canada.[69] Québecers enjoy many natively produced and imported hard cheeses, including hard cheeses flavored with beer or wine. Most soft cheeses are produced locally and many are artisanal.

Maple syrup


Québec produces 72% of the maple syrup sold on Earth and 90% of the maple syrup sold in Canada.[70] Maple syrup is made from heated maple sap. The syrup is often used at breakfast to cover crêpes and pain doré, and as a component of fèves au lard. It can also be used to caramelize meats like ham, to stabilize the acidity of certain sauces, and to complement desserts. It is the main ingredient showcased in sugar shacks.16

Many maple syrup-derived products exist. Tire, French for sugar on snow, is heated maple syrup that is cast onto a flat bed of snow and then rolled up onto a Popsicle stick. Tire is very popular at sugar shacks and during springtime. Maple butter is a spread commonly used at breakfast on toast. Maple sugar can serve as a replacement to brown and white sugar.

Smoked meat

Atlantic herring undergoing boucanage.

In Québec, a technique called boucanage is sometimes used to smoke meat.

Colonials learned this technique from Native Americans. After they discovered that it was useful for preserving food, they decided to start smoking their meat in the boucanage fashion, following their usual brining and/or spicing. Native Americans, on the other hand, continued to only boucaner and never started brining or spicing.11 Today, Québecers still eat food that has been boucané for its taste.

Establishments called boucanières or boucaneries are specialized in the process. Modern boucanières can also use tree essences to infuse a certain taste in the meat, with maple wood being the most popular choice. A technique called boucaner à froid has also been developed; it involves drying fish and then suspending them over a fire.15 Boucaner à froid has always been popular in the Gaspesia, Bas-Saint-Laurent and Côte-Nord regions since fish were and are still commonly caught there.[71]

A Montréal smoked meat sandwich.

In the 1930s, Jewish immigrants came to Montréal and introduced their own Eastern European meat-smoking technique to Québec. This technique is often used today to make Montréal smoked meat, which is then often cut up in narrow slices to be added to dishes as an ingredient. Montréal smoked meat is also often spiced with Montréal steak spice and used to make Montréal smoked meat sandwiches.[72]17

Smoked salmon has become more popular in recent decades due to influence from the United States and Europe. Smoked pork's popularity has decreased11 and it is now almost exclusively consumed during Easter.18



In Quebec, charcuterie is sometimes referred to as cochonailles.

  • Creton is composed of ground pork, lard, milk and cereal that is cooked together to obtain a creamy paste. Cretons are often eaten as a snack or for breakfast on roasted bread pieces called rôties. If another kind of meat is used to create cretons, like poultry or veal, it is called cretonnade instead.
  • Tête fromagée is less popular but used in the same way as cretons.
  • The boudin of Québec is made of lard, milk, onions and pork blood. It is served in a pan along with a sweet side or a sauce. Since 2018, the Goûte-Boudin de Boucherville association hands out a yearly prize for the best boudin.[73]
  • Plorines are composed of lard and flavoured meat enveloped in pork caul fat. Sometimes plorine recipes can also include eggs, beef and/or bread.
  • Oreilles de Christ are lard pieces that are fried until crispy. They are eaten as an amuse-gueule and sometimes with maple syrup.


A crêpe with fruits and chocolate.
A tower of pets-de-sœurs

Here are some pastries popular in Quebec:

  • Crêpes are flat and round, made from wheat or buckwheat flour. The crêpes of Québec are thicker than those from France, but not thick like pancakes of Anglo-Saxon cultures. They are popular breakfast items. They are often served with maple syrup and/or fruits.5
  • Doughnuts. The doughnut holes are eaten as well with powdered sugar or icing on top.
  • Croquignoles are braided, twisted or rectangular fried dough pastries. They can be found in rural regions.11
  • Pies. The most popular kinds are fruit-based, like blueberry, apple, strawberry, or raspberry. Other popular kinds of pies include tarte au sucre, tarte à la farlouche, and tarte au suif.
  • Cakes. Popular kinds include carrot cake and chocolate cake.
  • Sucre à la crème is a fudge-like sweet.
  • Pets-de-sœur and cinnamon rolls are both popular and spiral-shapped.
  • Chocolatines consist of small croissants with chocolate inside.
  • Pouding chomeur is a white cake soaked in maple syrup or brown sugar.
  • Grands-pères, a spherical cake that is eaten plain, with maple syrup, or filled with fruits.5
  • Éclairs, an oblong pastry stuffed with cream and topped with chocolate.
  • Macarons are a sandwich-shaped meringue-based sweet.
  • Mille-feuilles are a layered puff pastry.

Regional foods


Some regions of Québec are known for specific foods or products. Montréal is known for having created Montréal-style smoked meat, Montréal-style bagels, Montréal hot dogs (also called "steamies"), and Montréal melons. The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is the birthplace of the tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean, soupe aux gourganes and Saguenay Dry.

Maritime Quebec, known for its fish and seafood, is a region where cipaille is consumed during the holidays.[74] Pot-en-pot des îles de la Madeleine is a dish of the Magdellan Islands.[75]

Some municipalities are associated with high-quality meat, such as duck from lake Brome[76] or Charlevoix lamb.

Strains and breeds




Over the centuries, new strains of fruits and vegetables were created in Québec. Then, in the 1900s, people moved away from a farming lifestyle. As a result, most of these have been lost.[77] Here are some that have been preserved or rediscovered:

  • The Montréal melon
  • White Canadian corn[78]
  • The crotte-d’ours potato of Louis-Marie[79]
  • The Thibodeau bean of Saint-Jules[80]
  • The pomme Fameuse[81]
  • The Mémé tomato of Beauce[82]
  • The potato onion[83]



Though few in number now, these breeds are still used today:




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  65. ^ "Le fromage de l'Île d'Orléans est sauvé" (consulted 2020-04-07)
  66. ^ "Les Fromages de l'île d'Orléans" (consulted 2020-04-07)
  67. ^ "Le fromage en grains ou en crottes" (consulted 2020-04-07)
  68. ^ "Cheeses of Quebec" (consulted 2020-04-07)
  69. ^ "Le Québec est le plus grand producteur de fromage au Canada" (consulted 2020-04-07)
  70. ^ «Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec" (consulted 2020-04-14)
  71. ^ "Fumage du poisson au Québec" (consulted 2020-04-09)
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  74. ^ "Matane, destination gourmande de la crevette", www.tourisme-gaspesie.com (consulted 23 April 2019).
  75. ^ "Pot-en-pot des îles de la Madeleine". Ricardo (in French).
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  78. ^ "Le maïs canadien blanc". 8 February 2017. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  79. ^ "La patate crotte-d'ours de Louis-Marie". 30 June 2017. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
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