10 Most Popular Filipino Dishes That You Can’t Miss

A brief introduction to the cuisine that foodies all over the world are raving about!

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Very much like Serbian cuisine, the Filipino one is a mix of different cultural influences throughout the history of the archipelago. Non-locals often define Filipino gastronomy as powerful yet delicate, but truth is there’s also a fierce, exotic side to it. You should definitely give it a try because it’s gaining lots of international buzz. We promise that there’s quite nothing as exhilarating as tasting what the Filipino food has to offer. In this article, we’ll show you some of the most popular Filipino dishes that you shouldn’t miss.

Some background

This image shows a fine example of the Filipino dishes. There's a mix of local grilled food (top), kilawing talaba or oyster ceviche (right), pancit bihon (bottom) and fried ayungin, a small kind of dried fish (left).
A fine example of some of the most popular Filipino dishes: a mix of local grilled food (top), kilawing talaba or oyster ceviche (right), pancit bihon (bottom) and fried ayungin, a small kind of dried fish (left). Flickr photo by Shubert Ciencia, (CC BY 2.0)

Having been colonized by different nations during centuries, the Filipino food has many influences from other gastronomies. Spaniards, Americans and Japanese are the main influences in the culture and history, but also in the Filipino dishes. Due to the four centuries of reign, the Spanish influence is the main one. However, the trading with other nations also brought Indonesian, Chinese, Arab and Indian influences.

Because of this melting pot of flavors, it’s pretty hard to describe the Filipino food with only a single dish. It’s such a diverse cuisine that you can distinguish the influence in every dish. Not only that, the country takes pride in its local dishes that visibly loom amid the multi-cultural impact. Although Philipino dishes are very meat-oriented, you can find some places that adapt them for vegetarians.

The variety of food options in the country is overwhelming, but one thing that makes it a stand out is the festive Filipino vibe. Beyond their animated spirits during celebrations, Filipinos are known for the warm hospitality that extends to the dining table. The profusion of food choices not only describes Filipinos’ love for food, but also how it brings communities together. Kamayan, the traditional eating with the hands, defines the unique Filipino way of celebrating food on the table.

Traditional Filipino Dishes

With all the multicultural influences, colorful dishes, flavor and textures, it’s not hard to fall in love with the Filipino food. Whether you want something sweet, sour, salty or spicy, there’s something that will entice your taste buds. What’s more interesting is that each island in the archipelago offers its own spin to the Filipino Cuisine. From entirely new dishes, to variations of well-known ones and reinterpretations of classics. Here are some of the most popular dishes that conform the Filipino cuisine and they’re worth every penny.

10. Balut

This image shows a Balut, one of the most popular Filipino dishes among locals.
Balut, one of the most popular Filipino dishes among locals. By Judgefloro – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61675025

We’re off to a risky start, but we’re going in! The (in)famous Balut makes it to the most popular Filipino food list because it is popular. Perhaps for most foreigners it might be more of an acquired taste, but Filipinos enjoy it a lot. This unique food, consisting of a fertilized duck embryo, is a hit in the streets of the Philippines. If you’d like to try it, we recomment you to add salt and vinegar, so it gets distinctly tasty and creamy. However, have in mind that this one isn’t for everyone, specially the fainthearted.

9. Sisig

The sisig is a mainstay on every traditional Filipino table and one of the favorite Filipino dishes for foreigners. A local delicacy in Pampanga, sisig is an appetizer made of seasoned liver, pig head, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, onions and calamansi. There are other adaptations using seafood and other kinds of meat, but most of these are topped with an egg. It’s one of the most popular, mainstream Filipino dishes and everyone should definitely try it.

8. Lumpia

This image shows two bowls of lumpias, which are the favorite snacks for pretty much everyone and one of the most widely popular Filipino dishes.
Lumpias are the favorite snacks for pretty much everyone and one of the most widely popular Filipino dishes. By Ianakoz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38538970 – The image was trimmed down.

With a clear Chinese influence, the lumpia is a tasty Filipino-style deep-fried spring roll. You can choose the filling that you want in your lumpias, since there are plenty of options, even for vegans. Perhaps the most popular filling among people is pork with carrot, potato, garlic and onion. There’s also another variation, which is the fresh lumpia —a healthier option with lettuce, carrots, peanuts, meat and heart of palm. Because of its serving, there’s nothing wrong with finishing a dozen… and then a dozen more!

7. Lechon Kawali

If you love roasted suckling pig, known as “lechon” in the Philippines and most Spanish-speaking countries, you’ll love lechon kawali. This tasty deep-fried pork belly with crispy skin and tender meat is the king of big celebrations. The lechon kawali is usually paired with soy sauce, calamansi (a citric fruit hybrid) or lechon sauce. This is one of those Filipino dishes that gather people around the table and make for a family meal.

6. Kare Kare

This image shows Kare Kare with pepper sauce, one of the most delicious Filipino dishes.
Kare Kare with pepper sauce, one of the most delicious Filipino dishes.

This dish is basically an oxtail stew with a twist. Kare Kare’s not-so-secret ingredient is peanut butter, together with a great selection of fresh vegetables. The creaminess of the peanut butter gives a distinct yet flavorful taste to the mixture of oxtail and vegetables. And to complete the dish presentation is the shrimp paste, which only underlines even more the flavor. This is yet another Filipino food to gather people in a family meal and share stories.

5. Pancit

This image shows a pancit, one of the most beloved Filipino dishes
Pancit, one of the most beloved Filipino dishes. By Obsidian Soul – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17884355

By tradition, noodles are always associated with healthy and long life, and the Filipinos are some of the greatest followers of that cultural belief. Almost all celebrations and important holidays in the country are graced by the ever loved pancit. Accordingly, there are many pancit variations in the country, from palabok to pancit bihon to sotanghon guisado and the list continues…

4. Sinigang

Flickr photo by VirtualWolf, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For lovers of sour and savory broth, you’ll fall in love with sinigang in a heartbeat… or more exactly, in a nibble. This Filipino food is a stew of pork chunks, onions, eggplant, ginger and tomatoes. To achieve its signature sour taste, they let the tamarind paste do its magic. It’s one of the easiest Filipino dishes to cook, so if you’d like to make your own, give it a try.

3. Bibingka

This image shows small bibingkas packed in a box. This is one of the favorite Filipino dishes and kids love it.
Small bibingkas packed in a box. This is one of the favorite Filipino dishes and kids love it. Flicker photo by whologwhy, (CC BY 2.0)

Bibingka is a sweet cake baked in a unique setting —in clay pots. This local rice cake smothered with butter and coconut is very popular during the Christmas season. During that season, the street vendors prepare this delicious treat during the wee hours of the morning. One recommendation: enjoy it while it’s fresh from the pots, the flavor is even more delicious.

2. Cassava Cake

This image shows two pieces of Cassava cake, one of the traditional Filipino Dishes that foreigners love the most.
Two pieces of Cassava cake, one of the traditional Filipino Dishes that foreigners love the most. By Obsidian Soul – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52104653

In the second place, a native dessert made from coconut milk and grated cassava (yucca). Traditionally cooked with coal, Cassava cake is a classic that never gets boring. It’s a well-loved sweet treat because of its taste and health benefits, attractive to pretty much everyone, even vegans. You can sprinkle some cheese or macapuno (coconut) strings on the cake for a delightful surprise.

1. Halo-Halo

This image shows the Halo-halo, the most beloved Filipino food, is a joy for pretty much everyone's palate.
Halo-halo, the most beloved Filipino food, is a joy for pretty much everyone’s palate. Make sure you don’t miss it!

And in the first place, the ultimate summer refreshment, halo-halo is the remedy to the country’s tropical weather. This Filipino dessert is a mixture of vibrant and tasty ingredients, including palm nuts, coconut agar jelly, preserved shredded young coconut, red bean paste, tapioca pearls, etc. Blend all of them with the shaved ice and evaporated milk, then topped with ice cream and purple yam. Kids will love it, but also the kid inside every adult. It’s one of the best Filipino dishes and you’ll never forget its taste.

Finally, the Filipino food is never about mediocrity and it’s always full of surprises. The mix of Philippines food culture brings a whole lot of definition to the Filipino cuisine and its culture. It’s a treasure that more and more people around the world are discovering and you wouldn’t want to miss out.

Have visited and enjoyed the Philippines already? Have you ever tried any of the Filipino dishes that we mentioned? Comment below your favorite Filipino food and what you’d like to try.

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