Last Updated on October 4, 2021 by Chef
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.