Bali Food Guide: Learn what to eat in Bali with our traditional Balinese food guide as well where to eat in Bali with our sourced list of the best restaurants in Bali from top food/travel bloggers and local Indonesian celebrities.
As professional foodies, we like to get in with the locals and find the absolute BEST places to eat while in a destination. Having good food can make or break your vacation, and if it’s your first time in Bali we want you our readers to actually get out and experience the best restaurants in Bali – not just eat hotel buffet meals 3 times a day.
I (Megsy) went on a trip to Indonesia as a guest of the tourism board in 2016 and made sure to get the insider information to the hottest places around Bali that the locals like to eat at – Some top picks for Kuta restaurants as well the best Bali restaurants from elsewhere on the island. I also decided to open it up to some of our favourite food and travel bloggers to see what places get them drooling when they think about visiting Bali.
Ready to learn what to eat? Here is our full Bali Food Guide & Podcast.
Updated March 2019: Full intro to Traditional Balinese Food, new Balinese Cuisine podcast episode, expanded top 12 Traditional Balinese Food options.
Bali Food Guide: Traditional Balinese Food & Best Bali Restaurants
Table Of Contents
Bali Food Guide: Introduction To Traditional Balinese Food
Bali one of 17,508 islands in Indonesia. Much of traditional Balinese food bears resemblance to typical Indonesian food but unlike its mostly Muslim neighbours, Bali is predominantly Hindu which means that they rarely eat beef and have a lot more pork on the menu.
Balinese food is a solid mix of indigenous cuisine as well as influences from Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine that sets it apart in many ways from just being “Indonesian food”.
Although Indonesia has a long history of food, it has not been well documented throughout the ages. but we do know that trade with the Middle East, India and China has been going on for a very long time with the Europeans (the Dutch) joining the party later on. It’s been a melting pot of different flavours for quite some time.
Some staples of Balinese food are rice, of course. If you’ve seen images of Bali it most likely will be of their stunning rice fields and terraces. Rice will be something that is included in almost every meal in Bali. Another staple on the dinner table is kecap manis which is a light soy sauce that is used a lot in local cooking. Some other important sauces/spices are:
Balinese Spice Blend – Bumbu Bali
The unique flavor of Traditional Balinese Food comes from the specific local spice blend that is used in many important dishes we’ll discuss below. It’s a complex blend of many different ingredients and the exact spices and proportions can vary significantly from family to family and restaurant to restaurant. Everyone seems to have their own secret recipe!
Ingredients May include: garlic, shallots, chillies, galangal, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander seed, kaffir lime leaf, kentjur, cardamom, white pepper, nutmeg, shrimp paste (trassi).
Bumbu Bali can be as a dry spice blend or mixed with oil or fresh wet ingredients to make a paste or sauce.
Sambal – Chili Sauce
Sambal is a chilli sauce or paste typically made from a mixture of a variety of chilli peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar or other vinegar’s. This is what gives a lot of Balinese food it’s kick! Other spices you’ll find in traditional Balinese food is Kaempferia galanga (galangal), turmeric, and Kaffir lime.
Best Food In Bali: Top 12 Options For Traditional Balinese Food
The most typical dishes from Traditional Balinese Food which you should look out for to try in Bali.
Nasi Kampur / Nasi Campur
Nasi Campur just means mixed rice and it’s a dish you will find on most menus in Bali. It features a scoop of white rice accompanied by small portions of a number of other dishes, including meats, vegetables, peanuts, eggs, and fried shrimp. As there is no rule to how you make this dish I can assure you it will never taste the same twice…
Nasi Campur is popular in many parts of Indonesia. The thing that makes this particularly Balinese is the addition of basa genep which is a very local spice mix that is used as the base for many Balinese curries and vegetable dishes.
Bali Food Guide: Bebek Goreng (crispy duck)
Bebek Goreng is fried duck often served with rice, sambal, and lalapan which is a raw vegetable salad often consisting of cucumber, lettuce, cabbages, long bean and basil. Ayam Goreng is a similar dish made with chicken.
“In Ubud, Bali, duck is more popular than chicken or pork because ducks live in the numerous rice paddies of the region, helping to kill insects, clean the environment while simultaneously contributing their own waste as fertilizer for the rice.” – Quote from our Bali food podcast episode below.
Traditional Balinese Food: Bebek Betutu / Ayam Betutu
Unlike some of the other dishes on this list, Betutu is 100% Balinese. Its steamed or roasted chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek) in a rich bumbu betutu spice blend. Betutu is a specific spice mix of shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger, wild ginger, galangal, candle nuts, chili peppers, shrimp paste, and peanuts all finely ground using a mortar and pestle. This paste is then sauteed with coconut oil to release it’s aroma and then rubbed onto either chicken or duck. The meat is then usually wrapped in a banana leaf and then cooked
Tum Be Siap
Tum Be Siap is finely chopped or ground chicken with ginger and a mix of other herbs and spices like garlic, bay leaves, lemongrass, shallots, chilis. Then steamed inside a banana leaf.
Traditional Balinese Food: Babi Guling
Bali’s love of pork leads to there own specific version of suckling pig. Whole pig is roasted, stuffed with the bumbu bali blend of local spices. A mix of pork pieces is served on one plate.
Bali Food Guide: Sate (Satay)
Satay originated on the Island of Java in Indonesia but has become massively popular across all the islands. It is said that local street vendors were influenced by the Indian kebab which in itself has its influences from Persian culture. These vendors created their own adaption on the streets of Java, perhaps to please the influx of Indian and Arab spice traders that were frequently visiting. It didn’t take long for it to spread to the other islands including Bali and to surrounding countries of Malaysia and Thailand, Singapore, The Philippines, Brunei and East Timor.
Satay is marinated meat that is skewered, grilled, and commonly served with a peanut sauce. Many people make the mistake of assuming that satay means spicy peanut sauce. In fact, satay can come with many variations of sauce so the actual word refers to the skewers of meat.
Satay Ayam is probably the most popular form you will find in Bali today and is made with chicken marinated in a mixture of popular Indonesian spices including: coriander, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper and of course Indonesia’s favourite condiment – kecap manis!
Nasi Goreng is a classic Indonesian dish that is popular all over the country. It’s essentially a leftovers dish of wok fried rice with whatever leftover veg and meat is available, mixed with garlic, ginger, kecap manis and some other spices. Normally topped with a fried egg.
Mee Goreng is an almost identical concept to nasi goreng but made with noodles instead of rice.
Tempeh is another Indonesian dish popular on Bali. Tempeh is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a firm cake form. So it’s similar to tofu but Tempeh is the only major traditional soy food that did not originate from Greater Chinese cuisine.
The invention of Tempe is connected to tofu production in Java. The tofu-making industry was introduced to Java by Chinese immigrants around the 17th century and it’s suggested that tempeh was accidentally produced as the by-product of the tofu industry. Discarded soybeans caught the spores of a whitish fungus that was found to be edible, in fact, delicious!
Another classic Indonesian food. Pepes Ikan is similar to tum be siap, mentioned above, but is made with minced fish and spices, steamed in a banana leaf.
Kari Udang is a coconut milk based yellow curry made with prawns. Most sources agree Kari Udang could have originated in Malaysia, but it has spread and evolved across Indonesia. Like with many other dishes that could now be said to be traditional Balinese food, Bali has taken the Kari Udang and changed the spice blend to reflect local preference.
Traditional Balinese Food: Lawar
A Traditional Balinese Food made from a mixture of vegetables, coconut and minced meat mixed with rich herbs and spices. Red lawar gets its color because it is mixed with blood. White lawar is it’s non-bloody cousin.
Balinese Dessert: Bubur Injin
Bubur Injin is a sweet dessert made from black glutinous rice with coconut milk and palm or cane sugar. It should be noted that the black color isn’t added – Bubur Injin is made from black rice. There are 3 varieties of black rice in the world: Indonesian black rice, Philippine balatinaw rice, and Thai jasmine black rice – so this is something quite special to try while you are visiting Bali.
Bali Food Guide Podcast: Traditional Balinese Food
- What are the essential Balinese condiments, spices & fruits?
- Nasi Kampur – It’s almost like a Balinese tapas buffet
- The short story of satay (or sate)
- Why they eat more duck than chicken in Ubud, Bali.
- Plus, A jet black dessert that rocked our tastebuds…
Bali Food Guide: The Best Bali Restaurants
From the Locals:
Vika Fitriyana – Indonesian TV adventure program host
My top recommendation for my best restaurants in Bali is Warung Bu Oki, Jimbaran. They only sell traditional Balinese chicken rice and have a long queue for eating there. Taste really good and really cheap ? for a great hangout, I love Sundays Beach Club
Taufan Gio – Editor in Chief at Disgiovery
If you’re in Ubud, please try Nasi Ayam Kadewatan Ibu Mangku (spicy mix Balinese chicken rice) It’s my favourite!
Ara Akimoto – local artist and painter
EatWell Bali is my favorite restaurant in Seminyak! You must check it out!
Nila Tanzil Petersen – Founder and CEO at Travel Sparks Indonesia
Sometimes you just crave good Italian food no matter where you are in the world – Trattoria is my go to place every time! There’s lots of locations so there will most likely be one nearby.
Eka Situmorang-Sir – Indonesia Trip Of Wonders Team Member and Blogger at Cerita EKA
Motel Mexicola in Seminyak is cool! You have to check it out!!!
Ramon Y. Tungka – Indonesian Actor, Outdoor Activities Enthusiast & Travel Journo
Seminyak has some really funky places to hang out – one of my best restaurants in Bali is Revolver. Great vibes Great Coffee!
Experience a mystery dining tour with Bali Food Safari
The food tours from Bali Food Safari are the best choice if you’re overwhelmed by the number of amazing places to eat in Bali. But also, when you want to go on a romantic surprise dinner or if you’re an absolute foodie and appreciate a delicious food fest; these tours are exactly what you’re looking for. Bali Food Safari works with a mystery dining concept which means that you don’t know which restaurants you’re going until you’re already on your merry way. Each tour visits 3 or 4 stunning venues in either Jimbaran or Seminyak. If you’re a street food lover than the Bali street food tour has your name written all over it.
Check out all Bali food tours.
Bali Food Guide: The Best Bali Restaurants
From the Frequent Travelers:
Soraya Nicholls – Hello Raya
I loved Lilla Warung and Warung Little Bird, which are both in Sanur. Ku De Ta in Seminyak is amazing… if you go upstairs around sunset time, they have an awesome 5-course dinner. I also loved Warung Bernadette in Ubud, which has some delicious beef rendang.
Vicki Garside – Make Time To See The World
Mamasan in Seminyak, Bali, is one of the coolest places I have ever eaten!
Low light, dark wood, metal trim tables and a large mural on the back wall make for a great first impression as you walk through the heavy wooden double doors. The staff are professional, attentive and so polished – you could easily believe you were in a 5* restaurant anywhere in the Western world. And the menu is huge and so varied – entrees include sugarcane prawns, steamed snapper buns, peeking duck and pork belly and mains are a variety of salads, curries & braises, stir fry and crispy meat, fish and vegetables.
The food is incredible – and don’t even get me started on the cocktails!
Ivana & Gianni – Nomad Is Beautiful
The place is named after its owner Dayu, who has a long history with cooking and was trained by nutrition experts. Her local restaurant is a cool little hippie spot hidden from touristy raw-food restaurants in the centre of Ubud. You’ll love comfortable cushions and most importantly, Dayu’s organic food!
Dayu’s Warung has only has a few tables, and you’ll find here a fusion of Balinese, Indian, Mexican and Italian dishes. If you love intensive smell and taste of spices, go for an Indian dish! Prices are quite reasonable. As Dayu says, “food is life,” and you’ll certainly get on your plate something that will make you feel revitalized.
Mar Pages – Once in a Lifetime Journey
No trip to Bali can be complete without a trip to Naughty Nuri for barbecue pork ribs you can get your fingers sticky on. Sit down in this hole in the wall of a place in Ubud where you will most likely share the table with other customers and shake your own martini.
Naughty Nuri is known for its delicious pork ribs and for the martinis that may seem like a strange pairing but did work very well. I suspect the naughtiness may come from the combination of dirty ribs and dirty martinis.
Not as much a fancy place but you surely didn’t go to Nuri’s for the refined dining but to get your hands dirty.
Naughty Nuri has been so successful that they have even opened outlets overseas, in Singapore.
Sharon Gourlay – Where’s Sharon
The best place to eat in Bali, in my opinion, is at one of the seafood shacks that line Jimbaran Beach – our favourite is Pandan Sari.
Jimbaran Beach is beautiful and a nice place to visit in itself. However, if you love fresh seafood then you are in for a special treat. Every evening, many “Seafood shacks” open up on this beach with many mouth watering options.
Dinner is served on tables right on the beach, so you not only get delicious food but a beautiful setting as the sun sets. The prices are also very good.
You get to choose your seafood which is then BBQ’d in special sauces. We especially recommend getting a set meal. This is cost effective and gives you lots of yummy things to try.
Sarah – Fit Travels
Sky Garden nightclub in Kuta is probably not the place you think of when it comes to eating out in Bali. But if you’re after something substantial, plenty of variety and included drinks then look no further than their nightly all you can eat (and drink) BBQ. Every evening from 5pm – 9pm , hungry travellers pay their 115,000IDR (less than 9USD!) to dine on the rooftop with free flow beer, cider and spirits. Each night is themed ranging from Mexican to a traditional Sunday roast. We often find ourselves a bit torn now when heading out for dinner if we’re in the area as the value is just too good! We’ve had a lot of fun here mingling with other patrons and would recommend it for people of any age, including families. Just be careful heading back down the stairs after all those drinks.
Lyn & Steve Baker – A Hole in My Shoe
What can I say apart from you MUST try this place. Teppanyaki is a personal dining style where a chef cooks the food in front of you. Yuyake is a place where eating is fun, entertaining and delicious. Our chef was amazing, he prepared great food, putting his skills on display slicing, dicing, juggling and using the tools of his trade. He was brilliant and kept us all well fed and laughing all night. The kids were amazed watching adults ‘playing with their food’ and we soon learnt why there were bibs for each of us. Live entertainment comes courtesy of the chef, who is not only a skilled teppanyaki chef but also great at keeping us amused. We were all mesmerised by the food artistry, his chopping skills and the balancing and juggling of the utensils. It was so much fun watching as the food was flipped, tossed and turned into yummy perfection. He involved each of us at the table, inviting us all to participate, creating a wonderful performance. Such a great night and so worth it, can’t wait to return.
Finally….what do we at Food Fun Travel think is The Best Bali Restaurant?
Petani Restaurant – Ubud
What can we say – we have a soft spot for crispy duck and Petani Restaurant offers some of the best crispy duck in Ubud. We tried the duck at a few different restaurants and Petani had the perfect mix of crispy skin on the outside while still keeping the flesh juicy and succulent. Absolutely Food Worth Traveling For!
Want to hear more about the food being dished up at Petani Restaurant? More food porn awaits you HERE
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