Being an island country, Sri Lanka takes great pride in using a wide array of ingredients to make their food delicious. With almost every dish boasting a hint of coconut, and the use of spices like cloves, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, and cinnamon, the food in Sri Lanka is incredibly rich in flavour.  

And don’t confuse it with Indian food, sure there are some South Indian influences but Sri Lanka has adopted their own kind of cuisine over the years. 

So, we can’t really categorize the best dishes because all of them are equally good, but since you will have only a limited time to indulge in the Sri Lankan cuisine, we have listed some food in Sri Lanka, especially 10 dishes you have to try on your vacation! 

Trust me, you will keep wanting more of Sri Lankan food after trying these dishes because you will fall in love with them at the first bite. 

10 Dishes You Have To Try While In Sri Lanka

1. Rice and Curry

Rice and Curry are actually the staple dish of Sri Lanka. In short, there is no home in Sri Lanka without rice and curry. Some locals have it for all three meals of the day since they like it so much. 

Food in Sri Lanka - 10 dishes you have to try!
Sri Lanka Rice and Curry | Heritage Hotel, Sri Lanka (@heritage_anuradhapura)

In this dish, there is a small portion of well-cooked rice along with 4-5 curries. It will be usually served with papadum and fried chili.

Some of the famous curries are chicken curry, spicy fish curry, dahl curry, potato curry, pineapple curry, jackfruit curry, eggplant curry, beetroot curry, and green beans curry. You can also see it is accompanied by a green leafy vegetable too, such as Gotu kola pol sambal or manioc leaves. 

Rice and curry dishes have the lowest price in restaurants, going low as LKR 250-300 but you can taste the best of it if you are in a homestay.

2. Milk rice 

Another one of the must-try food in Sri Lanka is milk rice. 

It is also known as Kiri bath by the locals, and it is made on special occasions such as during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, on January 1st of every year, birthdays, and on any other auspicious occasions like when leaving for an examination. 

Food in Sri Lanka - 10 dishes you have to try!
Sri Lankan Milk Rice | Nuzrath Shazeen Nazimudeen (@my_lankan_food_journal)

Milk rice is made by boiling the rice, and then coconut milk is added to make it creamier and softer. 

It is usually served in a banana leaf as diamond-like pieces along with lunu miris.

You can also try it with fish ambul-thiyal curry or polos curry if you want a bit of spiciness in it.  But if you like it sweet, you can try it with just sugar, kittul treacle, or seeni sambol (sweet onion relish).

3. Roast Paan

This is one of my personal favorites, and now if you are wondering what it is, this is the Sinhalese version of the Roasted Bread (Paan). 

Sri Lankan Roast Paan | Tosakanth’s Roast Paan (@tosakanthsroastpaan)

It is a very thin piece of bread when compared to a bread loaf and usually is crispy and soft at the same time. You can find them in small restaurants and in bakeries all around Sri Lanka.

Roast Paan is served with dhal curry and coconut sambol in most places. But you can also try it with chicken curry, fish curry or seeni sambol.

4. Coconut Roti 

Another favorite food in Sri Lanka among the locals and the foreigners is Coconut Roti. 

Sri Lankan Coconut Roti | Sunsaravanas _Homefood (@sunsaravanas_insl_food)

Locals know it as Pol Roti, and it is made with wheat flour and grated coconut. Similar to Roast Paan, Coconut Roti can be eaten with dhal curry or pol sambol. But in most restaurants, it is served with lunu miris. 

You can also try it with chicken curry, polos curry, or marmite. Don’t forget to order a hot cup of ginger tea when eating Coconut roti to make it a wholesome experience!

5. Boiled Manioc 

Manioc, which is also known as cassava is another popular dish that you should try in Sri Lanka. 

They are frequently seen in May/June at the ‘Dansals’ (which are street stalls giving free food, but of course, you have to wait in long queues until your turn comes). 

Sri Lanka Boiled Manioc | Aswathy (@frmyfoodlab)

You can also see manioc dishes at restaurants, usually they are cut into tiny pieces, boiled, and then served with pol sambol on a lotus leaf. They are similar to potatoes, but are tastier and will fill your tummy after 2-3 bites! You will also see the manioc curry, especially in homestays, you can give it a try but trust me you will like it more when manioc is boiled.