Indonesian food is some of the tastiest on the planet. Indonesia has delicious fried foods, from the classic nasi goreng to the sweet pisang goreng. It isn’t just Indonesia’s fried dishes; the country has some tasty soups, including oxtail soup and chicken soup. Indonesia is heaven on earth for anyone who loves trying new food.
The cuisine is a blend of many influences in Southeast Asia and was massively influenced by early trading with China. If you plan to visit Indonesia, going on a food-tasting spree should be on your list. Especially if you are looking for things to do in Bali – even those traveling on a budget in Bali can afford to splash out on street food.
Ready to sample some of the best Indonesian food? We’ve created a guide of our absolute favorites. These 30 Indonesian dishes are guaranteed to please your taste buds. You can try them in Indonesia or recreate them at home. It’s exciting stuff, so let’s get started.
Nasi goreng is one of Indonesia’s national dishes, and the beloved Indonesian fried rice is one of the first dishes you must try. Nasi goreng is flavorsome and filling. The perfect hearty meal and ideal for satisfying a savory craving. So, how is nasi goreng different from standard fried rice? Mainly the flavor. Nasi goreng uses shrimp paste and fish sauce and is typically topped with a fried egg – sunny side up and with a runny yolk. Aside from these ingredients, the rice is often mixed with meat or vegetables. It is common to serve nasi goreng with a salad on the side.
The perfect nasi goreng uses long-grained rice, boiling it until cooked and then cooling it. The rice is then fried in light oil alongside fried shallots, garlic, and meat or vegetables. Chilis are an essential addition, too, and are usually added in slices. Finally, the sauce is prepared and stirred through the dish.
When we say that nasi goreng is a traditional Indonesian dish, we mean it. The recipe was introduced by Chinese immigrants way back in the 10th century. The fried rice dish has undergone adaptations since then but is still eaten for any meal of the day. Nasi goreng is one of Indonesia’s most popular dishes, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.
Sop Buntut is comfort food. Oxtail soup is rich in protein, especially collagen. So Sop Buntut is ideal for when you are feeling under the weather or need to give your body a nutritious meal. In Indonesia, oxtail soup is a delicacy and one of the most traditional Indonesian dishes. The soup comes in a hot broth with vegetables and a cow’s tail. The broth is flavored with fish sauce, fried shallot, and lime juice in the proper Indonesian style.
Making sop Buntut is super straightforward. If you want Indonesian food to recreate at home, keep it in mind. The spices and shallot are fried, then the oxtail, and finally, all the ingredients boil. The modern version of sop Buntut has a definite Indonesian stamp. However, historically, it originated in Europe around the 17th century. According to historians, the dish was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch, and it was only in the 1970s that Sop Buntut became a popular part of Indonesian cuisine.
Ayam goreng is a delicious fried chicken coated in a spice mixture. Whether you marinate or simmer the chicken in its paste first varies per recipe and individual. But just know that ayam goreng packs a serious flavor punch. It is usually enjoyed as a standalone dish. However, you can enjoy ayam goreng with rice, vegetables, or a side salad. It is adored for its intense flavor and moreish appeal.
As we said, ayam goreng is coated in spice and left to marinate or simmer. After that, it is deep-fried to create a light, crunchy texture on the outside. It is real finger food. Perfect for a quick meal on the go or a versatile side at a garden party. Traditional Indonesian fried chicken is said to have come from Nini Ronodikromo, a woman who sold fried chicken as a street food seller in the 1950s. Her street food enterprise was so successful that by the 1960s, she had a restaurant in full swing.
Ikan Bakar is simply a grilled fish. However, it is so grilled that many people nickname it the ‘burnt fish’, and this traditional Indonesian recipe is quite specific compared to other grilled seafood. The fish is usually served as part of a main dish on a banana leaf and topped with fresh vegetables. Marinated in a spicy paste and grilled over charcoal, the fish meat has a smoky and intense flavor. When cooking ikan bakar, turmeric, garlic, and ginger are the primary flavors. However, the best recipes also include lime and sweet soy sauce.
The marinating stage is really crucial to achieving this punch of flavor. Many people use a zip lock bag for this – mixing the sauce and the fish and leaving it refrigerating for an hour or so. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves to grill. The banana leaves keep the fish from sticking and lets it retain moisture, leaving you with juicy meat.
Ikan Bakar is actually a Malay-influenced dish in Indonesia. In fact, the nickname ‘burnt fish’ is a literal translation in Malay, as bakar means burnt and ikan means fish. Nobody knows how it first originated.
Pisang goreng is one of the most unusual Indonesian foods to try if you are yet to become familiar with the cuisine. Pisang goreng is just fried bananas – coated in batter and deep fried. The dish is super sweet, and chefs use extremely ripe bananas to make it even sweeter. Many people claim that cooked bananas have a more intense version of their natural flavor. We’ll leave you to decide.
The process of making pisang goreng is straightforward. The banana is cut into bitesize chunks and rolled in a light batter mixture. Then, it is simply dropped into a pan of red hot oil to quickly fry. The fried banana is removed, dried, and ready to eat.
The history of pisang goreng is hazy. It is another dish that overlaps between Malay and Indonesian cuisines. So whether it was born in Malaysia or Indonesia is up for debate. It does track back to the early 16th century when Portugal arrived in southeast Asia though. The Portuguese are said to have introduced flour, allowing the deep-fried food phenomenon to begin.
Smor Ikang is a spicy fish stew full of fresh flavors. The dish goes hard on the taste buds with ginger, cloves, sweet soy sauce, fish stock, and coriander. Like any delicious stew in southeast Asia, Smor Ikang also bulks up the fish and veg with noodles – usually vermicelli noodles. The result is a warming seafood dish, not unlike pho in Vietnam. It really ticks off a lot as a dish. It’s hearty because it contains protein and bulky carbs like potatoes. But it is also light enough to enjoy as a lunch.
When it comes to preparation, Smor Ikang is relatively easy. The potatoes are boiled, the main flavoring ingredients are blended into a paste, and stock is used to create a broth for the stew. The noodles are in the final stage since they cook so quickly. It has many different elements to juggle, but once you know the recipe, Smor Ikang is one that you can make in a heartbeat.
Smor Ikang originated in Indonesia in Manado. Manado is the capital of the North Sulawesi province, situated near the sea with fantastic fishing opportunities. If you are visiting Indonesia, definitely consider stopping off here. And even if you are creating Smor Ikang at home, check out pictures to appreciate its influence.
Nasi Padang is a yummy fried rice dish. However, the main difference to nasi goreng is that Nasi Padang refers to rice served as a single part of a whole dish. Nasi Padang includes a tapas-style selection of lots of mini dishes. You get a beef rendang, stewed veggies, eggplant, sambal, fried chicken, and unusual meat cuts like liver or foot tendons. For the indecisive, Nasi Padang is a brilliant option. And if you are an adventurous eater, even more so. Nasi Padang is full of tastes – from rich sauces to spicy veg.
As you can likely imagine, Nasi Padang takes a while to prepare. It is a juggling act since you create 5-6 little dishes. Though many consider it the Indonesian national dish (perhaps second to the suckling pig), the long process is worthwhile. Many believe that the dish was inspired by Dutch influence in the colonial era. Still, direct links are yet to be revealed.
Indonesian food is great for vegetarians and vegans. And if you spot a fried tempeh option while traveling to Indonesia, you must try some. Fried tempeh is a lot like tofu. Instead, it uses soybeans and occasionally brown rice to create a patty. This patty is then fried and added to dishes like salad bowls, fried tempeh bowls, and steamed rice. It is crispy and admittedly bland until you get creative with flavoring. But marinated in some sweet soy sauce or ginger paste, fried tempeh is a yummy Indonesian food.
The history of fried tempeh needs to be clarified and confirmed. But food historians can agree that it was created before 1800 – meaning it could be as many as a thousand years old. Many believe the dish was made in either Central or East Java, so we can also ascertain that fried tempeh is truly Indonesian food.
Bakso goreng is the meatball of Indonesian cuisine. The dish is a unique blend of egg and minced meats, crushed together and deep fried for the final texture effect. The bitesize meatballs are served without sauce, although a pot of chili sauce is provided on the side for dipping. Taste-wise, Bakso goreng is just that classic meat-tasting dish. It is simple but delicious and well worth trying if visiting.
The history of Bakso goreng dates back centuries. The type of meatball may be Indonesian, but its roots lay in China. Meatballs were created in the 17th century – the Ming Dynasty. Meng Bo was only a child. However, he was upset that his mother couldn’t eat beef due to her teeth and old age. Meng Bo masterminded the meatball concept and created a dish that allowed his mother to enjoy meat still. His idea stuck and continues to be a successful food today. Considering the immigration between China and Indonesia, it is no wonder that the dish quickly became adopted into Indonesian cuisine.
Babi Guling is an Indonesian roasted pig. The most famous variation of this dish is the Balinese suckling pig, which is sold all over the island and especially near the rice paddies of Ubud. While many consider babi Guling a national dish, it is actually rare. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim population, which means that pork is not regularly consumed in most areas. When you do find some, though, it is worth trying. The meat is succulent after being hand spit roasted and served alongside steamed rice, Lawar, and a bowl of chicken soup.
Babi Guling was originally a ceremonial offering to Balinese Hindu gods. It continues to be used as a dish for special occasions and ceremonies. Certain restaurants serve the dish as a regular part of their menu.
Sambal Terong Balado is a delicious vegetarian dish in Indonesian cuisine. The dish contains slices of grilled purple eggplant topped with thick, spicy sambal sauce. Sambal Terong Balado is served piping hot and full of spice – a healthy and hearty dish to try. It is easy to prepare, too, by preparing a paste and then steaming eggplants. Quick, easy, yet tasty, Sambal Terong Balado is a firm favorite, and it’s clear to see why.
While the history of Sambal Terong Balado is unknown, we can track the balado element of the dish. Balado is a spice mixture that originated in West Sumatra, a part of the Minang cuisine. Now, the spice mixture is used all over Indonesia and even in Malaysia (even more evidence of the two cuisines’ influence on each other).
Taugeh goreng is one of our favorite classic vegetarian Indonesian dishes. The stir-fried bean sprouts are crunchy and, typical of Indonesian cuisine, covered in soy sauce and peanut oil. Sliced garlic and chilis are then scattered throughout the dish. It is spicy and slightly nutty – far from a basic side dish.
Taugeh goreng is easy enough to make. In fact, it is one of the quickest Indonesian foods to prepare on this list. You prep the garlic and chili slices beforehand, and throw the bean sprouts into a hot wok with soy sauce to stir fry for a minute. History-wise, bean sprouts have been grown for over 5,000 years. They are native to Asia, Japan, and India, so Indonesia’s use of bean sprouts dates back centuries.
Rawon is a dark-colored Indonesian beef soup with a distinct nutty taste. This nutty flavor and dark color come from using black Keluak nuts. These nuts give Rawon an earthy essence, but the soup is also quite spicy- full of chili, shallots, garlic, and candlenuts. This Indonesian food comes served over steamed rice alongside boiled eggs. It is packed with protein and is a delicious, rich-tasting meal in Indonesia.
Rawon is one of the most ancient Indonesian foods to try. It is so old that it was mentioned in a Javanese Taji inscription in 901 CE. The preparation method is definitely well-practiced. The nuts are removed from their shells, and the core is left to soak in boiling water. This draws out the dark color and is used as a broth for the beef.
Pempek is a fishcake delicacy and a delicious savory dish. It is designed as a starter or finger food, and Pempek comes served with a sweet and sour sauce for dipping. It is one of the best seafood options for Indonesian food. The Pempek itself is neutral in taste. It has a strong fish taste and uses tapioca flour to create the ‘cake’ element. However, dipped in the sauce, Pempek has a strong and tasty flavor.
The fish meat is covered in tapioca flour and then deep-fried for a crunchy texture. It dates back to an old man in South Sumatra. As the story goes, he grew tired of eating grilled or fried fish, and in his frustration he created Pempek. The man cycled around the city of Palembang, selling his fish cakes. Their popularity grew, and the rest is history.
Sayur Asem is a vegetable soup with a clear, gravy-like broth. The key ingredient is tamarind juice. The tamarind gives the broth an acidic taste – slightly sweet and slightly sour. The sweetness of the jackfruit balances the acidity out, and the peanuts and candlenuts give it a nutty element. If you aren’t vegetarian, add a sharp fermented shrimp paste to give it a bit of extra kick. A lot is going on in an excellent Sayur Asem, but taste it, and you’ll decide you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sayur Asem earned its place in Indonesian cuisine during Dutch colonial rule. At this time, poverty was rife in Jakarta. Since Asem trees were plentiful, it became popular to use tamarind to flavor soup. The trend stuck, and Sayur Asem was born.
Rendang is a curry like no other. This is probably why most people consider it a category of its own. Unlike your classic coconut milk curry, rendang resembles a thick paste that sticks to your primary curry fillers. It contains lemongrass, tamarind, ginger, onion, chili, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Basically, a rendang has all the best spices. And red meat lovers take note; rendang usually uses beef.
The process of preparing a rendang paste is a breeze. Unless you are shopping for all the individual ingredients because rendang is a pick and mix of spices. You can always buy a pre-prepared rendang paste. Or, add all the ingredients together and blend until a thick but smooth consistency. Rendang is one of the oldest Indonesian dishes and was created by the Minangkabau people in the 16th century.
Gudeg is a sweet main course consisting of stewed jackfruit. The fruit is stewed in a mix of palm sugar and coconut milk – exaggerating the fruit’s already sweet flavor. It is typically served alongside boiled eggs, rice, tofu, and shredded chicken. If you want to make it vegetarian, you can omit the chicken. It is a flexible dish to choose from when visiting Indonesia.
Because it needs to stew, Gudeg is a more time-consuming dish than many others on this list. It is a one-pot dish, and the jackfruit is placed directly into the coconut milk and sugar. It originates from Yogyakarta and Central Java and is believed to have been created in the 19th century. Exactly where, when, and how is a mystery.
Nasi Uduk is a yummy rice. Forget about plain rice; this white rice is full of flavor and tasty enough to be a dish in itself. Since it is soaked in coconut milk rather than water, it is intensely flavored and has a sweet quality. Clove, cassia bark, and lemongrass are also added for extra taste. Nasi Uduk is a beautiful Indonesian food to try. It is usually served alongside a selection of meats or curry.
As we mentioned, Nasi Uduk is cooked in coconut milk – not boiled in water. This specific preparation method gifts the rice a more intense taste. However, cooking takes no longer than standard rice, which is a huge bonus. Nasi Uduk is usually served in beautiful arrangements. For instance, it is often served in a cone shape or a circle. This dish is a Jakarta creation, although who knows exactly when it was created? Coconut milk has been around for centuries.
Soto Betawi is a beef soup with some unusual ingredients. Beef with ginger, lime, ginger, and honeycomb tripe? Sign us up. The dish has a creamy texture and a slightly sweet taste from a coconut milk broth. The lime gives it a tangy edge, too, though. We love how complex tasting this Indonesian food is.
The beef is the first stage in preparing soto Betawi. You boil the meat, drain it, and cut it into small chunks. The onion is ground into a paste and boiled alongside all the spices. Yum – right? The dish is a twist on the classic Chinese soto soup and comes from Jakarta.
Coto Makassar is a traditional part of Indonesian cuisine. The stew is a soto soup version containing ground peanuts and shredded beef. Some recipes also add a light peanut sauce. Aside from these flavors, a tasty Coto Makassar contains garlic, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, and seasoning. Coto Makassar is one of the most intensely flavored stews in Indonesian cuisine.
The prep involves frying the garlic, lemongrass, and other flavoring ingredients. As for the beef, you simply boil it and cut it into shreds. After this stage, everything is combined in a thick sauce.
Coto Makassar originates from South Sulawesi and is said to date back to the 16th century. The dish was eaten by everyone; from royals to farmers. And over time, the recipe was adapted, adding things like fermented soybean and chili sauce.
If you are a noodle lover, mie Aceh is a delicious Indonesian food. Sometimes, you crave a hearty pile of carbs, and these curried noodles are delicious. The curried sauce is full of classic spices like turmeric. A chili and shrimp paste is a common addition as well. Mie Aceh is often served alongside prawns or prawn crackers. If you are looking for a base for a seafood dish, mie Aceh is a fantastic option.
The cooking process is easy, and chefs blend all the spices and wet ingredients. This then acts as the sauce to fry the cooked noodles. The dish originated from the Aceh region – created by the Achenese people centuries ago. This area of Indonesia is heavily influenced by Malaysian and Chinese cuisine, which you can see in this Indonesian food.
Ayam Taliwang is a seriously spicy grilled chicken that comes from Taliwang – its namesake. It is aromatic in flavor and covered in chilis and garlic. Cooked over a charcoal grill, ayam Taliwang is also slightly smoked. Overall, it is a somewhat intense dish choice you will love if you like spicy food. If there was ever a challenge to eat Indonesian food, ayam Taliwang would be top of the list. Luckily, most menus give you spice-level options and tangy lime juice to neutralize the chicken.
Preparing Ayam Taliwang is simple. You just dip the chicken in a spicy paste and slowly grill. It is one of the most classic Indonesian dishes. It is believed to have been one of the favorite dishes of the Sasak nobility. However, this is a hot topic since Abdul Hamid claimed to invent the dish in 170. Whoever you decide to believe, it is a top chicken dish in Indonesia.
Bubur Ayam is a chicken congee. This looks like rice porridge with shredded chicken and is popular street food in Indonesian cuisine. Taste-wise, Bubur Ayam has a sweet soybean sauce and a chicken broth. It has a slightly sweet meaty flavor, with extra tastes from scallion and shallots. Bubur ayam has Chinese influences. The dish comes from Chinese immigrants who arrived in Indonesia centuries ago.
Bubur ayam is prepared in around an hour from scratch. Of course, street food vendors tend to cook as they go, so you can purchase Bubur Ayam from the street side immediately. The dish has three parts: congee, fried chicken, and broth. The congee is prepped first, then the broth is strained and served alongside the congee. Finally, the chicken is fried and added to the dish. It is relatively simple, requiring only a bit of juggling.
Sayur Lodeh is a coconut milk-based vegetable soup. Because of coconut milk, Sayur Lodeh has a sweet taste. Its name is a clue to its preparation. Sayur just means vegetables, and Lodeh refers to the process of cooking vegetables in coconut milk. Sayur Lodeh is often served alongside tofu, rice cakes, or steamed rice. It is a great main course for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Preparing Sayur Lodeh is super simple. You bring coconut milk to a boil in a pan and add the vegetables to cook. Add a bit of seasoning, and voila – you are done. This Indonesian dish is said to date back to the 10th century and originated in central Java. It has a reputation for being a dish that springs to popularity during times of tragedy and disaster. For instance, historians tracked spikes in the consumption of Sayur Lodeh during the bubonic plague and Mount Merapi eruption.
Ayam Kecap is a delicious braised chicken dish. This Indonesian food is unforgettable, with tamarind juice and sweet soybean sauce as crucial ingredients. The braising technique means that the chicken is lightly fried before cooking in the sauce. So Ayam Kecap is first fried and then left to cook, gaining full flavor in a marinating sauce of tamarind juice, soy sauce, and salt. The dish is eaten as a standalone or part of a meal with extra elements like vegetables.
Ayam Kecapis a staple in Indonesian cuisine. Sweet soy sauce chicken is hard not to love. The dish originates in Java but has Chinese influences. Ayam kecap is also eaten in Malaysia – called ayam kecap manis.
Soto is a traditional dish in Indonesia and soto ayam is the chicken version of this dish. This soup is the ideal savory treat for a flat day, which is why we had to squeeze it onto this list. The meat broth is thin but full of intense flavors like lemongrass, coconut milk, cumin seeds, and lemon leaves. The primary ingredient is chicken – which is accompanied by noodles for extra bulk.
Soto ayam was created in East Java, specifically in Surabaya. Soto was originally a Chinese creation, though; the original recipe dates back centuries.
Pepes ikan is a more general version of ikan bakar. Pepes Ikan is just any fish cooked in banana leaves. It mainly refers to the cooking style of preparing fish by grilling them in banana leaves to retain moisture. However, many menus and restaurants list Pepes Ikan as a dish, so here we are. The dish has a trademark tenderness and moisture to the fish. The actual flavor varies depending on what the chef adds to the fish.
Usually, Pepes Ikan is prepared by marinating the fish meat first. This allows plenty of time for flavor to seep into the fish. Wrapping the marinated meat in banana leaves, this flavor then continues to strengthen.
Pepes Ikan is easily one of the most popular Indonesian dishes. The banana leaf has long been part of Buddhist and Hindu celebrations and offerings. Furthermore, since the plant is native to Southeast Asia, it has been used as a cooking tool for centuries.
In Indonesia, ‘gado’ just means mix. So gado gado just means mix, mix. The dish is undoubtedly a hurricane combination of ingredients; some even go as far as to describe it as a riot. The salad is a mix of hot and cold ingredients. The cold ingredients always include a boiled egg, prawn crackers, bean sprouts, crunchy cucumber, and – of course – garlic and shallots. Hot ingredients are usually steamed potato, steamed rice, fried tofu, or tempeh. If that sounds like a whirlwind, you are right. And to top it all off, gado gado is served with a boiled peanut sauce similar to sate ayam.
There are two theories about the origins of gado gado. Some say that the dish was created in Jakarta, although there is no clear picture of when or where this happened. Others say that the dish was made in the village of Tugu upon the arrival of Portuguese colonizers. The latter suggests that the colonizers brought their own produce, influencing the creation of gado gado. Whichever it is, you should definitely add this salad to your must-try list.
Who doesn’t love Sate Ayam? Sate ayam (or satay) is a traditional Indonesian food that is famous for its use of peanut sauce. Overall though, it consists of skewered meat that is seasoned and grilled. Ayam is a special sauce that the Sate meat is either pre-marinated in or served alongside. It consists of a thin peanut sauce swirled with a dash of soy sauce. The taste of sate ayam is deliciously nutty and rich. If you like meat with a kick, this is the perfect street food to try or a dish to recreate at home on a barbeque.
Sate ayam originated in Java – an island in Indonesia. It is believed that sate ayam is a result of Arab influence on the country, introducing the spices and techniques of kebab-style cooking. This barbecue dish is the best in Indonesia; no wonder it spread to other Southeast Asian cuisines.
Klepon is the perfect Indonesian food if you are craving dessert. The sweet treat is a rice cake pounded into a neat ball shape. The rice is mixed with palm sugar and grated coconut – giving the bitesize treats extra sweetness. Klepon is also green in color, so easily spotted when visiting Indonesia. We really recommend trying this dish if you have a sweet tooth. Many liken it to an Indonesian version of Japanese mochi.
Klepon is simple to prepare. The rice, cooked in boiling hot water, is only added at the final stages. The first stages involve steaming coconut and creating dough from coconut milk and flour. Once you merge all the ingredients, roll the rice cake in desiccated coconut for the final touch.
Klepon is a reverse of Dutch influence on Indonesian cuisine. It is one of the examples of the Indonesian impact on the Netherlands. The dessert originated in Java centuries ago, then introduced to the Netherlands in the 1950s. It remains hugely popular in both countries.
Traditional Indonesian food is delicious. If you haven’t tried it before, get ready to fall in love with the intense flavors. From sweet soy sauce to coconut milk and lime juice, Indonesian food is heavy on the taste buds but in the best way possible. Try the country’s most popular dishes, but keep an open mind and taste as much as possible if visiting.
Looking for more inspiration about Southeast Asian cuisine? Lots of people visit Indonesia as part of a Southeast Asia backpacking experience. Whether you travel further throughout the region or want other Southeast Asian cuisines to try at home, we have plenty of other content. Check out our guides on the best Vietnamese, Thai, and Filipino foods.