As Vegemite turns 100, an A to Z of the top foods and drinks Australians love most

CNNThere are countless things about our homeland that Australians miss after moving abroad: the magnificent landscape, the laid-back lifestyle and that endless blue sky, to name a few.

But something as simple as a trip to the supermarket can leave us expats – according to some reports there are an estimated one million of us – feeling desperately homesick.

With its long history of immigration, Australia is quite literally a melting pot of cuisines.

While some foods are the result of cultural influences such as the Chiko Roll, others are uniquely Aussie, like Golden Gaytime ice cream.

And who could forget the most famous of them all, Vegemite, which turns 100 on October 25.

According to the National Museum of Australia, it was invented by chemist CP Callister in Melbourne in 1923 when Australian food manufacturer Fred Walker asked him to create a product similar to British Marmite.

“During the Second World War, Vegemite captured the Australian market. Marmite was unobtainable and the Australian Army supplied Vegemite to its troops,” says the museum in a post highlighting defining symbols of Australia.

“In the 1950s and 60s, despite acquisition by the American company Kraft, Vegemite became a distinctively ‘Australian’ food. It featured in songs, on souvenirs and other popular culture ephemera. Vegemite returned to Australian ownership in 2017 when purchased by dairy company Bega.”

More on this famed brown spread below as we round up the A-Z of Aussie favorites:

A: Aeroplane Jelly

Introduced in 1927, this simple dessert is an Australian classic.

Every Australian child grew up singing the famous 1930s jingle: “I like Aeroplane Jelly, Aeroplane Jelly for me!”

The brand’s “Bertie the Aeroplane” mascot was named after inventor Bert Appleroth – a Sydney tram driver who is said to have made the first batch in his bathtub.

Although now owned by an American company, Aeroplane Jelly has hardly changed since grandma was a girl.

Sure, there are plenty of brands of jelly available worldwide, but when it comes time to make a trifle or treat for the kids, Aussie parents can’t resist this familiar favorite.

B: Bowen mangoes

An Australian variety of mango that isn’t grown anywhere else in the world, the Bowen is considered the best of the best.

It was first discovered in the northern Queensland town of Bowen, hence the name, but is also known as Kensington Pride.

Bigger and juicer than other varieties, Bowen mangoes account for 80% of mangoes produced in Australia. Some are exported but arguably not enough for the huge number of mango-loving expats.

To Aussies, mangoes are the taste of summer. No matter where we are in the world, the craving for a Bowen mango usually kicks in around Christmas.

C: Chiko Roll

This strange little deep-fried snack has been an Australian icon since 1950 when it was first sold by an enterprising boilermaker at football games.

Inspired by Chinese spring rolls, the exact recipe is a little unclear but the combination of meat, veg and some unknown spices hits the spot.

Best consumed with a couple of potato scallops and a soft drink, the Chiko Roll is the go-to for tradies on their lunch break or those 3 a.m. munchies on your way home from the pub.

And the only place to get them is a typical Aussie takeaway joint.

D: Dukkah

Dukkah – a humble blend of crushed Middle Eastern spices, herbs and nuts from Egypt – has been embraced by Australian foodies.

Its versatility is one of the reasons this condiment is so popular. Dukkah can be used as a garnish, a coating on a piece of meat or mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread.

A number of producers have given the basic dukkah recipe an Australian twist by adding native ingredients, such as lemon myrtle, macadamia nuts, wattleseed, saltbush and pepperleaf.

Expats can find many variations in Australian supermarkets and, fortunately, they’re often sold in packets small enough to sneak into a suitcase.

E: Emu


Australia is one of the few countries where it is considered perfectly acceptable to eat the coat of arms.

Exceptionally lean and gamey, emu and kangaroo tend to be popular among adventurous chefs in Australia.

But when living abroad, neither is easy to get your hands on.

A number of restaurants and specialty butchers offer native meats, but the expense involved in raising emus, in particular, means it’s harder to come by.

F: Flat white coffee

Thanks to the influx of Greek and Italian immigrants who brought “proper coffee” to Australia post WWII, we have become a nation of coffee snobs.

The flat white is almost Aussie enough to be called the national drink.

All over the world, café goers and baristas have been confounded as Aussie expats seek out their favorite brew abroad.

With less milk than a latte and without the froth of a cappuccino, the flat white requires special attention (it’s all in the pouring).

One of the first questions asked on expat forums: “Where can I get a decent flat white in this town?”

And it’s usually the first thing ordered at the airport café when back on home soil.

G: Golden Gaytime

Ice creams feature highly on the most-wanted lists of expats, so it’s only natural we highlight them here.

Milky Paddle Pops and fruity Splice have been popular summer treats since the 1960s.

Likewise, Weis Bars have also been around for more than 60 years, and the mango and cream concoctions invoke memories of lazy summer afternoons.

But the number one, the crème de la crème, is the Golden Gaytime – a vanilla and toffee ice cream coated in chocolate and dipped in crunchy biscuit pieces that has inspired many a replica over the years.

H: Hamburger (Aussie style)

While the burger itself is not an Australian invention, we have added some unconventional ingredients that make the Aussie version truly memorable.

Take the essentials – a beef patty, cheese, tomato, lettuce, grilled onions, tomato sauce (ketchup) – and add beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg and bacon, and you have yourself a massive mouthful.

A quick online search reveals variations that include pickled beetroot and spicy mayo, among others, but the classic Aussie burger celebrates simplicity.

It’s easy enough to replicate at home, but nothing beats the experience of ducking into the local milk-bar (café), or fish and chip shop, to enjoy a burger and a milkshake after a day at the beach.

I: Iced VoVo

The Iced VoVo – a biscuit covered in pink fondant, raspberry jam and shredded coconut – is a national treasure.

Produced by Arnott’s since the early 1900s, the iconic treat was mentioned by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his victory speech after the 2007 election, leading to a spike in sales.

“Friends, tomorrow, the work begins. You can have a strong cup of tea if you want, even an Iced VoVo on the way through. But the celebration stops there,” Rudd said.

Not often found for sale overseas, this sweet treat is one to enjoy with a cup of tea when you’re home visiting mum.

J: Junk food


Ask any Australian expat what they miss most about ‘home’ and their list is sure to include at least one type of junk food – the absence of which is felt most keenly at kids’ birthday parties.

Allen’s Lollies (candy) have been around for decades and Minties, Fantales, Jaffas, Snakes and the Classic Party Mix remain as popular as ever.

The Aussie public doesn’t seem to mind that they are all owned by Nestlé, which is headquartered in Switzerland.

Fairy Bread – essentially white bread covered in butter and sprinkles – is another party staple that manages to be devoid of nutrition but highly nostalgic.

On return trips to Australia, expats are known to bulk-buy chocolate bars like Cadbury Cherry Ripes, Caramello Koalas and ever-popular Violet Crumbles.

When it comes to savory junk foods, Smith’s Chips, cheesy Twisties and Nobby’s nuts are synonymous with snacking – and nothing produced overseas comes close.

K: Kebabs

We tend to lump all Middle Eastern meat-and-pita combos under the heading of “kebab” and be done with it.

Of course, there are subtle differences between doner kebabs, shawarma, souvlaki, and gyros – in both ingredients and quality – depending on the source.

Connoisseurs agree that pork gyros (Greek flatbread filled with rotisserie-roasted meat) found in more legitimate venues around Australia are the best.

Consider the sauce dripping down the front of your shirt an essential part of the experience.

L: Lamingtons

Proving that Aussies love anything with jam and coconut, the lamington is the country’s favorite cake.

Named after Lord Lamington, Queensland’s eighth governor, these delightful squares of sponge cake – dipped in chocolate and coated with coconut – have become nothing short of a culinary icon.

There are entire websites (and an Australian Lamington Appreciation Society) devoted to the origins of the lamington and how to make them. Achieving the right ratio of chocolate, jam and coconut is essential.

M: Meat pies

There are pies, and then there are Aussie meat pies.

Synonymous with afternoons at the football pitch, brands like Four ‘N Twenty and Vili’s have cornered the market for mass-produced pies.

Small local outfits (like the Bemboka Pie Shop and Harry’s Café de Wheels) are institutions in their own right.

Everyone has a favorite type, whether it’s shepherd’s pie, a floater with peas, cheese and bacon or straight-up meat.

The only requirement? The pie is served piping hot with tomato sauce … and eaten one-handed.

With Four ‘N Twenty now exporting to the United States and parts of Asia, some expats can get their pie fix without venturing too far.

N: Noodles

Australia’s love affair with Asian food is no secret, and our northern neighbors strongly influence what we put on our plates.

Even Aussies living in Asia admit to craving “Aussie Chinese” or “Aussie Thai” – dishes that give a nod to the original but are not as authentic as the real thing. In fact, some would say they’re potentially even better.

We’d argue the fresh, high-quality produce and quality meats available in Australia bring out the best in Asian dishes.

O: Oysters


It’s fair to say that oysters are an acquired taste, but for those with a penchant for the salty mollusks, Australia produces some of the best in the world.

You’ll find two main species in Aussie waters: rock oysters and Pacific.

As bivalves, oysters filter the water around them and their location dictates their flavor.

The pristine waters along Australia’s coastline provide the perfect conditions for oysters, and they rarely need any accompaniment.

There’s nothing quite like eating these slippery snacks straight off the rocks – export just doesn’t do them justice.

P: Pavlova

The origins of this meringue-based dessert are hotly contested.

Recent research suggests that the Pav didn’t come from the antipodes at all, but nevertheless it remains a firm favorite.

Meringue, cream and plenty of fruit are the key ingredients, though there are no hard and fast rules about what has to be included.

Expats living in tropical climes often bemoan how challenging it is to get a decent meringue, given humid weather can turn it soft and sticky, so Pavlova is a rare treat.

Q: Quandong and quince

Both the native quandong and the foreign quince lend themselves to some of our favorite condiments and desserts.

Similar to a wild peach, the quandong is incredibly versatile and nutritious and can be made into juice, jam, filling for pies or eaten raw.

The quince is a relative of the apple and pear, and while several varieties are grown commercially in Australia the fruit is best known as the star in Maggie Beer’s quince paste – the only way to eat soft cheese.

R: Rum


Bundaberg Rum, to be more specific. Or just Bundy, as it’s known to locals.

This Australian beverage was created way back in 1888 to deal with an oversupply of molasses in Queensland’s sugarcane region.

Producers believe that it’s the sugar, grown in volcanic soil, that gives Bundy its distinct, rich flavor.

The distillery produces 60,000 bottles a day and the factory was the subject of a National Geographic documentary in 2013.

To say this drop has cult status would be an understatement.

S: Seafood

There are so many foods starting with S – smashed avocado, SAO biscuits, sausages – that could represent the land down under.

But Australia’s best produce comes from the sea and expats fondly reminisce about mornings spent at the fish markets picking up the catch of the day before special occasions.

While we’re known to “throw a shrimp on the barbie” there are some creatures that are far more popular.

Barramundi, Balmain or Moreton Bay bugs, abalone, and of course, prawns are just some of the native seafood worth queuing for.

T: Tim Tams

Technically a junk food, Tim Tam biscuits are so famous, so overwhelmingly popular, that they deserve their own spot on this list.

The original Tim Tams are the best: A chocolate-coated sandwich of two malted chocolate biscuits with chocolate cream filling.

Arnott’s, the manufacturers, now export to more than 40 countries around the world, so you can get your fix whether you’re skiing the slopes of Niseko, in Japan, or catching rays on a Tahitian beach.

U: Uncle Tobys muesli bars

Uncle Tobys began producing oats way back in 1893. But it wasn’t until the 1970s, when convenience foods started hitting the shelves, that they developed their now famous muesli bars.

The ultimate lunchbox treat or after-school snack, kids had the luxury of choosing not only the flavor, but also the texture.

Many a playground war has been fought over which was best – crunchy or chewy. For the record, we’re firmly in the crunchy camp.

These days the range has grown to include yoghurt and choc-chip toppings. There’s even a lamington flavor.

V: Vegemite

No round-up of Aussie foods would be complete without this ubiquitous salty brown spread, which turns 100 on October 25.

Twenty million jars of Vegemite are sold each year – that’s one for every Australian citizen.

Now owned by Bega Cheese, there was great joy when the icon returned to Australian ownership several years ago.

No one else quite understands the appeal of our favorite toast topping.

For those living in countries where it’s not yet exported, Vegemite comes in massive 560 gram jars and travel-sized tubes.

W: Weet-Bix

While there are similar cereals available around the world, there’s nothing quite like “Australia’s favorite breakfast.”

These small biscuits made from wholegrain wheat are occasionally available in supermarkets overseas, but they generally sell out pretty quickly.

Aussie mums have been known to stock up on them on trips to the motherland.

Best eaten with a little bit of sugar, some chopped banana and a lot of milk, Weet-Bix is promoted as family-friendly health food. But we’d love them even if they weren’t good for us.

X: XXXX beer


Another product of sunny Queensland, XXXX (pronounced four-ex) originated in Victoria in 1878 before moving north, where it is still produced today.

XXXX has endeared itself to Aussies as a great brew and a big supporter of sports and small communities.

It’s not widely available outside of Australia, but if you’re an expat in China or Dubai, you may be able to find it in a bar near you.

Y: Yabbies

Small freshwater crustaceans, yabbies are similar to lobsters – both prized as delicacies.

They’re hardy little creatures, and if you grew up on a farm chances are you spent your summers fishing for yabbies in the local creek.

Yabbies have a lot of meat on them, mostly in the tail and claws, and it tastes sweet and succulent when cooked right.

Expats might find these clawed crustaceans in restaurants, but you’re unlikely to find them in your local supermarket.

Z: Zucchini fritters

The zucchini fritter is yet another delicious byproduct of immigration.

Depending on who you ask, they’re either Turkish and served with yogurt, or Greek, in which case they come with tzatziki.

Either way, olive oil should ooze out when you take a bite.

In some parts of Australia, you can find zucchini fritters at a local takeaway, next to the potato scallops and Chiko Rolls.

These fried pancakes may have more health benefits than your average fried snack, but they are no less delicious.