Eat Like A Local: 21 New Zealand Food To Try - Updated 2022

Eat Like A Local: 21 New Zealand Food To Try - Updated 2022

Boasting a thriving agricultural economy, the cuisine of New Zealand largely involves the use of local products from both the land and the sea. It is closely related to their neighboring country Australia, but also influenced by European, American and Southeast Asian cuisine. The Maori cuisine, which refers to the food of the indigenous Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand, is another factor that has affected the country’s food culture. At present, traditional New Zealand food is still popular in some parts of the country while restaurants and takeaway food has become a major part of the food preferences of modern New Zealanders. Apart from the cuisine, the country also has many Airbnbs and Bookabach rentals, so accommodation will not be one of your worries when you visit.

Visiting New Zealand soon? Here’s a list of must-try New Zealand food that you might just find useful. Happy eating!

1. Afghans

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Monica Shaw used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Although it sounds Middle Eastern, the afghans we are talking about here are the original New Zealand crunchy chocolate cookies. These are made of flour, cornflakes, butter and sugar, and these ingredients are mixed with cocoa and coated with chocolate icing. The finishing touch is a topping of chopped walnuts. Traditional afghans do not have any leavening or rising agent, making its texture dense and rich. Surprisingly, these cookies don’t taste too sweet despite their chocolate content. Easily available in New Zealand bakeries, afghans are best paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

2. Marmite

Canadian Cousins in New York
Source: Photo by user John Gillespie used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If Australia has Vegemite, New Zealand has Marmite. These food pastes are both made of yeast extract combined with various herbs and spices. The difference is that Marmite is more syrupy, compared to Vegemite, which has a thick texture. Marmite, which was first produced in New Zealand in 1919, is traditionally eaten with bread or crackers. Also known for its very concentrated taste, it is usually spread thinly and then layered with butter or margarine. In 2012, an earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, which damaged the country’s only Marmite factory. It caused a nationwide panic when a Marmite shortage was declared.

3. Tuatua

Paphies donacina 99017494
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kelvin Perrie used under CC BY 4.0

Since New Zealand is surrounded by waters, seafood is a main food product in the country. This includes indigenous shellfish like the tuatua, which has a milder and softer texture compared to other kinds of shellfish. Eating tuatua is believed to be a Maori tradition, but these tasty shellfish are presently enjoyed by New Zealanders all over the country. In restaurants, these are served as chowders and sometimes, as fritters.

4. Hāngi (from USD 77.0)

Hangi ingredients
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sarah M Stewart used under CC BY 2.0

Another New Zealand traditional food, Hāngi is a Maori cooking method that uses steam to cook chicken, beef, pork, potatoes, and other root vegetables. These food items are usually wrapped in leaves and placed in a basket, which is then laid on top of heated stones inside a deep hole. Some call hangi an “earth oven.” Whatever you call it, this method of cooking gives the food a unique smoky taste. The whole process can be laborious, taking as long as seven hours. Today, hangi food remains an important part of traditional celebrations in New Zealand. Several specialty restaurants offer hangi food in their menu, like Kiwi Kai in Rotorua and The Hangi Shop in Auckland.

Māori Performance and Hāngi Dinner Buffet in Bay of Islands

5. Lolly cake

Lolly cake
Source: Photo by Flickr user brent simpson used under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are kinds of foods that kids welcome with wide eyes and makes adults remember their own childhood. In New Zealand, it would be the lolly cake, a classic Kiwi dessert made with ingredients such as candies, marshmallows and other sweets. Traditional lolly cake recipes also use crushed malt biscuits mixed with melted butter, as well as sweetened condensed milk. After rolling the bread in dessicated coconut, it’s good to be served. Lolly cake is best paired with coffee and, when wrapped in a nice packaging, can also be given as a gift.

6. Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey
Source: Photo by Flickr user Daiju Azuma used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another Kiwi kid classic is the Hokey Pokey, a vanilla ice cream mixed with caramelized sugar. You can make your own version of this popular New Zealand dessert using ingredients such as caster sugar, golden syrup, baking soda, egg, and cream. No need for an ice cream machine, your electric beaters and your freezer at home will most likely do the trick. Meanwhile, if you want a quick Hokey Pokey fix, just head to the nearest supermarket or ice cream parlor. Approximately five million liters of Hokey Pokey are consumed in the country each year, proof of its popularity among New Zealanders.

7. Green-lipped mussels (from USD 105.0)

Green-lipped mussels
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jeremy Keith used under CC BY 2.0

Can’t get enough of New Zealand seafood? Have some green-lipped mussels, a kind of shellfish with coral-colored meat full of nutrients like calcium and vitamin B-12. These days, it is easily found in other parts of the world, but there’s no better place to taste it than its native country—freshly-caught and cooked right away. Low in fat and calories, green-lipped mussels are popular in restaurants where it is served as a chowder. Although the medicinal benefits of green-lipped mussels are not yet proven, some New Zealanders believe that it has beneficial effects for those suffering from asthma and arthritis.

Seafood Odyssea Marlborough Sounds Cruise from Picton

Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes

45 reviews

8. Lamb

Source: Photo by Flickr user Neeta Lind used under CC BY 2.0

Almost every restaurant in New Zealand serves lamb, a succulent and tender meat that is usually roasted with garlic and rosemary. Lamb is undeniably cheaper in this country, where the sheep population is larger than the number of its human inhabitants. Its meat is a great source of protein, as well as zinc and vitamin B-12. Due to the local preference for lamb meat, McDonald’s New Zealand even offered a lamb burger on its menu some years ago. Other popular Kiwi lamb recipes include lamb chops, lamb steaks, and lamb racks. Make sure to try this popular food in New Zealand before leaving the country.

9. Sausage sizzle

Sausage sizzle
Source: Pixabay

A sausage sizzle in New Zealand may refer to two things: a snack, and a local fundraising event. The snack is basically made of sausage on a white bread, drizzled with tomato sauce or mustard and topped with fried onions. Meanwhile, the fundraising event is where these snacks are usually sold, often held in a covered area or a collapsible gazebo. Locals use sausage sizzles as a means to raise money for different causes, like in schools and sports clubs, and even at some political events. If ever you find yourself craving sausages in New Zealand, head over to the Bunnings Warehouse where they sell sausage sizzles every weekend.

10. Whitebait fritter

Whitebait Fritter
Source: Photo by user Inanga used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Considered a New Zealand cultural food, a whitebait fritter is made of translucent juvenile fish cooked with egg and flour to produce a crispy omelet. It is expensive compared with other types of fishes harvested from the country’s shores, but it is a unique culinary experience that every foodie shouldn’t miss. Don’t be fooled by its strong fishy look, because when it is perfectly cooked, the whitebait fritter can be tasty and crispy enough to appeal to the palate. Most restaurants offer it on their menu during the whitebait season from August to September. You can also buy it from seafood stores and cook it on your own.

11. Manuka honey (from USD 48.0)

Manuka honey in a bowl
Source: Photo by user Sage Ross used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re looking for an edible remembrance of your trip to New Zealand, you should definitely take home a bottle of manuka honey. It is made with pollen of the manuka tree, which can be found throughout the country. Compared to honey produced from other flowers, the manuka variety has a heavier flavor and distinct smell. Some locals believe that this type of honey can heal sore throats, digestive illnesses and gingivitis. To make sure you’re buying authentic manuka honey, go to a local health food store or better yet, get a bottle straight from a local farm.

4hr Shore Excursion - History and Tasting Tour FREE Kiwifruit Ice Cream

Duration: 4 hours

63 reviews

12. Kumara

Source: Pixabay

In New Zealand, sweet potatoes are more commonly known as kumara. Traditionally cooked in a hangi or earth oven, this root vegetable has evolved into other well-loved Kiwi snacks like kumara wedges, kumara croquettes and kumara chips. Kumara are very low in fat and rich in fiber, making it an ideal diet food. It is also said that the stronger the color of the kumara, the higher the antioxidant content. If you’re planning to stock up on kumara, don’t put them in the fridge. Instead, store them in a cool and dark place to keep them from sprouting.

13. Mince pie

Lamb and rosemary meat pie
Source: Photo by user Ruth Ellison used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most popular takeaway foods in New Zealand is the mince pie, a pastry filled with meat and gravy. Depending on the variety, it can also contain onion, cheese and mushrooms. In The Great New Zealand Pie Guide, it was said that approximately 15 mince pies are consumed by every person in the country per year. Kiwis celebrate their love for mince pie during an annual pie competition held every year since 1997. Meanwhile, The Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards give recognition to the best manufacturers of mince pie in the country.

14. Wine and cheese (from USD 76.0)

Wine and cheese
Source: Pixabay

Wine and cheese lovers will never be disappointed in New Zealand. A quick trip to a local supermarket can already introduce you to the cheese varieties and wine products available in the country. However, if you want a more expansive range of choices, a trip to a wine shop and an artisan cheese producer would be better. One of the most common cheese variety in New Zealand is cheddar cheese, which is best paired with a fruity red wine. Another good pairing is brie and camembert with champagne. If you wish to go on a wine tour while visiting NZ, go to Central Otago, Gisborne or Marlborough. These are only some of the best places for wine tasting.

Wine and Cheese Tasting in Queenstown

Duration: 1 day

10 reviews

15. Feijoa

Source: Photo by Flickr user pingked used under CC BY 2.0

Feijoa, also known as pineapple guava and guavasteen, is a popular egg-shaped fruit grown in New Zealand. Boasting of an aromatic flavor and a juicy flesh, it is usually cut in half and then eaten raw. However, during wintertime, some New Zealanders prefer eating feijoas after it is stewed in a pot with sugar. It is also a good alternative ingredient for juices and smoothies because it is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as fiber and potassium. You can easily find feijoas in supermarkets and in local fruit shops.

16. Pavlova

Source: Photo by Flickr user NZatFrankfurt used under CC BY 2.0

New Zealand, along with its neighboring country, Australia, claim to both have created the pavlova, a meringue dessert with a crispy outer layer and a soft center. Made of egg whites and caster sugar, it is usually served with fruits like kiwi, passion fruit and strawberries, as well as whipped cream. Pavlovas are popular during Christmas and other summer celebrations, but it is widely available all year round. The debate about the origin of this dessert continues up to this day. However, it is undeniable that both New Zealand and Australia have embraced pavlovas as a part of their respective food cultures.

17. Fried bread

fried dough
Source: Photo by user stu_spivack used under CC BY-SA 2.0

A healthier New Zealand alternative to doughnuts is Maori fried bread. It usually sold in local bakeshops and night markets, but if you want to make your own, all you will need are simple ingredients such as yeast, sugar, all-purpose flour and salt. Also known as “paraoa parai,” the fried bread is best paired with a hot soup or stew on a cold day. Meanwhile, for a quick snack, you can just lather it with butter and jam. This kind of snack is a staple in most Maori households, and eventually found its way into commercial markets.

18. Kiwifruit (from USD 122.0)

Source: Pixabay

New Zealand is known as one of the world’s top kiwifruit exporters. The fruit can be consumed raw, but it is more popular to New Zealanders as a pavlova garnish. Containing vitamin C and vitamin K, it is also used commercially for juices and as a tenderizer for meat. Kiwifruit is particularly abundant in New Zealand’s North Island. However, it is widely available in fruit shops and supermarkets around the country. Tip: if you prefer a milder and sweeter flavor, try the yellow or golden variety of the kiwifruit.

Geothermal Te Puia, Kiwifruit Orchard Tour with Port Pickup

Duration: 7 hours

39 reviews

19. Spaghetti on toast

Source: Pxfuel

It is not a secret that spaghetti originated from Italy, but did you know that the New Zealanders have put their own twist to this Italian favorite? They call it “spaghetti on toast,” which is basically a piece of toast topped with spaghetti and cheese. It is grilled, and then served hot. You can either make your own using Wattie’s canned spaghetti, or go to a local diner where it is served for breakfast.

20. Kina

Kina urchins, South East Bay, Three Kings Islands PA111322
Source: Photo by user Peter Southwood used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Another typical New Zealand food is Kina. It is one of the species of sea urchin that is abundant in the coasts of New Zealand. It is best devoured raw just after you have cleaned and taken out its edible parts. Also, you can eat it deep-fried or in a pie. If you’re wondering where is the best place to get this delightful ocean treat, you can have it fresh during a boat tour in the Bay of Islands.

21. Fish and chips (from USD 161.0)

Coromandel: Kiwiness
Source: Photo by Flickr user Joyce Lim used under CC BY-ND 2.0

New Zealanders don’t claim ownership of fish and chips, but this popular takeaway item has been an important part of the local food culture for many years. Often wrapped in a newspaper, it is best enjoyed hot, and sometimes even accompanied with a can of beer. Some of the most common fishes used by takeaways and restaurants are snappers, hoki and tarakihi. If you wish, you may also get a serving of squid rings and scallops to go with your fish and chips. It could be pretty greasy and cholesterol-filled, so make sure you still control your intake!

Clearyak (glass canoe) marine tour, fish and chips for lunch

Duration: 8 hours

Eat like a New Zealander

After you’re done checking out all the best places to visit, taste your way through New Zealand and have a bite of some of its local favorites. From light continental breakfasts to unique delicacies like Kina, there’s definitely a wide range of New Zealand cuisine to marvel at.

A taste of New Zealand

Tasting the local food is a necessary part of every travel experience. When in New Zealand, you will never run out of interesting food to try. Go and let your tastebuds have an adventure too! Don’t forget to read our list of must-try New Zealand food for your guide.

Frequently asked questions about New Zealand food

1. What is a typical New Zealand breakfast?

Unlike other nations who believe that they must eat a hearty breakfast to function, New Zealanders only take a light breakfast of continental food, including cereals, toast, juice, coffee, or tea. They’re also big fans of pies and can have it with any meal. But if you’re staying in a hotel or a bed and breakfast, you’ll surely be offered more, by more it means you’ll also have slices of bacon and eggs.

2. What is traditional Kiwi food?

There are lots of traditional food in New Zealand, including Maori Hangi, Wine and Cheese, and of course, fish and chips. These are the dishes you shouldn’t miss whenever you’re in New Zealand.

3. What food is New Zealand best known for?

One of the most delicious dishes you can ever have here and one New Zealand is best known for is Pavlova. It is a mouth-watering sweet treat that is made of meringue and topped with whip cream and fresh fruits like kiwis and berries. It is often served during special occasions such as Christmas feasts, dinner celebrations, and summer parties.

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Rica is a young freelance worker from the Philippines. She writes for a living, but more importantly, she lives to write. Travel is one of her favorite writing topics, alongside love and...Read more

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