1. Hāngī
Let’s start with the traditional Māori hāngī! More than just New Zealand cuisine, hāngī is Māori cuisine at its finest. This involves meat and vegetables slow-cooked in an underground oven. Although it was a common cooking method for hundreds of years in New Zealand, today, a hāngī is saved for more special occasions (mainly because it takes all day to prepare!) Prepare to be overfed but extremely satisfied at hāngī buffets served at Maori cultural experiences.
Where to try: Hāngī is available to try in many of the Maori cultural tours around New Zealand. Check out the 10 Places to Experience Maori Culture in New Zealand listing some places to try a hāngī.
2. Crayfish
Another traditional New Zealand food is crayfish! Crayfish or lobster is a Kiwi favourite mostly because it is something many fishermen and divers pride on catching themselves. Known to sometimes cost up to 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!
Where to try: Try some crayfish in Kaikoura. Restaurants include Nins BinCods & Crayfish and Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk.
3. Kina
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.
Where to try: Boating trips in the Bay of Islands, Kai Caff Aye in Rotorua, Seafood Bazaar in Hamilton and other fish & chips/seafood takeaways around the country.
4. Kiwi Burger
You’ll either think it’s weird or genius but it’s still a staple of New Zealand cuisine. What makes a Kiwi burger “Kiwi” is the fact it has beetroot and a fried egg along with your standard burger patties, lettuce and whatever else goes between two burger buns. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Where to try: Just about any pub or restaurant with a burger menu, even McDonald’s. However, they are not always listed as a “Kiwi burger”. Just look out for burgers with eggs and beetroot.
5. Jaffas
Another New Zealand famous food are Jaffas! Jaffas are a confectionery favourite among New Zealanders. Jaffas are small sugar-coated chocolate balls with a subtle orange flavour. You can pick up Jaffas at any supermarket or dairy (convenience store).
Where to try: Available at any supermarket or convenience store.
6. Pavlova
Ask an Australian and they will swear that Oz invented the pavlova. Ask a Kiwi and they will tell you differently. Either way, pavlova is a much-loved dessert in New Zealand made with meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit. While this dessert can be found on the odd dessert menu in New Zealand, Kiwis traditionally consume this refreshing dessert for Christmas. Try making some yourself following the recipe in our 5 Traditional New Zealand Recipes.
7. L&P
We’ll sneak a beverage in early 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 sweeter than Sprite.
Where to try: 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.
8. Whitebait Fritters
Don’t visit the West Coast of the South Island without trying whitebait fritters. 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 between mid-August and November. What they catch is used to make whitebait fritters; think of them as a fishy omelette. However, be aware that this typical food in New Zealand is controversial as overfishing may endanger the stock of local fish in New Zealand’s rivers.
9. Manuka Honey
A classic food of New Zealand: world-famous manuka honey! Highly-sought on the international market, manuka honey is acclaimed for its medicinal purposes. The purer the manuka component of the honey is, the healthy (and more expensive) it is. Manuka honey also makes a great souvenir to bring back home.
Where to try: There are plenty of opportunities to try this sweet treat around New Zealand, from supermarkets to dedicated honey shops. Some major honey shops include Huka Honey Hive in Taupo, Waireka Honey in Manawatu, Arataki Honey in Hawke’s Bay and Garston Hunny Shop near Queenstown.
10. Kumara
Kumara isn’t just a sweet potato; it is an epic sweet potato. Kumara was brought to New Zealand by the early Māori settlers and still remains a favourite vegetable in New Zealand. The best way to try kumara is in a hāngī (see above), but there are heaps of ways you can incorporate kumara into your own cooking. We’ll make it easy for you; check out Why Every Traveller in New Zealand Should Cook With Kumara.
Where to try: Kumara is available to purchase in supermarkets. Otherwise, kumara fries are a popular feature on restaurant and takeaway menus across New Zealand.
11. Hokey Pokey Ice Cream
Kiwis prefer hokey pokey ice cream (that’s ice cream with pieces of 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!
Where to try: While you can find hokey pokey ice cream wherever ice cream is served. A few recommendations include Giapo in Auckland, Patagonia Chocolates in Queenstown, Rush Munro’s of NZ in Hastings and Rollickin Gelato Cafe in Christchurch.
12. Paua
A 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.
Where to tryMarinovich’s Seafood Restaurant in New Plymouth, Amisfield Restaurant & Cellar Door in Queenstown, Billypot at the Auckland Fish Market in Auckland and Cobden Takeaways in Greymouth.
13. 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 or lamb cutlets will be on the menu of most high-end restaurants and even in some pubs. Trust us, some of the most delicate New Zealand dishes will incorporate lamb. For more information on trying lamb in New Zealand, see Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?
Where to tryMokoia Restaurant in Rotorua, The Brantry in Taupo, Cashmere Lounge in Wellington, Vault 21 in Dunedin and Captains Restaurant in Queenstown.
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!
Where to tryFairlie Bakehouse in Fairlie, The Burleigh in Blenheim, Gold Star Bakery Patrick’s Pies in Rotorua, Fat Bastard Pies in Invercargill and Sheffield Pie Shop in Canterbury.
15. Fish & Chips
The definition of “New Zealand food culture” has landed. 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 (fries), fish & chips can be found in most towns in New Zealand. For our top fish & chips picks, again, see Where to Try Traditional New Zealand Food?
Where to tryBobby’s Fresh Fish Market in Tauranga, FishSmith in Auckland, Mangonui Fish Shop in Northland, Raglan Fish in Raglan and Kai Kart in Stewart Island.