The Philippines has a rich culinary history dating back thousands of years. It’s vibrant and exciting, with influences from America, Spain, and China, as well as the many traditional dishes that originated in the Philippines themselves.
There are so many different flavors in Filipino cooking that your palate will be expanded for sure. While you might not have tried as many of these dishes at home before traveling to the country, like you have with Chinese or Thai dishes, it won’t matter. This way, each new dish will be tasted with no expectations and you will only get the most authentic version of it to try.
When you’re visiting the Philippines, you definitely have to keep your eye out for these incredibly flavorful Filipino dishes, so you can try many things. It might be tempting to latch on to the dishes you like the most at first, but don’t fall into that trap. Keep trying new things each meal and you’re sure to find dozens of things you love.
» Even if you’ve never traveled there yourself you can make delicious international meals at home with very little effort. Try one of these great recipes.
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We had to kick this list off with the wonderful adobo. In fact, as the national dish of the Philippines, adobo is arguably the most notable dish on our list.
The word itself refers to both the dish and the method of cooking, which consists of marinated meat – usually chicken or pork – in a sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. The result is hugely flavorful meat that goes well with many of the side dishes and vegetables you’ll find in the Philippines.
Learn how to make chicken adobo here.
If you attend a large party when you’re in the Philippines, you will likely have the opportunity to try Lechon. This dish starts with an entire pig that is spit-roasted over a coal-burning fire.
This form of cooking that originates in Spain, produces incredibly juicy, tender meat. It is often served with a liver sauce which is the most anticipated part of the meal. The pig is usually stuffed with lemongrass, tamarind, garlic, onions, and chives, and is then roasted on a bamboo spit over an open fire.
The skin gets incredibly crispy with the fat layer just underneath becoming fully rendered and caramelized.
You’ve likely seen chicharrón before on Spanish or Portuguese menus. It orginiates form Andalucia in Spain. In the Philippines, chicharron is deep-fried meat that is usually made from the fried pork belly or fried pork rinds. It can also be made from chicken, mutton, or beef.
The chicharron capital of the Philippines is Sta. Maria, a municipality of Bulacan. It started to become a major industry there as early as 1900 and it still is. You can find all kinds of chicharon from dozens of brands throughout the country.
The most common example is chicharon bituka, which consists of bite-sized, deep-fried pieces of pork intestine. It is a great snack or appetizer.
4. Pork Sisig
Pork sisig is a widely popular dish in the Philippines. It originated from Pampanga, which is the culinary capital of the country, an invention of the Kapampangans who never let anything go to waste, hence the use of pig parts you don’t find so often.
It is a that consists of pork ears, face, and chicken liver, seasoned with calamansi, onions, and chili peppers. The crispy pork cartilage and creamy liver are what make it so special. It is usually served on a dish that is still sizzling hot!
If you are a bit nervous about Filipino cuisine, why not start with something a bit more familiar? Lumpia is the Filipino version of a Chinese spring roll.
It is made by filling a super-thin crepe with a variety of local and fresh ingredients, such as pork, onions, and carrots. It is then deep-fried to produce a crispy and moreish snack! It can be served as a side dish or appetizer with a sweet dipping sauce.
6. Manga At Bagoong
This dish might sound simple, but it is one of the most delicious options on this list and it’s one of the most sought-after foods in the Philippines, so you can find it everywhere.
It consists of bagoong alamang, a fermented shrimp paste, and slightly under ripe mangos that still have a bit of sourness to them. This gives you a sour, sweet, salty snack that’s really addictive. It is often served as street food, but you can even find it in some supermarkets.
Whether you’re a newbie to Filipino food or you’re a total fanatic, it’s likely that you’ve heard of Balut. This is likely the most infamous dish on this list because it captures the curiosity. Okay, let’s face it – it sounds disgusting, but it’s a delicacy that you should at least try.
It consists of a duck egg that has been fertilized and a developing egg embryo that is boiled. You eat it directly from the shell. If this sounds a bit too much for you, don’t worry – many Filipinos find them challenging too!
If you’re a fan of sausages, you need to try longgansia – the Filipino sausage that was derived from the Spanish “longaniza” which is a type of Spanish sausage.
It is usually made using pork and is often enjoyed at breakfast with garlic fried rice, egg, pickled papaya, and a dipping sauce made from vinegar. However, there are many types of longgansia, including jamonado, de recado, batutay, and a spicy variety. The batutay, made with beef, is considered the best-seller.
Okoy, sometimes referred to as ukoy, is a type of fritter that is usually made with rice batter, shrimp, and a number of different local and fresh vegetables, such as spring onions, carrots, bean sprouts, sweet potato, cassava, and pumpkin.
This deep-fried dish is served with an acidic vinegar dipping sauce that offsets the oiliness perfectly.
10. Tokwa’t Baboy
This is a classic Filipino dish that is certain to satisfy everyone! It is made using deep-fried tofu and pork belly, paired with a dressing that consists of vinegar, soy sauce, chili, and onion. It is a super filling dish that is bursting with flavor.
If you prefer your food to be rich and creamy, laing is right up your alley. This famous dish is super indulgent.
It is made using shredded taro leaves that have been cooked in coconut milk, chili, and pork or seafood. It also boasts a huge range of aromatic herbs and spices, including garlic, ginger, and lemongrass.
It’s likely that you’ve heard of the term ‘torta’ before. It is a Spanish term that can mean many different things. In the Philippines, it refers to an omelet that is usually served with banana ketchup.
We recommend trying tortang giniling, a ground beef or pork version.
If you’re a fan of shrimp sauce, you will love pinakbet. It is a famous dish made using pork belly and local vegetables that have been sauteed in a shrimp or fish sauce.
Generally, it is made using root crops such as eggplant, okra, and ampalaya.
14. Pork Barbeque
This is one of the most popular Filipino dishes. It consists of marinated pork pieces that have been cooked on bamboo sticks over hot charcoal.
It is very popular street food, so keep an eye out for it as you explore!
15. Chicken Inasal
If you fancy trying some local comfort food, you need to look for chicken inasal. It consists of chicken that has been marinated in vinegar, pepper, calamansi, and acheute before being grilled and basted over charcoal.
The final product is incredibly tender and juicy. It works beautifully with rice and chicken oil.
16. Crispy Pata
If you’re hoping to push your boundaries and try something new, you should definitely try crispy pata.
This dish consists of deep-fried pork trotters served with a moorish dipping sauce made from ingredients such as garlic, sugar, onions, soy sauce, and vinegar.
This is an important dish in the Philippines. It consists of a soup or stew that has bold sour and savory flavors.
Generally speaking, it is a tamarind-based dish, but other acidic local fruits may be used to add sourness, such as butuan or guava.
It can include a number of different types of meat and vegetables or even seafood.
This is a very interesting Filipino dish. It is made like a stew and consists of different meats and vegetables that are served in a very thick peanut sauce.
It takes hours and hours to make this dish, as the different cuts of meat, such as oxtail and pork hocks, need to be simmered until they are incredibly tender.
If the soup dish above is a bit off-putting, we recommend trying tinola instead. This is a popular Filipino soup made with chicken, unripe papaya, moringa, and chili leaves.
It can also be made using fish or seafood. It has a delicious and heart-warming flavor.
20. Inihaw Na Liempo
If you’re going to visit the Philippines, you should probably learn that Liempo translates to pork belly (it will be featured on most menus!).
This dish consists of slices of pork belly that have been well marinated with garlic, chili, and soy sauce.
Then, the strips are grilled over hot charcoal. It is best when served with fresh rice, but it makes a good bar snack too!
This one technically might not deserve a place on the list because it’s not quite a traditional Filipino dish. But, it is a novelty bar snack that you might want to try!
It is made with a pig’s head that has been boiled and deep-fried. It is crunchy on the outside, incredibly tender on the inside, and it works perfectly with a beer!
This dish isn’t for the faint-hearted. But, if the more adventurous amongst you fancy trying something new, this dish might be perfect for you.
It is a traditional Filipino stew that consists of diced pork or offal. The gravy is made with pig’s blood and a range of herbs and spices.
If you are faint-hearted, don’t worry! There are still many wonderful traditional Filipino dishes that you can enjoy – including bulalo!
This dish is a light soup that includes leafy vegetables, corn on the cob, and beef shanks. It is bursting with flavor and is certain to leave you feeling refreshed and well-fed!
24. Bicol Express
Bicol Express is another great option if you’re a lover of hot food. This dish is a specialty of the Bicol region, known for its particularly spicy food.
It consists of a stew made using pork belly, coconut milk, a lot of chilis, and some shrimp paste. Serving it with steamed rice helps to tone down the heat.
Kaldereta, sometimes known as caldereta, is a stew that consists of goat meat cooked in a rich tomato sauce. This stew is especially similar to Spanish meat stews, so it’s a great option if you are a fan of Spanish cuisine.
Tinapa is the Filipino word for smoked fish. It is a great traditional dish that you definitely need to try when you’re in the Philippines.
The fish used is usually blackfin scad or bangus, and it is generally brined for a few hours before being smoked.
It is a portion of common breakfast food in the Philippines that is usually served with salted egg, tomatoes, and rice.
Paksiw translates to ‘to cook and simmer in vinegar. This dish is particularly common as an everyday dish in the Philippines.
The most common type of paksiw is known as paksiw na isda. This variety uses fish and seafood, however, pork varieties are common too.
If you’re a dessert person, you need to try halo-halo when you visit the Philippines. It is arguably the most well-known and loved Filipino dessert.
It is a crushed ice dish that consists of evaporated milk and a number of sweet ingredients, such as sweetened beans, coconut, sugar palm fruit, sugared plantains, and more.
It’s perfect for sweet food lovers!
29. Sans Rival
When you’re abroad, it’s fun to try a dish that is totally unique. And, sans rival is just that! This Filipino cake is made from three layers of meringue made from cashew nuts.
To hold the layers together, an indulgent buttercream is used. This dessert is thought to have come about as a consequence of Filipinos traveling back from France in the 19th century, bringing French cooking techniques with them.
Bangus is the word for milkfish, the national fish of the Philippines. It is an incredibly popular fish and is used in many different dishes.
It can be prepared in many different ways, but we particularly recommend trying the grilled version (called inihaw na bangus).
It comes stuffed with an array of aromatic ingredients that highlight the best of Filipino cuisine.
This is a type of breakfast dish that consists of garlic fried rice, a fried egg, and some type of meat. We recommend trying tapsilog, which uses cured beef as the meat source.
If this sounds like a bit too much for breakfast, don’t worry, these dishes are typically served throughout the day too!
Pancit is a group of Chinese-style dishes that usually consist of rice noodles, vegetables, some type of meat, and seafood.
Generally, these dishes are consumed during social gatherings and holidays. This is because there is a widespread Chinese belief that noodles are representative of good health and longevity.
Lugaw refers to a simple rice porridge dish. However, it may be called by other names when served with different meats.
For instance, when it is served with beef, it is called goto. There are also sweet versions of this glutinous dish.
Kakanin refers to a family of dessert dishes that are very popular in the Philippines. The family consists of a range of sweet desserts and snacks that have been made from rice paste.
They are all colorful dishes that are usually served during festivals and holidays.
If you have friends who grew up in the Philippines, it’s likely that taho is a dish that conjures up memories from their childhood.
It consists of fresh silken tofu served with simple syrup and sago pearls. Many Filipino people who grew up in suburban areas of the Philippines will be particularly familiar with this dish.
You may have heard of this one before, in the context of Spanish cuisine. Ensaymada is a Spanish pastry that has become widely popular in the Philippines.
Traditionally, it is made with lard in Spain, but in the Philippines, it is more common for butter to be used instead. This dish is popular throughout the Christmas season.
Ginataan refers to a large range of dishes that are made using coconut milk or gata. These dishes can be savory or sweet.
But, more often than not, when someone talks about a ginataan, they are referring to sweet versions that consist of a coconut milk soup and sweet fillings such as jackfruit and sago pearls.
38. Leche Flan
This is a favorite dessert amongst many Filipinos. It is very similar to creme caramel and is made with a large number of egg yolks and condensed milk.
It is very popular to serve this dish at family gatherings and celebrations. If you are lucky enough to get invited to a social occasion, you will recognize the leche flan as the oval-shaped, bright orange cake.
Turon consists of thin plantain slices that have been coated with brown sugar. They are then deep-fried after being wrapped in lumpia.
This dish is usually consumed as a snack or a dessert. It is often prepared at home, however, you will be able to purchase it in street food markets too.
Finally, we couldn’t finish this list without including the wonderful Ube. Arguably, it was this dish that brought Filipino food into the mainstream.
It is a jam that has been made using boiled and mashed purple yams. Ube is often used in ice cream, cakes, cookies, croissants, and even pies. It is super delicious and looks amazing too!
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If you haven’t grown up with Filipino food, it’s likely that this cuisine is worlds away from what you are used to.
We hope that this article has inspired you to push your boundaries and try out some of the best traditional dishes that the Philippines has to offer!
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.