Some may not think that Pakistan has a variety of tastes, spices, and food, but Pakistani foods are full of flavor. Locals will say that Lahore, especially, is a foodie’s haven. The flavors and variety make it easy to indulge in Pakistan’s culinary scene.
Visitors can sometimes smell whiffs of smoked BBQ and warm chapati and roti prepared on the stove when walking around Lahore. Some of the sauces are so good that one will want to lick them with their fingers. It’s also easy to take some bread and scoop up the tomato base sauce mixed with cumin, garlic, and coriander. Make sure to leave space when eating because the food is too good, and it is easy to indulge in more than one was planning to eat.
Meat lovers, vegetarians, and those who enjoy warm bread will easily find options when traveling around. Spices range from cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry powder, and bread, like naan, will be prepared differently, depending on where one eats.
I had some of the food at the street markets when I was wandering around and exploring Lahore. I remember shopping and seeing a line of people waiting for kachori, so I knew I had to wait my turn to try. I ate other food with my travel group, Ready for Road, who ensured we ate well. For inspiration, below is a list of 13 must-try Pakistani foods and drinks.
13 Best Pakistani Foods To Try
There is nothing like a samosa as a snack while wandering around. The deep-fried triangular crust comes a little flaky and satisfying.
The one I tried had spiced potato with a hint of cumin and paprika, and it was very filling. It’s always nice to have it with milk tea or on its own. Many street vendors sell them, and one can also find them at Anarkali Food Street in Lahore.
This was one of my favorite snacks because of the spice and fried goodness mix. They are easy to devour quickly, especially after a hike.
I tried this sweet fried pastry when wandering around Lahore. I stumbled upon a street, and this fried snack caught my attention, maybe because there was a lineup for this treat. The crunchy and flaky pastry hit the spot.
I couldn’t quite make out the taste of the filling, but it resembled a paste made out of yellow dal (lentil), cumin, turmeric, and other spices that I could not identify. It was so tasty that I intended to take a small bite since I was so full and save the rest for later. However, I ate the entire snack immediately.
It is best when warm; chapati is a circular flat bread cooked in oil. It is good when dipped in tea. It also goes well with eggs, dal, and kebab.
Visitors will find street vendors making the bread, and most restaurants and guesthouses will serve this in the morning at breakfast. I could eat chapati every day because I am a fan of bread.
This triangular-shaped bread comes in various flavors, including garlic, butter, and cheese. It is easy to eat four slices, alone or with the food.
Many eat this with the main dish, whether it is meat, chicken, or vegetables. For those who like bread, this is another must-try food in Pakistan that is addicting.
I enjoyed the garlic naan with the meat grill because it paired well with the coriander and cumin spices from the meat grill.
The vegetarian dish is a type of lentil mixed with cumin, onion, sometimes chili powder, and other spices, depending on the restaurant. Eating this as a main or side dish is possible. Many eat this with chapati or naan. It is filling and satisfying.
Aloo Palak is an excellent combination of spinach (palak) and potato (aloo) with hints of coriander and chili powder. This dish pairs well with chapati or naan. This is a ‘lick the plate with your fingers’ type of dish, in my opinion. Some may notice less spice added to the dish at restaurants in the north.
The tender and juicy meats and chicken that have been flame-broiled are tasty anywhere you order them from.
There is usually seekh kebab, made from minced meat and chicken skewers. Sometimes the meat is marinated with cumin, onion, garlic, garam masala, and cilantro.
The green chutney is an excellent dipping sauce, with its zesty combination of green chili, coriander, and sometimes mint. Anywhere I had a grill, the meat was very flavorful and tender. Many people eat naan or chapati with the grill.
The finger-licking sauce consists of yogurt and cream with hints of coriander, tomato, masala, cumin, and chili powder. This chicken dish was one of my favorites because of the flavorful combo of spices.
The sauce alone makes this a winner, and it’s tasty even when eating chapati and only the sauce. Karahi is a popular dish in Pakistan, so expect to find this and other varieties and spices at most restaurants.
Even when I was full, I could not stop eating this delicious dish.
The sweet mangos are a treat, especially on a hot 40-degree Celsius day. Visitors will notice small stands selling mangos on the street and at the markets.
Buying one or two pieces is easy if a half kilo is not on the cards. Besides eating mangos, try a mango shake or juice, which is equally as good, which is why it is a must-try food in Pakistan.
Most people drink chai, or milk tea, with sugar and cardamom. It goes well with biscuits. It is common to drink tea all day, especially after meals.
Someone will always offer tea and expect to get into the habit of drinking at least three to four cups a day. For those who aren’t tea drinkers, by the end of your trip, you will be one.
There will always be someone offering visitors a cup or three.
This berry-like fruit is hard to describe. The fruit resembles a small red grape, but this drink tastes tart and sour, and the aftertaste reminded me of a slightly rotten egg.
Drinking the first few sips was hard, but I got used to the taste. It helps to have some food with this juice. It is filling and is supposed to be very good for one’s health.
Give this one a try because it can be refreshing on a hot 40-degree Celsius day.
For those looking to buy spices, there is a market across from Shahi Hammam in Lahore. When walking around, expect rows of spices, including masala, karahi ghosht – for those tasty chicken dishes, ginger, and garlic.
There are also options to buy pickled vegetables, which go well with rice. I usually buy spices when I travel, but I did not buy any this time, which I regret. This is another reason to return to Pakistan.
When traveling in the north, buy dried fruit, especially apricots. For those planning to hike, this dried fruit is an excellent snack.
If stopping in Karimabad, many shops sell dried fruit, while some sell apricot oil, which is good for hair and skin.
Pakistani Foods: Conclusion
After traveling around, I can see why Pakistan, is known as a foodie’s paradise, and hopefully, travelers will try these above must-try foods.
While I know I only touched on some of this flavorful and aromatic food, it is a reason to return. Someone may want you to join them for a meal or tea, so take them up on their offer.
Vendors encourage visitors to try their food when walking around some markets, so go for it. The vendors are friendly and are proud of their food, so come with an appetite. Everything will be delicious in Pakistan, and the choices are endless. There is no wrong choice, whether a kebab, some chapati, tasty sauce, or a samosa for a snack.
Check out some other guides for this region:
Traveling with friends, solo and in group tours, Erin has explored South America, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa. She is currently a freelance travel writer living in Sur, Oman. She taught English in a foundation program at a university in Sur for four years. Previously, she taught English at a university in Nanchang, China for five years. Erin is a travel writers university member, from Travel Writers Cafe, and is always planning her next trip.