One of the best things about traveling to different countries is sampling the different cuisine. Australia has a huge array of culinary influences from around the world. From edible grubs to sausage slangers, in this post you can find the popular Australian food that you’re most likely to come across in restaurants, shops, and homes around the country, with some of the stranger down under foods included in here too.
Popular Australian food
Vegemite on toast
Vegemite divides people – it’s loved or hated! It’s a savory spread that has in some ways become a national treasure. Vegemite on toast is the way it’s normally eaten, sometimes with sliced avocado, sometimes with melted cheese. It can also be added to soups and stews to give more flavor.
It was developed in 1922 as a way of using up brewer’s yeast to stop it from going to waste. There was a national naming competition for the product, and the name Vegemite was drawn from a hat.
You don’t get much more Australian than a meat pie. You can find these at any house party, sporting event, pub, cafe, and fair. The classic version of the meat pie is a flaky pastry parcel filled with minced meat, gravy and tomato sauce (nicknamed a “dog’s eye”), but there are plenty of alternative meat pies such as chicken and leek, butter chicken, beef curry, and more. There are up-market versions at fancy restaurants – but nothing beats your standard meat pie on the morning after a night out.
The Australian meat pie has seeped into national consciousness, and even folklore. There are wonderful stories of Sydney’s “Flying Pieman” of the 1800s, and the vendors that would sell them from street-carts. There’s been an official Great Aussie Pie Competition ever since 1990 – this national dish isn’t going anywhere.
Australia has struck a name for itself globally for its coffee – some say that it’s the land of the best flat whites in the world. A flat white is a popular beverage combining coffee, froth, and milk.
Both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to inventing this coffee, and it’s not known where exactly it started its life, but it’s presumed to have been some time in the 1980s. Today the flat white is popular the world-over.
The Splice is an iconic Australian ice-cream. It’s basically an ice cream center coated with a fruity ice layer. It reached popularity in the 70s and 80s and quickly became an essential addition to beach time in Australia.
Tim Tams are really popular chocolate biscuits made from layers of chocolate-malted biscuit and a light chocolate filling. This is then coated in chocolate.
They’re so delicious that according to the company that makes them, it sells over 35 million packs of Tim Tams a year. If you want to be truly Australian, you can do the ‘Tim Tam Slam’. Bite the corners off the top and opposite bottom sides, and then drink a glass of warm milk or hot chocolate through the Tim Tam like a straw.
This isn’t something you’ll find in shops or bakeries, but it’s something that every Australian knows how to make at home. Fairy Bread is one of those famous Australian foods that everyone nostalgically remembers from their childhood parties.
Fairy Bread is made with white bread, butter, and an abundance of hundreds and thousands which are used to generously cover the bread. Oh, and it has to be cut into triangles.
Dim Sim in Australia are inspired by the Chinese meat and vegetable dumplings. Normally in Australia you’ll find Dim Sim fried instead of steamed.
Australian Dim Sim are really big – normally half the size of a fist. They have a delicious filling of vegetables and minced meat.
Fish and Chips
Again, not originally from Australia, but fish and Chips is an important part of Australian cuisine and can be found in pretty much any beach-side pub. It’s a classic – fresh fish in a light crispy batter alongside thick-cut fries, wrapped in paper and dressed with salt and lemon.
Chicken Parmigiana is an iconic Australian food served up on pub menus and home dinner tables alike. It’s mostly called just “parma”, and it’s made from chicken fried in breadcrumbs topped with melted cheese, ham, and tomato sauce. It’s definitely the comfort food of Australian cuisine, and always a good choice with a beer at the pub.
Beetroot is a popular addition to many Australian foods – it’s added to salads, sandwiches, even burgers. It has an earthy taste that goes really well with these stronger flavors and because of this, you’ll notice it on many menus throughout the country.
The Neenish Tart deserves a mention in this post for its excellent name alone. The tart has a pastry base with a sweet gelatine-set cream filling and a two-colored icing on top.
It’s believed to have been invented in the early 1900s in New South Wales by Mrs Ruby Neenish. Allegedly, she was making chocolate tarts but ran out of coca, and so used some creative flair to create the famous Neenish Tart that is beloved across Australia today.
Another celebrated Australian dish is the pavlova, which is possibly the most famous sweet food from Australia. Pavlova is made from sweet meringue, whipped cream, and seasonal fresh fruit.
The fruit on top can vary from strawberries and other berries, to bananas, kiwi fruits, passionfruit, or more. The meringue is crispy and light with a crunchy shell and a gooey middle, and the whipped cream and fruit is deliciously indulgent.
It’s thought to have originally been inspired by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova’s tours of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s – but the two countries still argue over which nation was the birthplace of the dish itself.
Moreton Bay Bug
Australia has a great seafood scene and the Moreton Bay Bug is a bit of a classic. It’s not actually a bug at all (we’ll get to real bugs later on!) – it’s a lobster-like creature that is delicious when cut in half and grilled or barbecued in butter, lemon and seasoning.
Bush dust is a spice blend that’s tasty with almost any savory dish – particularly with fish, chicken, vegetables, or potatoes. It’s made from mixing macadamia nuts, bush tomatoes, Tasmanian native pepper, and other herbs and spices. It’s not hot or spicy but appears deeply red in color.
Lamingtons are another point of contention between Australia and New Zealand as to who can lay claim to the recipe. Australians claim that it was in 1900 that Lord Lamington of Queensland was given a lamington by his personal chef.
They are small sponge cakes, square in shape, that can be found in bakeries all over Australia. They’re normally filled with cream or jam, and then coated in a chocolate icing and topped with dessicated coconut.
It would be a crime not to mention the famous Aussie BBQ as it’s such a big part of Australian culture today. There are even barbecues that have been installed in public spaces for communal use. Not much is considered unfit for barbecuing in Australia – but the staples are meats like steaks, pork, lamb, or the legendary sausage sizzle.
Ice-creams are essential for warm Australian summer days on the beach. In fact, they’re essential for any kind of Australian day. The Golden Gaytime is probably Australia’s most beloved ice-cream. They consist of a toffee and vanilla ice-cream core, and a coating of chocolate and biscuit crumbs.
Now for something a little more daring… The Witchetty Grub is, in fact, a bug. It’s a truly traditional Australian food, being eaten by indigenous Australians for thousands of years and still with a place on the menu in Australian cuisine today.
Witchetty grubs are small white grubs that are found in the Outback deserts. Apparently they actually are really tasty – with a flavor similar to chicken. It also has more protein in it than an entire steak. They’re meant to be eaten raw, but can also be grilled on the barbecue.
Pods are worth a mention here for their popularity – and exclusivity to New Zealand and Australia. Pods are delicious and crunchy sweets with a Snickers, Mars bar or Twix filling, and a milk chocolate coating.
Australia has some amazing slang words, and their word for a hot dog sausage is a “snag”. Snags have an important role to play in the great Aussie BBQ – they’re normally paired with a slice of white bread folded in half (a “sanger”) and some tomato sauce, maybe some caramelized onions too. This is an iconic Australian food – the sausage sizzle.
If you’ve come across Weetabix – this is a bit similar, but it’s sweeter, smaller, and denser. Weet-Bix is a favorite Australian breakfast cereal that’s packed with fiber. It’s often eaten with fruit such as strawberries or bananas, a sprinkle of sugar, and milk.
This widespread Australian food dates back to the 1920s, and it originated in a suburb of Sydney. It was created as a budget friendly biscuit that was also healthy.
Less healthy but no less popular is the famous caramel slice. It’s an indulgent sweet comprising a biscuit base and a caramel filling – topped with lashings of thick dark chocolate. You can find them everywhere, from corner stores to bakeries, and they’re not expensive.
Damper is a soda bread that’s very much a traditional Australian staple. In times gone by, it would have been eaten mostly by members of the Australian working class. It’s meant to be cooked in the cinders of a campfire, and it’s made from wheat flour, salt, and water – and sometimes a dash of baking soda.
Mangoes are fantastic in Australia – and wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer’s day. The Bowen mango is a type that originated in Australia and is considered the best to sample. It’s also known as the Kensington Pride mango. If you know where to look for it in Queensland, you’ll even see a giant statue of a Bowen Mango made in its honor!
For a delicious savory snack why not try the Australian sausage roll. Flaky puff pastry with a sausage meat filling, they go really well with tomato sauce. There are also vegetarian options such as spinach and cheese fillings.
Another really fresh and high quality seafood to try in Australia is the humble prawn. Contrary to common belief (and that famous saying about slipping some shrimp on the barbie), Australians do in fact call these sweet shellfish prawns, and not shrimps.
Prawns make excellent additions to the barbecue, and are normally a trusty choice in a restaurant. Prawn cocktail (prawn with a marie rose mayonnaise) can be found the world over but was embraced by the Australians in the 1970s, and it’s been a popular dish in Australia ever since.
Emus are large flightless birds, not unlike ostriches. According to many Australians, emu meat is actually very tasty. It’s low in cholesterol, high in vitamin C and iron, and is low in fat, so makes a healthy (if not unusual) choice of meat. You can often find emu meat in meat pies, as a pizza topping, or as a burger.
Avocado on Toast
Avocado is a really big deal in Australia – especially for breakfast. It’s offered as a side to most breakfast dishes in cafes, or “smashed” as a main dish in the form of avocado on toast.
Anzac biscuits are one of the most interesting Australian favorite foods because of their fascinating history. They’re made in conjunction with Anzac Day (April 25th) which commemorates the people that died in World War One.
Originally the Anzac biscuit was developed by the wives of the soldiers that went to war, and the Anzac biscuit used to taste very different to the way it does today. Back then they were transported and delivered to the soldiers in the trenches, and the Anzac biscuit was called the “soldier’s biscuit” or the “Anzac tile” and it was hard and bread-like.
Anzac biscuits then developed into how we know them today – a combination of flour, oats, butter, coconut, bi-carbonate of soda, and golden syrup.
Barramundi is rising in popularity in Australia, and around the world, and has become a bit of an “it” fish. Its name translates from the Aboriginal for “large-scaled silver fish”, and it’s considered superior for its tender flesh, subtle taste, and low fat content. It’s meant to be healthier than salmon even.
This Australian fish is best when delicately cooked (not battered) – pan-fried or seared, served with vegetables as a fish steak.
If you visit Australia you might notice something called wattleseed as an added ingredient to lots of dishes, both savory and sweet. It’s a seed that’s taken from acacia trees, and it’s packed with nutrients and flavor.
These savory snacks are spinoffs from the Chinese spring roll or egg roll. They’re deep-fried doughnut rolls made from egg and flour, filled with vegetables such as cabbage, celery, beef or mutton, and rice.
They were trademarked as Chiko rolls in the 50s, the name “chiko” coming from their original name of “chicken rolls”. Funnily enough, chicken was never actually an ingredient of the Chiko roll.
Today Chiko rolls are popular snacks with fans at football matches, and also surfers at the beach.
Kangaroo might be one of the first things you think of when you hear the word “Australia” – but perhaps not as a food. Kangaroos are the Australian national animal, but they’re increasingly popular as meat.
It’s delicious and lean, high in iron, protein, and omega 3. Restaurants now commonly serve kangaroo meat as steaks, burgers, or sausages – and it’s great when grilled on the barbecue!
A popular Australian breakfast food is a delicious serving of pikelets. Pikelets are very similar to Scotch pancakes, and the type of thick, risen pancakes that are eaten in Scotland, New Zealand, and Wales. They’re made with a thicker, heavier batter made with baking powder that makes them rise higher in the pan.
Unlike crepes or American pancakes, pikelets are small and deep. Eat them hot or cold with a variety of tasty toppings such as syrup, butter, and fruits.
A Dagwood Dog is a common Australian food to have at festivals – it’s basically a battered sausage on a stick. Normally the tip of this is dipped in tomato sauce.
Dagwood dogs get their name from a comic strip and are also known as Dippy dogs, Pluto pups, and more recognizably, corn dogs.
Australia is the land of novelty meats, and one of these is the crocodile. This delicacy has grown in popularity and can now be found in many restaurants – but always as more of a novelty than a standard dish.
The meat itself is delicate, white, and firm, with an interesting flavor. It’s best cooked in a similar way to pork or chicken. There are two types of crocodile in Australia – freshwater and saltwater.
Fior di latte
Fior di latte is a soft cheese that tastes and looks very similar to the mozzarella cheese of Italy. This elastic cheese melts easily, and is produced in New South Wales from Australian cow’s milk, and its flavor is mild and tangy. It’s often used on pizzas and other dishes that make the most of its good melting properties.
Lemon, lime, and bitters
Lemon, lime, and bitters (LLB) is considered by some as “Australia’s national drink”. It’s a mix of lemonade, lime cordial, and a dash of Angostura bitters – all combined and then served up ice-cold with a slice of lemon or lime.
It’s not really a cocktail (more of a mocktail) – because of the extremely low alcohol content. An estimated 100 million LLBs are served every year, and they’re particularly popular with golfers who drink them after playing.
Something like an apricot/ peach hybrid, the quandong is a small red fruit that grows on trees found throughout the Australian Outback. The seeds are almondy in flavor, and the flesh of the fruit is sharp and is great in jams, pies and purées.
Another Australian food with an amazing name! A cruffin is what you get when you cross a muffin and a croissant. They’ve not been around for long, being invented in 2013 at a famous croissanterie in Melbourne.
Flaky croissant pastry dough in a muffin form, with different fillings, flavors, and toppings such as salted caramel, peanut butter, chocolate, strawberries and cream, and many more.
Salt and pepper calamari
You’ll find salt and pepper calamari everywhere in Australia – it’s a classic pub snack that is widely available. It’s an example of the influence of Chinese cuisine, as a dish that’s been absorbed into Australian culture.
It’s made up of crispy deep-fried squid in a salt and pepper batter, sometimes topped with fried chilli, garlic, and spring onions.
Milo is a crunchy milk drink that comes in powder form and has been around since the 1930s. It was invented in New South Wales during the Great Depression as a way of giving kids nutritional vitamins and minerals in a tasty chocolate-flavored drink that didn’t cost families too much money.
It was eventually bought by Nestlé and sold around the world in its iconic and recognizable green tin. Now there are snacks and other products in the Milo chain too.
This list contains just some of the food Australian people call their own. Many of these Australian popular foods reflect the laid-back nature of the country – mealtimes are social, communal, and fuss-free.
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