Home to idyllic landscapes, friendly locals and unique wildlife, Australia is an adventurer’s dream vacation destination. Naturally, immersing yourself in this island nation’s culture involves sampling the local food.
Thanks to its diverse multicultural background, Australian cuisine offers something for everyone. In this list, we rounded up the best Australian dishes to try during your trip. Read on to learn more about the foods you’ll find and their importance to Australian culture.
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18 Famous Australian Dishes You Need to Try
Australia offers nearly unlimited culinary options, but we managed to narrow this list down to the country’s 18 most popular dishes. While you’re Down Under, be sure to sample at least a few of these iconic Australian foods.
1. Tim Tams
Tim Tams are one of Australia’s most iconic snacks and a must-try for any foreigner. A product of Australian biscuit company Arnott’s, the classic Tim Tam is a double-layered chocolate-malted biscuit filled with chocolate cream and coated in yet more chocolate.
You might think eating these biscuits is straightforward, but you’ll soon hear otherwise if you eat one in front of an Australian. You’ll be ahead of the curve if you already know how to do the Tim Tam Slam. Here’s how:
- Take a Tim Tam and a hot drink of your choice — hot cocoa, coffee or tea will all do nicely.
- Take a Tim Tam and bite one of the corners off. Keep your bite small — you’ll want to keep as much of the biscuit intact as possible.
- Do the same to the diagonally opposite corner.
- Holding the Tim Tam like a straw, place one end into your beverage and suck on the other to draw the liquid up into the biscuit.
- Take the biscuit out and pop it in your mouth for a warm, chocolatey delight.
Tim Tams also come in other varieties, such as butterscotch and cream, white chocolate, salted caramel and dark chocolate, so the options truly are endless. Tim Tams are available in most grocery and convenience stores.
People have eaten kangaroo for hundreds of years, making it a traditional Australian food. While it might seem like a bit of a jump, there’s also an ecological benefit to it — kangaroos outnumber humans in Australia, and the population is still growing! Ecologists recommend eating wild-caught kangaroo to preserve the Australian landscape.
The meat is incredibly lean and highly versatile in the kitchen, an excellent choice for steaks, burgers, topping salads and more. Because it’s so lean, you’ll typically find it cooked rare to medium and primarily only on one side. Those who prefer their meat well done may need to step out of their comfort zone if they’re intent on trying it.
You can often find kangaroo on the menu at Australian restaurants. If you want to try cooking some yourself, you can also find it in the meat aisle at most Australian grocery stores.
Another one of Australia’s edible national symbols, the emu is a large flightless bird. Along with being a staple food for Australia’s aboriginal people, the emu plays a fascinating role in Australian history. In fact, Australian farmers famously went to war against the emus in 1932 — and lost.
Unlike birds like chicken and turkey, emus have lean, red meat that’s low in cholesterol and high in iron. It’s not quite as popular as kangaroo meat, but you can still find emu on the menu at some Australian restaurants. Typical emu dishes include steaks, roasts, burgers and kebabs, and you might also find it in other foods like tacos and soups. You might even find smoked emu on pizzas!
If you’re in the mood for seafood, this quintessentially Australian dish is well worth a try. Literally translating to “large-scaled silver fish,” barramundi is the aboriginal name for a species of sea bass native to the Pacific.
The fish is mild in flavor, with a buttery taste and silky texture. While it’s similar to other white fish like snapper, striped bass or grouper, barramundi is significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
You’ll find barramundi prepared in many different ways, including pan-seared or fried and served with vegetables. It’s also delicious in Asian-style dishes due to the mildness of the fish.
5. Fish and Chips
Fish and chips may be one of the national dishes of Great Britain, but it’s also a popular way to eat fish in Australia. However, while the British usually serve it with malt vinegar and a side of mushy peas, Australians typically take theirs with tartare or tomato sauce.
Basa and New Zealand Hoki are the two most common fish for this dish, but you can also find fish and chips with butterfish, flathead or South African hake. You’ll get the best fish and chips from a fish and chips shop, which you can find in most cities. With 80% of Australia’s population grouped along its expansive coastline, you’ll be able to find fresh fish nearly anywhere you go.
6. Chicken Parmigiana
While this dish has Italian roots, chicken parmigiana has become an Australian pub favorite. Originally “melanzane alla Parmigiana,” the dish was made with slices of breaded, fried eggplant baked in tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.
The Australian version is similar but replaces the eggplant slices with breaded chicken schnitzel. Some pubs also top the parmigiana with slices of prosciutto or ham. Pair yours with a bright, fruity beer for a delicious meal.
7. Fairy Bread
A favorite of Australian children, fairy bread is a simple yet magical treat for all ages. It consists of sliced white bread with butter or margarine covered in rainbow nonpareil sprinkles, which Australians call “hundreds and thousands.”
8. Anzac Biscuits
Simple biscuits made with coconut, golden syrup and oats, Anzac biscuits are one of Australia’s most historically important treats. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which fought together during World War I. ANZAC Day, a national holiday in Australia, celebrates these brave men.
During the war, women baked these biscuits and sent them to their soldiers — they’re inexpensive to make and last a long time, so they were perfect for soldiers to take with them during long stretches of travel.
Today you can find them premade in grocery stores or buy fresh ones in bake shops and at fundraising events. Some bakers like to incorporate Anzac biscuits into other dessert recipes like fudge and apple crumble. Thanks to their long shelf life, they also make excellent souvenirs for friends and family, so consider picking up a few to take home.
Australians and New Zealanders have been arguing over this dessert’s origins for decades. Regardless of who came up with it first, the pavlova is a delicious, refreshing treat for those hot Australian days.
Named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, a pavlova is a light, crunchy white meringue cake topped with whipped cream and plenty of fresh fruit. Australians often serve a “pav” at celebratory meals and barbecues. You can find them in bakeries and cake shops, and you might also find them premade in supermarkets.
10. Cherry Ripe
The Cherry Ripe bar is Australia’s oldest chocolate bar, though it’s popular for more reasons than its history. Originally released in 1924 by MacRobertson Chocolates and later produced by Cadbury Australia, the Cherry Ripe contains sweet cherries and moist coconut wrapped in silky dark chocolate.
Today’s Cherry Ripe range extends beyond chocolate bars to miniatures, bites and more. Pick one up while you’re ashore and indulge in a sweet delight.
11. Meat Pies
In the U.S., the word pie refers almost exclusively to sweet, fruit-filled pastries, but a meat pie is a popular dish in Australia. Meat pies are usually made with minced beef, but you might also find emu or kangaroo meat pies in some places. Other filling ingredients may include gravy, vegetables, mushrooms and spices.
Meat pies are a popular on-the-go snack available at most corner stores, grocery stores and bakeries. They also make great late-night snacks if you’re out enjoying the nightlife.
12. Hamburger With Beetroot
Australians love their beets and it’s common in Australia to add slices of roasted beet to your burger. Many believe the combination came about as a way to prank American troops during the World Wars. Others tie the trend to the opening of several popular beet canning companies. Whatever the truth may be, it’s said that you can tell a good Australian burger by the bright pink beetroot juice oozing down its sides.
Beets also add significant health benefits to the standard hamburger. Beetroot is rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium, manganese, folate and vitamin C, making it a veritable superfood.
If you want more ways to enjoy these root vegetables, other popular Australian beet dishes include:
- Beetroot and walnut dip.
- Salads topped with beets.
- Pickled beets.
- Pasta sauces.
Like British marmite, vegemite is a dark brown paste made from vegetables, spices and brewer’s yeast. It has a deep umami flavor that people tend to either love or hate.
Many Australians like to spread their vegemite on buttered bread or toast, but it’s also commonly combined with avocado, tomato or melted cheese. You can find it in any Australian grocery store.
14. Iced VoVo
Another iconic Arnott’s product, Iced VoVos are wheat flour biscuits topped with striped pink fondant, jam and a sprinkle of shredded coconut.
The fondant and biscuit combination creates a soft yet crunchy texture that’s simply irresistible. You’re most likely to find these in supermarkets with Tim Tams, so keep your eyes peeled if you need a sweet midday snack.
Lamingtons are square-shaped butter or sponge cakes coated with chocolate frosting and topped with a generous sprinkle of shredded coconut. They also occasionally come with a layer of cream or jam in the middle.
Frequently referred to as Australia’s national cake, lamingtons are usually available at coffee shops and make a sweet accompaniment to coffee or tea. Aussies also often bake them for fundraisers, so if you pass by a bake sale on your travels, be sure to pick up a piece!
16. Golden Gaytime
Australia is known for its hot summers, so when it’s time for a cold refreshment, stop by a grocery store or ice cream shop to grab a Golden Gaytime. These classic treats feature a combination of vanilla and toffee ice cream dipped in chocolate and covered in biscuit crumbles. Limited edition flavors like Froot Loops, Crunchy Nut and even Unicorn are sometimes available.
Don’t forget to grab one for your travel partner — as the slogan goes, it’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own.
17. Witchetty Grub
The outback is full of diverse insects, so it only makes sense that some of them are edible! The witchetty grub is one such example.
Aboriginal women and children hunt for these chunky white grubs in the roots of the witchetty bush, which is native to central Australia. The grubs are high in protein and healthy fats, making them a highly nutritious meat alternative.
There are several ways to eat them, but they’re most commonly served raw or lightly barbecued over hot ashes. The flavor changes depending on how you eat them:
- Raw: Raw witchetty grubs have a nutty taste and gooey texture. To eat them, simply grab them by the head and take a bite.
- Cooked: The barbecue gives the grub a crispy skin and a flavor similar to chicken or scrambled eggs. You can eat them by hand or straight from a skewer
Barbecue is a big part of Australian food culture, especially in the summer. Colloquially termed the “barbie,” Australian barbecue is more than just a way of cooking your food — it’s a culinary experience meant to be shared with family and friends.
An Australian barbecue is like a potluck where everyone brings something to contribute. Prawns, sausages — Aussies call them snags — steaks, fish and kebabs are common options. These are typically served with buttered bread and tomato or barbecue sauce. Sides like salad and other veggies are common, and guests might also bring a pavlova or other Australian dessert to finish the meal.
If you get the opportunity to eat at an authentic Australian barbecue, take it! You’ll remember the food and fun for years to come.
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Visiting Australia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you’re reclining on one of the country’s many beaches or meeting the wildlife, you’ll wish your stay was permanent.
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