Here we present a detailed guide on what to eat in Bali. Eating is a big part of travel and understanding different cultures. Balinese cuisine is a must try for explorers looking to broaden their horizons. Bali offers a mix of Indonesian food in addition to dishes that are native to the island, in addition to being a cosmopolitan hotpot of east Asian food generally.
The food is usually spicy and meat options are mostly based on chicken and pork like much of south-east asia. Whilst pork does feature as a traditional part of local Balinese cuisine, almost all other meat is processed according to Halal principles as Indonesia is a Muslim majority country. There is also a rich variety of vegetarian dishes to be found all over the island, as well as fresh fish and seafood, meaning there are plenty of options.
Here is a guide to our must-try foods in Bali:
Fresh fruit in Bali
Bali has a great array of tropical fruits. For those of us that haven’t had the joy of living in a tropical climate, trying new fruit and vegetables for the first time is one of the most memorable experiences.
Although the global supermarket supply chain system allows us to buy exotic fruit and vegetables in developed western countries, the artificial ripening process that is required to preserve longevity for shipping really steals away all taste and fragrance. The naturally ripened fruit in tropical soil is a vastly different taste compared to what a lot of people in developed countries have become used to.
The best way to try the fruit is at a local market or pasar which can be found in the ‘morning markets’ in Ubud, Sanur, or the Badung market in Denpasar. Alternatively the huge Transmart Carrefour in Denpasar is great for families. See our transportation guide on the best way to get around on the island when making the excursion for fruit.
In particular, Bali had some of the best mango and avocadoes we have ever ate. Rambutan, mangosteen and salak (Snakeskin fruit) are great to try. Smoothie stalls serving any fruit under the Balinese sun can be found on most street corners. Additionally, Acai bowls can also be found in most cafes and make for a great breakfast.
Richly flavoured steam or roasted duck dish that is a Balinese classic. Can alternatively be found as Ayam betutu which is the same dish but with chicken instead.
The defining feature of the dish is the Betutu mix of spices which consists of shrimp paste, peanuts, ginger, garlic, shallots, galangal and chilli.
Mie Goreng or Nasi Goreng
The Indonesian take on fried noodles and fried rice with local spice and flavours. The omnipresent staple dish for Balinese people, can be readily seen at breakfast, lunch and dinner tables alike.
A great spin on this staple is the ‘Nasi Campur’, sometimes found more easily in upmarket restaurants. This is essentially ‘Mixed Rice’ – rice with a selection of local dishes often including Rendang curry and grilled chicken.
The famous Balinese classic made with pork – a must for those without dietary restrictions. Beware the nose-to-tail approach of the Balinese warungs though, which means the whole animal gets eaten and which cut of meat you are served is down to luck.
Meat balls served in noodle soup. It is an Indonesian classic with Chinese style meat balls for those familiar with the cuisine. A cheap, quick and authentic dish.
We really struggled to like it the first few times we tried. A turning point happened when we were stuck in the rain, wet and cold with the only thing to eat being a Bakso stall. An essential component of the ‘what to eat in Bali’ list to be sampled.
A very traditional spicy porridge with various toppings including chicken and peanuts that can be eaten for any meal of the day.
A local favourite desert which consists of deep-fried battered bananas. Served in restaurants and street food stalls alike. One of our favourites to eat late at night.
The classic south-east Asian dish of skewered meat cooked on a grill. This is a national dish in Indonesia and is thought to be originally from the island of Java. The sauce is traditionally soy and peanut and most commonly chicken is used.
This is best tried from a street food stalls and can be found anywhere on the island. Some of the established restaurants in Ubud and Kuta offer a Balinese version that is marinated in coconut milk.
What to eat in Bali: the conclusion
This was our guide of what to eat in Bali – the essentials which should be tried whilst visiting the island.
Whilst the local food on the island is great, the astute food-lover might notice a lack of depth of the menu in Balinese eateries. When compared to the rich culinary heritage of its neighbouring islands and nations, Balinese cuisine is certainly lacking extravagance.
The truth is, the best places to eat in Bali are restaurants of other cuisines – and there are some fantastic places in every part of island. We don’t think an exhaustive list is possible or even necessary – a walk around will reveal a selection of equally good options wherever you are. Alternatively, we find tripadvisor the best source of reviews for local restaurants by entering the location we are visiting that day.
The key point here to note is that it won’t necessarily be local and traditional but more like the cosmopolitan dining found in many developed cities across the world. Whilst Balinese cuisine is not the reason the island attracts millions of visitors, there is plenty to enjoy and experience.