What is traditional Australian food? Modern Australia is a young country and a diverse blend of global cultures, histories, and cuisines. Today there are several unique Australian dishes and foods that are hard to find outside Australia, along with local Australian variations on international cuisines. We give you a list of foods widely considered to be Australian, below, plus a rundown on the most popular food in Australia. By an Aussie chef who has cooked in Australia and internationally.
For this post, I’ve tried to find the most traditional Australian foods, the dishes I enjoyed as a child growing up in Australia, and those I cooked as an Australian chef. As a kid, I had no idea that TimTams, fairy bread, and Lamingtons were so Australian. I thought the whole world ate Weetbix and Nutrigrain. How wrong was I!
Below you’ll find the most Aussie fair-dinkum dishes to be found in Australia, and rarely elsewhere.
Our list of traditional foods should feature all of the following. We’ve gone into more detail for our top 10 typical Aussie foods below.
Some Australian food traditions revolve around local produce and flavours. For instance, you will find desserts and ice creams flavoured with lemon myrtle and wattleseed, these are real native Australian flavours.
Moreton Bay Bugs, freshwater crayfish or yabbies, Davidson plums, finger limes and quandongs are found in typical Australian restaurant food. These represent native Australian species and produce.
The indigenous people of Australia have cooked using bush tucker and locally available resources for millennia. They feasted on sea turtles, shellfish and kangaroo while cooking their food wrapped in paperback.
Then of course there are some quirky Aussie food traditions such as the sausage sizzle. These events are normally to raise funds for charities or organisations and are to be found outside large stores on weekends and at fares and most big events. In Australian cuisine, the hot dog doesn’t involve franks and hot dog buns, just your regular long sausages (snags) wrapped in a slice of white bread straight from the packet. There is intense debate over whether the fried onions should be below, or on top of, your sausage. Sausage in bread is possibly the ultimate Australian street food.
Some of the most Australian foods, snacks and products are in the list below.
- Dagwood Dogs
- Fairy Bread
- Tim Tams (these are very popular gifts or souvenirs from Australia)
- Meat Pies
- Sausage Rolls
- Macadamia nuts
- Pavlova (with Australia and New Zealand claiming this sweet meringue dessert)
- ANZAC biscuits
- Avocado, smashed
- Chicken Parmigiana
- Fish and Chips
- Golden Gaytime
- Witchety Grub
- Moreton Bay Bugs
- Hot chips (these are French fries, deep fried potato sticks)
- Chips (crisps)
Because of the current lockdown situation, I can’t go out and buy an Aussie burger with the works, or a serve of bugs for photography purposes. We have to go with the photos we already have. But rest assured, as soon as quarantine breaks there’s an Aussie burger stuffed with canned beetroot and melted cheese with my name on it. This too shall pass, and then we can add as many Australian food items as we can photograph.
Australian Street Food – The Aussie Meat Pie
Obviously, meat pies did not originate in Australia yet somehow they became an Aussie icon. The meat pie ended up in Australian cuisine at the same time as the first fleet, 1788.
Sargents in Sydney lays claim to being Australia’s first large scale meat pie producer. Sargents was registered in 1906.
The pie in our photo is a gourmet version, from the excellent Grant St. Bakery in Port Douglas but the majority of pies in Australia are mass-manufactured in factories and are sold via supermarkets.
The meat pie is forever associated with ” the footy” and is the cause of many a gravy or ketchup dribble down your front along with a burned tongue. The use of ketchup on pies Down Under is also pretty unique. As in the UK, you will often find pies at fish and chip shops and hot to go from bakeries.
In modern Australia, you should be able to find vegetarian, fish, chicken and cheese pies fairly easily. You’ll also see a million variations on the classic meat pie.
Australian Vegemite Spread
There’s a fair bit of confusion over the world’s black yeast-based spreads. Vegemite is unmissably Australian but Marmite exists in the UK and New Zealand.
New Zealand Marmite is not the same as British Marmite, they’re totally different. The Kiwi Marmite is sweeter.
British Marmite is sold as ” Our Mate” in supermarkets in Australia to distinguish in from New Zealand Marmite.
As an Aussie, I should make out that I love true blue Aussie Vegemite, but actually I’m pretty indifferent to both Marmite and Vegemite. You make your own mind up!
Any way you look at it, if you don’t try Vegemite in Australia, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Australian Fish – Barramundi
Barramundi only became widely known as barramundi in the 1980s. Before then you were more likely to see it as Asian or Australian sea bass. This fish is found in Southeast Asia, The Indian Subcontinent, PNG, and tropical Australia. Only recently would it be considered a traditional Australian food.
The name ” barramundi” comes from an Aboriginal word describing a large-scaled river fish. Today in Australia you will find wild and farmed versions and a lot of barramundi sold in Australia is actually imported.
Barramundi has a very mild flavour, and is a soft fleshed non-oily fish. It is a favourite food of salt water crocodiles.
Australian Famous Prawns (Not Shrimp On The Barbie)
Americans call prawns shrimp. Australians (and Brits) call prawns, prawns. To us, shrimp are tiny little things and can also be called prawns if they’re in a prawn cocktail. Paul Hogan is massively involved in this ongoing debacle.
Prawns are traditional at Christmas, high days, and holidays, when they’re usually served just cooked and chilled, nothing fancy. You’ll often be able to buy a bucket of prawns or a half kilo of prawns in pubs and clubs.
Australian Kangaroo Meat and Other Native Animals
I have eaten kangaroo, crocodile, emu and camel in restaurants in Australia. You will find kangaroo meat in most supermarkets, often in the form of kanga-bangers.
Kangaroo meat is pretty good, it’s strong and gamey and if you cook it right can be venison-like. Just don’t dry it out.
Crocodiles are farmed in Australia for meat and skins. If you visit an Australian crocodile attraction such as those in Queensland or the Northern Territory, you’ll often find that the crocodile zoos are actually a spin-off of the meat and leather industry.
Australian Biscuits – Tim Tams
Australia’s national biscuit, the Tim Tam is a chocolate-coated biscuit sandwich. These days you’ll find them in just about every flavour and variety you can imagine.
Tim Tams have travelled the globe, appearing in supermarkets anywhere there is an Aussie population. I’ve bought them often in London but I was quite surprised to spot them in a remote Sri Lankan town.
Australian Cakes – Lamingtons
You can see a Lamington on the Smith’s Crisp packet above. A Lamington is a square or rectangular chunk of sponge cake coated in chocolate flavoured icing and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. They tend to be really dry.
Most Australians would probably think of Smith’s Crisps as an Aussie classic too (along with Street’s Ice Cream). Smith’s took the bold step of producing Lamington flavour crisps. My son liked them. I don’t know anyone else who did.
Australian Crayfish – Yabbies
Yabbies are freshwater crustaceans and they’re good to eat. As a Chef, I’ve cooked thousands of these little guys in fine dining restaurants, usually in an Aussie version of ” Surf and Turf”.
We gave this American dish an Australian twist with fresh red claw yabbies and Aussie grass-fed beef. It was the biggest seller in my restaurant.
Australians love to catch yabbies on camping trips and cook them as a treat. They also do well in aquaponics set ups and farms, so they’re pretty easy to get your hands on.
We all know that coffee isn’t originally from Australia, but coffee is a national obsession Downunder, particularly in Melbourne. Of course, like most nationalities, Australians think their own coffee is the best in the world and will defend it to the death.
Australian beans differ, so don’t expect your normal Americano here. You’ll need to order a “long black” and it’s not quite the same because of the beans. If you take your coffee with milk, cream, or sugar, the difference isn’t quite as noticeable.
You can buy Arabica beans in Australia, but you won’t normally find them in coffee shops. It makes a lot of sense to buy your own home coffee machine, it will save you a lot of money.
Australian Food Recipes
A selection of traditional and innovative Australian food recipes for you to try at home.
1. Australian Meat Pie Recipe
The meat pie is the food synonymous with Australia but is the Aussie meat pie any different to the meat pies found in most other countries of the world? Not really, a meat pie is pretty standard the world over.
What you will find in Australia are variations on the meat pie. Corned beef and white sauce pies, crocodile pies, or meat pies topped with peas are quite common. You can find an Aussie meat pie recipe here.
You will also see Cornish pasties in pie shops in Australia, Greek spanakopita, and baked dishes from just about any culture or country.
2. Australian Anzac Biscuits Recipe
Anzac biscuits are unique to Australia. Learn how to make this iconic Australian food, a biscuit made with oats, here.
3. Australian Burger Recipe “With The Lot”
An Aussie burger isn’t an Aussie burger without tinned beetroot. A burger with “the lot” in Australia has an Aussie beef pattie, bacon, at least one fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, barbecue and/or tomato sauce, and often, butter or margarine on the bread bun. Find an Aussie burger recipe here.
If you’re looking for an alternative to an Australian hamburger or beef burger, fish burgers are quite common in Australia too. Deep-fried barramundi fillets in breadcrumbs being the fish of choice. Find a barramundi burger recipe here.
4. Australian Damper Bread Recipe
Damper bread is a simple Australian food normally cooked in a metal casserole or Dutch oven, over a campfire when camping. Find a recipe for damper bread here.
Damper bread does not contain yeast, it rises because of baking soda or self-raising flour. Damper bread is traditionally served with golden syrup, or butter and jam.
5. Australian Pie Floater
The pie floater is simply an Australian meat pie “floating” in a sea of mushy peas or pea soup, usually more associated with fish and chip shops in the UK. This dried pea preparation is also sometimes found in Australia, particularly in Adelaide. Learn how to cook a pie floater at home here.
6. Aussie Sausage Rolls Recipe
Sausage rolls, while not unique to Australia, are possibly more popular Downunder than in any other country. A sausage roll is simply a sausage (snag) or sausage meat, wrapped in pastry and then cooked.
Serve Australian sausage rolls with tomato sauce (ketchup) or Australia’s favourite BBQ sauce. Make this Australian snack (or breakfast) here. You can make your own pastry or buy frozen puff pastry.
7. Australian Rissole Recipe
Rissoles used to be served in my school back in the UK 50 or so years ago, but they are also considered to be an Australian dish. A rissole is basically a meat and vegetable pattie, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Find a recipe for Australian rissoles here.
8. Australian Beer Can BBQ Chicken
The beer can in beer can chicken is basically to hold the chicken upright and help keep it moist as it cooks. If you use an Australian can of XXXX, it makes it even more Australian. The seasonings and coating on the chicken can be adjusted to taste. Find out how to make beer can chicken here.
9. Balmain Bug Recipe
Balmain bugs are only found in Sydney Australia, and Moreton Bay bugs are only found in south Queensland, both are a type of large crustacean, a bit like a lobster. Both are great served chargrilled.
10. Kangaroo Recipes
You will find kangaroo in sausages, pies, and on supermarket shelves in Australia. This dark gamey meat is low in fat and has a flavour reminiscent of venison. It is low in fat and is very good stewed long and slow with red wine and juniper berries. For me as a chef, this is the best way to cook kangaroo. Alternatively, cook this Australian saltbush dukkah crusted kangaroo recipe from a collection of Australian recipes.
11. Crocodile Recipes
Crocodile is farmed for meat and skins in Australia. That crocodile attraction popular with tourists is usually actually a crocodile farm. You can buy crocodile meat in some fishmongers and sometimes find crocodile in pies and sausages. Try this Aussie crocodile recipe.
12 . Emu Recipes
Emu is on Australia’s coat of arms alongside the kangaroo, and yes, Australians do and can eat emu. Try this emu recipe.
13. Australian Yabbi Recipes
Yabbies are Australian freshwater crayfish and they are very tasty little crustaceans. Also known as redclaw, they can be served in an Australian version of surf and turf, or simply barbecued.
13. The Aussie Vanilla Slice
Australia loves a slice! A slice is an individual portion of sweet or cake cut from a larger slab of cake. A vanilla slice is a version of the British custard slice, but in Australia they are always called vanilla slices. You can buy these in just about any Australian bakery and in supermarkets. To make an Australian vanilla slice, use this recipe. These are quite labour intensive to make!
14. Australian Weet Bix Slice
Weet-a-Bix is Weet Bix in Australia and it’s made by an Australian company, Sanitarium. The British Weet a Bix is made by the company Weetabix. The two are quite similar, but not the same. Of course Australia has come up with a slice recipe using Weet Bix! Find it here.
15. Fairy Bread Recipe
No kids birthday party in Australia would be complete without fairy bread. It is simply sliced white bread, the cheap supermarket variety, topped with butter or margarine and sprinkles, hundreds and thousands. Do you really need a recipe?
16. Passionfruit Slice Recipe
Another Aussie slice! Passionfruit grows easily and well in Australia so this sweet pulp is a common topping for cakes and deserts. You can even by passionfruit pulp in cans in Australia if you’re not green fingered. Make a passionfruit slice here.
17. Aussie Chicken Parmi Recipe (Chicken Parmigiana)
This breaded fried chicken is topped with tomato sauce, bacon and cheese and is an Australian pub food favourite. Cook it here, serve with chips (french fries) and salad or peas for a tasty Aussie lunch or dinner.
18. Australian Chiko Roll Recipe
A chiko roll is an Australian invention based on the Chinese spring roll. It was originally sold as a chicken roll, but it does not contain chicken. This deep-fried wonder is bigger than a spring roll and more robust, it is designed to be eaten standing, held in your hand at sporting events. Make home made Australian chiko inspired rolls here.
19. Australian Dagwood Dog Recipe
The Australian Dagwood Dog is the equivalent of the American corn dog or Pluto pup. this snack on a stick is commonly sold at fairs, shows, and sporting events. This is an Aussie favourite borrowed from the US, and you can make a version at home with this recipe.
20. Australian Traditional Lamb Roast Recipe
A lamb roast is the national dish of Australia and obviously came to the Southern Hemisphere with the British. There really is very little difference between a British and Australian lamb roast, although the vegetables used may vary. Australians are far more likely to serve pumpkin than the Brits, for instance. The leg of roast lamb usually comes with mint sauce or jelly. Mint sauce is always home made with fresh mint, mint jelly can be bought in jars. Cook an Aussie lamb roast here.
21. Aussie Lamington Recipe
A Lamington is a uniquely Australian cake. It is simply a square or cube of sponge cake, coated in chocolate flavoured glaze and coated with dessicated coconut. If it’s Australia day, there will be Lamingtons. Try this Aussie Lamington recipe.
22. Australian Battered Flathead – Aussie Fish and Chips
Possibly the weirdest thing about fish and chips in Australia is that many people serve fish with chicken salt, chicken-flavoured salt. That’s not something you see elsewhere! Australian fish and chips tends to come with lemon, not the malt vinegar the Brits prefer. If you have an Australian coming for dinner, you’d better get some chicken salt in. Tartare sauce, not tartar, is also found in Australia and is served with fried fish. Find a battered flathead recipe here.
Read up on which is correct, tartar sauce or tartare sauce, here.
23. Australian Pavlova Recipe
Pavlova is hugely popular in Australia but the topping is less likely to be summer berries, as you would see in Europe. An Australian Pavlova is often topped with mango, kiwi fruit, passionfruit pulp, and any other seasonal fruit.
Pavlova is a popular Australian Christmas dessert rather than a heavy British Christmas pudding.
Some people make their own pavlova meringue base (it’s actually really easy!) others buy a base in the supermarket and simply top it with whipped cream and fruit. I’m going to share my own Aussie pavlova recipe very soon as this recipe is a favourite at our house at Christmas.
We make British Christmas pudding and mince pies too, of course! These aren’t common for many Australians in Australia and mincemeat (called fruit mince in Australia) along with suet, can be hard to find if you plan to make your own mince pies and Christmas pudding.
What’s Your Favourite Traditional Aussie Food?
Let us know in the comments if you have an Aussie favourite food we didn’t think of. Our list of classic Aussie dishes, produce and flavours will grow over time as all food blogs do. There is always more to discover, particularly in a country as big and wild as Australia.