Pakistan is famous for its hospitality and spectacular landscapes. The Northern areas of Pakistan are like heaven on Earth, and Pakistani food is the cherry on the cake. From five-star hotels to roadside food stalls, Pakistani cuisine has a wide range of finger-licking food options waiting to be discovered.
What’s Special About Pakistani Food
The vibrant flavors and colorful appearance of traditional Pakistani food make it famous throughout the globe. Complemented by the wide range of spices found in the region, Pakistani cuisine itself is a key attraction for visiting the country.
You might have heard of some famous foods in Pakistan, like Pakistani biryani, karahi, pathoray, and paya. But you will be surprised to know how vast and diverse Pakistani cuisine and culture are.
Eating good food is a passion for Pakistanis, and they prepare their food with lots of love and effort. You can enjoy a variety of sweet and savory Pakistani dishes here, and they offer a diverse flavor profile
In this article, we will reveal the 30 traditional Pakistani foods you should not miss in Pakistan on your next trip.
Traditional Breakfast In Pakistani Cuisine
Halwa Puri (Semolina Pudding And Fried Flatbread)
Halwa puri is a delicacy and is one of the best Pakistani foods. It is a sweet and savory weekend brunch famous throughout the region but is most popular in the large city of Lahore.
It is a mouthwatering breakfast platter consisting of flaky and soft pooris (fried flatbread), chickpeas curry, and semolina pudding.
Pathoray (Stuffed Flatbread)
Pathoray or Bhaturay is a modern-day Pakistani cuisine. Pathora is flattened bread stuffed with different ingredients and served hot with chickpeas, spicy vegetable pickles, and mint and yogurt sauce.
Pathoray is a satisfying breakfast and brunch item. If you want to try the best of this dish on your next trip to Pakistan, you should visit the famous pathoray point in Old Anarkali Food Street and Icchra market in Lahore.
Chai And Paratha (Tea And Flatbread)
Chai paratha is a simple, sweet, and savory combination of Pakistani food. The paratha is flat, very crispy unleavened Pakistani bread. Pakistanis love eating parathas dipped in tea.
The best chai parathas are served at local Pakistani dhabas (restaurants). You might not receive a five-star hotel service, but their taste and hospitality are worth visiting these restaurants.
This is a representation of true local flavor; simple yet incredibly fulfilling.
Naan Channay (Naan Bread With Chickpeas)
Naan channay is considered one of the most common Pakistani breakfast items. Kulcha or Naan is round flat Pakistani bread made with white flour or maida. Channey is the spicy gravy of chickpeas. This combination of naan with chickpeas gravy is mind-blowing.
Naan channay is a go-to breakfast of almost every house in Pakistan. You can enjoy this famous Pakistani food from any local shop throughout the country.
The Best Rice Dishes In Pakistani Food
Biryani (Mixed Rice Dish)
Let’s start with the king of Pakistani food, biryani. Biryani is a rice dish that dominates Indian and Pakistani cuisine. And now it is getting its well-deserved popularity among other countries as well.
Just the sight of colorful rice with lots of spices and well-cooked meat makes you want to dig into the plate. And believe me, your love of Pakistani biryani will never going to end. They come with different options of meat types from chicken to lamb.
You can find a lot of biryani points with different varieties, in all cities of Pakistan. Biryani hopping tour in Pakistan anyone?
Pulao is the second most favorite rice dish of Pakistani people. Although biryani and pulao seem very similar, they are not the same. All the ingredients of pulao are fried together in the oil instead of being steam-cooked like in the biryani.
It is a famous Pakistani food with diverse varieties and a robust taste. You can find meat or vegetable pulao variations all around the country. So fret not, vegetarians! You will definitely get your fair share of delicious yumminess in Pakistan.
Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Pilaf from Kabul)
Kabuli pulao is originated in Afghanistan and now a popular dish in the West region of Pakistan. It includes tender meat, rice, and a blend of spices.
It is embellished with nuts, carrot slices, and raisins, making it very different from other rice varieties in Pakistan cuisine. Don’t forget to visit Namak Mandi in Peshawar, which is famous for its extraordinary Kabuli pulao.
Lamb or Mutton Sajji (Stuffed Lamb Rice)
Lamb or mutton sajji originates from the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Meat and rice are the main ingredients of this gently spiced Pakistani rice dish.
The authentic recipe of sajji includes marinated whole lamb or goat stuffed with rice and local spices. The lamb or goat is cooked on a preheated tandoor (oven).
You can find regional varieties of sajji with differences in ingredients and preparation. Most restaurants in urban cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad serve chicken instead of lamb or goat.
Nalli Biryani (Bone Marrow Biryani)
Nalli biryani is like a new version of Pakistani biryani. The special ingredient of nalli biryani is bone marrow, added on top of the spiced rice.
The buttery bone marrow melts in your mouth, enhancing the flavor of the rice. You can find this aromatic, rich and flavorful Pakistani food in Karachi.
Daal Chawal (Lentils And Rice)
Daal chawal is a simple but tremendously delicious vegetarian Pakistani food. The lentils are cooked with simple spices in water until mushy and served with boiled white rice.
Sometimes, it is served with cumin, coriander leaves, and vegetable pickle to enhance the flavor of the dish. The best daal chawal can be found at “Kashmiri Daal Chawal ” at Lakshmi Chowk in Lahore.
Zarda (Sweet Yellow Rice)
Rice dishes are not just limited to savory and main meals. You also see the ingredient used in the tasty desserts of Pakistan.
Zarda is a Pakistani rice dessert. It has been a popular rice sweet dish for weddings and special events in Pakistan for ages. But you can eat it on regular days too.
Zarda is a yellow-colored sugary rice dish with a sweet aroma and taste. It has an eye-catching color with lots of ingredients like nuts, dried coconut, raisins, and spices, making it a perfect dessert after having a hearty meal.
Pakistani Food: Curries And Stews
Nihari (Meat Stew)
Nihari is one of the exotic and famous dishes of Pakistan. Many also consider it the national food of Pakistan.
Nihari is a rich Pakistani curry that includes fried dry spices and animal fat. The garnishing of ginger, lemon, cilantro, and caramelized onions brings a unique savory taste to the dish. This is a hearty dish with a burst of flavors.
You can try beef, mutton, or chicken Nihari with naan (leavened Pakistani bread) or Pakistani roti.
Mutton Karahi (Mutton Curry)
Mutton Karahi is a royalty for Pakistani people. The traditional karahi is zesty and thick gravy, garnished with green chilies and ginger.
The meat is cooked in a karahi (deep pan) with lots of spices, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. People also use chicken, beef, and fish in place of mutton.
Haleem (Lentils And Meat Stew)
Haleem is another well-loved Pakistani food. You can find it in almost all cities of Pakistan for breakfast or brunch.
Haleem is a kind of thick stew that is slow-cooked. It contains wheat, meat, and lentils and is garnished with chopped ginger, lemon juice, mint leaves, fried onions, and coriander leaves and served with naan.
Paya (Trotters or Hooves)
Paya or paye is a traditional Pakistani food popular in Punjab, Peshawar, and Quetta. You can easily find it on the streets or in famous restaurants in Pakistan.
Paya means feet so the main ingredient of this dish is the hooves of goat, lamb, sheep, cow, or buffalo. It is a dish for grease and fat lovers.
The oily soup of paya contains onions, garlic, spices, meat, and bones, which are cooked slowly, adding a thick texture to the dish. It is garnished with fresh lemon slices, coriander leaves, and diced ginger and served piping hot with naan or khameeri roti (Pakistani bread).
Sarso Ka Saag (Mustard Greens)
You might have noticed that Pakistani food includes a lot of meat and chicken. But there are also delicious vegetarian options in case you prefer vegetarian food.
Sarso ka saag is not only a dish in Pakistan but is celebrated like a culture. If you have been to the country, you might know it as “greens and spices.” Saag is considered a must-have in every house in Pakistan during the winter season.
The main ingredient of this famous food of Pakistan is spinach and mustard green. They are cooked slowly with local spices and herbs. The resulting product is a thick and creamy textured stew, topped with ghee or butter.
You can enjoy local saag with Makke ki roti (corn flour bread), bajra ki roti (millet bread), and wheat roti.
Curry Pakora (Curd Curry With Vegetable Fritters)
If you are a vegetarian, curry pakora is the best traditional Pakistani food for you. Or so we think! It is a special Pakistani curry made from gram flour and yogurt with dunked vegetable fritters.
Curry pakora is served with either rice or chapati (Pakistani bread). You can easily find curry pakora in local shops in Punjab. These are also typical street food and snacks in Pakistan.
Dum Pukht (Dough Covered Meat Stew)
Dum pukht or Namkeen Gosht is one of the famous winter dishes of Pakistan. The preparation of this dish includes a slow cooking method. The meat is cooked in a dough-sealed container over low flame.
The slow cooking technique shows the impact of Mughal Cuisine on Pakistani food. This salty and tender beef or mutton is served with tandoori roti (Pakistani bread).
You can find the authentic taste of this meat stew in Peshawar, whereas some restaurants in popular cities like Lahore and Karachi also serve it.
Korma (Meat Curry)
Korma is the most common meat curry in Pakistani cuisine. It is a special Pakistani curry that includes yogurt in cooking. From wedding events to birthday parties and religious gatherings to Eid, you will no doubt see korma as the main course in all Pakistani dinners.
Usually, mutton korma is most loved by Pakistani people, but there are also other options like chicken or beef korma. The best korma points can be found in Lahore, Gujranwala, and Karachi.
Harissa (Thick Meat Soup)
Harissa is a Pakistani famous food that requires a lot of time and effort for cooking. It is made from ground wheat, meat, herbs, and spices. Amritsari harissa in Lahore is the best place to enjoy this simple yet very fulfilling Lahori dish.
They serve their harissa garnished with coriander and caramelized onions. You can enjoy it either with khameeri roti or naan bread.
Barbeque In Pakistani Food
Chicken Tikka (Chicken Bbq)
To be fair, Chicken tikka is not an authentic Pakistani food, and you can find it almost everywhere around the globe.
But in Pakistan, they use special spices and herbs to marinate chicken. This means you need to give it a try!
The chicken tikka in Pakistan is tender, juicy, and spicy with local flavors. It is a popular street food. The glazing color and appetizing aroma of chicken will certainly tempt you to give it a shot.
Charga (Whole Chicken Roast)
Charga is a Pakistani food most commonly found in Lahore. In this succulent dish of Pakistan, a marinated whole chicken is roasted perfectly to give you well-cooked chicken. Charga is served with French fries, mint sauce, ketchup, and naan bread.
Mutton Tikka (Mutton Bbq)
Mutton tikka is very different from typical Pakistani chicken bbq. This mutton bbq has boneless mutton meat pieces that are barbecued on charcoal until tender and soft.
While it sounds simple, it is incredibly delicious and a must-try for BBQ meat lovers. Visit the Gujranwala Tikka Shop in the heart of Shadbagh, Lahore to have a lifetime experience of mutton bbq.
Sweet Dishes And Desserts In Pakistan
Shahi Tukray (Bread Pudding)
Shahi Tukray is known for its creamy texture and rich flavor. This dessert will show you the Mughal cuisine’s influence on Pakistani food.
Tukray means pieces, so this dessert is all about fried bread pieces soaked in warm sugary syrup and then served with cardamom and saffron milk sauce, and nuts. Sounds yummy? Because it is!
Phirni (Rice Pudding)
Phirni is a thick and creamy sweet dish of Pakistan. It is a traditional Pakistani food that is served on special occasions.
Phirni is a rice pudding with rice, milk, and sugar as the main ingredients and garnished with pistachios and almonds. You can enjoy this protein and calcium-enriched dessert from popular sweet shops and milk shops.
Falooda (Vermicelli Desert)
Falooda is a sweet dish in Pakistan made of milk, vermicelli, and sugar. It is a creamy dessert with a floral aroma and aroma, served with Kulfi (dairy ice cream).
Falooda also contains basil seeds, which make it a perfect cold dessert to beat the heat of summer.
Traditional Drinks In Pakistani Cuisine
You can never forget chai when you talk about Pakistani foods. Chai or tea is the most consumed beverage in Pakistan.
It is an obvious fact of Pakistan that the locals love their tea. A typical Pakistani drinks at least 2 to 3 cups of tea every day.
There are a lot of varieties of teas in Pakistan, including mixed tea, karak chai (strong tea), doodh patti (milk tea), kashmiri chai (pink tea), herbal tea, and kahwa (green tea). Pakistanis enjoy chai at any time of the day, and you can also have it with a fried snack or just because you want a break.
This is undoubtedly one of the things that Pakistan is famous for. Both the beverage itself and the culture of drinking it or serving to guests.
Lassi is a traditional drink of the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is a yogurt-based drink that is a common addition to breakfast.
It is a thick and creamy drink that can make you very sleepy. You should try salty and sweet lassi to enjoy the true culture of Punjab province.
Gane Ka Ras (Sugarcane Juice)
Ganne ka ras or sugarcane juice is one of the healthiest Pakistani foods. It has a hint of salt, lime, and ginger that makes it hard to resist on hot summer days. You can find sugarcane juice stalls on many streets in Pakistan.
It is strangely addicting to watch the sugarcane get crushed in real-time, oozing out the delicious goodness to quench your thirst.
Rabri Doodh (Milk Beverage)
Rabri Doodh is a traditional Pakistani dairy beverage. It is a condense-milk based drink with a creamy texture.
Rabri doodh is also served as a dessert topped with cardamoms, nuts, and saffron. Many dairy and sweet shops offer heavenly rabdi doodh in Punjab and Sindh.
Discovering More Delicious Pakistani Food
Despite the rather long list, this doesn’t even begin to cover all that Pakistani cuisine has to offer. The food in Pakistan is not just flavorful but diverse, with dishes that originate from different regions. You will also find adapted variations across the country.
Regardless of where you end up, the rich flavors and food in Pakistan have something delightful to offer your taste buds. If you are a traveling foodie looking for an unforgettable food experience, Pakistan should definitely be on your travel bucket list.