Canadian Comforts in the UK – A List of Food Alternatives

Homesickness is one inevitable side effect of moving away from the place you call home. It can slowly, gradually come on like when you’re coming down with a cold, or it can be a sudden sucker punch, a left hook you didn’t see coming. Either way, it hurts when it hits. But the good news is that it’s usually temporary. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows; just another bump in the road on your journey through life in another home away from home.

One of the hardest things about moving away from home is not having access to the comforts you’re used to at home. It can be super frustrating when you’re feeling under the weather – mentally or physically – and you can’t just curl up on the couch with your usual comfort food. And often times, you don’t realize you miss something until you realize you can’t get it here. I never would have thought I’d be missing crackers or bagels when I moved here! And I certainly never thought I’d get a little bit of excitement and glee out of spotting a bag of Lay’s chips instead of the UK’s “Walker’s crisps”.

So this post is dedicated to all those Canadians living here in the UK who can’t currently go home to restock their favourite items, refuse to pay the ludicrous prices to ship things here from Canada, and/or just want a little bit of home here in the UK. I mean, Tanjeev does an amazing job of supplying us with many, many Canadian things at Super Singh’s Canadian Things, and you can often find some random bits from home at stores like B&M, Asda, or Tesco – but here’s my list of subsititutes for the real things or places I go to find my Canadian(ish) fixes here.

1. Bagels

They do have bagels here of course, but they’re just not as popular and there isn’t the same variety. Everything bagels are very hard to find; I usually just have plain bagels with my own everything bagel seasoning on them, but you can sometimes luck out and find New York Bakery everything bagels at Asda or Tesco. There are a couple of places selling bagels online here as well; Bagel or Beigel in Suffolk or Bross Bagels in Edinburgh for Montreal style bagels.

But if you’re looking to have a good everything bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese… or a breakfast sandwich on a bagel at a local cafe… You’re probably gonna be hard-pressed to find it. Even finding a breakfast sandwich including an egg is difficult outside of McDonald’s here – the Brits’ idea of a breakfast sandwich is just some bacon or sausage on a bread roll. But that’s a whole other rant I won’t get into here – I’ll leave that for my weird foods in England post.

2. Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning

I love this stuff. It adds so much flavour, especially to my hard boiled eggs in the morning, and I cannot find it in shops anywhere here. A search on Amazon has The Good Bagel or The Bagel Bakery as my favourite options, or you can find some varieties on eBay here as well, but I just broke down and bought most of the ingredients myself online at justingredients.co.uk. I already had sesame seeds and Maldon sea salt flakes (you can find these at most grocery stores; I got mine from Asda), but of course buying all these ingredients in bulk cost me less than buying one little bottle of it.

To make about 3/4 cup:

  • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 Tablespoons dried minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt flakes (Maldon are the best)
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds

3. Tim Horton’s French Vanilla Cappuccino

I’ve always had the cans of this stuff here, as I bring it back with me when I go home. I haven’t looked too hard for alternatives here, but if you’re really desperate you can always get it on Amazon here. Alternatively, if you go to Starbucks and order whichever brewed coffee you like (Americano, latte, cappucino, etc.) and add vanilla and hazelnut syrups together, you can get a somewhat similar French Vanilla here. Or you can visit one of the many Tim Horton’s locations here in the UK now to get a fresh cup of the real thing!

4. Quaker Harvest Crunch Granola Cereal

While we’re on a breakfast food kind’a theme, this stuff is one of my favourite granolas at home. You can find Quaker Honey & Almond Oat Granola, Jordan’s Super Nutty Granola, or Tesco’s Nut & Maple Crisp cereals here at most grocery stores that aren’t quite the same, but pretty enjoyable nonetheless.

5. Poutine

There are actually a few places here in the UK which sell poutine – in Nottingham, we have Squeaky Beaver Poutine or Power to the Poutine, Slick Chick’s is located in Sheffield or the Gravy Train often pops up in different places. Or, you can order online from Blue Caribou Snack Bar in Manchester, or The Poutinerie for a make-your-own version at home.

6. Dill Pickles

Anyone that knows me knows I really don’t enjoy dill pickles. So I really don’t miss these things living here. But for those of you that do, you can sometimes find dill pickles in the Polish sections of shops, or Melis pickled gherkins are popular alternatives found at Asda and Morrisons, or Tesco’s own Whole Pickled Gherkins seem to be a half-decent substitute, or Tanjeev carries Vlasik pickles and you can sometimes find them at the bigger Tescos too.

7. Salad Dressings

The UK is a bit weird about salads – their definition of salad certainly doesn’t match mine. Often times, if you add salad to your order here, you’ll simply get a few pieces of lettuce or rocket with a wedge of tomato and maybe a lil’ piece of onion or two. No dressing at all, but who even needs it when it’s only a forkful of salad anyway?

So if you head to a grocery store here looking for your favourite Kraft dressing, you’re going to be a bit disappointed when you have only a few options. You can find caesar, honey and mustard, light or fat free vinaigrette, or balsamic dressings in most shops, but you won’t get your poppy seed, ranch, or French dressings here so easily. And the dressings they do have just aren’t the same as home – they’re sadly quite bland (in my humble opinion).

So, most Canadians here seem to resort to making their own dressings, but if you’re not in the mood for whipping up your own, Pizza Express’s dressing is pretty similar and I get them from Asda, and the Paul Newman ones (found at most grocery stores here) are actually decent.

8. Crackers – Triscuit and Saltines

You can sometimes find Triscuits here in the American aisles of stores, on Amazon, or the American Food Store, but real saltines are a bit harder to come by. Doriano sea salt crackers by Bauli at Asda or Tesco, Colussi from Waitrose, Ocado or at some Asian stores, or good ol’ Tanjeev can hook you up with the real thing.

9. Chocolate Bars

One thing I will give the UK credit for is their chocolate. There’s just something about it… I’ve never been a huge chocolate fan; I don’t get cravings for chocolate like many people talk about. But since I’ve moved here, I find myself eating a lot more of it just because the selection is huge and it just tastes better here.

Alas, I still have those days where I could use a chocolate fix. Wunderbar is one of my favourite chocolate bars at home, and after three years here I’ve finally learned that Starbars are the UK equivalent! Skor bars are Daim bars here, and I’ve found the Blue Riband Coffee Cream bars to be similar to Coffee Crisp. Sadly, I have yet to find an equivalent for Mr. Big or Crispy Crunch bars though…

10. Pillsbury Dough

The closest I’ve found to Pillsbury products here are Jus-Rol products. Asda and Tesco carry them, inlcuding ready roll puff pastry sheets but also ready to bake croissants, cinnamon swirls and pains au chocolats. Sadly, I have yet to see any toaster strudels or their festive shaped sugar cookies though…

11. Half and Half

This one I don’t miss personally, since I’m not really a coffee drinker and never had any need for it. But I notice it pop up in our Canadians group on Facebook pretty often, and people often say Gold Top Milk is pretty close. You can mix single cream and milk, or try half cream, or Arla Lactofree Cream as well. Liquid coffee creamer like Coffee Mate or International Delight is very rare here as well, although you can find the powdered stuff at many grocery stores or again, Tanjeev can hook you up.

12. Microwave Butter Popcorn

It’s pretty easy to find microwave popcorn here, but they usually only have sweet or salty options. Imagine going to a theatre and not getting super buttery movie theatre popcorn?! Yeah, it’s a letdown and I get a little pang of sadness every time I go to the theatre here.

The only places I’ve actually found butter flavour popcorn is in Polish shops or sometimes randomly at Asda, Sainsbury’s or Tesco. But it isn’t Act II or Orville Redenbacher’s. And popcorn seasoning just isn’t a thing here, from what I can tell. So if you’re really desperate for the good stuff, find Act II here or you can grab Orville Redenbacher’s Buttery Flavour Popcorn Oil on Amazon, or just do what I used to do as a kid and melt your own butter on top of your popcorn yourself!

Some of my favourite Canadian treats which I still have yet to discover any alternatives to here are:

  • Maple Cookies
  • Miss Vickies chips
  • Swedish Berries
  • Fuzzy Peaches
  • Popcorn Seasoning
  • Egg Nog
  • Farmers chocolate milk
  • Tostitos Multigrain nachos
  • Smartfood
  • Chip flavours – all dressed, ketchup, dill pickle
  • Stove Top stuffing
  • Ranch dressing/dressing mix
  • Kraft caramels
  • Vachon cakes
  • Swiss Chalet dipping sauce
  • Mr. Big, Crispy Crunch and Oh Henry bars

So that’s my list of Canadian treats often missed here in the UK and the closest alternatives to ’em. Oddly enough, I now visit a Polish shop at least once a month here to get some of my fixes – you can find pudding and Jello there, honey mustard, pierogies and the closest thing to Chris Brothers pepperoni! Who’d have thunk that we seem to have more foods in common with Poland than England?

Anyway, hope this helps my fellow expats, and if you have any more substitutions or suggestions to add, please let me know!

🇨🇦 Flag: Canada Emoji

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