Sri Lankan Cuisine

The world has finally woken up to Sri Lankan cuisine. It now has a global reputation for offering some of the richest, most delicious food in Asia and all visitors to Sri Lanka should try as many authentic dishes as possible.

This guide will explain some of the most mouthwatering traditional dishes tourists should try and provide an overview of what Sri Lankan food is. Visitors should be aware that food in Sri Lanka is generally very spicy.

What is Traditional Sri Lankan Food?

Sri Lankan food has been influenced by its rich history and links to other cultures. India, Indonesia, and Holland are the 3 countries which have had the biggest influence on Sri Lankan cuisine though all neighboring nations have played their role.

Some of the staple ingredients in Sri Lankan cooking are rice, coconut, and a variety of spices. A typical Sri Lankan dish includes boiled or steamed rice served with a curry of fish, chicken, mutton and a mixture of vegetable curries.

In addition, meals are accompanied by pickled fruits, vegetables, chutneys, and sambols. Coconut sambol, made from ground coconut mixed with chilli peppers, dried Maldive fish, and lime juice is particularly common.

Is Sri Lankan food spicy?

Sri Lankan curries are really spicy. If you are not partial to spicy food you should tell waiters when you order, otherwise you should expect every meal to be very hot. In very touristic areas it is normal for waiters to check your preference before the food is prepared.

The most common spices in Sri Lankan food are chilli, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, fennel seed, curry leaves, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. There are many variations of this mixture.

What is a typical Sri Lankan breakfast?

Curries and fresh coconut sambals are Sri Lankan breakfast staples and they can be accompanied by a wide range of things. Variations of hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes) are also typical and they can be served with anything, sweet or savoury. They are truly delicious and a must-try for all visitors.

What are Typical Sri Lankan Desserts?

Commonly used ingredients used in Sri Lankan desserts are rice flour, treacle, and coconut milk. A common dessert is kevum, a cake which is deep-fried and served golden brown. There are many varieties of kevum and it is served, as are most desserts, with kiribath milk rice.

Top 5 Dishes to Try in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan cuisine is rich and diverse. There are numerous dishes which visitors love but here are 5 of the dishes which everyone must try.


Dhal is a curry made from red lentils cooked in coconut milk. It includes onions, tomatoes, green chillies, cumin seeds, turmeric, fenugreek, mustard seeds, and pandan leaves. The dish is traditionally cooked in an earthen pot.


Kottu is a spicy stir-fry consisting of shredded roti bread and vegetables. It can be served with a range of accompaniments including eggs, meat, and cheese. “Kottu” means chopped roti in Tamil and the dish originates from Batticaloa.


Lamprais translates to “a packet of food” in Dutch and it was invented by the Burgher community who are descendants of colonial Europeans. It is made from balls of beef, boiled eggs, eggplant, sambol, rice, and typical Sri Lankan spices. The mixture is then wrapped in a banana leaf and slow-cooked for several hours.


Kool is a seafood broth containing crab, fish, cuttlefish, prawns, and crayfish. It also contains long beans, jak seeds, spinach, manioc, and tamarind. They also thick the broth using palmyra root flour.


Kiribath (or Paal Soru) is rice cooked in salted coconut milk. It is typical to eat it on special occasions, such as birthdays and new years day, and in the morning for breakfast. It can be served with sweet and savoury accompaniments.

If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, check the visa requirements before you set off. The quickest and easiest way of obtaining a visa is by applying online for the Sri Lanka ETA.

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