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What To Eat In Sri Lanka – The Ultimate Sri Lankan Food Guide


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Junia Sudduth



Welcome to Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise known for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. But no trip to this beautiful island nation is complete without exploring its diverse and flavorful cuisine. From aromatic spices to exotic fruits, Sri Lankan food offers a tantalizing experience for your taste buds.


The cuisine of Sri Lanka is heavily influenced by neighboring Indian, Malay, and Indonesian flavors, yet it has developed its own unique identity over the centuries. The country’s location along well-traveled trade routes has introduced a myriad of spices, herbs, and cooking techniques that have shaped Sri Lankan cuisine into a gastronomic delight.


One of the defining aspects of Sri Lankan food is the use of bold and flavorful spices. From fiery chili peppers to fragrant curry powders, these spices are the heart and soul of every dish. Whether you’re a fan of spicy food or prefer milder flavors, there’s something to satisfy every palate in Sri Lankan cuisine.


Another highlight of Sri Lankan cuisine is its emphasis on rice and curry. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a steaming plate of rice accompanied by an array of curries, ranging from meat and seafood to an assortment of vegetable dishes. The combination of aromatic rice and the myriad of curries creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.


Beyond the traditional rice and curry, Sri Lanka also offers a plethora of street food options. Wander through the bustling streets and you’ll find food stalls and carts selling mouth-watering snacks like kottu roti, a mix of chopped roti bread, vegetables, and meat or seafood, and hoppers, crispy bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice batter.


Being an island nation, Sri Lanka is also renowned for its abundant seafood. From succulent prawns to fresh fish, the coastal regions offer a wide variety of seafood delicacies. Whether you prefer it steamed, grilled, or curried, these dishes are a must-try for seafood lovers.


To end your Sri Lankan culinary adventure on a sweet note, indulge in the country’s delectable desserts. From the famous Wattalappam, a custard-like pudding made with coconut milk, jaggery, and spices, to the sweet and sticky Kavum, a deep-fried treat made from rice flour and treacle, there’s a dessert to satisfy every sweet tooth.


Pair your Sri Lankan feast with a refreshing beverage, be it the iconic Ceylon tea, a cup of spicy ginger beer, or the tropical flavors of king coconut water. These drinks not only provide a refreshing respite from the heat but also complement the flavors of the food.


Whether you’re a meat lover, a seafood enthusiast, or a vegetarian, Sri Lankan cuisine has something to offer everyone. So get ready to embark on a culinary journey and experience the vibrant flavors of Sri Lanka – an experience that will surely leave you craving for more.


Traditional Sri Lankan Breakfast

Start your day in Sri Lanka with a hearty and flavorful traditional breakfast that will keep you energized for the adventures ahead. The Sri Lankan breakfast is a blend of savory and spicy dishes that will awaken your senses.


One of the most popular breakfast items in Sri Lanka is string hoppers, also known as idiyappam. These delicate rice flour noodles are steamed and served with a variety of accompaniments. Enjoy them with coconut sambol, a spicy and tangy relish made with grated coconut, red chili, lime juice, and onions. Or savor them with a spicy curry, such as dhal curry or fish curry, for a burst of flavors.


Another breakfast staple in Sri Lanka is roti, a flatbread made from wheat flour or a mix of wheat and all-purpose flour. You can find an array of roti variations, from plain roti served with curry to stuffed roti filled with vegetables or meat. Pair it with a side of lunu miris, a fiery condiment made with red chili, onions, and lime, for an extra kick.


If you’re a fan of spicy and tangy flavors, try pol roti. This unleavened griddled bread is made from a mixture of grated coconut, flour, and spices, including chili powder, turmeric, and onions. Its unique texture and aromatic flavors make it a favorite among locals.


If you prefer a lighter breakfast option, opt for kiribath, a creamy rice dish cooked in coconut milk. It is traditionally served with a side of lunu miris or a sweet accompaniment like jaggery or treacle. Kiribath is often enjoyed during special occasions and celebrations, but it is also a popular choice for breakfast.


No Sri Lankan breakfast is complete without a cup of steaming hot Ceylon tea. Known for its unique flavor and aroma, Ceylon tea is a symbol of Sri Lankan hospitality. Whether you prefer it with milk and sugar or enjoy the pure taste of black tea, it’s the perfect beverage to accompany your breakfast.


For a more indulgent breakfast experience, try hoppers. These crispy bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice batter are cooked in a special curved pan. You can enjoy plain hoppers or opt for egg hoppers, which have a whole egg cracked into the center of the pancake. Hoppers are typically served with a variety of accompaniments, such as dhal curry, coconut sambol, or seeni sambol, a sweet and savory caramelized onion relish.


Whether you choose to start your day with string hoppers, roti, kiribath, or hoppers, the traditional Sri Lankan breakfast is a feast for the senses. The combination of aromatic flavors, spicy sambols, and comforting rice dishes will leave you satisfied and ready to embark on your Sri Lankan adventures.


Sri Lankan Rice and Curry

When it comes to Sri Lankan cuisine, the iconic rice and curry combination takes center stage. Sri Lanka is renowned for its diverse range of curries, made with a blend of aromatic spices and fresh ingredients, served alongside a bed of fluffy rice.


A typical Sri Lankan rice and curry meal consists of a generous portion of rice accompanied by a selection of curries. These curries can vary from region to region and can include meat, seafood, and vegetable options.


One of the most beloved curries in Sri Lanka is dhal curry. Made with red lentils cooked to perfection and flavored with a blend of spices, including turmeric, chili powder, and mustard seeds, dhal curry adds a comforting and earthy element to the meal.


For meat lovers, Sri Lanka offers a multitude of options. Chicken curry, beef curry, and mutton curry are popular choices, each prepared with its own distinct blend of spices. These curries are slow-cooked to allow the flavors to meld together, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.


Seafood enthusiasts will delight in Sri Lanka’s seafood curries. From spicy prawn curry to tangy fish curry, the coastal regions of Sri Lanka offer an abundance of fresh seafood options. The curries are often made with coconut milk, which adds a creamy and rich texture to the dish.


Vegetarians will also find plenty of options to satisfy their palates. Sri Lanka is known for its array of vegetable curries, including jackfruit curry, okra curry, and brinjal curry. These curries are bursting with flavors and are often made with a combination of spices, coconut milk, and tempered with onions, garlic, and curry leaves.


One unique aspect of the Sri Lankan rice and curry meal is the concept of “sambols.” These are condiments or relishes that accompany the rice and curry. One of the most popular sambols is coconut sambol, made with grated coconut, red chili, lime juice, and onions. It adds a tangy and spicy element to the meal. Other sambols include mango chutney, tomato chutney, and onion relish.


The beauty of the Sri Lankan rice and curry meal is the ability to mix and match different curries and sambols according to your preferences. Each bite is a delightful combination of flavors and textures, with the rice serving as the perfect canvas to showcase the diverse range of curries.


So enjoy the experience of Sri Lankan rice and curry, and don’t be afraid to try different combinations to create your own personalized plate of culinary bliss.


Sri Lankan Street Food

Exploring the streets of Sri Lanka is a culinary adventure in itself, as the island nation boasts a vibrant street food scene that is both delicious and diverse. Street food stalls and carts are a common sight, offering a wide array of tantalizing treats for locals and tourists alike.


One of the most popular street food dishes in Sri Lanka is kottu roti. This delectable dish is made by chopping roti bread into small pieces and stir-frying it with a mix of vegetables, egg, and your choice of meat or seafood. The sound of the metal blades clashing against the hot griddle as the ingredients are combined is an unmistakable feature of any Sri Lankan street corner.


Hoppers or appa are another street food favorite. These bowl-shaped pancakes are made from a fermented rice batter and cooked on a special pan. You can either enjoy plain hoppers or opt for egg hoppers, where a whole egg is cracked into the pancake. Hoppers are typically served with a range of accompaniments, such as dhal curry, coconut sambol, or seeni sambol (a sweet and savory caramelized onion relish).


No street food experience in Sri Lanka is complete without trying vadai. These crispy fritters are made from a mixture of lentils, onions, and spices, deep-fried to golden perfection. Vadai comes in various shapes and sizes, including parippu vadai (made from lentils), masala vadai (spiced lentil fritters), and ulundu vadai (made from urad dal).


If you’re in the mood for something savory and spicy, look out for samosas. These triangular pastries are filled with a mixture of potatoes, onions, peas, and spices, and deep-fried to a crispy golden brown. Samosas are a popular snack in Sri Lanka, often enjoyed with a side of mint chutney or tomato chutney.


For a refreshing and cooling street food option, try the beloved isso vade. These deep-fried lentil patties are topped with a spicy shrimp curry and garnished with onions and lime. The combination of the crispy vade and the flavorful shrimp curry is a taste sensation that’s hard to resist.


If you have a sweet tooth, Sri Lankan street food has something for you too. Look out for pani pol, a sweet and sticky pancake filled with a mixture of jaggery (a type of sugar) and coconut. The pancake is then folded and fried until golden and caramelized. Pani pol is a delightful treat that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.


As you explore the bustling streets of Sri Lanka, be sure to indulge in the vibrant street food culture. From kottu roti to hoppers, vadai to isso vade, and samosas to pani pol, the diverse range of flavors and textures will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.


Sri Lankan Seafood Delicacies

As an island nation surrounded by the Indian Ocean, it comes as no surprise that Sri Lanka is a paradise for seafood lovers. With its abundant marine resources, the country offers a wide variety of fresh and flavorful seafood delicacies that are sure to satisfy your cravings.


One of the quintessential Sri Lankan seafood dishes is the spicy prawn curry. Made with succulent prawns cooked in a fragrant blend of spices, including chili powder, turmeric, and curry leaves, this dish is bursting with flavors. The creamy coconut milk adds richness to the curry, balancing out the heat of the spices.


If you’re a fan of fish, Sri Lanka has you covered with its array of fish curries and preparations. Ambul thiyal is a popular dish where fish is marinated with a blend of spices, dried and preserved in a tangy tamarind sauce, and then cooked to perfection. The tangy and slightly sour flavors make ambul thiyal a unique and lip-smacking seafood delight.


For a lighter option, try the steamed fish. Fresh fish, such as snapper or parrotfish, is marinated with a mixture of spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed until tender. The delicate flavors of the fish are enhanced by the aromatic spices, resulting in a healthy and delicious seafood dish.


If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t miss out on Sri Lanka’s iconic seafood street food – cuttlefish curry. This dish features tender pieces of cuttlefish cooked in a rich and flavorful curry sauce. The cuttlefish absorbs the spices beautifully, resulting in a dish that is both tender and packed with umami flavors.


Sri Lanka is also famous for its crab dishes, particularly crab curry. Mud crabs are cooked in a spicy and aromatic sauce made with a blend of spices, coconut milk, and tamarind. The sweetness of the crab meat perfectly complements the heat of the curry, creating a heavenly combination.


For a unique seafood experience, try the jumbo prawns cooked on a hot grill. The prawns are marinated in a mixture of spices and grilled to perfection, resulting in a smoky and succulent dish. Squeeze some lime over the prawns for an added burst of freshness.


Whether you prefer prawns, fish, crab, or any other seafood delight, Sri Lanka’s coastal regions have something to offer. The fresh and flavorful seafood, combined with the unique blend of spices and cooking techniques, make Sri Lankan seafood dishes a truly memorable experience.


So sit back, relax, and indulge in the delectable seafood offerings that Sri Lanka has to offer – a true treat for seafood enthusiasts.


Sri Lankan Sweets and Desserts

No culinary exploration of Sri Lanka would be complete without indulging in the country’s delectable sweets and desserts. Sri Lankan cuisine offers a variety of sweet treats that are rich in flavor, texture, and tradition.


One of the most beloved and iconic Sri Lankan desserts is wattalappam. This creamy and custard-like pudding is made with a base of coconut milk, jaggery (a type of sugar), and a blend of fragrant spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. The pudding is traditionally steamed in banana leaf cups, which impart a subtle aroma to the dessert.


Kavum is another popular sweet treat in Sri Lanka, especially during festive occasions. These deep-fried sweets are made from a mixture of rice flour, treacle (a type of sweet syrup), and coconut. The result is a crispy outer layer with a sticky and sweet interior. Kavum comes in different shapes and sizes, such as diamond-shaped konda kavum and spiral-shaped athirasa.


Pani pol is a unique Sri Lankan sweet pancake that is both delicious and visually appealing. The pancake is made with a mixture of rice flour, jaggery, and coconut, and then folded and fried until golden brown. Pani pol is often enjoyed during special occasions and celebrations, and its rich flavors and chewy texture make it a treat for the senses.


If you have a craving for something fruity and refreshing, look out for wood apple pudding, known as diwul. The wood apple fruit is mixed with jaggery, coconut milk, and a touch of cardamom to create a creamy and tangy dessert. It is often garnished with roasted cashews or grated coconut for added texture.


Dodol is a popular Sri Lankan sweet that is loved by locals and visitors alike. It is made from a mixture of jaggery, coconut milk, and rice flour, which is then cooked and stirred continuously until it thickens into a sticky and chewy delight. Dodol comes in various flavors, including plain, cashew, and coconut, and is enjoyed for its unique taste and texture.


To cool down on a hot day, try a creamy treat known as faluda. This dessert is made with vermicelli noodles, basil seeds, rose syrup, and a scoop of ice cream. The combination of flavors and textures, from the chewy noodles to the fragrant rose syrup, makes faluda a popular choice, especially during the summer months.


For those with a sweet tooth, Sri Lankan cuisine has a wide range of sweets and desserts to satisfy your cravings. From the rich and creamy wattalappam to the crunchy and sweet kavum, each dessert offers a unique culinary experience that will leave you wanting more.


So indulge in the sweet side of Sri Lanka, and let these delightful treats transport you to a world of sweetness and satisfaction.


Sri Lankan Drinks

When it comes to enjoying the flavors of Sri Lanka, it’s not just the food that steals the show. The country is also known for its refreshing and flavorful array of beverages that perfectly complement the local cuisine and offer a respite from the tropical heat.


One iconic Sri Lankan beverage that comes to mind is Ceylon tea. Renowned for its distinct flavor and aroma, Ceylon tea has gained worldwide recognition. Whether enjoyed piping hot with a splash of milk or as a refreshing iced tea with a squeeze of lemon, Ceylon tea is the perfect choice for tea lovers looking to experience the authentic taste of Sri Lanka.


To quench your thirst on a hot day, look out for king coconut water. This tropical and naturally sweet beverage is extracted from young coconuts and is rich in electrolytes. Sip on this refreshing drink straight from the coconut for a true taste of the island.


Sri Lanka is also famous for its range of tropical fruit juices. From the vibrant orange hue of freshly squeezed passion fruit juice to the tangy sweetness of pineapple juice, these fruity concoctions are a popular choice to beat the heat and enjoy the tropical flavors of the island.


If you’re in the mood for something with a bit of kick, try the spicy and invigorating ginger beer. This non-alcoholic beverage is made by fermenting ginger and is known for its strong, slightly spicy, and refreshing flavor. It’s a fantastic choice to accompany spicy Sri Lankan dishes and is sure to awaken your taste buds.


For a unique and traditional Sri Lankan drink, try faluda. This milk-based beverage is made with rose syrup, vermicelli noodles, basil seeds, and a scoop of ice cream. It’s a sweet and indulgent treat that’s perfect for dessert or as a cool refreshment during hot days.


Thambili, or coconut water, is another popular beverage in Sri Lanka. This is different from king coconut water, as it is obtained from mature coconuts. It is known for its refreshing and hydrating properties, making it an excellent choice on a hot day.


For those looking for an alcoholic option, arrack is a local spirit that is widely consumed in Sri Lanka. Made from the sap of coconut flowers, arrack has a distinctive flavor that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or mixed into cocktails.


Whether you prefer a soothing cup of tea, a refreshing juice, a spicy ginger beer, or a tropical coconut water, Sri Lanka has a drink to suit every taste. So raise a glass and toast to the vibrant and flavorsome beverage culture of Sri Lanka.


Vegetarian and Vegan Sri Lankan Dishes

For vegetarian and vegan food enthusiasts, Sri Lankan cuisine offers a wide range of flavorful and satisfying dishes that cater to diverse dietary preferences. With an abundance of fresh produce and a rich culinary heritage, Sri Lankan vegetarian and vegan dishes showcase the vibrant flavors of plant-based ingredients.


One popular vegetarian dish in Sri Lanka is jackfruit curry, known locally as polos curry. The unripe jackfruit is cooked in a thick and spicy coconut milk gravy, infusing the fruit with a delightful blend of flavors. The tender and meaty texture of the jackfruit makes it a great alternative to meat-based curries.


Another vegetarian staple is dhal curry, made with red lentils. The lentils are simmered with aromatic spices like curry leaves, turmeric, and mustard seeds, resulting in a creamy and comforting curry. Dhal curry is typically served with rice or accompanied by roti for a wholesome and satisfying meal.


For a unique and nutritious Sri Lankan dish, try gotu kola sambol. Gotu kola, a leafy green herb, is finely chopped and mixed with grated coconut, red onions, lime juice, and a dash of mustard oil. This refreshing and vibrant salad is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy addition to any meal.


String hoppers, or idiyappam, are also a popular vegetarian option. These delicate rice flour noodles are steamed and served with an assortment of vegetable curries and sambols. The combination of the soft hoppers and the aromatic curries create a harmonious and satisfying meal.


Sri Lanka’s coastal regions offer a variety of vegan seafood alternatives made from plant-based ingredients. One such dish is mock fish curry, made with crispy textured soy protein that mimics the texture of fish. The curry is cooked with a blend of spices and coconut milk, offering a flavorful and vegan-friendly option for seafood lovers.


For a quick and satisfying snack, try masala vadai, a spicy lentil fritter made from chana dal (split chickpeas) blended with aromatic spices and herbs. These crispy fritters are perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea or as a side dish in a Sri Lankan meal.


Vegetarian and vegan options are also available in Sri Lanka’s street food scene. Vendors offer vegetarian versions of popular street food dishes like kottu roti and hoppers, where the meat is substituted with vegetables or tofu.


With its emphasis on fresh produce and aromatic spices, Sri Lankan cuisine provides a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options that are both flavorful and hearty. Whether you’re craving a curry, a salad, or a street food delight, Sri Lanka has something to satisfy every vegetarian and vegan palate.


Sri Lankan Fusion Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is not only rich in traditional flavors and dishes but also embraces fusion cuisine that blends elements of Sri Lankan cooking with other international culinary influences. This fusion of flavors and techniques creates a unique and exciting dining experience that showcases the versatility of Sri Lankan cuisine.


One popular fusion dish is Sri Lankan Chinese fried rice, also known as “fried rice and devilled chicken.” This dish brings together the fragrant spices of Sri Lankan cuisine with Chinese cooking techniques. The result is a flavorful and colorful plate of fried rice tossed with vegetables, egg, and spicy devilled chicken.


Another delightful fusion creation is Sri Lankan biryani. Inspired by the flavors of Indian cuisine, this aromatic rice dish is prepared with fragrant spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, along with tender pieces of meat or vegetables. The fusion of Sri Lankan and Indian spices creates a unique and tantalizing biryani experience.


Sri Lankan pizza is a modern twist that combines the beloved flavors of Italian cuisine with Sri Lankan ingredients and spices. Pizza dough is topped with curried chicken, spicy sambols, and a variety of vegetables, resulting in a fusion of flavors that is both familiar and distinctively Sri Lankan.


For those with a love for seafood, Sri Lankan-style sushi offers a unique fusion experience. Fresh seafood, such as tuna or prawns, is combined with Sri Lankan spices and coconut-infused rice, creating a fusion roll that is bursting with flavors and textures.


Adding a touch of fusion to desserts, Sri Lankan-inspired cakes and pastries incorporate local flavors and ingredients into classic Western recipes. From coconut cake infused with palm sugar to jaggery cheesecake with a hint of spice, these fusion desserts offer a sweet blend of Sri Lankan and international influences.


With its willingness to experiment and blend flavors from around the world, Sri Lanka has become a hub for fusion culinary creativity. Chefs and food enthusiasts have embraced the opportunity to merge traditional Sri Lankan techniques with global influences, resulting in a diverse fusion cuisine that reflects the evolving tastes and preferences of modern Sri Lanka.


So, if you’re seeking an exciting and unique dining experience, be sure to explore the world of Sri Lankan fusion cuisine. Whether it’s a fusion curry, a creative pizza, or an innovative dessert, you’ll discover a harmonious blend of flavors that celebrates the culinary diversity of Sri Lanka.



Sri Lankan cuisine is a gastronomic delight that offers a diverse array of flavors, influences, and culinary experiences. From the aromatic spices to the vibrant curries and the delectable street food, Sri Lanka has something to satisfy every palate.


Whether you’re a meat lover, seafood enthusiast, vegetarian, or vegan, Sri Lankan cuisine caters to a wide range of dietary preferences. The abundance of fresh produce, fragrant spices, and creative cooking techniques contribute to an unforgettable dining experience.


The traditional Sri Lankan breakfast with string hoppers, roti, and spicy sambols, followed by the comforting rice and curry meal, showcases the country’s love for flavorful and wholesome dishes.


Exploring the streets of Sri Lanka opens a world of culinary delights with dishes like kottu roti, hoppers, vadai, and samosas tempting your taste buds.


The coastal regions offer an abundance of seafood delicacies, from spicy prawn curry to tangy fish curry, showcasing the country’s love affair with fresh and succulent seafood.


Indulge your sweet tooth with Sri Lankan desserts like wattalappam, kavum, and pani pol, showcasing the country’s love for indulgent flavors and sweet treats.


Quench your thirst with Ceylon tea, king coconut water, or fruity tropical juices, providing a refreshing respite to complement your Sri Lankan feast.


Sri Lankan cuisine also embraces fusion influences, blending traditional recipes with international flavors, resulting in dishes like Sri Lankan Chinese fried rice, biryani, and Sri Lankan-style sushi.


In conclusion, Sri Lankan cuisine offers a dynamic and diverse culinary experience that celebrates the country’s rich history, cultural heritage, and abundance of natural resources. Whether you’re exploring the local markets, dining in a traditional restaurant, or enjoying street food delights, Sri Lanka’s flavors will captivate your senses and leave you with unforgettable food memories.


So embark on a culinary journey through the flavors of Sri Lanka and immerse yourself in the vibrant and tantalizing world of Sri Lankan cuisine.