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Cook Like a Nepali: 3 Easy Nepalese Recipes

Apr 24th, 2020

If you’re interested in trying your hand at some international cuisine, then why not start with some traditional dishes from Nepal? Not only can you easily find all the ingredients, but you’ll be surprised at how fresh and flavorful the food is! 

I was in Nepal not too long ago, so I’m excited to share some of the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten with all of you. The country is truly one of the most magnificent places in every way imaginable, so here’s a small taste of what to expect when you inevitably decide to visit!

A bit about Nepal

If you’re unfamiliar with the country, here’s a brief overview of the people and culture of Nepal!


Nepal is a narrow country located just north of India and south of China. Nepal is also home to a large portion of the Himalayas, the mountain range that is home to some of the highest mountains in the world. In fact, nine of the ten highest mountains are in the Himalayas, and there are innumerable other peaks that rival those of the rest of the world. Mount Everest, also known locally as Sagarmatha (from sagar, meaning “sky”, and māthā, meaning “head”), is on the border between Nepal and Tibet, and it attracts plenty of visitors from all over the world (including me!) who wish to see the world’s highest mountain up close.


Although Buddhism started in Nepal in Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the majority of Nepali people are Hindu. There are about 28 million people living in Nepal, as of 2018, and over 81% of those people are Hindu, about 9% are Buddhist and about 4.4% are Muslim. Nepal has never been colonized by any country, and its borders were closed to foreigners until the 1950s, so most of Nepal’s culture and history have been free from Western influence and religion. This means that Hindus and Buddhists have had the chance to peacefully coexist for centuries, and the culture of the Nepali people closely mirrors their religious practices.


Now we’re getting to the good stuff! 

Nepal’s cuisine features foods similar to those found in India, China and Tibet, but Nepali food really does stand out on its own. Because the country was closed to outsiders for so long, a strong emphasis was placed on cooking with local ingredients that did not have to be imported. Most meals include vegetables, pickled ingredients and some type of rice or starch.

Ingredients like rice, lentils, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, potatoes, chicken, yak (yes, yak!), eggplant, squash, spinach and other leafy greens are common in most Nepali foods. In the higher Himalayan regions where rice cannot be grown, substitutes such as barley, cornmeal, millet and potatoes are more readily available.

Cows are sacred animals in Hindu beliefs, so beef is practically nonexistent in Nepali cooking. Most dishes are vegetarian by nature, but if meats are used they are usually from chickens, water buffalo, yak or lamb.

Spices and flavorings used in Nepali cooking are similar to those used in India and Tibet, so Nepali food has a unique blend of both spicy and sweet flavors influenced from both its neighbors. Curries, soups, broths and noodles are common dishes enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike. 

Nepali recipes

Dal bhat

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The most staple Nepalese meal is Dal Bhat and is basically eaten twice a day, for lunch and dinner. It's like a Nepalese version of Indian thali, with rice in the center of the dish and different types of lentils, beans and veggies to go with it (dal means lentil soup, bhat means rice). Our guide for the day hike taught us the expression "Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour" and he's absolutely right! 💪 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #dalbhat #dalbhatpower #dalbhatpower24hour #thali #nepalfood #nepalesefood #nepalesecuisine #lentilsoup #riceandcurry #ricedish #riceandshine #vegetablecurry #papadam #pokhara #pokharanepal #pokharadiaries #pokharalakeside #pokharafood #travelnepal #visitnepal #staplefood #nationaldish

A post shared by Sissi Chen | Food & Travel (@eatinginberlin) on

If Nepal had a national dish, it would be dal bhat. This meal of rice and lentils is eaten all over the country by rich and poor alike, and it can be embellished with a variety of meats, vegetables, curries and pickles. Dal bhat is high in protein, carbs and minerals, and the fresh vegetables and preservative-free ingredients make for a filling meal that is sure to give you the energy you need for the day.

In the trekking community, trekkers will often say that they run on “dal bhat power, 24-hours” because of the energy the meal provides. 

In Nepali, dal means “rice” and bhat means “lentils”, which is a pretty accurate description and translation of the meal. Dal bhat is served on a large plate with a mound of rice and a small bowl of lentil soup. Additional sides can be added either in small bowls or on the plate, and they can include dishes like potato curry, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin or yogurt. 

Dal bhat can, in all reality, include any combinations of side dishes you’d like! The dish is eaten all over the country by all different classes, cultures, households and tastes, so it truly is a customizable dish! As long as you have the rice and the lentils, you’re good to go.

Here is a recipe for Nepali dal bhat that you can easily make at home!


Momos are the Nepali version of dumplings. The thin, soft, flour shells are often filled with potato curry or minced meat, and the dumplings are usually served with a sauce called achar

Making momos require a little more finesse, but it’s certainly doable! The dough is twisted around the filling to create twisted patterns on the momos. 

Here are some momo recipes that will challenge your cooking skills and reward your taste buds with the best dumplings you’ll ever eat!

Mango lassi

If you’re looking for something quick, easy and refreshing, then this is for you!

A mango lassi is a mango smoothie. Yogurt is an important ingredient in the Indian subcontinent, and these mango smoothies are a big hit in the summertime. The coolness of the mango and the creaminess of the yogurt make for the perfect addition to any meal, especially after a spicy curry dish.

Here’s a recipe for a mango lassi that is easy and quick to make!

If you take anything away from this, I hope you’ve learned something new about Nepal and its fascinating culture. The delicious food is just one small part of why Nepal is so wonderful, and I sincerely hope you give these recipes a go! 


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"Nepali Dal Bhat" by Smnbhattarai is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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