23 Famous Sri Lankan Food Dishes

Sri Lankan dishes are a flavorful fusion of local ingredients, reflecting the island’s rich cultural and historical diversity.

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Basic Information

Sri Lankan Food: Basic Overview

Common Ingredients

Rice, coconut, chicken, fish, lentils, vegetables, sugar, chilies, tamarind.

Common Cooking Methods

Boiling, steaming, frying, simmering, marinating, mixing.


Main course, appetizer, dessert, soup, salad.


Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Key Taste

Savory, Sour, Neutral, Complex, Bitter,Sweet

Eating Etiquette

Meals are often eaten with the right hand; utensils are used in more urban settings. Sharing dishes is a common practice.

Meal Presentation

Rice or curries served in the center, surrounded by smaller dishes of sides and condiments. Banana leaves may be used as plates for special occasions.

Culinary Festivals

Sinhala, Tamil New Year

Influence and Fusion

Dutch, Indonesian, and Indian cuisines
Origin and Region

Sri Lankan Food: Origin and Region


Sri Lanka

Cuisine’s Geographical Territory

South Asia
Sri Lanka Map
Ingredients and Preparation

Popular Types of Sri Lankan Food

  • Curries

    Curries in Sri Lankan cuisine are complex, spiced dishes that often incorporate coconut milk, a variety of meats, seafood, or vegetables, and a blend of spices.

    These dishes are central to meals and reflect the island’s rich spice heritage.

  • Rice Dishes

    Rice dishes in Sri Lanka are staple components of the diet, often served as the main carbohydrate source alongside curries.

    The preparation can range from simple steamed rice to more elaborate dishes cooked with coconut milk, spices, and sometimes mixed with meats or vegetables.

  • Snacks

    Snacks in Sri Lanka vary widely, from deep-fried treats to steamed delicacies, often flavored with spices and coconut.

    They are popular at all times of the day.

  • Bread and Dough

    Bread and dough-based items in Sri Lanka range from simple flatbreads to more complex creations stuffed with spiced fillings.

    These can be cooked on a griddle, deep-fried, or baked, serving as versatile carriers for curries or enjoyed on their own.

  • Salad

    Salads in Sri Lanka, often made with freshly grated coconut, lime juice, and spices, serve as refreshing sides to the main meal.

    They can include leafy greens, finely chopped vegetables, or even fruit.

Sri Lankan dishes are a vibrant blend of herbs, spices, vegetables, rice, and fruits, reflecting the island’s rich ingredients. Central to the cuisine are rice and coconut, with seafood playing a significant role due to the island’s extensive coastline.

Influences from Indian, Indonesian, and Dutch cuisines are evident in Sri Lanka. Specialties from the Netherlands and India are particularly important in the development of local cooking traditions.

Sri Lankan cuisine features unique spice blends, including local cinnamon and black pepper, and ingredients like Maldives fish, goraka, pandan leaf, and jaggery from kithul palm syrup.

Coastal areas in Sri Lanka emphasize seafood, and many regional specialties share similarities with South Indian food offerings. Key components include a variety of spices and herbs, different types of fish and meats, and a selection of oils and sweeteners.

Next up, you should check out the common ways that locals of Sri Lanka often serve their dishes; thus, further understanding how these dishes are enjoyed.

Sri Lankan cuisine is renowned for its unique combinations of herbs, spices, fish, vegetables, rice, and fruits, with rice and coconut being central elements. The cuisine reflects a blend of local traditions with some of the notable features:

  • Rich in Diversity: Reflects influences from Indian (particularly South Indian), Indonesian, and Dutch cuisines due to its historical role as a hub on the oceanic silk road.
  • Centered Around Rice and Coconut: These are staple ingredients, with a variety of red and white rice, including heirloom varieties, being integral to the diet.
  • Spice-Forward: Utilizes a unique combination of spices such as cinnamon (notably “true cinnamon” native to Sri Lanka), black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and turmeric.
  • Herb-Heavy: Features herbs like pandan leaf, curry leaves, lemongrass, and coriander, contributing to the cuisine’s distinctive flavors.
  • Seafood Prominent: Due to its island geography, fresh and preserved fish are common in meals, reflecting the importance of seafood.

Next, it’s crucial for you to uncover the popularity of Sri Lankan food outside of its home country, all the way to other nations.

Sri Lankan cuisine’s global appeal is evident from London to Lisbon, where its spicy, coconut-rich flavors are celebrated. In North America, cities like New York and Toronto boast thriving Sri Lankan dining scenes, thanks to vibrant expatriate communities.

Australia’s culinary diversity has embraced Sri Lankan dishes in Sydney and Melbourne, while in the Middle East, particularly the UAE and Qatar adopted some specialties of Sri Lanka.

For Southeast Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia, Sri Lankan dishes enjoy the unique blend of spices with local flavors.

To know more about the food of Sri Lanka, you need to take a look at the health aspect and often note about the country’s dishes.

Sri Lankan food is considered healthy due to several key factors:

  • Diverse Vegetables and Fruits: Incorporates a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a balanced diet.
  • Healthy Fats from Coconut: Utilizes coconut in various forms, offering healthy fats that are beneficial for heart health and metabolism.
  • Medicinal Spices: Employs spices like turmeric and cinnamon, known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to overall health.
  • Whole Grains: Features whole grains such as red rice, which are higher in fiber and nutrients compared to refined grains, supporting digestive health.
  • Fermented Foods: Includes fermented foods like hoppers, introducing probiotics to the diet, which aid in digestion and enhance gut health.

Now you’re ready to jump into a journey to uncover the flavorful specialties of Sri Lanka.

23 Popular Sri Lankan Dishes

These are the 23 dishes of Sri Lanka for you to explore. Also, I suggest making full use of the filter system to see these specialties in alphabetical order, tastes, cooking methods, dish types, essential ingredients, and global popularity.

To add to that, you should find these categories of Sri Lankan dishes an exciting short trip to go through, like the most popular, traditional, national, fusion, and street food dishes:

  • Widely Enjoyed: These are the dishes that are most commonly consumed by locals and sought after by tourists, showcasing the flavors that define Sri Lankan cuisine.
  • Diverse Ingredients: Often made with a blend of spices, coconut, rice, and fresh local produce, reflecting the island’s rich culinary heritage and natural bounty.
  • Everyday Meals: Integral to daily dining, these dishes are found in homes, restaurants, and street food stalls across the island.
  • Symbolic Representation: Regarded as a symbol of national identity, these dishes represent the essence of Sri Lankan cuisine on the international stage.
  • Unifying Elements: Enjoyed across different ethnic and cultural groups within the country, showcasing the unity in diversity within Sri Lankan society.
  • Pride and Heritage: Often taught from a young age, the preparation and enjoyment of these dishes are a source of national pride and cultural heritage.
  • Cultural Significance: Embedded in Sri Lanka’s history and traditions, these dishes have been passed down through generations, embodying the island’s culinary identity.
  • Authentic Flavors: Characterized by their use of traditional spices and cooking methods, offering a taste of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural tapestry.
  • Festivals and Celebrations: Often associated with religious and cultural celebrations, playing a central role in the communal and familial aspects of Sri Lankan life.
  • Accessibility and Convenience: Readily available at roadside stalls, markets, and beachfront, offering a quick and affordable way to enjoy Sri Lankan flavors.
  • Rich Variety: Ranges from savory snacks to sweet treats, highlighting the diverse ingredients and spices typical of the island’s cuisine.
  • Social Aspect: Street food in Sri Lanka is not just about sustenance; it’s a vibrant part of the social fabric, where people from all walks of life gather for a taste of local delicacies.
  • Culinary Integration: Resulting from the blending of local ingredients and cooking techniques with foreign influences, reflecting Sri Lanka’s historical trade routes and colonial past.
  • Innovative and Contemporary: These dishes offer a modern twist on traditional flavors, appealing to a broader audience and evolving with global culinary trends.
  • Cultural Exchange: Symbolizes the exchange between Sri Lankan cuisine and other culinary traditions, leading to unique and innovative dishes that still retain a distinctly Sri Lankan flavor profile.
Malabar Matthi Curry

Malabar Matthi Curry

  • Traditional

Malabar matthi curry is a Sri Lankan curry dish with modern variations coming from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, a state in India. The “Malabar Matthi” term means “sardines” in English, and they are also the main ingredient in this dish.

Ideally, fish and rice are 2 of the core food sources for the curry, employing semi-cooked sardines in Kerala-style curry, okra, or onion. However, some can include coconut milk or tamarind juice to create a twist in flavor and differentiate the Sri Lankan version among various ones.

This bold flavor curry goes fine with bread, rice, tapioca, and naan. Aside from Sri Lanka, other Indian States like Goa and Kerala also enjoy this flavorful curry.

Kakuluwo Crab Curry


  • Traditional

Kakuluwo is a seafood dish of Sri Lanka made using mud crab or blue swimmer crab for cooking on medium-low heat for a long time.

The locals usually simmer the curry in a clay pot to maintain the heat well and bring more flavor to the crab’s meat. The dish is especially popular in the north side of Sri Lanka.

To get the full experience, you should pair kakuluwo with rice and pol sambol, a coconut dish with rice and string hopper.

Kukul Mas Maluwa

Kukul Mas Maluwa

  • Traditional

Kukul mas maluwa is a traditional chicken curry hailing from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese cuisine. With a strong coconut flavor, the curry calls for bone-in chicken to sweeten the broth.

While cooking, the chicken soaks up coconut milk curry for a savory and charming bite. You will find this chicken curry spicy and earthy thanks to using strong spices like cinnamon and cumin seeds.

Polos Curry

Polos Curry

  • Traditional

Polos curry is a young jackfruit curry utilizing the meaty jackfruit meat and combining it with spices. The cooked young jackfruit will have a tender texture like steak; that’s why its name is polos (in Sinhala, polos can be translated literally to tender).

Polos curry has been consumed in Sri Lanka for a long time, often simmered until the liquid nearly runs out, unlike other curries with a bit of sauce after cooking. The cube-sized jackfruit with eye-catching color and signature flavors will make your meal more beautiful.

Dhal Curry

Dhal Curry

  • Traditional

Dhal curry is a traditional dish made with red lentils (also called masoor dhal), coconut milk, and spices. It is a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine and is often served with rice, roti, or other curries and sambols.

It is a mild, creamy, and fragrant lentil stew that can be enjoyed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. In Sri Lanka, the liquid dhal curry is a popular pick for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner.

Fish Ambul Thiyal

Fish Ambul Thiyal

  • Traditional

Fish ambul thiyal is a unique dish in Sri Lanka and a special way to preserve blackened fish. The word “ambul” in Sinhalese means “sour”, referring to the fish being dry-cooked.

People use goraka and black pepper to marinate fish, turning the outer into a black color. Coming from Ambalangoda, the dish is a specialty of the southern province of Sri Lanka.

Kiribath Milk Rice


  • National
  • Traditional

Kiribath is a rice dish in Sri Lanka often used for special occasions such as New Year, weddings, birthdays, or a welcome home party. This rice creation needs 2 main ingredients, featuring milk and rice, before being shaped into cubes.

This treat provides a creamy, tender profile along with a subtle aroma of coconut milk. To add to that, kiribath is a common pick for many in Sri Lanka, including variations like mung kiribath (made using green gram) and imbul kiribath (with coconut and jaggery filling).

Lamprey Lump


  • Fusion
  • Traditional

Lamprais is a Sri Lankan dish of the Dutch Burghers, who were influenced by Indonesian cuisine. It is a rice-based dish wrapped in banana leaves and baked with various curries, sambols, and meatballs.

The standard version requires short-grained rice cooked in stock, eggplant pickle, shrimp paste, onion relish, frikadeller meatballs, 3-meat curry ash plantain, and eggplant curry, sometimes including fried, boiled eggs.

Instead of displaying it on a platter, people use a banana leaf for a subtle and unique aroma.

Puttu White Rice


  • Traditional

Puttu is a steamed dish combining ground rice with coconut and salt that is popular in Sri Lanka and some parts of India. These cylindrical creations are often layered with grated coconut.

Most of the time, people cook puttu in a cylindrical vessel with holes, or a coconut shell, or a bamboo stem. It is usually eaten for breakfast with curries, sambols, or coconut milk.

Aside from rice, puttu can also be made with different grains, such as wheat or red rice, and with different fillings, such as meat or fruit.

Kola Kenda

Kola Kenda

  • Traditional

Kola kenda is a common herbal porridge that locals often have for breakfast. It provides consumers with energy thanks to rice and coconut milk along with freshly squeezed juice.

The signature green color of kola kenda comes from a variety of herbs used. Also, depending on the disease you suffer from, you can order the congee made from suitable herbs.

Its original flavor is a little bit bitter; so people will add palm sugar to relieve the profile.

Appam Egg Hoppers


  • Traditional

Appam is a thin pancake blending 2 basic ingredients in Sri Lanka, featuring rice flour and coconut milk. Fermentation is often needed for the batter before being cooked in a flat pan for a crispy texture.

Appam not only appears in Sri Lankan breakfast or dinner but also is a staple dish in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

These hoppers are created using soaked rice and coconut milk, but many people choose rice flour instead to save time in modern life. Ideally, appam goes well with an egg as a topping.

Idiyappam String Hoppers


  • Traditional

Idiyappam is a variation of appam, coming in the form of white noodle strings. People will; need to squeeze the rice batter and press it to create thin noodles.

These strings are neatly steamed before serving. In addition to the name idiyappam, you can find this food under different ones such as indi appa, savige and more.

Since the thin noodles don’t have an impressive flavor, you should accompany it with stew, egg curries, and kormas.

Pol Sambola

Pol Sambol

  • Traditional

Pol sambola is a common condiment in Sri Lanka and is served with rice, appam, and other delightful side dishes. The coconut specialty features shredded coconut meat with chilies, lime juice, shallots, and salt.

The old-day pol sambola is mixed in a rectangular granite block and rolling pin.

Ulundu Vadai

Medu Vada

  • Street Food

Medu Vada is a Sri Lanka spicy and savory dish shaped like a donut hailing from Maddur in Karnataka. You can find its shape is quite similar to a fritter, often serving as a street food in Sri Lanka.

Often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer, these lentil donuts are tasty on their own, though locals usually serve medu vada with sambar or green hot peppers.

Lunu Miris

Lunu Miris

  • Traditional

Lunu miris is a food from Sri Lanka made of simple ingredients like salt and chilies. The condiment is a spicy paste that can be combined with many Sri Lankan dishes, like kiribath, appam, bread, rice, and roti.

This spicy mixture brings together chili pepper, shallots, Maldives fish, sea salt, black pepper, and lime juice. Locals often use a mortar and pestle to make lunumiris.

Gotu Kola Sambol

Gotu Kola Sambol

  • Traditional

Gotu kola sambol is a Sri Lankan salad made with a herb called gotu kola, which is also known as pennywort. Many mix this green with grated coconut, onion, green chilli, lime juice, salt, and sometimes Maldives fish flakes.

The salad is a favorite option, boasting a mild, citrusy, and slightly spicy flavor. This dish is celebrated for its health benefits, including promoting mental clarity and vitality.

Mallung Mallum


  • Traditional

Mallung is a vegetable mix in Sri Lanka, consisting of lighlty sautéd green with coconut meat. In Sri Lanka, “mallung” or “mallum” simply translates to “mixed” or “mix”.

This side dish requires several greens lightly sauteed with coconut and other ingredients. When served, mallung offers a bitter profile.

You can encounter this green mix in almost all Sri Lankan meals, and their meals usually contain 1 or 2 types of mallum.

Wambatu Moju

Wambatu Moju

  • Traditional

Wambatu moju is a Sri Lankan dish of eggplant, shallots, green chilies, and spices. It is a type of pickle or relish that has a sweet, sour, and spicy taste.

The dish is usually served with rice, roti, or other curries. Wambatu Moju is cooked in a clay pot over a fire and can be eaten hot or cold.

Elawalu Roti

Elawalu Roti

  • Street Food

Elawalu roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread stuffed with a spicy vegetable mixture. These crunchy snacks are eaten with rice, roti, or other curries.

The snack is made by stretching a thin dough and filling it with a mix of potatoes, carrots, leeks, cabbage, onions, green chilies, curry leaves, and spices. The filled dough is then folded into a triangle and cooked on a hot griddle until crispy and golden.

Pol Pani

Pol Pani

  • Traditional

Pol pani is translated loosely as honey coconut, a tea-time snack in Sri Lanka. The locals often eat these crepes in the new year as they believe that this treat will bring you the sweetest things in the upcoming year.

To have a honey-like and sticky texture filling, the chefs will cook shredded coconut with jaggery (a local sugar) and then use the crepes to wrap the mixture.

Pol Roti

Pol Roti

  • Traditional

Pol roti is a classic dish native to Sri Lanka, combining 2 traditional factors of coconut and roti.

Besides simple and familiar ingredients, people add shredded coconut to the dough to create a new texture. Some even mix the dough with chopped onions and green chilies to make an extraordinary taste.

Eating coconut roti with curries or lunu miris is a great idea for people who love spicy foods. On the contrary, the kids will love a simple spread of palm sugar on the roti.

Kokis Rosette Cookies


  • National
  • Traditional

Kokis is a crispy and deep-fried Sri Lankan snack with a beautiful flower shape. The dish is a combination of rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, and salt.

It is believed to have a Dutch origin, and its name may come from the word for cookies in Dutch. Kokis is a traditional dish for the Sinhala New Year festival and is often served with other sweets and curries.

Kottu Chopped Bread


  • Street Food

Kottu is a savory Sri Lankan creation of chopped roti, egg, onion, chilli pepper, and a meat curry. This spicy dish is usually prepared and served as fast food or street food.

Kottu is also known as kothu roti, which means chopped roti in Tamil and Sinhala. This shredded dish of roti comes from the eastern Tamil regions of Sri Lanka or from Madurai, India.

How Do Sri Lankans Serve Their Food?

In Sri Lankan culture, food is served with a focus on sharing and communal eating, reflecting the island’s rich traditions and social values. Meals are often served on a banana leaf, especially during special occasions.

A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a “main curry” (fish, chicken, or mutton), along with several other curries made with vegetables and lentils. Side dishes include pickles, chutneys, and “sambols,” which can be quite spicy.

This method of serving not only enhances the meal’s taste but also its nutritional value, and is believed to increase appetite. The communal aspect of meals is a significant part of Sri Lankan culture, emphasizing unity, family, and the sharing of blessings.

Make sure you share these Sri Lankan specialties with people who love these specialties. I also love to hear back from you through the comment sections with excellent ideas about Sri Lankan dishes.

Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer


Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert


Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On Fifteen.net, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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