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A glimpse into the diversity of authentic Nepali Cuisine

22 May 2024

Nepali cuisine reflects greater varieties influenced by its history, geography and cultural diversity which you can explore on our Nepal Cultural Tours. The heart of traditional Nepali cuisine bears witness to the country's agrarian heritage and hardy Himalayan way of life. You can explore the life in Himalaya and be mesmerized by the breathtaking mountain views on our trekking holidays such as Manaslu Trek, Everest Trek, Annapurna Trek, Makalu Trek, Langtang Trek & so on.

The country’s diverse terrain consists of the lofty Himalayas, the rolling hills, and the fertile Terai plains, each contributing to its unique culinary traditions. Without a question, the cuisines of Nepal are flavorful, wholesome, and diversified. You will find dishes for every occasion when you visit the Nepalese family.

Despite frequent comparisons to Indian food, Nepal's tastes and culinary customs have a unique character that is worth discovering and savoring. A wide variety of spices, herbs, and flavoring ingredients used in cooking also reflects the richness of Nepali flavors. Mustard oil, ghee, and preserved animal fat have been used as cooking mediums and flavoring ingredients since ancient times.

Spices such as garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chilies are commonly used across Nepal, but there are also many lesser-known spices and flavoring ingredients distinctive to communities or regions. The Sherpas use the whey dregs of buttermilk, known as serkam. They also ferment it to make somar, and milk cream to make shosim, both of which add a sharp pungent flavour to soups and achar.

In Nepal’s western parts, bhang (hemp seeds) is widely used to make achar or pickle. The Tharu of the eastern Tarai use aalash (flaxseeds) to flavour curries and achar. Timmur and jimbu (aromatic wild Himalayan allium) are among the important flavoring ingredients in Thakali cuisine, and also commonly used by hill communities. The Kirat burnt ash from a rooster’s inner feathers to use as flavoring to make a delicacy known as wachipa or wamrik.

Nepal's geographical setting—it is bordered to the north by China and to the east, west, and south by India—has had a significant impact on the country's culinary traditions. The cuisine of Nepal is a fascinating blend of Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese influences, resulting in a unique confluence of flavors. This has led to the creation of a diverse range of foods that suit a variety of palates, such as the delicate and subtle flavors of Tibetan momos and the hot and acidic flavors of Indian curries.

Nepali cooking involves the following basic culinary techniques :

  • Currying (Stewing)
  • Stir Frying (Bhuteko)
  • Grilling (Sekeko or Poleko)
  • Smoking (Sukaeko)
  • Deep Frying (Taareko)
  • Marinating (Sadheko)
  • Tempering (Jhaneko)
  • Steaming (Baphaeko)

Learn how to cook Nepali food at your home kitchen

Types of Nepalese Cuisine

Set against the backdrop of the Himalayas, the people of Nepal have many different backgrounds and ethnicities, and this multitude of influences is reflected within the country’s cuisine. Nepalese dishes are generally healthier than most other South Asian cuisine, relying less on using fats and more on chunky vegetables, lean meats, pickled ingredients and salads. Whilst Nepal does take heavy influences from its closest geographical companions such as India, China and Tibet, this mountainous country only opened up its borders to outsiders in the 1950s. It is for this reason, in addition to transport and trade difficulties Nepal’s geographical setting, that there is a particular focus on using locally grown produce.

1. Khas Cuisine or Pahadi Cuisine

Khas or Pahadi cuisine is one of the most unique and delicious Nepalese dishes that you simply must try. The three primary constituents of Khas cuisines are millet bread, buckwheat, and maize. To name a few, these are served with dry green dishes, potatoes, cauliflower, pumpkin, green beans, and radish. In actuality, the Khas people are historically the ones who enjoy a refreshingly delicious plate of Dal-Bhat, which is a staple meal in Nepal. Dal Bhat is primarily served with rice, lentil soup, and either chicken or beef or veggie curry. It is very nourishing and healthful.

Some popular Khas Cuisines

  • a. Dal Bhat Tarkari

    Dal Bhat is a staple meal comprising lentil soup (dal) paired with steamed rice (bhat). It's often accompanied by vegetables, pickles, and sometimes, achar (spicy sauce). This famous Nepali food has a history of over 2000 years and is commonly consumed twice a day for both lunch and dinner. It is highly regarded for its nutritional value, providing a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When you visit Nepal for tours or trekking trips such as Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Everest Base Camp Trek, Langtang Gosainkunda Trek, Manaslu Trek or so on, you can enjoy the popular cuisine Dal Bhat Tarkari.

  • b. Gundruk and Sinki

    Gundruk and sinki are both similar in terms of the fermentation process. While gundruk is the process of fermenting leafy vegetables, sinki is made from radish. Fermentation allows the food to stay fresh for a long time. Sinki can be prepared as a soup by first soaking it in water then cooking it with onions, tomatoes, chillies and other vegetables.

  • c. Non Vegetarian Food

    Khas cuisine has some delicious non veg items. “Sekuwa” is barbecued meat grilled on a stick, and “Khasi Ko Masu”is a curry made with goat or mutton. Last but not least, “Pakku” is fried or roasted pork. The majority of people consume fish and chicken, including the Khas Brahmin (Bahun) caste. The meat from buffalo and yaks is not consumed by Khas people.

    Do you want to cook “Khasi Ko Masu” or “Nepali style Mutton Recipe” in your home kitchen.

  • d. Pickles

    The sour, spicy, and delicious characteristics of pickles enhance the overall taste profile of foods, making them an important part of Khas cuisine. The Khas people are known for their inventive culinary techniques and rich culinary tradition, which is demonstrated by the variety of pickles they make with vegetables including mangoes, radishes, tomatoes, and chilies. Served as a side dish or as a condiment, Khas pickles bring a distinct and colorful flavor to any meal that enhances the dining experience.

  • e. Desserts

    Sweet delicacies such as Juju Dhau, Malpuwa, Sikarni, Sel Roti, and many more can be found in Khas cuisine. These delicacies have a delicious flavor that can make any occasion seem more joyful.

2. Himalayan Cuisine

In Nepal, Himalayan cuisine is made at high elevations where the winter season is in full swing. Barley, millet, and buckwheat are staple components in nearly every Himalayan food, helping to stave off the cold. Another common ingredient that is included in large amounts to all Himalayan cuisine is rice. When discussing Himalayan cuisine, yak meat, butter, and milk are a few staple items.

These cuisines are influenced by the culture of the Tibetans and closely related tribes in the Himalayas and Trans-Himalayans. The Himalayan region is less productive than other regions. In addition, the climate is cold all year round and there is plenty of snow. Food crops grown in this region include buckwheat, millet, barley, common beans and rice. Potato is another important product and food. A large amount of rice is imported from the plains.

Some popular Himalayan Cuisines

  • a. Momo (Dumplings)

    Steamed flour dumplings stuffed with various fillings of veg (vegetarian) or meats (non-vegetarian). In the Himalayas Momos are found everywhere where you choose to go on our Trekking, Cultural Tours, Multi Activity Tours or so on. They are the favoured snack of locals and the perfect fast food to go. Their popularity best shown by not only jumping the Tibet border to India but momos can now be easily found through every city of the subcontinent. With obvious Chinese influences momos are often compared to the popular Baoxi buns of China but to me they better resemble Gyoza dumplings of Japan. More so when stuffed with meat and shallow fried. Momos come served with a rich chilli sauce or dark soy and a side of hot broth.

  • b. Dhido

    Dhido or Nepali porridge is one of the most popular indigenous meals in the Himalayan community made using hot water and any type of ground grain. It is also widely prepared in the hilly regions and can be prepared using millet, barley, buckwheat or wheat flour. This dish is an excellent source of energy rich in minerals and vitamins usually eaten along with curry, achaar or soup. Dhido sometimes is served instead of steamed white rice in Thakali sets.

  • c. Khapse

    Khapse is a sweet, deep-fried pastry that is prepared in huge quantities during Lhosar. On other days, it is generally eaten as a snack with milk tea. It is made from wheat flour, butter, sugar, and milk. You can find it being sold around Sherpa and Tibetan settlements such as Boudha.

  • d. Shyakpa

    This comforting hand-pulled noodle soup consists of freshly made noodles, dried meat, vegetables and spices. It is warm and nourishing and is a great dish to eat during the cold winters of the Himalayas. Shyakpa is also known as Thenthuk. While shyak-pa means meat stew, then-thuk means pulled noodles.

  • e. Rildok

    Rildok are potato dumpling soups. The dumplings are made by pounding boiled potatoes on a wooden mortar and pestle until they become a soft and stretchy lump. The soup is made from spring onions, Sichuan pepper, and chilly powder. The dumplings are soft and melt in the mouth while the soup is light and refreshing.

  • f. Rikikur

    In Sherpa language, ‘riki’ means potato and ‘kur’ means bread/roti. So, rikikur means potato bread, or more specifically, potato pancake. Potatoes are grated finely and mixed with buckwheat flour to make a batter which is cooked with nak (female yak) butter. It is often served with a spicy sauce made from sour yogurt, chillies and spring onions.

  • g. Thukpa

    Thukpa is a traditional Sherpa dish that is prepared with noodles, vegetables, meats, and tasty species. This heartwarming noodle dish has rich nutritious value and helps to keep your body warm at the colder altitudes.

    During your exploration in the Himalayan region such as Everest Trek, Annapurna Trek, Manaslu Trek, Makalu Trek you will find this rich-flavored nutritious dishe at every teahouse in the route. The restaurants in the city areas also prepare this healthy and tasty Sherpa traditional dish.

  • h. Shyaphale

    Among the best Himalayan delicacies, shyaphale is a famous beef dish among the Sherpa people. Owing to its exquisite flavor, this Sherpa specialty has gained national recognition and is served in nearly all restaurants.

  • i. Tingmo/ Tibetan Fluffy Bread

    If you have ever hiked at high altitudes in the Everest region, you are aware of the importance of this widely consumed breakfast item. You can have tingmo, or Tibetan bread, for breakfast instead of toast or ordinary bread if you're in the Everest region.

    Tingmo is prepared with the wheat flour dough, and it is steamed till it gets fluffy. Although the technique for preparing this tasty delight is similar to the preparation of Momo, these fluffy breads do not have any filling inside them. They are just plain, light dishes that are served as breakfast alongside vegetables, sauce, and pickles.

  • j. Tsampa

    This traditional Sherpa dish is prepared with roasted barley flour and is a staple dish among the Sherpa communities.

    Tsampa is generally known for its amazing taste and the high nutritious value that fuels your body for long-haul treks in the Himalayas. In the traditional way, the roasted barley flour is mixed with butter tea and yak cheese, which then gives it a dense dough texture rich in nutritious value.

    You can also relish this incredible and tasty staple dish dry, or you can enjoy the butter dough with savory vegetable dishes, sauce, or other side pickles.

  • k. Tibetan Butter Tea

    A staple of Himalayan cuisine, Tibetan butter tea is prized for its ability to withstand the harsh conditions of the high altitudes and frigid temperatures in the area. It has a distinct flavor character. Tibetan butter tea, commonly known as "po cha" or "salty tea," is a traditional beverage from the Himalayas.

3. Thakali Cuisine

Thakali food is made by the Thakalis, who live in the Mustang District's Thak Khola region. Once upon a time, the high Himalayas provided an easy trading route across the Thak-Khola Valley. Additionally, since the Thakali people relied heavily on trade, they were able to import vegetables. Because they lived in the upper Himalayan region, the majority of the vegetables that were offered were dried.

The Thakali Platter, a culinary gem from Nepal, offers a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Thakali meal consists of locally grown buckwheat, barley, millet, rice, maize and dal. A kind of dal is also made from the dried, ground buckwheat leaves. Also, other special pickles, gundruk, and ghee are also included. Non-vegetarian eaters can opt for either Chicken Thakali Khana or Goat Thakali Khana. Thakali meal is collectively made up of these all food items.

The experience of enjoying a Thakali Platter goes beyond just the food. Serving it in traditional bronze utensils elevates the meal, adding a touch of authenticity and nostalgia. These utensils, with their intricate designs and craftsmanship, reflect the rich heritage of Nepal. They not only keep the food warm but also enhance its flavors, making the meal truly memorable. You can enjoy Thakali Food in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and so on.

Some popular Thakali cuisine

  • a. Thakali Dal Bhat

    The national cuisine of Nepal is Dal Bhat, a combination of rice and lentil soup. Similar in taste, but more expansive, Thakali is a regional delicacy that frequently includes meats, various lentils, fermented treats, and other regional delicacies like Gundruk. Consider the National Food of Nepal, Dal Bhat, as the foundation, and Thakali as an ornate, richer variation that is bursting with local flavors.

  • b. Buckwheat Fries

    Kanchemba, or buckwheat fries, are a nutritious substitute for regular potato fries. The dish's distinct flavor and texture make it a favorite snack among Thakali populations. Buckwheat flour, renowned for its high nutritional content and gluten-free qualities, is used to make the fries.

  • c. Mustang Aloo

    A regional delicacy, Mustang Alu, infused with the aromatic essence of Jimbu (Himalayan garlic chives), brings a unique taste of the high Himalayas to the palate.

4. Newari Cuisine

Newa Cuisine or Newari Cuisine is the most celebrated food variety in Nepal that consists of over 200 dishes. It is more elaborate than most Nepalese cuisines because the Kathmandu Valley has exceptionally fertile alluvial soil and enough wealthy households to make growing produce more profitable than cultivating rice and other staples.

Food is the integral part of Newar culture. Different kind of foods are prepared for different occasions, considering the climate and nutritional needs for body. Newars are renowned for their sumptuous feasting. Dishes served during feasts and festivals have symbolic significance.

Some popular Newari cuisine

  • a. Kwati

    The tasty and nourishing soup known as Kwati, a traditional Newari delicacy, is prepared from nine different kinds of sprouted beans (black gram, green gram, soybean, chickpea, field pea, cowpea, garden pea, lentil, and Bengal gram). Kwati means ‘kwa’, that is, hot and ‘ti’ meaning soup, as it had a primary function of providing the farmers’ with warmth after their long days of farming in mud water due to paddy plantation, implying the strong bond between festivals, delicacies, and agriculture.

    This nutritious dish is a celebration of Nepali culture as well as a culinary delight. The beans lower cholesterol levels, improve cardiovascular health and memory power, control diabetes; as the beans are loaded with protein, it helps in indigestion.

    Please watch our cooking video on YouTube for how to make Kwati at home.

  • b. Samay Baji

    This Newari thali-style platter consists of chiura along with various accompaniments like boiled eggs, fried soybeans (Bhatmas), spicy curries (aalu tama ko jhol), woh (bara), seasonal vegetables, and chutneys.

  • c. Choila

    The marinated minced meat (traditionally buffalo) choila is a popular appetizer in Newari cuisine.

  • d. Chatamari

    A savory rice crepe, chatamari, is often topped with spiced toppings of your choice. It can be minced meat, vegetables, or a fried egg.

  • e. Bara

    Bara is a deep-fried lentil fritter, originally a Newari snack, that can be enjoyed plain. Also, you can take it with sadeko masaura (soybean) or dip it in chutneys.

  • f. Wa (wo)

    Wa is one of the simplest yet healthy dishes in the Newar community. You can also call it a lentil patty as it is mainly made of lentils like "mungh beans" or "musur."

  • g. Yomari

    Yomari is a steamed rice cake filled with sweet stuffings, like molasses or chaku (local jaggery). This post-harvest celebration is also made with a stuffing of Khuwa (made from milk) and is widely consumed during Yamari Punhi inside Kathmandu Valley. Yomari, the festive treat, is also prepared with honey, ginger, sesame fillings, and sometimes meat.

  • h. Lakhamari

    Lakhamari is a typical Newari sweet dish, with a crunchy exterior and a soft texture inside. The flavors include a distinct taste, coming from sesame, rice flour, black gram, and sugar, and are the main sweet used in Newari weddings (as sagun from the groom’s side to the bride’s).

  • i. Juju Dhau

    Juju Dhau translates to the king of yogurt in the Nepal Bhasa. This delicious probiotic treat is the specialty of the Newar of Bhaktapur. The delicious, creamy yogurt made from buffalo milk melts the heart.

  • j. Gwaramari

    Gwaramari, the round puffy bread, is a traditional Newari breakfast, puffy outside but soft inside, served with tea and coffee.

  • k. Dyakula (Buffalo stew)

    Dyakula is a Newari traditional dish made with buffalo meat. Ginger garlic paste, cinnamon stick, nay leaf, chopped tomatoes, coriander, stock of the buffalo, and meat chunks are served with rice, mostly in Patan.

  • l. Swoo (Fokso)

    Swoo is a traditional starter also known as Fokso fry in Newari Cuisine. These include mutton lungs, which are filled with batter and then boiled and deep-fried for their rich flavors.

  • m. Sapu Mhicha

    Sapu Mhicha is a Newari dish popular in Kathmandu, made up of buffalo leaf tripe stuffed with bone marrow. It is well-cooked and filled with exclusive flavors. The bone marrow inside is the popular Newari starter, Tesya (the spinal cord of Buffalo).

5. Madhesi Cuisine

The cuisine of Nepal, influenced by Awadhi flavors, is known by different names such as Madhesh, Maithili, Tharu and Bhojpuri depending on the region where it is made. Despite slight differences in cooking techniques, the key components of the dishes are consistent. Ingredients commonly found in this cuisine include freshwater crab, prawns, fried taro leaf cakes, snails, basmati rice with ghee (gheu), tarkari (cooked variety of vegetable), tarua (battered raw vegetables known as taruwa/baruwa such as potato, brinjal/aubergine, chili, cauliflower etc. deep fried in the oil), lentil dumplings, dried fish, mango/lemon pickles and yoghurt. While on our jungle safari tour in Chitwan you can savor the delicacies of Madhesi cuisines.

6. Tharu Cuisine

The Tharus people, who are among the oldest cultures and communities in Nepal, are renowned for having a wide variety of tastes and cuisines. To taste this flavorful cuisine you should plan to do Jungle Safari Tour in Chitwan & Bardia National Park.

The rich flooded plains, woodlands, and surrounding environment all play a major role in the cuisines of the Tharu populations. In addition, the Tharu populations depend on the adjacent lowland rivers and invest in aquatic food. Thus, the majority of meal options were influenced by this tribe's culinary tradition.

Some popular Tharu cuisine

  • a. Khariya (Pitosni)

    Khariya is a Tharu specialty made with Colocasia leaves (similar to taro leaves). The Colocasia leaves are steamed, seasoned, and stuffed with a savory filling as per the preference of the chief, packed with fresh flavors. It is less salty and eaten with delight in the Tharu community.

  • b. Dhikri

    Dhikri is Tharu’s special steamed rice cake, which originated in southern Nepal. The essential of the Maghi festival, Dhikri, is a pan-cake-shaped sweet made from rice flour and available in two options, steamed or fried. It can be enjoyed with dips or chutneys. Also, you can eat it plain with tea.

    Unlike other cuisines in Nepal, it does not contain condiments or spices. It is simply made with dough, warm water, and flour, and its unique recipe takes all the highlights.

  • c. Kachari Bariya

    Kachari Bariya is a flavorful traditional dish of the Tharu community of Nepal. The stir-fried food is made with kachar (a type of yam), colorful vegetables and spices.

  • d. Pakuwa

    Pakuwa suits you with pork and wild boar BBQ meat (sekuwa). It is prepared with marinated flavors of the meat.

  • e. Ghonghi

    Tharu culture also enjoys eating Ghonghi (mud-water snails) with local spices and flax seeds, and cooks it with a tangy and spicy taste. Found in the paddy field of Terai, Tharu people love eating this dish with linseed soup and rice and have 57.5 percent protein from this exotic dish.

  • f. Anandi Rice / Chichar

    Anandi rice is steam and sticky rice, known for its glutinous rice traditionally grown in different territories of Nepal. Even it is used for making different recipes or Aandik jhor/Jaar (liquor).

  • g. Parewak Sikar

    Parewak Sikar is the making of delicious pigeon meat with either roasting, curry, or fried options.

  • h. Sidhara

    Sidhara fish is cooked with taro, colocasia steam, and spices in the Tharu community. These sun-dried fish can be served with soup or curry. And if you are a fish lover, this could be a must-try on your trekking adventure and visit to Nepal.

  • i. Bhakka

    Bhakka is the most popular Tharu community snack. It is a common fluffy rice flour steamed cake served with freshly prepared tomato pickles or chutney with sweetness. The milling-soaked rice is steamed to make Bhakka which has a smooth and fluffy texture. And this tastes incredibly good.

7. Rai and Limbu Cuisine

The Eastern hills of Nepal are home to the regional delicacies of Rai and Limbu cuisine. The Rai and Limbu people of Nepal are known for their unique kinema (fermented kinema), edible lichen, and special pork. Their Sungur ko sekuwa is a must-try when visiting Nepal; it has a smokey texture.

Millet, buckwheat, wheat, corn, rice, seasonal vegetables including wild ones, domestic pigs, Jaad, Tongba are the key of traditional ethnic foods.

Some popular Rai and Limbu cuisine

  • a. Yangben Curry

    Yangben, a lichen that resembles moss, is used to make Yangben curry (Yangben-faksa). The distinctive, earthy, and aromatic lichen found on the trees of Nepal's Eastern Jungles is used in Limbu cuisine.

    Yangben-faksa is a pork curry cooked with yangben and made with peculiar ingredients. This indispensable flavoring ingredient is processed and preserved and is also used in Sargyangma (ethnic blood sausage).

    Not all lichens are edible, and the Rai and Limbu communities know this. They avoid poisonous lichens and focus on hunting edible ones. These lichens taste vaguely of mushroom flavor, somewhat bitter with a strong pungent taste, while some find the taste closer to that of truffles.

  • b. Kinema

    Kinema are fermented soybeans with a pungent and umami flavor. These can be used to make flavor-packed curries and dips in the Rai and Limbu communities of Nepal. This is a must-try when trekking in Nepal.

  • c. Syaupila

    Syaupila is a dry sausage similar to salami in looks and taste. It is a seasoned snack and appetizer made from pork or buffalo meat with a delicacy of local spices.

  • d. Wai (Bamboo Shoot Curry)

    Wai is a bamboo shoot curry similar to Tama. These freshly harvested bamboo shoots add flavors and freshness to Limbu curries, with a subtle sweetness and slightly crunchy texture.

  • e. Phapha

    Papha in Rai communities is fermented finger millet flour bread. The slightly sour and dense flavor of this Rai cuisine is eaten with curries or stews (mutton or chicken).

  • f. Sukuti

    Sukuti is a dried, marinated meat dish made from buffalo or chicken. These sun-dried meats have a savory flavor and a more concentrated meat texture.

  • g. Dohyakha (Chicken Stew)

    Dohyakha is a winter special chicken stew served in the Rai and Limbu communities with local herbs and spices.

  • h. Tongba

    Tongba is an alcoholic beverage, aka millet beer, made with a fermentation process. The popular drink in the Eastern Hills is served warm in a bamboo mug with a straw.

8. Lohorung Cuisine

Lohorung are indigenous to eastern Nepal. They have a variety of food in their cuisine made from local ingredients. Some of them are Wachipa, Wamik, Masikdaam, Sibring, Sel roti, Bawari, Dhule Achar, Saruwa, Chamre, Dibu, and so on. Some Eastern regions, such as Dharan, eat pork and beef.

The most important contribution by Lohorung Cuisine is tongba which is millet base eaten by adding warm water. The homeland of Lohorung Cuisine is sankhuwasabaha district (Makalu Trekking Area) in Nepal.