Please wait...
Top 22 Most Popular Sri Lankan Foods You Should Try

Top 22 Most Popular Sri Lankan Foods You Should Try

June 23, 2023
Local Cuisine

Have you ever wondered about the amazing flavors that come from a lush, fertile island? Well, wonder no more and get ready to explore the delicious cuisine of Sri Lanka. With its aromatic spices and mouthwatering dishes, Sri Lankan food is a true delight.

Located in the Indian Ocean, close to India’s southern tip, Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise known for its stunning natural beauty, tea, and friendly people. Whether you’re looking for eye catching beaches or breathtaking hill country, this island has something for everyone within a short 3-4 hours drive.

Top 22 Most Popular Sri Lankan Foods

Sri Lankan cuisine is a true treasure trove, brimming with a heritage that stretches back for more than 3,000 years. It’s a captivating culinary journey that bears the imprints of diverse cultures and the vibrant influences of its neighboring India. The result? A remarkable tapestry of flavors that dance upon your palate, leaving an indelible mark. From mouthwatering savory creations to heavenly desserts, Sri Lankan cuisine presents a feast for the senses, offering a plethora of culinary experiences that not only satiate your cravings but also nourish the body and soul of its people.

Prepare yourself for an extraordinary journey, here are the top 22 most popular Sri Lankan foods that you should try when visiting.

Sour Fish Curry (Ambul Thiyal)

Sour Fish Curry (Ambul Thiyal)

Despite its name, this fish curry offers a delightful balance of flavors and is among the most delicious ways to cook fish. Originally created as a method of fish preservation, this dish utilizes a paste made from dried goraka, also known as Garcinia Cambogia, a tropical fruit that helps preserve fish for up to a week without refrigeration.

Chunks of fish, preferably tuna, are gently simmered with a blend of spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, black pepper, curry leaves, and pandan leaves until they create a thick and flavorful coating. This unique taste pairs wonderfully with rice, creating a satisfying culinary experience.

Cashew Nut Curry

Cashew Nut Curry

Even devoted meat enthusiasts won’t feel the absence of meat when savoring this gluten-free and vegan dish. The star ingredient is cashew nuts (of course!), and this curry is a beloved favorite during special occasions.

Unlike the typically fiery Sri Lankan dishes, cashew curry has a gentle spice level and offers a delicate crunchy. Its creamy texture perfectly complements any meal. The cashew nuts are soaked in mild saltwater to ensure they are well-seasoned and able to absorb the subtle flavors of the mild spices.

If you ever need to please a picky eater, Sri Lankan cashew nut curry might just be the perfect solution.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Sri Lanka is renowned for its delectable crabs, which are larger in size compared to many other species and highly regarded as a culinary delicacy. Both locally and internationally, seafood enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the opportunity to indulge in this delight.

The crab curry features a spicy yet creamy texture, while the meat itself is tender and practically melts in your mouth. Given its exotic nature, crab curry can be a bit pricey, but rest assured, it is worth every penny.

You can typically find various versions of this dish in fine restaurants, especially in the northern regions of the island.

Coconut Milk Rice (Kiribath)

Coconut Milk Rice (Kiribath)

This dish holds a special place in all traditional Sri Lankan celebrations, including the Sri Lankan New Year in April, birthdays, weddings, and Buddhist rituals. It is commonly known as coconut milk rice among tourists.

True to its name, the main ingredients of this dish are rice and coconut milk. Instead of water, Sri Lankan coconut milk rice is cooked with a generous amount of coconut milk, imparting a creamy flavor. It is often enjoyed with local chili paste and/or a curry, enhancing its taste and richness.

This is also one of the most popular Sri Lanka foods.

Vegetable Roti

Vegetable Roti

Vegetable roti is a highly popular street food that can easily become addictive. It is a delightful experience to indulge in the delicious filling wrapped in a perfectly cooked, pan-fried dough. The rotis come in various shapes such as triangles, cylinders, and squares.

Each shape indicates a different filling. The triangle-shaped roti is the most common and vegetarian, while the other shapes may contain meat or boiled eggs. All of them have a satisfying spiciness and pair beautifully with a steaming cup of Ceylon tea, making it an ideal snack for teatime.

Hoppers (Appa)

Egg hoppers Sri Lanka

Despite their amusing name, hoppers have nothing to do with hopping creatures. Hoppers is an all-time favorite in Sri Lanka and a go-to dish for satisfying hunger on the move. You can find this local delicacy on street food corners as well as in upscale hotels.

Made from a batter of fermented rice flour combined with coconut milk, salt, and a pinch of yeast, hoppers have a traditional touch. For an authentic flavor, a splash of Sri Lankan toddy, a fermented palm sap, elevates the taste.

The batter is swirled in a small wok, creating a bowl-like shape. The bottom of the hopper is soft, while the edges turn thin and crispy. Adding an egg in the middle of the hopper takes its taste to the next level, providing a delightful burst of flavors.

String Hoppers

String Hoppers

String hoppers (locally known as “indiappa”) are a renowned Sri Lankan breakfast delicacy, known for their soft and easily digestible texture, similar to rice noodles.

To prepare string hoppers, wet rice flour is skillfully woven into small round shapes using a string hopper maker, a specially designed tool. These delicate creations are then steamed for approximately half an hour.

String hoppers come in two primary colors, depending on the type of rice used: white and pink. However, you can also find them in other hues such as blue, red, and yellow, achieved through natural edible colorings like butterfly pea, hibiscus flower essence, and vegetable juices such as beet and carrot juice.

Jackfruit Curry (Kiri kos)

Jackfruit Curry - Kirikos

While rice takes the crown as the staple food in Sri Lankan cuisine, jackfruit comes in a close second in terms of popularity. This versatile fruit can be prepared in various ways, each offering a unique flavor profile. One such preparation is jackfruit curry, locally known as “kiri kos,” where a mature fruit is used along with a minimal amount of chili and spices.

The addition of coconut milk gives the curry a creamy texture, allowing it to harmonize with any accompaniment.

Baby Jackfruit Curry (Polos)

Polos Curry - Baby Jackfruit Curry

Prepare to be captivated by the first bite of this dish. Jackfruit proves its versatility by transforming into delectable preparations at various stages of its life. Baby jackfruit curry, locally known as “polos,” is a vegan favorite, rich in nutrients and fiber.

As the name suggests, this curry is made from baby jackfruit, when it is firm and the seeds are yet to fully develop. Like many Sri Lankan dishes, a medley of spices is incorporated, iincluding roasted curry powder, cardamom, turmeric, tamarind juice, red chili powder, and cinnamon.

All these flavors mingle with coconut milk to create a thick, aromatic sauce that envelops the tender jackfruit.

Kottu Roti

Kottu Roti

Kottu roti holds a special place among the cherished most popular Sri Lankan foods and can be found at roadside eateries throughout the country. It is also a popular street food among travelers. It is essentially diced roti mixed with chopped vegetables, eggs, fish, cheese, and various meats, cooked with oil and spices. Yes, it’s an all-rounder!

The rhythmic sound produced by the metal tool chopping and stirring the ingredients is fondly referred to as “the Kottu Beat.”

If you find yourself strolling through bustling streets in the evening, you’re likely to be serenaded by the lively sounds of kottu being prepared.

Snorkeling in Unawatuna Beach

Sri Lanka Tour Packages

Our Sri Lanka tour packages offer the perfect way to explore this beautiful island. We have a variety of packages to choose from, so you can find one that fits your interests and budget. We can also create a custom itinerary for you.

Pittu

Pittu

Pittu is a traditional Sri Lankan dish commonly enjoyed for breakfast or dinner. It is made from a mixture of rice flour and grated coconut. The rice flour blend is steamed in a cylindrical mold for a few minutes, resulting in a solid tube-shaped pittu.

Typically, pittu is served with a side of coconut milk and local chili paste. It is considered a substantial meal that keeps you satisfied for hours.

Spicy Coconut Sambol

Spicy Coconut Sambol - Pol Sambol

Preparing this classic condiment takes only about 10 minutes, highlighting its simplicity. Freshly grated coconut is combined with a pinch of salt, red onions, chili powder, dried chilies, and freshly squeezed lime juice. These ingredients are then ground together, creating a perfect accompaniment for rice, bread, and string hoppers.

For an added burst of flavor, sprinkle some minced Maldive fish and chopped tomatoes into the mix, and you’ll find yourself craving more.

Kola Kenda

Kola Kenda

Kola kenda, also known as herbal congee, is a nutrient-packed superfood ideal for breakfast. There are numerous variations of kola kenda, each made with different herbs and leafy greens, all rich in nutritional value.

The herbs and leafy greens are blended and cooked on low heat with coconut milk and a handful of pre-cooked rice. Kola kenda is believed to possess preventive and curative properties for certain ailments, hence its popularity among traditional Sri Lankan medical practitioners.

Eggplant Pickle

Eggplant Pickle - Birnjal Pickle

A highly regarded side dish in Sri Lankan cuisine, eggplant pickle, locally known as “batu moju,” adds a delightful touch to any meal. Thick wedges of eggplant are deep-fried until mildly crispy and then stir-fried with a blend of spices, onions, and green chili.

The key step involves caramelizing the eggplant with sugar, mustard seeds, and vinegar, resulting in a succulent texture that melts in your mouth. Batu moju pairs well with any staple food and is an essential dish for special occasions.

Coconut Roti (Pol Roti)

Coconut Roti - Pol Roti

Coconut roti, locally known as “pol roti,” is a popular Sri Lankan flatbread made from wheat flour, grated coconut, salt, and water. It is typically enjoyed as a breakfast meal but can also be found as a snack in tea shops. Pol roti is commonly eaten with lunu miris, a local chili paste, although it complements any curry as well.

Gotu Kola Salad

Gotu Kola Salad - Gotu Kola Sambol

If you’re a fan of leafy greens and seeking a healthy and easy-to-make dish, gotu kola salad, also known as “gotukola sambol,” is a delicious choice. Sambol refers to a salad, and this simple preparation involves finely sliced pennywort leaves, grated coconut, salt, and lemon juice, along with minced Maldive fish for an extra burst of flavor.

This superfood is renowned for its immune-boosting properties and its ability to rejuvenate the nervous system. Packed with vitamins and cooling properties that help maintain body temperature, gotu kola salad offers numerous therapeutic and medicinal benefits.

Sweet Onion Sambol (Seeni Sambol)

Sweet Onion Sambol - Seeni Sambol

Combining sweetness, spiciness, and a touch of sourness, sweet onion sambol, or “seeni sambol,” is a straightforward dish made from chopped onions, spices, and sugar.

It pairs excellently with hot beverages, enhancing the flavors of the sweet and spicy relish. However, it is most commonly enjoyed with local bread, making it a popular snack for outings and picnics, readily available in small and medium-scale eateries.

Curd with Palm Treacle

curd and treacle in Sri Lanka

Naturally fermented buffalo milk, rich in healthy fats and brimming with nutrients, is served in clay pots to preserve its natural qualities.

With a yogurt-like texture and a subtly sour taste, curd is a delightful dessert when accompanied by palm treacle or sugar. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it with treacle for the perfect combination.

Curd can be found in supermarkets across the country.

Watalappam

Watalappam

Regarded as one of the most decadent Sri Lankan custard puddings, watalappam is a true delight for individuals with a craving for sweetness. This delectable dessert is made from coconut milk, eggs, jaggery, and cardamom, resulting in a winning combination.

Watalappam is a staple on Sri Lankan wedding menus and is often served during special family occasions. For the Sri Lankan Muslim community, it holds a special significance as it is shared with neighbors and loved ones to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Helapa

Helapa

A truly Sri Lankan delicacy with a distinct flavor and aroma, helapa is a unique treat. A dough made from millet flour, treacle, and grated coconut is flattened on a leaf and steamed for approximately half an hour. Millet flour is gluten-free and renowned for its high nutritional value, packed with protein and antioxidants.

The leaf used to wrap the dough is obtained from Kenda trees, imparting its own organic flavor and aroma during the steaming process. As a signature dish of Sri Lankan New Year celebrations, halapa is an authentic sweet snack cherished by Sri Lankans of all ages.

Fried Salted Fish

Fried Salted Fish

Fried salted fish is yet another beloved Sri Lankan delicacy crafted from small salted fish. These fish are generously coated with salt and deep-fried until they attain a delightful crunchy texture. They are best enjoyed alongside vegetable curry and rice, creating a perfect culinary combination.

This dish captures the essence of Sri Lankan seafood, offering a pure and distinct flavor. The taste resembles that of dried shrimp, while additional ingredients are incorporated to infuse it with a spicy kick. It stands as one of the tantalizing culinary delights found on this enchanting island.

Black Pumpkin Curry (Kalu Pol Wattakka)

Black Pumpkin Curry (Kalu Pol Wattakka)

Black Pumpkin Curry (locally known as “kalu pol wattakka”) holds a special place among the cherished most popular Sri Lankan foods. This delectable curry revolves around the use of pumpkin and comes in various delightful forms. The creamy version stands out as the most popular choice.

In this particular rendition, the pumpkin is gently simmered in a luscious curry sauce crafted from coconut and rice. The resulting curry boasts a delightful sweetness that tantalizes the taste buds and releases irresistible aromas. The pumpkin itself imparts a unique and distinctive flavor to the dish.

While pumpkin may not be favored by everyone, it presents an exciting opportunity for adventurous food enthusiasts who relish exploring diverse flavors.

Related reading:

Sigiriya Sri Lanka the Lion Rock Fortress

Sri Lanka Tour Packages

Our Sri Lanka tour packages offer the perfect way to explore this beautiful island. We have a variety of packages to choose from, so you can find one that fits your interests and budget. We can also create a custom itinerary for you.

Comments are closed.

Lanka Tour Experts Quick Contact Popup