Let’s start with the traditional Maori hangi! This involves meat and vegetables slow-cooked in an underground oven. Although it was a common cooking method for thousands of years in New Zealand, today a hangi is saved for more special occasions (mainly because it takes all day to prepare!) Prepare to be overfed but extremely satisfied at hangi meals as part of Maori cultural experiences.
Find out more in 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand
Crayfish, also known as lobster, is a Kiwi favourite mostly because it something many fishermen and divers pride on catching themselves. Known to cost NZ$80 for a full crayfish, it’s not exactly the most affordable food, but it’s definitely worth a try when the opportunity presents itself! Then you’ll understand why Kiwis go cray for crayfish!
Try some crayfish in Kaikoura!
3. Hokey Pokey Ice Cream
Kiwis prefer Hokey Pokey ice cream (that’s caramelised honeycomb) over pretty much anything. If there’s only one ice cream flavour you’re going to try in New Zealand, make it Hokey Pokey!
While you can find Hokey Pokey ice cream wherever ice cream is served, we recommend Giapo in Auckland city for the best hokey pokey ice cream in New Zealand.
Ok, New Zealanders love their seafood so we’ll just hop straight onto another foodie delight from the ocean. Kina is the local name for a type of sea urchin with a hard spiky outer shell and thin fleshy (and edible) insides. It has been a New Zealand delicacy for centuries!
The best place to try kina is out on a boating trip in the Bay of Islands.
5. Kiwi Burger
You’ll either think it’s weird or it’s genius! What makes a “Kiwi burger” Kiwi is the fact it has beetroot and a fried egg along with your standard burger patties and whatever else between two burger buns. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Don’t worry, you won’t find it difficult to find a Kiwi burger in New Zealand.
Rolling onto the sweet stuff, Jaffas are a confectionery favourite among New Zealanders. So much so that they race them! Jaffas are small sugar-coated chocolate balls with an orange flavour to them. Once a year, you can enter a “Jaffa Race” in Dunedin where the candy is rolled down the steepest residential street in the world, Baldwin Street. Otherwise, you can pick up Jaffas at any supermarket or dairy (convenience store).
Find out more about this Jaffa Race in5 Winter Festivals in New Zealand.
Ask an Australian and they will swear that Oz invented the pavlova. Ask a Kiwi and they will tell you different. Either way, pavlova is a much-loved dessert in New Zealand made with meringue, whipped cream and fruit. Try making some yourself for Christmas in New Zealand! We have the recipe in our5 Traditional New Zealand Recipes.
We’ll sneak a beverage on this list just because it’s very proudly Kiwi. L&P stands for “Lemon & Paeroa” named after the North Island town it was invented in. It is as common as any soft drink in New Zealand, tasting a bit more lemony and sweet than Sprite.
You can pick up L&P from any supermarket, dairy or fast food joint, but nothing matches the full experience of posing in front of the giant L&P bottle in Paeroa, Waikato.
9. Whitebait fritters
Don’t visit the West Coast of the South Island without trying whitebait fritters. It’s considered a sin in New Zealand! Whitebait is a collective term for immature fish, usually around one to two inches long. You’ll see heaps of keen “whitebaiters” setting up temporary shacks and jetties along the river mouths of the West Coast, catching fish for the local eateries to make whitebait fritters. Think of them as a fishy omelette.
Find out more about the West Coast inWest Coast Guide for Backpackers
10. Manuka Honey
A highly sought-after honey on the international markets, manuka honey is acclaimed for its medicinal purposes. The purer the manuka component of the honey is, the healthy (and more expensive) it is. There are plenty of opportunities to try this sweet treat around New Zealand, from supermarkets to dedicated honey shops.
It also makes a great souvenir for family back home.
Kumara isn’t just a sweet potato; it is an epic sweet potato. Kumara was brought to New Zealand by the early Maori settlers and still remain a favourite vegetable in New Zealand. The best way to try kumara is in a hangi (see above), but there are heaps of ways you can incorporate kumara into your own cooking in your hostel kitchen.
We’ll make it easy for you. Check outWhy Every Backpacker in New Zealand Should Cook With Kumara.
A final seafood delicacy that we just couldn’t ignore, paua is the local name for a large sea snail. You can eat paua in a variety of ways from plain old raw to curries to paua fritters. What’s more, paua shells are the national choice of ashtray for all you smokers out there! Alternatively, paua shells are often used in New Zealand jewellery and other decorative souvenirs.
13. Roast Lamb
As New Zealand’s biggest export meat and highly praised all over the world, lamb is a must-try in New Zealand! Roast lamb will be on the menu of most high-end restaurants and even in some pubs. For more information, see Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?
14. Savoury Pies
Or just “pies” in New Zealand. Pies with savoury fillings like mince and cheese, steak and cheese, and even fish pies are the go-to lunch at any gas station or bakery! Kiwi pies warm the soul and fuel you for a great New Zealand road trip!
15. Fish & Chips
With more than 15,000km of coastline and a hell of a lot of Kiwis who like to fish, you can bet on some good “fish n’ chips” in New Zealand! A simple meal of fried battered fish and chips (french fries), fish & chips can be found in most coastal towns in New Zealand. For our top fish & chips pick, see Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?
16. Southland Cheese Rolls
A speciality of the south, Southland Cheese Rolls, also known as Southland Sushi, is virtually unknown outside of the Southland and Otago regions. The concept is simple: a slice of bread with cheese rolled up like sushi with a generous helping of butter then grilled to perfection. It’s cheap and something to warm you up on a cold Southland day!