The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

The best foods in Sri Lanka are full of flavour! It can go from mild to spicy to simply burning – it really is up to you how hot you want it. Taste-testing local foods should be on your Sri Lankan itinerary!

While in hotels, you can choose continental breakfast and your typical eggs, fruits and cereal.

However, you will notice that locals prefer curry-based dishes even in the early hours. If you’re staying in a local guest house, you’ll be able to smell curry being prepared as early as 6 a.m.!

People in Sri Lanka love food that bursts with flavours. Ask any chef to keep your food mild, and you may be met with a look of disbelief.

Sri Lankan street food is often fried, and most meals include rice in some form or another. Beef and pork are virtually absent from the menu, so the meat choice is generally chicken or fish/shrimp.

Myself and my children are vegan, so consequently, this is never an issue for us.

Food in Sri Lanka is often considered similar to that of South India. I can reassure you that it is distinct in many ways!

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

It’s very vegan-friendly, with many vegetable dishes, and most curries being cooked in oil rather than butter.

Dishes usually include coconut milk rather than cream or yoghurt, though I wouldn’t expect to find tofu or tempeh on the menu. It’s not something that I have seen in buffets or street stalls.

This post highlights the best foods in Sri Lanka that will keep your taste buds awake. While I am vegan, I will list non-vegan dishes considered staple favourites in the Sri Lankan diet.

Before doing so, however, let me share some tips on how to make the most of Sri Lankan cuisine.

5 Tips To Fully Enjoy Food In Sri Lanka

Join a Food Tour

Arguably, the best way to learn about the cuisine of a new country is to do a guided food tour. It’s one of the best ways to experience local flavours and discover staple favourites. Food tours are not commonplace in Sri Lanka; however, cooking classes are.

Read on for further details about cooking classes. Colombo is the top spot for a wide range of cooking class experiences.

You can book your food tour here.

Go to the local market

Markets are great places to learn about local ingredients and unquestionably have some of the best foods in Sri Lanka. They are fun places for families to explore anywhere, and Sri Lanka is no different.

A typical market will have stalls selling all sorts of fruits and vegetables and, depending on the region, fish or meat. You can usually start tasting the food there and then.

Vendors are happy to share a taste of the juiciest mango. Look for the Karutha Colomban variety or Alfonso, these are the sweetest and juiciest.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

You will also see a variety of vegetables that you have probably never seen before. Some are tasty, some are unique, and some are unusual to a palate that is not accustomed to them.

Take a cooking class

Whether you want to become a chef or not, cooking classes are one of the most fun things to do when travelling.

The results are usually great; after all, you are cooking under the guidance of an expert. And to top this off, you get to eat the food you cooked!

Depending on the class you book, cooking classes can be a great way to get children interested in trying new styles of food. I always find that my kids are more inclined to try new things if they’ve had a hand in preparing them.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Cooking classes are becoming a popular activity in Sri Lanka, the homegrown spices certainly are a draw card. Classes are offered in all the tourist hot spots, including Colombo, Galle, Sigiriya and Ella.

They are a great way to get to know local food and experience the best foods in Sri Lanka.

Try this cooking class.

Learn about the staple ingredients of Sri Lankan food

Sri Lankan food makes abundant use of spices and chances are you will be visiting at least a spice garden during your trip to Sri Lanka.

You can expect your dishes to be mild, deliciously spicy or hot. Ingredients such as curry, chilli pepper, cardamom and coriander are commonly used.

Coconut milk and grated coconut are often present as dairy is virtually non-existent. As a result, coconut is likely an ingredient in curries and sweets. Most sweets are coconut-based; children will love sweet coconut-filled rolled string hoppers!

Try a home-cooked meal

Nothing is better than having a home-cooked meal to appreciate the local cuisine fully. The good news is that home-cooked food in Sri Lanka is easily available, especially if you stay at guest houses.

That’s your best bet to try some local dishes and, subsequently, the quickest way to discover the best foods in Sri Lanka.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

All you have to do is ask the owners if you can have dinner at home that evening. You’ll likely experience a meal worthy of a king, with large, delicious portions and an abundance of vegetables.

The Best Foods In Sri Lanka – 25 Dishes You Should Try

Jackfruit Curry – Rice and curry are the staples of Sri Lankan cuisine. Each family has its own rice and curry recipe and each is equally delicious.

This curry is prepared using unripe jackfruit. The fruit is cooked very slowly and becomes so tender you will not even realise it is not meat. One of the ultimate, best foods in Sri Lanka. Make sure to try it!

Pumpkin Curry – Pumpkin is often a food women love and men hate, but I promise you this version of
pumpkin will have you all agreeing, as it is simply delicious. The pumpkin becomes so soft that the overall texture is very creamy and thick. This is definitely one of the best dishes in Sri Lanka.

Eggplant Curry – Probably one of the more oily dishes you will eat in Sri Lanka, but to be fair, eggplants tend to get very oily when fried. Perhaps not the healthiest Sri Lankan food, if you are very health conscious.

Eggplants are first deep-fried and then stir-fried with onion, green chilli, and spices. A bit of sugar is added to give it a caramelized finish. It is absolutely delicious.

Lentil Curry – If you love tarka dhal, yellow lentil curry from India, you are bound to love the Sri Lankan
version of it. It’s one of the best foods in Sri Lanka to try.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Called parippu, or dhal curry, it’s one of the most common dishes in Sri Lanka, and you’ll easily find it anywhere in the country. It’s a milder, not nearly as thick, version of its Indian cousin and is perfectly eaten with rice.

Fish Curry – There are about one million kinds of fish curry in Sri Lanka. Admittedly, this may be an
exaggeration, but you get the idea. Again, I am vegan, but I do my best to outline all the traditional staples and best foods to eat in Sri Lanka.

The Ambul Thiyal is a drier kind of curry where a combination of spices that includes goraka is added. This helps preserve the fish.

Chicken Curry – This dish consists of plain white rice and chicken curry. Often it’s accompanied by a wealth of other condiments, usually a selection of vegetable curries, which can be with mushrooms, lentils, and even banana flowers.

The chicken is cooked bone-in so be ready to use your hands, after all, that is how the locals eat. Coconut milk is not usually added to the dish.

Deviled dishes – Any time you see the word “deviled” next to anything in Sri Lanka, tread with caution.
Deviled indicates the dish is spicy, so you’re bound to have food that’s incredibly full of flavour, packed with chillies and other spices.

Tomato sauce or paste is often added to the dish to give it a deep, red colour. You can have deviled potato, shrimp, chicken or even fish curry.

Dhal Waddae – I only saw people eating this in Galle Fort, so I am unsure if it can be found anywhere else in Sri Lanka. There, it’s a common street food of lentil curry fritters topped with shrimp. I bet a cold beer perfectly accompanies it.

Naran Kavum – Small balls of coconut deliciousness. A comparable would be a small round coconut doughnut.

Naran kavum is easily found and an absolute must-try. These deep-fried small balls are made with rice flour, kithul treacle and rolled in grated coconut.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Best when eaten piping hot, they are definitely among the best foods in Sri Lanka.

Fried Salted Fish – This dish consists of small salted fish and is deep-fried until crunchy. Often accompanied by vegetable curry and rice.

Hoppers – These are some of the most famous foods in Sri Lanka, and if you ask our children, the best foods in Sri Lanka!

Chances are you will likely enjoy them for breakfast. It’s a kind of pancake made of rice flour and prepared with coconut milk and toddy, Sri Lankan palm wine.

Hoppers are cooked in a small pan until they become thick and soft at the bottom and crispy at the edges. One version is egg hoppers, and as I mentioned you will likely have it for breakfast.

String Hoppers – String hoppers are noodles made of rice flour and then steamed. They are served for
breakfast or dinner, usually along with your curry. It’s one of the most popular foods in Sri Lanka.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Vegetable Roti – Roti is a kind of bread. In this case, it is stuffed with vegetables, however, it can also be filled with fish. It is made into a triangular shape and skillet-fried.

Kottu – Kottu, also known as kottu roti, is made with a bread called godamba roti which is very thin.
Cut into pieces, it’s stir-fried and mixed with vegetables, chicken or crab, spices, and then

It’s prepared on a large grill and chopped with huge blades. As if the simple dish were not delicious enough, it’s served with extra curry or sauce. It’s simply one of the best foods in Sri Lanka.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Egg Kottu – The egg, or vegetarian version of kottu is considered one of the best ones. Filling, and absolutely delicious.

Street Food In Galle Fort and Colombo

Gotu kola sambol – Sambol is a word used to describe uncooked dishes. Gotukola is a kind of leafy vegetable.

As salad greens aren’t common in Sri Lanka, a Gotu kola sambol, which is basically a
small salad, comes as a refreshing change. It is prepared with finely chopped gotu kola, a leafy vegetable found in South Asia, onion, coconut and spices.

Coconut sambol – The best version of sambol is made with coconut. This will probably end up being one of your favourites of the best foods in Sri Lanka. It’s prepared by grating coconut, which is then
mixed with lime juice, chilli powder, and onions. There also is a version with fish.

Coconut roti – This is one of the most common and best foods in Sri Lanka. It’s incredible how something so simple can be so tasty.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Coconut roti is nothing more than roti which has been infused with coconut milk during the preparation. For a bolder flavour, try it topped with chilli salt.

Brinjal eggplant – You often see this eggplant pickle accompanying many varieties of curry. It’s made with eggplants that are cooked for a very long time. Combined with salt, sugar and soy sauce, the eggplants become incredibly tender and the sugar caramelizes. It’s delicious with curry and roti.

Paratha flatbread – If you are a fan of all things doughy, you are bound to love paratha, a famous food in Sri Lanka.

It’s a flatbread that is actually very moist. Do as the locals do, and use it to scoop up curry. One of the best foods in Sri Lanka.

Samosas – Samosas are a common street food and the filling choices really are endless. An easy handheld meal, and a great on-the-go snack for children, making it undeniably one of the best foods in Sri Lanka.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Ulundhu vadai – They may serve these fritters like bread, to accompany your meal, but they are nothing like it. They are made from dhal and spices and are doughy, chewy and crispy at the same time.

They are best eaten hot and are perhaps among my favourite foods in Sri Lanka.

Cassava chips – Found on any proper street food cart in Sri Lanka, cassava chips have a taste similar to
potato chips but are much crunchier. They are perfect to accompany a cold drink at the end of the day.

Buffalo curd – Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to use many dairy products in its preparations, which is perfect if you are vegan. Products such as yoghurt, milk and cream are not commonly seen. That’s why the buffalo curd is seen as one of the best foods in Sri Lanka.

It’s a very thick, full-fat yoghurt that is very mild in flavour. Traditionally served with kithul treaclea syrup, made of sugar palm and similar in taste to honey. You will often see it for breakfast,
but it also appears to be a very popular dessert.

Coconut – Coconut is ever present in Sri Lankan dishes, but what about having it straight from the tree in its natural form?

You will find it sold in any side street stall and market. You can ask vendors to open it for you, decant the
juice and then have it chopped so you can also enjoy the pulp.

The Best Foods in Sri Lanka

Coconuts are very cheap and incredibly refreshing!

Ceylon tea – Tea is the third largest export in Sri Lanka. You will see plantations scattered around the Hill
Country, where you can go on plantation tours.

Not to mention that includes tea tasting and the chance to buy some of the best tea you will ever brew! That’s why, though it is not food proper, I include Ceylon tea among the best foods in Sri Lanka.

Check out a tea factory tour here

You can drink it plain or with the milk of your choice.

Now all that’s left to do is for you to get out there and tickle your taste buds with delicious Sri Lankan foods! I would highly recommend trying something you wouldn’t normally try at home, as a result, you may find your new favourite foods!

I hope you enjoyed reading about the best foods in Sri Lanka. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out via email or social media @travelmadmum.

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