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HERO2 Narraway 2007 223 web

Nunavut, meaning ‘our land’ in Inuktitut, is home to Canada’s largest Inuit population. Located in the northernmost region of Canada, the territory lies almost entirely above the treeline, revealing vast and remote landscapes that may appear barren to the untrained eye yet have nurtured Inuit families for thousands of years. Through Inuit stewardship of the land, and deep connections to traditional hunting and gathering practices, Nunavut continues to nourish its people, in both traditional and modern ways. 

Niqillattaat, or “Country food”, is traditional Inuit food. It is highly valued and widely consumed in Inuit culture and central to Inuit well-being. Often harvested and shared by family members who hunt, fish and forage, Country food makes up to 52 per cent of the protein Nunavummiut consume. From berries that burst on the scene in summer, to land game like caribou and polar bear through fall, winter and spring, and sea fare like arctic char, turbot, seal, and whale (muktuk) in spring and summer, food from here is a feast of flavour.

Country food is typically enjoyed in its simplicity, its flavours shared among friends. Some outfitting and adventure experiences come with a side of Country food, because why just visit Nunavut when you can taste it too? Imagine sharing frozen tuktu (caribou), chopped into bite size pieces by hatchet while you spend the day snowmobiling on the land, or watching the Northern Lights. When the meat hits your tongue, it quite literally melts in your mouth. Polar Bear, often described by southerners as having the flavour of lamb, is boiled, and boiled, and boiled again. When poached to perfection, it is shared among the hungry hands, occasionally with only a dash of salt, if anything. You may find polar bear at a community feast, and it would surely be considered a special delicacy. Arctic Char is more familiar to global foodies. Its flakey, pink flesh resembles salmon but tastes more like trout. Its skin is delicate enough to eat raw. 

For those seeking something unique but slightly more familiar to their palate, contemporary takes on Country food can be found in restaurants, cafés, and craft fairs in Nunavut’s larger communities. Dig into an Arctic Char club sandwich, a muskox burger, or caribou meatballs and wash it down with one of Canada’s northernmost local brews. Watch for seasonally inspired specials that may not appear on regular menus. Niqillattaat is, after all, seasonal, labour intensive, and pleasantly more cultural than commercial.

The culinary scene in Nunavut is evolving as the territory proudly sustains traditional harvesting practices, navigates the impacts of climate change on these practices, and welcomes the food diversity and innovation that come with its international and transient populations.

One thing eternally true for Nunavut Inuit is their deep-rooted relationship to the land and the customs and traditions that follow. We invite you to explore our unique culinary scene with an open-mind and let the taste of the north leave a mark in your memory forever.

A proud member of the Culinary Tourism Alliance.