The United States is so close to Canada that it almost seems like one big country. However, if you actually LIVE in Canada, you will realize there are some huge differences…like American foods! (And Canadian foods!) There are so many American Snacks not found in Canada plus lots of staples too.
I mean we have free health care, lots more social liberalism but we don’t have nearly as many food choices (except ketchup chips…we get ALL of those).
Canada has come a long way in the 15 years I’ve lived there (how did that happen? It seems like I just moved here.) but there are still a lot of American foods that you can’t really get in Canada unless you find them at a specialty store or they appear for 5 minutes in the third month of the blue moon only to disappear never to be seen again.
One morning, while I was enjoying my Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit, I thought “Hmmm… I wonder what everyone else brings back to Canada when they visit the US. I wonder if I’m missing anything.”
So I did what I always do when I have these burning questions. I asked my Facebook friends what they bring home. Here is the list (with affiliate links in case you are going to the US and want to order on Amazon.com so you don’t have to shop around).
Some items require refrigeration but I am making my list like I could bring ANYTHING home without worrying about refrigeration or weight. Also, why do so many American snacks not found in Canada come in the form of junk food? Things that make you go “hmmmmm”.
American Foods that Have Recently Come to Canada
Every time someone reads this list, they let me know if something is wrong (telling someone they are wrong on the internet makes some people very, very happy). Here are a few foods that recently became available on shelves in Canada. I am leaving them in this article because you never know how long they will be available. Many, many products appear on Canadian shelves only to disappear soon thereafter.
- Rotel – If you want to make easy and delicious queso dip, Rotel is a MUST. Rotel is now found on Canadian grocery shelves! Queso lovers rejoice. Now if only Velveeta was easier to find and not priced as if it included gold as its first ingredient.
- Candy – Word on the street is that you can find some of the candy bars I list below at dollar stores in Ontario. Since I don’t live in Ontario, I cannot confirm or deny this fact. We in Alberta, are candy barless and sad. Also, many candy bars have the same name in the US and Canada but are, in fact, not the same. Some examples are Zero bars, Mars bars and Smarties. So don’t just go by the name because that is not the full story.
American Snacks You NEED to Bring Back to Canada Next Time You Visit
- Jimmy Dean Sausage – Jimmy Dean is, in my opinion, the best breakfast sausage out there. Unfortunately, you can’t get it in Canada. We have been known to bring back 25 pounds when we drive to Montana. It freezes well and it makes the best sausage and cheese balls EVER. In a weird twist, you can buy Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast sandwiches (which include the sausage) but not just the sausage. Crazy, right?
- Cherry Coke Zero – For years you couldn’t get any of the Cherry Cokes in Canada. They’ve changed that and you can get the full-sugar variety. However, I prefer Cherry Coke Zero. Unfortunately, you can’t get that north of the border. Also try Vanilla Coke, Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and Cherry 7-Up. Cherry Coke Zero and Vanilla Coke have shown up in Canada but they are not always available. Let’s see if they decide to keep supplying Canadian fans long term.
- Sugary Cereal – I know, I know…it’s not really GOOD for you but who cares. The cereal aisle in the US makes the Canadian version look pale in comparison. May I suggest: Count Chocula, Cinnamon Pecan Special K, Fruity Pebbles and Cookie Crisp. If you love Boo Berry and Count Chocula, you can sometimes find it around Halloween.
- Pimento Cheese – Funny thing is, I didn’t really like pimento cheese growing up. Now, I love it and buy it every time I go to the US. I love it slathered on saltine crackers. Yum! Price’s is my brand of choice. Don’t cheap out. You will regret it when you get icky fake cheese (as opposed to delicious fake cheese). I recently realized it is amazing on a ham biscuit!
- Easy Cheese – Speaking of fake cheese. You can not get aerosol cheese in a can in Canada. Who knows why. Oh, the nostalgia of spraying mounds of cheese on Wheat Thins. Delicious!
- Instant Grits – Ok, this is a new one for me. I’ve finally developed a taste for grits and you can’t really get them in Canada. Though I can hear my Granny telling me that regular grits are WAY better than instant.
- Anything Tillamook – Tillamook cheese, yogurt and ice cream have a cult-like following. Unfortunately, they are only available in certain areas of the US and require refrigeration. However, if you can swing it, bring some back!
- Candy – It’s interesting how different the candy aisle is between the US and Canada. When my brother and sister were younger, I would always bring them Coffee Crisp, Crunchie and other candy bars you can’t get in the US for a treat. Now, I sometimes bring candy back to Canada from the US that I can’t get. Like what, you ask? Well, for a start Zero bars, PayDay, Almond Joy and Mounds, Goo Goo Clusters, Butterfinger (which you can find sometimes in Canada but not always) weird flavoured M&Ms (Caramel is yummy) and more. ALL THE CANDY!
- Moon Pies – I know what you are going to say. “But Canada has Wagon Wheels!”. Yeah, they are not the same. If you decide to snag some Moon Pies, make sure to get the single-decker ones. They are much better than the double-decker ones. I prefer the standard issue, chocolate moon pies. the other flavors are ok but the chocolate single decker is the very best.
- Coffee Creamer – Again, maybe not the healthiest thing but I’ll admit that I am addicted. My favourite is the Almond Joy flavour. It is really, really good. My second favourite is Coldstone Creamery flavour. Yum!
- Oreos – Few things epitomize the difference between the US and Canada than Oreos. In Canada, we get regular Oreos, double stuff and maybe golden. That’s it. In the US you get Hot Cocoa Oreos, Mystery Oreos, Red Velvet Oreos, Birthday Cake Oreos, Peanut Butter & Jelly Oreos, Jelly Donut Oreos, Dunkin Donuts Mocha Oreos, and more. Crazy! Some of the special flavours have arrived in Canada but as I’ve mentioned with so many things, they are often for a “limited time only”. So if you see them, GRAB THEM.
- Candied Jalapenos – I learned to love these living in Austin. They are amazing on crackers with cream cheese or on your ham sandwich. Really…I think you could eat them on anything.
- Anything from Trader Joe’s or Target. Let’s face it. We love stores we don’t have. I suggest peanut butter stuffed pretzels from Trader Joe’s and many of my friends swear by the “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning. Yum!
- Rudy’s BBQ Sauce and rub – We love this peppery bbq sauce that we fell in love with in Austin, TX. It is a must-have when we make a brisket.
- Spices – Take a turn around the spice aisle. You’ll find all kinds of spices and spice blends not available at your local store. My friend Shan recommends Lawry’s Garlic Salt.
- Chips – Like breakfast cereal, we have a lot of the same options in Canada that they have in the US but they definitely have MORE. Plus, they have things like Funyuns which we don’t get. Also, if you are in the South, try Zapps chips. They are super crunchy and delicious. My favourites are the Voodoo flavour (kind of a sweet bbq).
- Cake Mixes – I’m beginning to feel like a broken record! Check out the cake mix and frosting aisle when you visit a store in the US. They have many, many more flavours than we do. In fact, you can get one of my favourite cake mixes, German Chocolate and you can’t get it in Canada.
- Self-Rising White Cornmeal Mix – the only kind of corn muffin mix you can get in Canada is SWEET. It is not my favourite. I can make my own skillet cornbread from scratch but man, cornmeal mix makes it so much easier. Plus you can’t get white cornmeal here. It is all bright yellow. I used to bring back 2 or 3 5-pound bags of White Lily Cornmeal mix every trip. I got such weird looks from customs officials. They obviously don’t know what they are missing.
And food isn’t the only thing people bring back.
Many suggested I have a look at yarn, fabric, clothing and shoes. Let’s face it, the options and varieties are better for almost everything in the US versus Canada. In short, if you are a shopper and want to try new things, head to the store when you visit the US.
Make sure you bring extra bags when you visit the US and save at least one of them for all the American snacks not found in Canada! Going the other way? Make sure to buy these yummy Canadian products to take back to the US.