While New Zealand does not exactly come to mind as a famous food destination, it has a lot to offer in terms of flavour and variety. From delectable savoury pies to irresistible real fruit ice cream, your taste buds will surely be delighted during your trip to New Zealand. This is quite an unconventional list (meaning it’s not all sit down meals) that Jon and I have developed over the years since my first visit to New Zealand in 2014. Living here permanently definitely helped with the food-tasting process! I’ve already recommended a few of the items on this list to friends and family who recently visited New Zealand – the food experience made their stay a lot more memorable. Who knew my Filipino family would fall in love with smoked havarti?
New Zealand boasts some great food and local delicacies. You just need to know what to try and keep an open mind. Here’s our top local Kiwi eats and treats:
New Zealand Beef and Lamb
New Zealand beef and lamb are recognized as some of the best in the world. No visit to New Zealand will be complete without trying the local meat. If you’re considering to splash out for a meal, order some steak or roasted lamb.
Cheese (and Crackers)
I’ve never understood the fuss with cheese until I moved to New Zealand. There’s a wide range of quality cheeses available in New Zealand and they are incredible! With the variety of cheese-makers throughout the different regions (Kapiti, Whitestone, and Puhoi Valley are some of the best we’ve tried), you’re sure to find one that you’ll like.
New Zealand Wine
We’ve recently been invited to join in the harvest of pinot noir grapes at Perseverance Estate in Central Otago and it does put a lot of perspective on how much work goes into making wine. I’m slowly developing a better appreciation for wine and I love Central Otago’s riesling and pinot gris. I’ve never been much of a red wine fan but I can enjoy the occasional New Zealand pinot noir with a meal. Considering how small New Zealand is, there are heaps of regions that produce world class wine. Most of them offer wine tasting tours.
RELATED POST: The Best Things to Do in Central Otago, New Zealand
New Zealand Pies
No trip to New Zealand is complete without a quick pie for a lunch or a slightly more gourmet pie for dinner. Delicious meat encased in golden, flaky pastry, New Zealand’s savoury pies come in different varieties from a classic mince and cheese to a delightful butter chicken. My personal favourites are steak and cheese and pepper steak. There is a growing list of pie shops in New Zealand and each has a different variety to go for. Ever heard of mussel pies? Look out for them when you’re in Coromandel. In Fairlie, we found roast pork pies with crackling on top! It was so delicious! If you’re out on the go, a Jimmy’s pie from your local dairy (convenience store) or gas station is a solid option. Just make sure that they look hot and fresh!
Do you love trying local beer while travelling? You’re in luck! Different regions in New Zealand have their own famous “local” beers and a growing number of craft beers.
If you’re travelling to Dunedin, there are two famous breweries that offer tours (Speights Brewery Tour and Emerson’s Brewery Tours). There’s also the annual craft beer and food festival in Dunedin. Tickets are sold out for November 2018, unfortunately!
If you’re headed to the Hobbiton Movie Set, you can also try some of the traditional middle-earth brews, The Hobbit Southfarthing Range at the Green Dragon Inn.
New Zealand Pavlova
The debate with regards the origins of the pavlova between Australia and New Zealand has gone for decades. I’m growing to become more Kiwi each day and I think it’s from New Zealand! During our first Christmas in New Zealand, I made my very first pavlova and it was seriously delicious. Pavlova is made with a light meringue base and topped with fluffy whipped cream and fresh summer berries (Christmas falls in summer time in New Zealand).
RELATED POST: New Zealand Christmas Pavlova Recipe
Jon will never queue for food but this burger joint (which is still only found) in Queenstown was an exception. Fergburger is considered by many to be New Zealand’s best burger. Was it as good as they say? Yes! The enormous burger was delicious. The prime quality of meat in New Zealand is one of the key factors plus the perfect mix of sauces, cheese and bacon. They also have other burger varieties including roast pork and chicken.
New Zealand Lollies
Kiwis love their candies (I mean lollies) and it’s easy to understand why. Walk along the confectionery aisle of the supermarket and you’ll discover a wide range of sweets. I personally love Milk Shakes, Minties and Fruit Burst (it’s a lot better than Fruitella or Hi Chew). Can’t decide which one to bring for your road trip? Get a pack of Lolly Scramble (which has all of them!).
Uniquely Kiwi favourites include Chocolate Fish (marshmallows covered in chocolates) and Pineapple Lumps (soft, chewy pineapple flavoured center coated in chocolate). Check out the awesome ad for Pineapple Lumps below.
Griffin’s Biscuits (Cookies)
There’s more sweet stuff to cover. Growing up with American sweets and cookies, I thought I’ve tried the best of the lot but New Zealand proved me wrong. Toffee Pops are possibly the best biscuits (cookies) ever. Toffee pops are toffee topped biscuits coated in milk chocolate. It’s almost similar to Twix (my favourite chocolate) except that it’s round and has loads of toffee instead of caramel. Other great cookies to try on your next trip to the supermarket include Mallowpuffs, Squiggles and Chocolate Macaroons. We had all of these during our recent wedding in New Zealand and the guests were delighted with the sweet spread.
RELATED POST: Our Travel-themed Wedding in Central Otago, New Zealand
Craving for actual “cookies” ? Try Cookie Time‘s. They have different flavours to choose from which include classic chocolate chunk, salted caramel and triple chocolate.
New Zealand Slices and Squares
Tea time is always exciting in New Zealand. Apart from the usual brownies, cakes and muffins expect local specialities like Belgium Slice, Custard Square, Lolly Cake, Raspberry Slice and Ginger Crunch.
Coffee lovers will love New Zealand’s flat white, an intense espresso-based drink prepared by pouring microfoam into a single shot (or double shot) of espresso. While most cafes in the country offer the local favourite, flat white, it’s well worth it to experience the awesome cafe culture in the coffee capital, Wellington.
The New Zealand made Whittaker’s Chocolate is one of the best I’ve tried. They have a wide variety of flavours, including an artisan range with most flavours inspired by different regions including Wellington Roasted Supreme Coffee Chocolate, West Coast Buttermilk Caramelised White Chocolate and Black Doris Plum & Almond Chocolate. Also try Lewis Creamery’s Milk Chocolate with Whittaker’s.
New Zealand Fruits
Apart from Kiwifruit (or Kiwi as we know it if you’re from outside of New Zealand), there is a lot of fresh fruits that you should try while in New Zealand including fresh cherries, apricots, nectarines (try these in Central Otago) and a variety of berries (make sure to try boysenberries in Nelson!). The best time to visit New Zealand if you’re after some fruits from the farmers market or looking to do some fruit picking is around the summer months (December to February).
Feijoa is another fruit to look out for. I haven’t tried the actual fruit but I’ve had fejioa with passionfruit in a drink and it’s yummy. Have you tried it?
Real Fruit Ice Cream (or other Kiwi Ice Cream Favourites )
Real fruit ice cream is made with frozen fruits and vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt and a perfect treat while on a road trip. If you’re not visiting around summer, there’s still a chance to try the local fruits from various orchards (prominent around Central Otago and Marlborough regions) around the country.
Don’t have time for a road trip? Try some of the other Kiwi favourites such as Hokey Pokey Ice Cream, Gold Rush Ice Cream and Boysenberry Ice Cream.
Kiwi Onion Dip (with Chips)
I’ve quit eating chips (potato chips) a long time ago but I simply couldn’t resist chips when dip is in the picture. While I grew up loving the classic Doritos with Tostitos cheese dip, here in New Zealand, the Kiwi Onion Dip is the local favourite, which goes well with most potatos chips!
Here’s how to make your own yummy Kiwi Onion Dip Recipe: Mix a can of chilled reduced cream with a pack of onion soup mix and a teaspoon of lemon juice. No time to make one? You can grab ready made dips from the supermarket too.
Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips are the classic takeaway food for most Kiwis. It’s so convenient especially when you’re on a road trip and have little time to decide what to eat. Make sure to check with the locals for the best fish and chip shops in town. If you’re travelling close to the sea, they’d usually offer the fresh catch. Blue Cod is always a good option!
White Bait Fritters
It’s hard not to love crispy white bait fritters (unless you don’t like seafood). This delicacy in New Zealand is made with fresh white bait, eggs, and flour mixed into a batter, seasoned with salt and pepper. Spoonfuls of the mixture are pan fried until crispy and served hot with a squeeze of lemon. It’s delicious! It’s a seasonal thing and I’ve only had it once and lost the photo. Other seafood to try while in New Zealand include crayfish, green-lipped mussels, Bluff oysters and paua.
South Island Cheese Rolls
Served hot from the grill (or oven) with some melted butter – the (South Island’s) cheese roll is a delightful snack you shouldn’t miss. Cheese rolls are very popular in Otago and Southland and can be found in most cafes. It’s simple yet so satisfying.
Famous around the world, New Zealand Manuka Honey is known for its remarkable health benefits. New Zealand takes pride in producing premium quality honey.
Lemon & Paeroa
Also known as L&P, Lemon and Paeroa is a lemon soft drink made with carbonated mineral water from the town of Paeroa in the North Island. I’m not a huge fan of this drink but I’m generally not a fan or soft drinks anyway so give it a try and let me know what you think. If you’re headed towards the Coromandel Peninsula, don’t forget to make a quick spot at the small town of Paeroa. You won’t miss it with its giant L&P statue!
Other uniquely Kiwi stuff that are worth trying while in New Zealand:
- Hangi – a traditional method of cooking for Maori, where a variety of meat and vegetables are roasted on a closed fire underground.
- Sausage Sizzle – a must-have for every summer barbecue.
- Marmite – a food spread made of yeast extract. Two words: acquired taste. (No, it’s not Vegemite)
- Tinned Spaghetti on Toast – in case you are wondering what former prime minister, Bill English’s unique pizza recipe was all about. (I personally found this appalling but maybe you’ll like it!)
Do you have plans to visit New Zealand? What do you think of New Zealand food? Have you tried any of these local Kiwi delights? Let us know.