Nepal is known for its majestic mountains, archaic temples, religious figures, and rich and unique cuisine. Nepalese food is a must-try when traveling in Nepal because it brings you closer to the people, their traditions, and their cultures. With diverse ethnicities scattered across different geographical regions, the connection with the soil and climate is reflected through their food.
The Himalayan cuisine caters to keep the body warm in cold conditions, and even though the crops are limited in the arid land, the locals are resourceful in making their food unique and tasty. The hills of Nepal are home to a wide range of ethnicities that give a cultural spin to their food. The lowlands of Terai are home to various crops and spices covering the fertile land giving birth to different cuisines.
Nepalese cuisine is not just tasty but also colorful. You can't stop eating and clicking pictures from different angles when you hunt for some famous Nepali dishes.
To quench your hunger and satisfy your curiosity, we have listed 20 Nepalese food you must try while traveling in Nepal
Dal Bhat certainly tops the list for being the staple and most popular food item in Nepal. A typical Dal Bhat recipe contains steamed white rice (bhat), lentil soup (dal), vegetable curry, and pickle. Worry not; you can add side dishes like meat if you are a meat lover. Traditionally eaten by Khas ethnicity, now it is prepared in every Nepali family's kitchen as a standard meal for lunch and dinner, primarily popular in hills and Terai.
You can find it anywhere in most local restaurants in Kathmandu or homestays, tea houses, and restaurants along trekking trails. High in carbohydrates and protein, it is a popular meal among trekkers. It is entirely fulfilling and is not heavy for the pocket, giving you a bang for your buck. This is one Nepalese food that you will most likely try when you travel to Nepal.
Momo is synonymous with Nepal as it is eaten by Nepalese during any time of the day, as breakfast, lunch, and even dinner and snacks. Nepalese food Momo is a steamed dumpling with the recipe including minced meat, spices, onions, ginger, and garlic mixed as filling. A paste of tomato, herbs, and sesame seeds is made for dipping the steaming momos, adding a separate flavor dimension. Now, the most popular dish in Nepal, it was originated by the Newari community and later spread like flu across Nepal and even to parts of Tibet, China, and Japan.
Momos can be found in almost any restaurant across Nepal and cost anywhere from one dollar to three dollars depending upon the ingredients and the restaurant. You can pick from a wide range of fillings from chicken, buff, mutton, vegetables, cheese, and more. Due to authentic taste and local experience, it is best to try Momos from Nepal.
Dhindo, also called Dhido, is the national dish of Nepal and has been prepared as a staple in many houses across Nepal. The recipe includes slowly adding and stirring ground millet, buckwheat or cornflour to boiling water until it is semi-solid and gooey. A plate of Dhindo is often compared with Dal Bhat as both of them contain similar side dishes. It was previously seen as an inferior product as it costs less compared to rice.
Although popular among the indigenous communities of Nepal, the dish has lost its significance in major cities of Nepal. Dhindo has multiple nutritional benefits as millet flour is an alkaline food.
This is only found in Nepal and you can find it in most Nepali cuisine restaurants. A Dhindo Thali set contains side dishes like meat curry, vegetable curry, spinach, pickles, and lentil soup. The entire set would cost anywhere from a dollar to five, depending upon the number and type of side dishes. It is one of the best Nepalese foods to try.
Thakali Khana is a plate compromising the Nepali staple Dal Bhat and other mouthwatering authentic side dishes. It was first introduced by the Thakali community living in Thakkhola valley in Mustang, Nepal. The influence has spread to the major cities of Nepal due to the amazing taste and vibrant display of the set itself. Ideally, the set includes recipe like steamed rice, black lentil soup, ground buckwheat leaves, chicken gravy, pickles, fried potato sticks prepared in authentic Thakali style with different local spices found in Mustang.
Many restaurants around Nepal, particularly Kathmandu, have popped up to serve Thakali food in recent days. Hence, you can find Thakali food set in any fancy or local restaurant that reads 'Thakali Food.' You have the option to choose a vegetarian or non-vegetarian platter. However, if you wish to taste the authentic Thakali Khana set, make sure you try it on your visit to Mustang. Due to its taste and rich content, this dish falls under the expensive spectrum costing above five to ten dollars per set, worth every penny.
Gundruk is another national dish in Nepal which is essentially a fermented leafy green vegetable that is prepared in different ways. The most popular form of eating it is as a pickle also known locally as ‘gundruk ko achar’ or as a gundruk soup. Gundruk is made all over Nepal with any green leafy vegetable from mustard green to radish cauliflower leaves and more. The leaves are harvested in October and November, then left to wilt and shredded into finer pieces and later made into a pickle (achar) similar to Kimchi or soup. It is known to be rich in lactic acid and good for digestion.
Dhido and Gundruk are the most popular combination but Gundruk is also often served as a side dish with Thakali set or Dal Bhat. Make sure you ask the restaurant to provide you with gundruk while you have staple Nepali thali. It is a must-try if you travel to Nepal.
Samya Baji is an authentic traditional Newari dish that originated in the Newari town of Kathmandu valley centuries back. The traditional nepalese food has become widely popular in recent days and is also a defining dish of the Newari community. It is taken as a starter in many religious festivals, pujas, and jatras. It is also served to the gods and regarded to be one of the simplest meals. So if you were to come to Kathmandu, then Samya Baji is a must-try Nepalese food.
The recipe includes a platter of beaten rice (Chyura), lentil pancake (Bara), black soybeans (Bhatmaas), boiled eggs, barbecued marinated buffalo meat (Chhoila), fried potato, pickle, and salad. It is often eaten with 'Ayla,' which is a local alcoholic drink. Most of the ingredients are grown locally on farms owned by the Newari community.
You can find a good authentic Samya Baji in the local restaurants and small shops around Bhaktapur, Patan, and Kathmandu.
Choila is a popular Newai dish that is known for its lip-smacking hot and spicy flavor profile. The dish originated back to centuries when Newari locals considered it a necessary part of the diet in festivities. If you love spicy, tangy, and savory meat, this is one Nepalese food you must try if you travel to Nepal.
A typical Newari choila recipe is prepared by grilling the marinated buffalo meat and mixing it with fried chili, fenugreek seed, and onions. Nowadays, you can find different variations of choila with chicken, duck, mutton, and even mushroom for veggie lovers. It is usually included in the Samya Baji set but can also be eaten with just rice flakes. A small plate of Choila would cost around two to five dollars and can be sold by street food vendors, restaurants, and cafes in Newari town.
Are you tired of eating the same old store-bought pizza? Try Chatamari, our famous Newari Pizza. It is a traditional rice crepe prepared in many Newari festivals and jatras. Chatamari is like a French crepe where the rice batter is poured on a hot pan and made flat. The recipe for Chatamari includes toppings like egg, meat, bell peppers, and spices make it look more appetizing. The crepe is cooked in low heat until the sides are crisp.
This dish is found across Newari street side stalls and restaurants across Bhaktapur, Patan, and Kathmandu city. The cost for one is anywhere between half to one dollar.
Bara Wo is an exciting name for an enjoyable traditional Newari snack. Bara Wo is a delicious lentil pancake made from black, green, or other types of lentils. It is made on special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and festivals by the Newari community. Traditionally, it was served to sick and weak people because the lentil is full of protein.
It is the best snack option for those vegans who want to taste a healthy gluten-free traditional snack in Nepal. It is cheaper than a dollar and a nice side snack to major Newari lunch sets. If you visit a Newari restaurant in Kathmandu valley, make sure to ask for 'Samhebaji,' a Newari lunch set including Bara Wo. Authentic bara can be found in local restaurants across Freakstreet near Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan, and Kirtipur.
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Gorkhali Lamb Curry is arguably the most popular meat curry in Nepal, catered to all hungry non-vegetarians. This dish originated from the hills of Nepal, and the word 'Gorkhali' generally refers to the ancient Gorkha Kingdom of Nepal. The dish is popularly served as a side dish with Dal Bhat and also with Roti (flatbread).
The special breed of Lamb is grazed in the pastures with Himalayan herbs, so the taste is unique and rich. The chopped Lamb is marinated with different spices and slow cooked with a rich tomato chili sauce, chopped onions, and bell peppers.
All the spices and red meat is known to be good for the body during the winter season. You can find it in a selected few high-end restaurants serving Nepali cuisine in Kathmandu. Otherwise, if you are trekking to the hilly or the high Himalayan region, you can try it out in the local homestays or houses. This dish is certainly heavy on the pocket as a small bowl costs more than five dollars. Meat curries can be tasty around the world, but the authentic Gorkhali Lamb curry is made special with the selected breed of lamb offering a different explosion of flavors.
Aalu Tama is a savory curry stew made with 'Aalu,' which means potatoes, and 'Tama,' which means fermented bamboo shoots. The potato curry is first cooked with spices, then the fried bamboo shoot is added and stirred for a while, and the dish is ready. It is often paired with a 'roti'- flatbread.
Tama is good for health, and the dish is vegan and gluten-free, so a popular choice if you are a health freak. Many people love the fermented flavor of the Tama. The dish, along with 'roti/flatbread' keeps you full for a long time and costs no more than a dollar.
It is prepared in many households in Nepal but is not so popularly found in restaurants. Only a selected few restaurants across Kathmandu and other hilly parts of Nepal offer this dish, so make sure to do your research.
Lhaphing, as fun as the name sounds, is a lip-smacking starch noodle dish seasoned with spices. Originally a Sichuan cuisine, it is known as 'lian fen' popular in Tibet; it gradually landed in the capital city of Nepal through Tibetan Buddhists. It was first introduced in the streets of Boudha by small shops.
The noodle is prepared with starch seasoned with soya sauce, salt, chilly, and other spices. Some vendors also add roasted peanuts and fried noodles to elevate the flavors. It is a vegan dish that has gained high popularity among Nepalese youths and is often compared with snacks like Panipuri. A plate of Lhaphing costs half a dollar.
Although you can now find it in many significant places in Kathmandu, if you wish to try the authentic Lhaphing, you can visit Boudha in the northeast outskirts of Kathmandu. Boudha is also famous for the Boudhanath temple, where you can enjoy the views of the dome-shaped stupa while munching at Lhaphing.
The hot bowl of soupy noodles, Thukpa, is a Tibetan and Chinese-influenced cuisine widely popular in the Himalayas of Nepal. The word 'Thukpa' itself refers to a soup or stew that is combined with noodles. It is a typical midday winter snack in the colder regions. It found its way to the central cities of Nepal with the Tibetan Buddhist settlers.
Thukpa is a go-to dish if you travel to Nepal and wish to try out famous Himalayan dishes. You can find it in many restaurants across Thamel and Boudha in Kathmandu, but the best ones are found in the tea houses while you go trekking in the northern Himalayas of Nepal. You can also ask for addons in this Himalayan food recipe like meat, egg, vegetables, spices, and soy sauce to make the stew even better. A bowl of Thukpa costs no more than a dollar and a half.
The only delicacy missing in this list is- Snails. Worry not; it is savored in the posh French cuisine as well called Escargot. Ghonghi is a traditional dish introduced by the Tharu community of Nepal living in the southwestern parts of Nepal. Although not as famous as other dishes, Ghoghi is a preserved traditional dish that offers a unique experience on its own.
It is prepared by carefully cleaning, boiling, and marinating the small river snails and then cooking with Nepali spices. It is most typically served with ground linseed soup but is also served with chicken or mutton. You simply wrap your lips around the opening of the shell and suck out the delicious Mollusca within. You can find this special dish widely in many eateries across Chitwan, Nepal, where the Tharu community resides. However, if you have no plans to go there, you can find it in a few selected restaurants in Thamel, Kathmandu. Make sure you do some digging before you go.
Yomari is a sweet Newari delicacy prepared during Yomari Punhi, the harvest festival celebration, by Newari ethnicity in the hills of Nepal. Yomari is made of rice dough shaped almost like a fig with molasses and sesame seed as filling, then steamed. Over the years, cooks and chefs have given their spin by adding chocolate or evaporated milk solids as filling substitutes. However, the traditional filling of molasses keeps the body warm during the onset of the winter season.
You can find this traditional dish in a few Newari restaurants across Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur cities. Depending on the size and type of filling, a single piece of Yomari can cost up to half a dollar. For all the sweet tooths, it is a must-have if you want to understand the culture and traditions of the Newari community.
Sel Roti is a festive dish prepared during the Dashain and Tihar Hindu festivals. The Brahmin and Chettri community often prepare it as a sacred food offered to the gods during these festivals. It is made in massive amounts and distributed to neighbors, friends, and family. It is a ring-shaped fried sweet rice bread similar to doughnuts but thin and very crispy. The recipe begins by grinding the rice into a powder mixed with cardamom, banana, butter, then added with water to make it semi-liquid and finally fried in hot oil.
Sel Roti can be eaten by themselves or enjoyed with pickles, yogurt, or fried vegetables. However, the most popular way to eat Sel Roti is to dip it in hot tea or coffee. You can find it in some local restaurants or street-side vendors in Kathmandu. About 5 to 6 rings cost you a dollar. If you love greasy, sweet dishes, then this is certainly a snack to try in Nepal.
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Juju Dhau-The King of Yoghurt is one of those Nepalese dishes you must try when traveling to Nepal. It reflects the traditions of the Newari community, particularly those living in the Bhaktapur district of Nepal. It is also one of the best yogurts you will have ever tasted anywhere. Originated during the Malla dynasty rule in the 12th century, it is prepared and consumed primarily at festivals and jatras.
Juju Dhau recipe includes slowly boiling buffalo milk with spices like coconut, cardamom, and alike, pouring it into clay pots, and wrapping them with rice husk. The clay pots slowly soak up the moisture and leave behind a thick and creamy yogurt.
What better way to relish the ancient beauty of Bhaktapur Durbar Square than with a cup of Juju Dhau in your hand? They are found in many dairy shops along Bhaktapur city streets. A 250 ml clay pot of Juju Dhau would cost you about one dollar as a premium dairy product.
Churpi is perhaps the most unique and internationally recognized dish in Nepal. It is known as the world's hardest cheese and has also been inducted into the BBC's 50 Reasons to Love the World list. It is a traditional product prepared in the Eastern Himalayas and hills by pasteurizing protein-rich milk dried to make it hard. The hard texture of the Churpi gradually becomes chewier and softer as you gnaw on it longer.
Its taste is unique because the milk is produced by a particular breed of a male yak and female cow known as 'chauri.' Churpi is first made into long solids then cut into cubes to make it easier to chew. The most famous Churpi is found in the Himalayas of Nepal, Illam, and Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Tibet border. However, you can find it in the sweets shops around New Road, Kathmandu Durbar Square, and the aisle of some supermarkets across Kathmandu. If you don't have strong teeth to gnaw on, you can choose a softer option.
Chaaku, a Nepalese sweet dish, is a mixture of concentrated sugarcane juice, jaggery, ghee, and nuts which is slowly cooked to a solid form and rolled like a taffy. It was originally a Newari cuisine introduced in Lalitpur. Still, it is also common nowadays among other communities served during the festival of Maghe Sankranti with different sides like yam and ghee. Everything included in the recipe is known to be good for health, mainly to keep you warm during winter.
If you come to Nepal during December, you will find many street-side vendors selling it; however, in other months, you can search for it in sweet shops around the Newar towns. The sweet dish is very cheap and costs no more than a dollar.
Craving for a sweet snack after your savory food tour, then Lakhamari is your answer. Lakhamari is a Newari sweet snack prepared with the recipe including flour, sugar, butter, and other ingredients. It is made in many creative shapes and slowly fried in hot oil similar to a doughnut but harder, brittle, and sweet throughout.
It is not just a favorite snack of the locals but is customary in many festivals and rituals in the Newari culture; hence it is also called the 'Newari ceremonial sweet bread.' Lakhamari can be stored for many days in the proper condition. Make sure that you get a handful of this delicacy from the shops or, better yet, the street side vendors around Kathmandu Durbar Square. This is most popularly found in Kathmandu, so it is best to try it from its place of origin.
Apart from the mouthwatering savory and sweet delicacies, Nepal is also home to a wide range of unique and traditional beverages. Some are listed below:
It is a tea made with yak butter, tea leaves, water, and salt enjoyed in the Himalayan region of Nepal. All the ingredients are put in a long cylinder and churned until it reaches a thick stew-like consistency. It is consumed popularly by Tibetan Buddhist and is also called churned tea or Tibetan tea.
It is a local Newari alcoholic drink made by fermenting rice. The taste is mildly sour and sweet, and the color is a little cloudy white. Chhang is found in the kitchen of most homes across Newar towns in Nepal as it is considered a customary celebration drink.
Tongba is yet another locally produced alcoholic drink popular among the Tamang, Rai, Limbu, and Sherpa communities in the eastern part of Nepal. Millet is brewed and fermented for a couple of weeks and served with hot water. It is traditionally served in large wooden containers called Tongba, so named as such.
Mohi is a popular yogurt-based drink in the hills and Terai of Nepal, where dairy cattle farms are abundant. It is essentially buttermilk prepared by fermenting milk into yogurt and mixing it with water by hand. It quenches the thrust on hot summer days.
There are wide varieties of Nepalese food of different flavor profiles, but most fall on the cheaper end of the spectrum in terms of expense. As Nepalese food is prepared with mostly the readily available local ingredients, the cost is more affordable. Moreover, Nepali is also rich in spices and herbs and is also near the border of India and Tibet, from where other ingredients can be imported easily.
A fulfilling dish would cost anywhere from one to ten dollars. However, the cost also depends upon the types of ingredients used and the commercial scale of the restaurant. Most meat products cost more, while the vegetarian dishes are relatively cheaper as Nepal is an agricultural country with more crops than poultry.
Nepali food is generally regarded as healthy because many herbs and spices with different health benefits are used in cooking. Almost all stews and curries include ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, and coriander seed powder which are known to keep the immunity strong. As an agricultural country, most Nepali food contains some form of green leafy vegetable, good for the body. The dishes are packed with protein and carbohydrates that stimulate energy and are good for the body's strength. Also, Nepalese prefer to eat and cook food with fresh produce, so many of the ingredients are fresh and not stored in the refrigerator.
In most parts of Nepal beef is not eaten as cows are the national animal of Nepal. Also, as per Hindu mythology, cows are worshipped as the goddess Laxmi so many castes and cultures in Nepal do not eat beef. However, as Nepal is a secular country, the consumption of beef by non-Hindu communities is common in some parts of Nepal. Although Cow slaughter is a criminal offense, as stated by the law of Nepal, eating beef is not regarded as illegal. Hence, some communities acquire and eat beef. However, if you are in Kathmandu, it would be rather tough to find a restaurant that serves beef.
Nepal is a land rich in biodiversity, culture, traditions, and heavenly delicacies. Make your culinary journey in Nepal a memorable one by visiting the nooks and corners of the alleyways, streets, and villages during your travel in Nepal. The sweet and savory options with vibrant color palettes are every food lover's paradise and Instagrammer's treasure. If you wish to board an exciting trip to Nepal and learn about the different food and activities to try, feel free to get in touch with our experienced team to know more.