Bali Food Guide: 15 Best Foods You Must Eat in Bali

Bali Food Guide: 15 Best Foods You Must Eat in Bali

Whether you are planning to travel for a culinary adventure or just want to know where to eat during your trip, you will need to understand where to go to find the best food on the island. Luckily, if you stick to what the locals eat, the cost of food in Bali is reasonable at about every budget. Just by looking a little harder and opening yourself up to an adventure, you can easily break free of the overpriced and mediocre tourist places.

Skip the beachside burger spot and grab a bowl of noodles from a street cart or some grilled skewers from a roadside stall and get to know the food that nourishes the local communities. When you arrive, make it a mission to try as many different Balinese dishes as possible and get to know this amazing cuisine. This Bali food guide will help you navigate this new world of Balinese cuisine along with the eateries that serve them.

Where do locals eat in Bali?

bali street food vendor

Local Balinese food comes in all shapes and forms. Some vendors turn bicycles into elaborate and highly mobile street carts while others serve their dishes from a mini buffet like set up in a storefront. The traditional cuisine of Bali finds all kinds of ways to feed the people that love and rely on this delicious cuisine. With open eyes and an open mind, you will be able to discover delicious Balinese street food from vendors walking the beaches to full-service restaurants serving a wide array of traditional dishes. Why not try all the different types of ways that the people of Bali use every day to feed themselves and their families.

Warungs

bali warung babi guling

The center of their food culture outside the home is centered on the food served at local Warungs. This style of restaurant serves a lot of the best food in Bali from simple rice dishes to complicated slow-cooked dishes traditionally served at ceremonies. Each one has its own specialty and it’s usually attached to the name like Warung Babi Guling or Warung Ayam Bakar.

nasi campur local bali food

Our favorite type of warung offer Nasi Campur which is a rice centered dish surrounded by several different sides. The best versions are served from a case full of different items that you can choose from including various curries, eggs, fried tempeh, sate lilit, and endless other options. Each time your plate will be different and they charge according to what you asked for. The best way to tell if a warung is worth trying and isn’t a tourist trap is to simply look and see if it’s busy with Balinese people dining there.

Street Carts and Street Food

Local street food on the island definitely takes a different form from what you would find in other cities in South East Asia. You will not find sanitized hawker centers and a lot less of the organized street food pods of other countries. What you will find are mobile food carts that can either be pushed or ridden to where the hungry people are. These carts are often referred to as “Kaki Lima” which is in reference to the five-foot covered walkways that they sometimes still occupy.

bali street food cart

This is where some of the street food magic happens. Vendors selling Bakso, Mie Goreng, Sate, and other Balinese specialties can be found on the side of the road drawing in hungry commuters on the way to and from work. They can also be found at night markets or down by the beach moving to where the crowds are going to be. Take a moment while waiting for your bowl of bakso and admire the amazing construction used to build these mobile kitchens.

Cafe Culture

healthy salad bali coconut juice

Bali is full of trendy picture-worthy cafes and restaurants catering to the legions of young tourists looking for their next social media snapshot. On different parts of the island including Canggu and Ubud, you will find an endless assortment of restaurants offering up entire menus of healthy dishes. There are places devoted to tropical fruit smoothies, palaces of avocado toast, and every imaginable type of meal that can be compartmentalized into a bowl.

When in Bali, we try to eat as much of the local food as possible but every once in a while we will treat ourselves to something at one of these cafes. If you want to taste the real Balinese cuisine, you will have to dig a little farther and visit the many street carts or locally owned warungs.

Bali Food Guide

If you are like us, you plan your trips based on what you will get to eat when you get to our destination. We created a Bali food guide with this list of our favorite dishes on the island so that you won’t miss any of these amazing dishes. If you are here for a few weeks or just have a 24-hour layover, make sure to try everything on this list of the best food in Bali to get a great cross-section of this incredible cuisine.

15 Best Foods You Must Eat in Bali

Babi Guling

Babi Guling | Roasted Pig Bali

We have eaten whole roasted pig from all around the world, and this definitely rivals if not surpasses the amazing Lechon of Cebu, Philippines. What makes this version from Bali unique is the spice paste called bumbu that they use to season the pig. The pig is truly celebrated with all of its parts being served in different applications. It usually comes with rice, lawar (see below), roasted pig meat, and some crispy skin.

The next part is where most of the variation comes in with each place having its own combination of extra delicious pig parts. Some have blood sausage, skin cracklings, fried back fat, crispy ribs, pork sate and more. As one of the must-eat dishes in Bali, the only mistake to be made is not eating it again before you fly home.

Nasi Campur

bali food nasi campur

The name of this local Balinese food literally translates to “mixed rice”. Imagine you walk up to a local warung and scoop a small pile of rice and then they ask you to choose from upwards of 30 different choices to accompany your dish. All the sides are on display, and after choosing, they will give you the price for your plate. Don’t stress, as the price is usually remarkably cheap. The options range from various curries, sate skewers, fried tempeh, and more. Definitely ask for sambal if you enjoy your food spicy.

Nasi Jinggo

This banana leaf-wrapped all in one meal is not only tasty but a way of life for Balinese people. This is their version of fast food in Bali and it packs the heat of some super spicy sambal for a very cheap price. The different fillings change, but in most versions, you will find fried noodles, shredded chicken, tempeh, boiled eggs, shredded coconut, and some mouth scorching sambal. Definitely get two unless this is a between-meal snack.

Gado Gado

To call this Indonesian dish a salad would be a huge disservice to a complicated and time-intensive dish to prepare. What excites me about Gado Gado is all the different types of vegetables, tempeh, eggs, tofu, and more that you get to eat with a spicy peanut sauce. It doesn’t stop there as some versions are garnished with fried shallots and shrimp crackers. This is one of those meals that doesn’t compromise on the delicious and fun factors in order for it to be healthy.

Sate Lilit

sate lilit street food bali

Sate is the national dish of Indonesia with over 29 varieties that can be found on the different islands. The Balinese version consists of minced meat wrapped around either a stick of lemongrass or a long flat bamboo stick. There are several types of meat that can be used including pork (the most popular), chicken, beef, seafood, and even turtle meat.

The recipe uses a heavy dose of aromatics like lime leaf, lemongrass, chilies, and galangal giving it a huge flavor pop that stands alone without the ubiquitous peanut sauce. Look for this street food snack in Bali only at places that grill these delicious snacks over charcoal or coconut shell charcoal.

Bebek Betutu

Duck is the star of the show when it comes to this traditional Balinese ceremonial dish. The uncooked duck is rubbed with a spice paste called bumbu that is a hand-ground mixture of fresh herbs, aromatics, dried spices, and shrimp paste. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and coconut bark to slowly steam over hot coals.

This amazing Balinese delicacy like much of the food in Bali is very spicy. Bebek Betutu is also served with Sambal Terasi which is a shrimp paste spiked hot sauce to further turn up the heat. Don’t panic, the versions that are cooked outside of the home tend to be a little milder to adjust to the tastes of hungry travelers.

Krupuk Udang

Bali Food | Krupuk

Eating a plate of Mie Goreng or Nasi Goreng in Bali would feel incomplete without these crispy puffed shrimp crackers on the side. Upon visiting Bali, you will find these crunchy treats used as a garnish with texture on many different dishes. They start off by mixing tapioca starch with shrimp and water to make a dough. They then thinly roll them out and leave them in the sun to dry. Lastly, they are dropped into extremely hot oil to puff up and become really crispy.

Bakso

Bali Food Guide | Bakso

There are endless variations of this much-loved street food soup, but the one thing they all have in common is they all have meatballs. The difference in the various versions mostly lies in the meat used in the meatball and broth, the subtle spicing, and the type of noodles used.

Most versions come with a combination of garnishes with bok choy, wontons, tofu, crisp fried shallots, and hard-boiled eggs being the most common. This local food in Bali can be found everywhere including street carts, warungs, and even fine dining restaurants but its home is on the streets.

Ikan Bumbu Bali

There are few things better than eating fresh-caught seafood while enjoying the ocean breeze. When in Bali, you will want to try this fiery hot fried fish dish with your feet in the sand and a beautiful view of the sunset. Many different types of fish are used for this dish as it really depends on what is caught and what you are willing to spend.

Mackerel and other cheap fish tend to be what the local Balinese people go for. The star of this dish is the tomato and chili-based sauce that is brought to life with lime leaves, galangal, ginger, and some sweetness from kecap manis. Make sure you order something cool to drink to wash away the heat from the chilies.

Lawar

This traditional Balinese dish’s name translates roughly to “finely chopped” in reference to the thinly sliced coconut and long beans that are the main ingredients. Although this salad-like dish is mostly made up of vegetables, its flavor gets a helping hand from ground meat that is traditionally steamed in banana leaf.

The meat that is used can range from pork to turtle depending on what’s available or religious aversions. There are many variations including one with blood added to give it a red color, vegetarian versions use jackfruit, and others with scrambled egg. This ceremonial dish is now readily available to order at many Warungs around the island.

Nasi Goreng

Best Food in Bali | Nasi Goreng

Almost every Asian cuisine has a version of fried rice, but this Indonesian version is hands down our favorite. What makes this version amazing is the way that kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) glazes and caramelizes each grain of rice. The mix of sweet with the creaminess of a sunny side up egg, spiciness from chilies, and a little funk from some shrimp paste makes a simple dish super complex. As one of the most famous foods to eat in Bali, this is about as perfect of a breakfast that you can have before a long day of surfing or exploring the temples of Bali.

Mie Goreng

Balinese Food | Mie Goreng

The name directly translates to fried noodles from Bahasa but the dish gets its heritage from the southern Chinese immigrants. This must-eat dish in Bali is a close relative to chow mein, but the Indonesians have definitely made it their own. The noodles are glazed in a hot wok with a sauce that consists of a mix of kecap manis, oyster sauce, dark soy, and sambal.

The most common ingredients that get mixed in are egg omelet ribbons, cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onions adding aromatics and some texture. The noodles were traditionally a yellow wheat noodle, but it is commonly made with instant noodles for a quick snack. My favorite versions have prawns, and are served with roasted peanuts and shrimp crackers.

Balinese Desserts

Pisang Goreng

Pisang Goreng | Fried Banana Bali

Who doesn’t like fried bananas? There are many versions of the dish all over Bali and even more variations around the country. There are several different types of bananas and plantains varieties used for this sweet treat. How it’s fried also varies from a wet coconut based batter to no batter at all. This is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of kopi luwak (civet coffee) to get your day started.

Bubur Sumsum

This wildly popular but simple Indonesian dessert is essentially a warm pudding that is surrounded with a sweet palm sugar syrup. The pudding is made by cooking coconut milk with rice flour until it gets thick. It is sometimes aided by the addition of pandan leaf and/or vanilla but it remains relatively unsweet and a little salty. Sometimes the dish is served with biji salak (sweet potato dumplings) that add a nice chewy texture to the dish.

Batun Bedil

When I first saw this dessert in Bali, I thought it was apricot halves soaking in syrup. I was only half right. The thick syrup turned out to be made of palm sugar and coconut milk that is flavored with pandan. What looked like apricot halves, are referred to as cakes but are closer to being a dumpling. These chewy dented circles are made by mixing tapioca and glutinous rice flour with water. They then boil the dumplings in the palm sugar syrup. Last but not least, top it off with freshly shaved coconut threads.

Cost of Dining in Bali

mie goreng noodles must eat in bali

Whether you are on a gap year backpacking budget or are making the most of your expensive two-week vacation, there are dishes that fit any budget. If you are looking for cheap food in Bali you can easily get dishes like Nasi Jinggo for as little as 35 cents USD. You can also celebrate a special occasion at fine dining restaurants that will cost around $90 per person for food alone.

We tend to stick with the affordably priced Balinese cuisine that the locals eat every day. It comes down to something fairly simple. If you want to experience the culture through their food, it’s going to be cheap. If you are afraid to get out of your comfort zone and end up eating only cheeseburgers and smoothies, it will cost similar to what you would pay at home. Any way you approach your trip, it will be a tasty experience.

  • Entree from a Warung- 40,000 to 70,000 IDR ($2.85 to $4.98 USD)
  • Bakso from a street cart- 20,000 to 30,000 IDR ($1.42 to $2.14 USD)
  • Acai Bowl from a hip cafe- 120,000 to 140,000 ($8.54 to $9.96 USD)
  • Babi Guling from a Warung 45,000 to 70,000 IDR ($3.19 to $4.96 USD)
  • Sate Lilt (10 skewers) from a hawker 20,000 to 30,000 IDR ($1.42 to $2.14 USD)

How safe is street food in Bali?

It is inevitable that you will hear someone talking about “Bali Belly” in relation to eating street food. This is a reality when eating anywhere outside of our little bubbles at home. You might get a stomach ache from the foreign bacteria that your gut biome is just not ready for, or you could get full-on food poisoning. You could also get struck by lightning while getting attacked by a shark. I know that the odds are not the same, but you get our point. If you want to experience snorkeling, you will still get in the water knowing that there is a risk.

Don’t let a not so clever name for stomach discomfort scare you into missing out on a delicious meal. Oh, and if you think that the sanitation magically gets better just because the food is prepared behind a wall in a restaurant, you are grossly mistaken.

http://cheftravelguide.com/bali-food-guide