Bali has been overtaken with international restaurants serving delicious Western cuisine that will make your mouth water.
However, in-between the picturesque trendy restaurants you will find authentic traditional warungs that serve up the best traditional Balinese food.
With simple dishes that even the fussiest of eaters can try, and some more intense and unique options, a trip to Bali isn’t complete without trying out some of their signature flavours.
Stop by one of the local small and friendly warungs, and taste some of the island’s most famous and loved dishes.
From babi guling to sate lilit ikan, I have narrowed down a few of my personal, and some of my Balinese mates faves to give you a full guide to food in Bali.
Get ready for a taste sensation!
One of Bali’s most iconic dishes, babi guling (or suckling pig) is brought out at every major occasion and ceremony on the island, and has warungs and restaurants dedicated to just that specialty.
It has also started to be commonly offered at international restaurants, too!
The entire pig is prepared and cooked, rotating over a fire to ensure an even cook.
Stuffed with traditional spices, and coated in a delicious marinade, which adds to the crispy texture of the kulit (skin), you can’t pass-up trying this delicacy – unless of course you are a vegetarian, then I will let you off.
Traditionally served with white rice, a stick of pork satay, vegetables, sambal and chunks of the succulent meat with a chip of crispy crackling, it is sure to be one of the best things to cross your taste buds during a stay in Bali.
Along with a sweet tea or ice-cold drink, in a local warung, babi guling is one of the best Bali foods you will try.
Get a helping hand finding the best babi guling on the island with a guided food tour!
Now I must admit, I’m not exactly an expert on sambal matah – my baby mouth can’t handle the heat – but that doesn’t make it any less of an incredible Balinese food.
An accompaniment to rice dishes, this spicy extra ‘raw’ sambal is made with shallots, chilli, garlic, and the secret ingredient, lemongrass and lime leaves.
Adding a touch of spice and an interesting texture to regular everyday dishes, you can see why it is one of the must-have items in every Balinese home.
The perfect addition to chicken, fish and eggs, sambal matah makes even the most simple of dishes something special.
This is my jam. When in doubt, I am always ordering myself some nasi campur.
Meaning ‘mixed rice’, it is the perfect combination of rice – my personal favourite being nasi kuning, yellow rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric – meats, vegetables and little extras that you select.
Kinda like a candy pick and mix, but with awesome handmade corn fritters, tempe, tofu, vegetables, chicken and fish.
Excellent for any hour of the day, nasi campur is an island staple for locals and expats alike.
Obviously the best ones are found at the local warungs, but there are some high-class restaurants that offer a selection of tastes in the same nasi campur style. But in my opinion, it’s always best eaten out of paper.
For those who are a bit more picky with their food, this is a great option as you can select what goes onto your plate! It’s one of the best Bali foods for an island newbie to start their Balinese cuisine education.
Nasi & Mie Goreng
This is another of the simpler dishes that travellers and visitors will be able to order without worrying.
A classic nasi goreng (fried rice) or mie goreng (fried noodles) will be served with a fried egg, crackers, sambal and perhaps a stick of sate.
Whether you are at a local warung or a fancy restaurant, ordering a nasi/mie goreng promises a tasty and filling meal – you can’t go wrong!
With chicken, seafood, pork or vegetable options, there is a version to suit everyone.
I highly recommend exploring local warungs to find a delicious nasi/mie goreng, and use it as your go-to cheap meal on the days where you can’t decide what to eat.
Join a cooking class in Bali to learn how to make these iconic dishes.
Painstakingly prepared for 8 hours or more, betutu is traditionally made with either chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek).
The whole bird is steamed or baked, covered and stuffed with local spice mixes, peanuts and vegetables, and served with rice and some extra tasty additions.
Mixed with sambal matah and a boiled egg, betutu is well worth a try! The meat tenderly falls off the bones and mixes into the rice and veg for a glorious bite with each mouthful.
With a sweet drink and some crackers, betutu is a meal you will be craving after you’ve tried it once.
Sate Lilit Ikan
Bali is filled with sate spots where you can pick up sate ayam (chicken satay) and sate padang (most commonly beef with an impressive rich sauce), but it’s sate lilit ikan (fish satay) which is the Balinese traditional favourite.
Minced white fish is mixed up with a range of local spices, and shaped into satay to be cooked over charcoal – often on the side of the street.
Along with rice and sambal matah, the taste is sweet yet spicy, and one to be remembered.
One of my favourite Bali street foods, it is perfect for when you are craving something fresh and cheap, but totally powerful.
We all love fried chicken, at the end of a night of drinking or for a blow out meal with friends, you can’t go wrong with the oily treat.
Bebek goreng is fried duck that oozes all the appeal of fried chicken but with a more tender and satisfying taste.
Perfect for a small meal, or paired with rice and vegetables for a bigger dinner, bebek goreng is a Bali food favourite for its simplicity and amazing taste.
Dripping with flavour and delicious cooking juices, bebek goreng is delicious whether you order it on GoJek (food delivery app) or have it in a fancy restaurant.
No matter where it’s from, it’s always a crowd pleaser.
Bubur mengguh was one of those Bali foods that took me by surprise when I first arrived on the island.
Back home we have porridge with golden syrup, perhaps with salt for some regions, but bubur mengguh takes savoury porridge to another level.
Most likely eaten on a rainy early morning, bubur mengguh is porridge served with vegetables, spices, chicken, peanuts and shredded coconut. It can often be found as a dish provided at gatherings and ceremonies, too.
A little bit outside of my comfort zone, but an island favourite for wet season or even on a sick day, if you want to try something very different, bubur mengguh is worth a shot!
Ah, nasi jinggo brings back many memories of my early days on the island. During my first long stint, my hard earned savings took a big hit, and I had to get more creative with my meals. Nasi jinggo to the rescue!
A little to-go packet of rice, shredded chicken, tempe, sambal and an egg if you’re lucky, this Bali street food costs pennies and could easily fill you up.
Wrapped in a natural banana lead, it can be bought from a friendly seller on the roadside – you can’t get more authentic.
Whether you choose to pull up a stool and eat it there, or take it home to enjoy later, nasi jinggo can last for hours and still be just as tasty.
Simple, yummy and filling, if you find yourself in a pinch and need something to get you by, nasi jinggo has my highest recommendation!
Sorry vegetarians, I know I have gone ham – excuse the pun – on meat dishes here.
So, just for you I have this fresh and tasty veggie side dish that is equally as flavourful and delicious as some of the more hearty meat meals.
Urab is a vegetable salad consisting of spinach, bean sprouts, cabbage, green beans, cassava leaves and any other stemmed green that the chef can get their hands on.
With some shredded coconut garnish and a coconut dressing, it is one of the traditional vegetable favourites on the island.
Eaten alone, or with rice and sambal, urab is an excellent way to fit in some of your 5-a-day.
Check out the best vegan restaurants in Bali for even more options!
Indonesians have a huge love for condensed milk, and it is one of the main ingredients in this sweet cold dessert.
Es Campur literally means mixed ice and is made up of fruits, coconut, boba pearls, jellies, shaved ice and syrups.
Another one of the ‘pick & mix’ style snacks, you can select what you want in your sweet dish.
Popular for young kids, you will find es campur available by sellers driving around on their motorbikes, luring people out of their homes, or in some warungs and stalls.
For a sweet treat after a spicy meal, you need to try es campur at least once – before you say it’s sickly.
This is another interesting Bali food that needs to be tried at least once.
There are 2 options when ordering lawar, red or white.
The white lawar is prepared with green vegetables, coconut and a choice of meat – most commonly chicken, pork or beef (in some areas you may find turtle) – or it can be prepared with just jackfruit instead of meat.
Red lawar has the same ingredients, however it is topped off with animal blood to add a savoury flavour and the intense red colouring.
Not up everyone’s alley, if you aren’t interested in getting into animal blood eating, then try out the white lawar.
Tasty alongside rice or with nasi campur, you will be surprised at the flavour!
Now, this is my real true favourite. At any ceremony or special occasion you can spot me at the dessert table shoving a handful of these tasty delights into my bag.
Not necessarily a Balinese traditional food, but one worth mentioning as a must-try while on the island.
This little green treat is just a coconut pancake with delicious shredded sweet coconut at its centre.
Soft, sweet and unbelievably more-ish, once you’ve had a dadar gulung once, you will be ordering them whenever you get the chance.
Often found in small warungs selling snacks, and at large catered parties, for a once in a while treat, they are something to look forward to.
Finally, we have this small little bundle of flavour as our last Balinese food that you just need to try.
Tum is a mixture of meat, mashed spices, chili and herbs, wrapped up tightly in a banana leaf, and is the perfect snack or meal on the go.
To be purchased from local warungs and street sellers, if you have the chance it is one of the must-try foods in Bali.
Small but packing a punch, it is easy to slip one of these into your bag for later. Tum is one of the real Bali delicacies which won’t be found elsewhere.
And, some extras –
These aren’t entirely Bali specific, but I couldn’t pass-up mentioning a few of my favourite street foods in Bali.
- Gorengan – a variety of tofu, temple, cassava, banana and vegetables deep fried in super hot oil and made perfectly crunchy. Gorengan is the ideal snack or pre-meal treat, along with a bite of cabe (small green chili), I’m drooling just thinking about it.
- Martabak & terang bulan – sort of like a bready cake, martabak is a savoury fried dish that can have vegetables, meats and spices, while terang bulan is it’s sweet sister made with condensed milk and a choice of toppings. My personal favourite is coklat susu (milk chocolate).
Bali is so much more than a tropical paradise, it is a food heaven!
If you are brave enough to step away from the Western offerings, these are all the best Balinese traditional foods to try that will really knock your socks off.
Which one will you try first?!
BRB – I’m ordering my coklat terang bulan now!