Ditch the grocery store chocolates – here’s five unique gift ideas for foodies from local small businesses

(Top row, from left) Mnopgwad preserves, VEGCHEESE cheese, cookies from 3amCookies, (bottom row, from left) cookie buckets from 3am Cookies, hot sauce from Charger Foods and granola from Kare Granola
Make it a delectable December with these creative gift ideas from small businesses in and around Toronto's east end (Submitted photos).

Alexa Battler

It may seem like we exchange the exact same boxes of factory-made holiday treats every year — break the cycle with something deliciously different.

Scarborough is home to one of the most multicultural and dynamic food scenes in Canada, served up by small businesses largely owned by members of the BIPOC community.

This list is just a taste of the unique edible gifts waiting in the east end.

Vegan cheeses that actually melt

A photo of VEGCHEESE's vegan cheese melting on different foods

These cheeses might make your giftee do a double take — they’re free of dairy, nuts and gluten but still bubble, broil and melt like the real deal. VEGCHEESE, founded by alum Lori Sroujian (BBA 2007 UTSC), has flavours in fresh mozzarella, garlic and chive, and Italian black truffle, along with a bag of curds, all made in Ontario in small batches with a base of organic soy milk and coconut oil. Pick them up online or in Whole Foods across Ontario.

Get it for $10 from VEGCHEESE

A custom, one-pound bag of granola

A bag of custom Kare Granola and their flavoured granola packs

Make your giftee a personalized blend of granola, complete with their name printed right on the (recyclable) bag. From a base of rolled oats and quinoa flakes, you choose from a range of fresh nuts, seeds, dried fruits, natural sweetener and other healthy additions. You can even customize the texture — clustered or loose — and add flavours and spices, including a seasonal pumpkin spice latte option. Whichever you choose, you’ll end up with a present that’s organic and natural, and completely free of preservatives, GMOs, dairy, soy and peanuts. Shipping is free across Canada.

Get it for $13.50 from Kare Granola

Handcrafted gourmet cookies, delivered fast

3am Cookies offers several products including seasonal treats, a cookie basket, a DIY cookie kit and more

Cater to the cookie lovers in your life with 3amCookies’ hearty three-ounce treats in seven eclectic flavours. The company also released seasonal selections including a cookie packed with Kinder chocolate bar chunks, another with candy canes and white chocolate, and a blue, aptly named “Cookie Monster” edition. For the hands-on giftee, there’s a DIY sugar cookie kit with your choice of icing colours, an emergency cookie-in-a-jar kit, or you can choose from three buckets of assorted cookies. Though it’s a small business, 3amCookies still has a speedy turnaround for deliveries in and around the GTA — orders placed by Wednesdays at noon will arrive on the weekend.   

Get cookie buckets from $20, and cookies for $3.75 each from 3amCookies

Gourmet hot sauce with a twist

A photo fo the hot sauces from Charger Foods, an Indigenous owned local business

Add some nuance to your giftee’s spice with Charger Foods’ line of head-turning hot sauce flavour combos. Among them are chocolate chipotle, basil bomb, green tea Thai Chile, maple habanero and options for those who like to push their limits (queue the Carolina reaper). This local business is owned by Charles Catchpole, an Anishinaabe chef and member of Couchiching First Nation who runs his own micro farm and and whose wife Germaine owns Mnopgwad Preserves, also available on their website. Check out their selection of handcrafted jams, with flavours including cranberry cinnamon and blueberry tarragon

Get hot sauces from $10 and jams from $13 from Charger Foods

A chocolate hazelnut spread that’s good for the body and planet

A photo of Mounib chocolate hazelnut spread, vegan, sugar free and palm oil free

Give a sweet gift free of added sugar with these dairy-free, gluten-free, palm-oil-free spreads. There are only three ingredients in alum Iman Mounib's (BA 2017 UTSC) take on the chocolate hazelnut spread: hazelnuts, organic, fair-trade cocoa powder and honey courtesy of local Mennonite communities. A vegan option swaps honey for organic cane sugar, and a peanut chocolate version is designed for fans of chocolate peanut butter cups. All spreads come in reusable, locally sourced glass jars, and you can get them online or at several farmer’s markets, restaurants and stores around Toronto (check their website for more in-person locations).

Get spreads from $8 to $13, or all three for $35 from Mounib Real Food Only