Sri Lanka is a beautiful island famous for its magnificent scenery, wildlife, history, rich culture, and pristine beaches. Along with all these attractions, the country is known for its mouth-melting Sri Lankan food.
Sri Lankan traditional food is highly influenced by South Indian culture. But the cuisine is also known for its unique and tempting local flavors. Most Sri Lanka dishes include rice, curry, and coconut milk.
What Is Special About Sri Lankan Food?
This diverse island, historically, was home to a cuisine of fresh, exotic ingredients and cooking practices dating back centuries. In time, European and Asian influence found its way into Sri Lanka food, cultivating truly exceptional dishes and fusions, all alive with color, spice, heat, and flavor.
From the rich and fiery chilis that go into a Sri Lankan curry, to nourishing and refreshing fresh coconut milk, your love for Sri Lankan food is only set to grow, the more you try these foods and dishes.
The local cuisine is one of the most exciting facts about Sri Lanka. You can taste dozens of delicious dishes during your travels. Here are the top 20 famous Sri Lankan foods that you should try when visiting.
National Food Of Sri Lanka
Lamprais (Rice And Curry)
Lamprais is the national food of Sri Lanka. It is introduced by the Dutch butcher community of Sri Lanka. This rice dish is one of the most delicious Sri Lankan foods with different flavors.
Traditionally, it is made with three kinds of meats: beef, pork, and lamb. The meat cubes are mixed with cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. Rice, sambal, chili sauce, and shrimp paste are placed on the side of the meat. All the ingredients are packed inside the banana leaf and then steamed.
The dish delivers outstanding flavors of spicy and sour. It is a complete treat of Sri Lankan food culture, with an unforgettable taste of soft, juicy, and tender meat.
Sri Lankan Food – Curries
Fish Ambul Thiyal (Sour Fish Curry)
Seafood is a significant part of Sri Lankan cuisine and has a high demand among the locals. You can find several Sri Lanka dishes made out of seafood.
Fish ambul thiyal is a dry curry made with different fish varieties, such as tuna. It is probably the most popular of all fish curries with the largest fan base.
The fish is cut into cubes and marinated with pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan, and curry leaves. The main ingredient is dried goraka, which gives a hint of sourness to the dish.
This dish that Sri Lanka is famous for mainly originated in southern regions, but you can find it throughout the country. You can go to almost any restaurant and be able to enjoy this delicious fish curry with rice.
Kukul Mas Curry (Chicken Curry)
Curries are the specialty of Sri Lankan food, and you can very regularly see them in almost all Sri Lankan meals. Similarly, Kukul mas curry is a famous Sri Lankan chicken curry with many variations. It is considered a household dish in Sri Lankan houses.
The dish is prepared in two steps. First, spices such as fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon are mixed in hot oil. Then it is combined with chicken, chili powder, curry powder, turmeric, pandan leaves, lemongrass, and curry leaves.
The addition of coconut milk gives a rich base to this traditional Sri Lanka food. You can try it at any restaurant or hotel. It is mostly served with hot rice and roti.
Parippu (Sri Lankan Lentil Curry)
Parippu is also known as lentil curry. It is another famous Sri Lankan curry that delivers one of the best tastes. Parippu is seen as the top Sri Lankan staple food because it is affordable and filling. As such, almost every restaurant has it on its menu.
This curry is prepared with split red lentils, known as dhal in Sri Lanka. The lentils are fried with fresh ingredients such as onion, tomatoes, and fresh green chilies. They are combined with tempered spices and coconut milk. All the ingredients are mixed well, resulting in a rich curry.
You can enjoy this creamy curry with rice. The local recommendation is to enjoy it as a dipping gravy for roti or paratha.
Polos (Green Jackfruit Curry)
Polos is a famous food in Sri Lanka made with young green Jackfruit and coconut milk. You should never miss this Sri Lankan dish, the next time you visit because it is surprisingly delicious. It has a bit of a sour and very spicy flavor profile.
This fruity curry is prepared by boiling the chunks of jackfruit. The soft chunks are cooked with onion, garlic, ginger, and spices. Finally, coconut oil is added and simmered to make a thick sauce.
You can enjoy the incredible taste of this curry from any curry restaurant in Sri Lanka.
Kalu Pol Wattakka (Pumpkin Curry)
Kalu pol wattakka is one of the well-admired Sri Lanka foods. It is a pumpkin-based curry that comes in a range of varieties. The most popular one is the creamy version.
In this variation, pumpkin is cooked in a creamy curry sauce made of coconut and rice. The curry tastes sweet and gives mouth-watering aromas. A unique taste is derived from the pumpkin.
Although pumpkin is not liked by everyone, it can be a treat for curious foodies who love to try different flavors.
Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry
Beetroot curry is another famous Sri Lankan food. It is loved by nearly all natives. This superfood is rich in flavor and also has many health benefits.
The traditional way to cook this curry is to cut the beets and mix them with cinnamon and curry leaves. Like most Sri Lankan curries, it also tastes sweet and creamy.
You can enjoy it with roti and rice. It also makes a great pair with a variety of other curries.
Traditional Sri Lankan Food – Flatbreads And Hoppers
Kottu Roti (Chopped Flatbread)
If you hear the clanking sound of metal in the streets of Sri Lanka, it means kottu roti is not far away. Kottu roti is a kind of chopped flatbread with a tasty and greasy texture. It is one of the most famous foods in Sri Lanka.
This traditional Sri Lankan food is made with a crispy flatbread godamba roti. The roti is fried and topped with the ingredients of your choice. It tastes spicy and delicious.
Some chefs used to sing their unique songs while clanking, making you even more excited for the food. Mostly, kottu is served with crispy curry sauce. You can also use this sauce as a dip or just pour it over your roti.
Appam (Sri Lankan Thin Hoppers)
Hoppers are one of the best foods in Sri Lanka, loved by both children and adults. It is a sweet and sour pancake enjoyed with several side dishes.
In Sri Lanka, you can find two types of hoppers: string hoppers and egg hoppers. Both are always in high demand, but egg hoppers have to be the local favorites.
Egg hoppers contain eggs in the middle of the pancake shell. The string hopper is nest-like noodles usually eaten with curries. Both feel crispy and have an unbeatable taste.
While you can enjoy them anytime, they are common options for a fulfilling Sri Lanka breakfast.
Idiyappam (String Hoppers)
String hoppers are one of the best Sri Lankan foods. Some people get confused between idiyappam and appam, since the name is similar. But they are two different dishes with different flavors.
String hoppers are prepared with rice flour batter and then mixed with salt and water. The batter is squeezed into nest-like noodles and then steamed. It is soft and tastes different based on the side dish you are enjoying with.
You can pair it with a variety of side curries and sambal. When eating, you need to mix idiyappam with the curry or sambal using your fingers. It’s part of the experience. This is one good Sri Lankan street food dish with a super tasty flavor.
Sri Lankan Food – Coconut Dishes
Kiribath With Lunu Miris (Coconut Rice With Thick Chili Paste)
Kiribath is another famous food in Sri Lanka that is usually served on special occasions. This traditional Sri Lankan food is made with rice and served with a spicy sambal paste, called lunu miris.
Kiribath is special rice made with thick coconut milk. The added coconut makes the rice creamy and sticky. The rice is then cut into wedges and served with spicy lunu miris. That creates a flavor combination of sweet and a bit spicy from the chili sauce.
You can also enjoy it with several other side dishes such as jaggery, chili sauce, or curry. People consume it warm or cold according to taste preference.
Pol Sambol (Coconut Relish)
You can probably see that coconut is a significant part of Sri Lankan food culture. Our next dish is also a fresh coconut relish. Pol sambol is a versatile food in Sri Lanka consisting of a diverse range of flavors.
This coconut side dish is made with a blend of coconut, red onions, dried whole chilies, lime juice, and fish. All the ingredients are combined resulting in a fresh coconut dish ready to delight your taste buds.
Pol sambol is a side dish featuring sweet, sour, and salty contrasts. You can have it with curry, rice, roti, paratha, or anything you like.
Sri Lankan Food – Salad
Gotu Kola Sambol (Pennywort Salad)
Gotu kola sambol is one of the healthier dishes in Sri Lankan cuisine. It is a green vegetable salad made with fresh gotu kola and coconut. You can enjoy it as a side dish with almost every other Sri Lankan dish.
The traditional recipe includes chopped gotu kola mixed with shallots, tomatoes, freshly scraped coconut, and chilies. It is also seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice for flavoring.
The salad delivers strong herbaceous flavors with a fresh and crispy texture. It is a complete treat for vegetarians.
Sri Lankan Food – Street Style Food
Wood Apple Juice
While Wood apple is traditionally not a food from Sri Lanka, you can find this everywhere when walking through the Sri Lankan market. The fruit looks like a small coconut with a hard woody shell.
The refreshing wood apple juice is a popular Sri Lankan drink to enjoy in the summer. It tastes sweet and tart with a slightly acidic taste.
The thick juice is often blended with jaggery or sugar to make it sweet. Some locals also add coconut milk to its pulp and make the juice creamy.
Wambatu Moju (Eggplant Pickle)
Wambatu Moju is an important part of Sri Lankan cuisine. It is an extremely flavorful eggplant pickle, usually served with rice and curries.
Traditionally, it is made with long and slender eggplant. The vegetable is cut into tiny wedges and deep-fried. After that, the fried pieces are caramelized with sugar, vinegar, red onion, and many other spices.
The juicy pickle feels super crispy from the outside with a silky soft texture from the inside. The sweet, sour, and salty taste is sensational with a slightly acidic character.
Seeni Sambol (Sweet And Spicy Paste)
Sambol is an authentic Indonesian food that is also a key element of Sri Lankan cuisine. It is like a thick chili sauce or paste, prepared with caramelized onion, spices, sweets, and aromas.
Seeni sambol is a hot and sweet chili paste. It is prepared with onions, tamarind juice, red chilies, and salt. Sri Lankans love eating seeni sambol and you will see it accompanying rice, curries, idiyappam, appam, and many other Sri Lankan dishes.
Thibbatu Thel Dala (Stir-Fried Turkey Berry)
Thibbatu Thel Dala is a Sri Lankan curry dish perfect for vegetarians. The curry is not very popular among kids but is a treat for adults.
This famous Sri Lankan dish is simply made with turkey, smashed berries, and several spices. Some locals also add coconut milk to make the curry thick and creamy. You can enjoy it with rice or Sri Lankan pol roti.
Kadala Thel Dala (Stir-Fried Chickpeas)
Kadala Thel Dala is a quick grab-and-go Sri Lankan street food readily available in almost every food market. It is a dish of boiled chickpeas usually served in paper cones.
This famous Sri Lankan food is made with thick chickpeas spiced up with curry leaves, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, red chili, chopped onions, sliced coconut, and salt. It is super spicy and unique in taste.
You can enjoy this healthy Sri Lankan snack with bread or as a side dish with several foods.
Sri Lankan Egg Fried Rice
Sour and spicy, egg-fried rice is a famous food in Sri Lanka. The dish looks like a Chinese or Thai street food item but delivers the pure cultural flavor of Sri Lankan cuisine.
This delicious Sri Lankan food is simply made with cooked rice mixed in spices, beaten eggs, spring onions, and soy sauce. Some people also add chicken or tofu to make it a completely nourishing meal.
Egg-fried rice is perfect for people who prefer spicy foods. The smoky fried rice with the richness of beaten eggs makes it a crowd-favorite food item.
Fried Salted Fish
It is another popular Sri Lankan food made with little salted fish. The fish is coated with too much salt and is deep-fried to give it a crunchy texture. It pairs best with vegetable curry and rice.
The fried salted fish delivers the pure taste of Sri Lankan seafood. It tastes something like dried shrimp. Some ingredients are also added to give it a spicy flavor. It is one of the scrumptious food items on this island.
Discovering Traditional Sri Lankan Food
A world of adventure, flavor, and heat awaits you when you visit Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly one of Asia’s most dazzling array of dishes, there is so much to get excited about Sri Lankan food.
The combination of herbs, spices, vegetables, rice, fish, and fruits gives a unique flavor to the rich Sri Lanka food. You will find the addition of coconut and rice in many of the local dishes. In addition to this, fresh or preserved seafood also contributes significantly to the dishes of Sri Lanka.
If you ever visit Sri Lanka or are curious to try some of these dishes at home, try to remember some of these popular desserts and food in Sri Lanka. It will take you to the most authentic flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine.