The Ingredient That Makes The Perfect Poutine

On the list of inventions given to the world by Canada, poutine just might be the most delicious. The iconic Canadian snack food was first invented in 1950s Quebec, though its exact origins are widely disputed in the Canadian food world (via The Canadian Encyclopedia). One early origin story for poutine comes from the village of Warwick, where restaurant patron Eddy Lainesse asked chef Fernand Lachance to serve him a concoction of cheese curds and french fries. It was a hit, especially after Lachance came up with the addition of gravy as a way to keep the cheese-covered fries from getting cold too fast.

By 1969, the mess of cheesy, gravy-covered goodness had made its way to Quebec City, where it continued to gain traction as a street snack. Shortly after, poutine found its way south of the Canadian border — where it become popular in places like New York and New Jersey — and by the 1980s, it traveled even farther into places like Korea and the U.K. (via Culture Trip). Given poutine's relatively quick rise to culinary fame, it's no surprise that many poutine imitations have cropped up around the world. However, no variation can come close to the authentic Canadian classic.

Good cheese curds make authentic poutine stand out from the crowd

So what makes Canadian poutine different from all the other must-try cheese dishes around the world? According to Canadian food blogger Seasons and Suppers, the secret lies in the unique variety of cheese found in the dish. Cheese curds — or squeaky cheese, as they are sometimes known — are small nuggets of goodness produced as a byproduct of cheesemaking.

The unique process of removing the curds from the liquidy whey of the cooked milk, then stacking and salting the pieces so their moisture is pressed out, is what gives the curds their unique taste and texture — as well as the signature salty and savory flavor that people love about poutine. It's an essential, hard-to-replicate ingredient you don't want to leave out of the recipe. However, if cheese curds aren't readily available at your local supermarket, users on the r/cooking subreddit suggest halloumi as the closest substitute, as well as bocconcini-style mozzarella that's dusted in Parmigiano or Pecorino to mimic the curds' saltiness. And in case you're now craving a more authentic poutine, numerous recipes for making your own cheese curds exist online.