While small in size, New Zealand holds its own on the world gastronomy stage. Homegrown meat, carefully crafted dairy and plentiful kaimoana (seafood) are New Zealand’s big producers however the country is lucky enough to go beyond these categories.  

Planning on exploring New Zealand? Make sure you include these iconic New Zealand foods to wrap your taste buds around! 

New Zealand lamb 

Lamb ribs
Lamb ribs with balsamic & honey
Photo by @cotto_krd on Instagram

Held in the top ranks around the globe, lamb is one of New Zealand’s biggest meat exports. With the ability to cook it in so many ways, the meat comes out juicy and succulent. From lamb chops on the BBQ, a classic lamb roast, or a slow-cooked lamb stew…the list goes on! There’s no doubt you’ll find lamb on restaurant menus throughout the country. It’s a firm favourite in all New Zealand households, with Kiwis lucky enough to grow up with it as part of their weekly dinners. 


While in New Zealand, you must try a Māori hāngī! This is a traditional way of cooking food in an earth oven.  The food was traditionally wrapped in flax leaves but a modern-day hāngī will incorporate cloth sacks, foil and wire baskets. Once the hole in the ground for the oven is dug, preparation begins in a layering effect. Hot stones at the bottom with baskets on top, covered with a wet cloth and dirt to trap the heat. Common inclusions are chicken, pork, pumpkin, potato and kumara. Three to four hours later, you’ll have a feast of tender meat and smoky vegetables. This quick snippet will show you the process of preparing a hāngī. 

Southland cheese rolls 

Southland cheese roll
Photo by @msmirchi on Instagram

Although the first recipe for a Southland cheese roll appeared in the paper in 1935, it was the introduction of sliced bread in the 1950s that really kickstarted this national snack food. It’s a simple process: creating a cheese and onion filling, then rolling it into a slice of bread and toasting it. As the name suggests, cheese rolls are especially popular in the Otago and Southland regions so are much easier to find in bakeries and cafes.  

Mince & cheese pie and cream donut  

Cream donut
Photo by @nz_creamdonuts on Instagram

New Zealand bakeries are the stuff legends are made of. Found in small and big towns alike, cabinets are filled to the brim with freshly baked goods. We can’t go past the absolute classic combo of a mince & cheese pie and a fresh cream donut. It’s the perfect savoury and sweet pairing, especially as a quick and easy lunch during a road trip. If you’re lucky, the cream donut may have stewed apple on top for that little something extra.  

Fish and chips 

Fish and chips

Being a (large) island, fish is readily available in New Zealand. A staple takeaway meal is fish and chips. Most fish and chip shops offer a couple of different types of fish – for example, hoki is a common find with blue cod commanding a premium price. Best eaten by the beach with a generous serve of tomato sauce and an ice-cold L&P, this is the ultimate in Kiwiana. If you feel like adding some extras, a deep-fried pineapple fritter and mussels are the way to go.  

Manuka honey 

Manuka honey pancakes
Photo by @manukahoneyofnz on Instagram

New Zealand’s manuka honey is more than just a natural sweetener. Its unique property is called a UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor, and makes it a superfood! Manuka honey contains a compound called Methylglyoxal which has been proven to resist bacterial growth at certain concentrations. It can reduce skin inflammations, be used to treat wounds and aid digestion. Not only is it found as in jars in supermarkets, manuka honey has been developed into lozenges, throat sprays, creams and supplements. With a rich, floral taste and a golden colour, this honey is very special to New Zealanders. 

Discover these iconic foods (and more!) for yourself on one of our Globus or Cosmos New Zealand tours! 

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