Sri Lanka

Traditional Food in Sri Lanka

Traditional Food in Sri Lanka

Like the sound of a cuisine that’s renowned for a diverse range of flavors and vibrant spices? Then you’ll want to try the traditional food in Sri Lanka. Located in the Indian Ocean, this tropical paradise offers a culinary experience that reflects the country's vibrant culture, rich history and geographical location. To fully appreciate the cuisine here, it's important to acknowledge its influences. And there are a great many of them. Indian culinary traditions have heavily influenced Sri Lankan food, particularly when it comes to South Indian flavours, spices and vegetarian dishes. This, combined with the new ingredients and cooking techniques introduced by the Dutch, Portuguese and Malay communities, results in a diverse fusion of flavours. Want to know more about traditional food in Sri Lanka? Read on to explore the diverse culinary landscape of this wonderful country.



One thing’s for sure: they don’t do breakfast by halves in Sri Lanka. Morning mealtime tends to be a hearty and flavoursome affair, with myriad dishes to choose from. Start with a plain, egg or coconut roti, a traditional food in Sri Lanka that's commonly eaten at this time of day and is generally served with a lentil dhal and sambal (a chili paste). Want something slightly more filling? Dive into a bowl of idiyappam, also known as string hoppers. These steamed rice noodles are pressed into a disc-like shape and come with all sorts of flavourful side dishes, including a spicy fish or chicken curry. If you prefer pancakes for your breakfast, you’ll want to try hoppers – bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk. Go for the plain version (appa) or take it up a notch and ask for an egg cooked in the centre (egg appa).


Mid-Morning Snack

Getting peckish before lunch? Hopefully you're in a savoury mood. There are lots of quintessential street food options to choose from, such as wade – deep-fried fritters made from lentil or chickpea flour batter. They're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, who could ask for a better snack to nibble on mid-morning? Samosas are popular too and these tasty triangular pastries tend to be filled with a mixture of spiced potatoes, onions and sometimes peas or meat. Remember to order them with a side of chutney or a spicy dipping sauce.



Generally speaking, you’ll always be able to find one of the country's staple dishes on a menu: steamed rice and curry. This traditional food in Sri Lanka often includes chicken, fish, beef and mutton but there are also vegetarian curries made with lentils, jackfruit or mixed vegetables instead of meat. With the first taste, you'll get hints of coconut milk flavoured with a combination of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and curry leaves. Fish ambul thiyal is a particularly popular Sri Lankan fish curry known for its tangy and sour flavour and is made by combining fish, usually tuna, with the sour fruit goraka, black pepper, curry leaves and other spices. If you’ve got room left for more food, end your lunch on a sweet note with curd and treacle, a thick and creamy yogurt drizzled with a type of palm syrup.


Mid-Afternoon Snack

Want to keep your energy levels up before dinner? You’ll need to find some short eats and Sri Lanka offers a variety of savoury snacks that are perfect for a quick bite. From vegetable or chicken pastries to cutlets, spring rolls and stuffed buns, there’s loads of tasty food to choose from. If you're on the move, look for isso vade – crispy deep-fried prawn fritters made with a batter of spiced lentil flour and small shrimp. Alternatively, a handful of roasted chickpeas are a delicious and convenient option. Known as kadala in Sri Lanka, this popular and protein-rich snack is seasoned with spices like chili powder, turmeric and salt.



Sri Lankan dinners often involve communal dining where everyone helps themselves to a bit of everything. The various dishes tend to be a balanced combination of flavours, textures and nutrients, so you’re in for a satisfying and well-rounded meal. As we already know, rice and curry is a common meal format here and they always tend to be served with an assortment of condiments. If you see it on the menu, try lamprais – a Dutch-influenced dish that consists of a baked banana leaf packet filled with a mixture of rice, beef or chicken, boiled eggs and spices. As Sri Lanka is an island nation, you can get lots of delicious seafood dishes for dinner too, such as fish curry, prawn curry, butter garlic prawns and chili crab. If, like us, you have a separate stomach for dessert, you may want to end your meal with some wattalappam – a creamy pudding – or helapa – sweet coconut-filled dumplings. Stuffed to the brim but could sip on a comforting beverage before bed? Sri Lankans are avid tea drinkers and it's common to have a cup of Ceylon tea after dinner to aid digestion and prepare you for a good night's sleep.