Looking for typical Filipino foods? This is your ultimate food list for must-try traditional Filipino dishes!
An extensive group of islands, Philippines is a Southeast Asian country, sharing maritime borders with nations such as Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and mainland China.
There is so much to explore in this country – its culture, people, tourist attractions, and history.
As a Travelling Foodie, I also love exploring through food.
Growing up in Manila meant growing up with many delicious Filipino foods, which I’m so grateful for because it’s one of the best Southeast Asian cuisines but not a lot of people know about it.
When I moved to Canada in 2006, I was craving it, but I noticed Filipino cuisine isn’t as popular compared to other Asian cuisines like Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai.
Every time I introduced Filipino food to friends in North America, they ended up loving it, noting its strong and unique flavours.
Filipino food definitely needs more love and recognition.
Even Anthony Bourdain had a soft spot for Filipino cuisine and called it “underrated.”
He has featured the Philippines and Filipino food numerous times on his shows.
When they say that Philippines is food lovers’ heaven, they have it right.
This guide will give you a tour of the traditional Filipino food that Philippines has to offer.
Best Traditional Filipino Food
Here’s a list of some of the best traditional Filipino dishes you must-try!
The most popular Filipino food and referred to as the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, Adobo is commonly chicken (though pork is a 2nd favourite option) simmered in vinegar, garlic, black peppercorns, soy sauce, and bay leaves.
Though its an authentic Filipino delicacy, Adobo gets its name from colonizer Spain, which means “marinade” or “sauce.”
Did you know? There is no standard recipe for Adobo. Every Filipino household makes it differently.
This traditional Filipino food is usually eaten with white rice.
You would typically pour the sauce onto the rice as well.
If you want to savor the dish in different ways, you can also try “adobo-flavored” noodles, nuts and crispy snacks common in Philippines.
This traditional Filipino food is famous for its fusion of flavors of spicy, sweet, savoury and tart.
Bicol Express is a spicy Filipino stew that contains bite-sized pork pieces with chilies, coconut milk, shrimp paste, tomatoes, onions, and garlic.
This spicy yet creamy pork stew gets its name from the train in the Bicol region of Philippines that is known for its spicy food.
Bicol Express is usually served as a main dish for lunch or dinner along with steamed rice.
Also Read: Gallery by Chele, Filipino Tasting Menu Restaurant in Manila
A famous Filipino beef dish, Bulalo is usually a light-colored soup prepared by cooking beef shanks and bone marrows until the collagen and fat have melted into the broth.
Besides the beef, this popular Filipino soup also includes leafy vegetables, corn cob, scallions, garlic, onion, ginger, scallions, and fish sauce.
Bulalo is worth enjoying with garlic rice, soy sauce and calamansi on the side.
This traditional Filipino food is popular in the Southern Luzon region of the country.
Native to the Visayan Islands, this traditional Filipino food is not your typical grilled chicken.
Chicken Inasal is grilled chicken to perfection.
The preparation involves chicken marinated in ginger, lemongrass, and calamansi juice.
The chicken is then grilled over the fire using annatto oil.
Chicken Inasal is served with rice, liquid chicken fat, and a soy sauce dip.
The dish is a must-try if you love chicken.
In fact, some restaurants in the Philippines serve this with unlimited garlic rice because it’s so flavourful.
Ask any Filipino their favourite Filipino dish, Crispy Pata will surely be mentioned! Myself included.
Crispy Pata is a famous Filipino pork dish made from pork leg (or pork hock or knuckles).
This traditional Filipino dish is prepared with the whole pork leg boiled with a spice mixture (like salt, bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic) until tender.
It is further fried until it attains a golden brown color and becomes crispy.
The result is crunchy skin and moist tender meat!
This popular pulutan dish or main entree is served with pickled papaya and a sauce that is made from vinegar, soy sauce, and a variety of spices.
If you’re in Manila, Project Pork is one of the best restaurants in Manila for Crispy Pata!
I haven’t found a place better than them.
Inihaw na Liempo
Inihaw na Liempo is Grilled Pork Belly made in Filipino style.
The pork belly is marinated and grilled on a charcoal grill.
The taste is amazing! It has nice char on the fatty part which further enhances the flavor of the dish, and the pork comes out flavourful with the marinade.
This traditional Filipino food is served with a side of sawsawan (dipping sauce) or spiced vinegar known as pinakurat.
Inihaw na Liempo is a popular dish for pulutan with beer.
You can also enjoy it as a main entree with steamed white rice, or (even better) garlic rice.
Kaldereta is a traditional Filipino meat stew that is made with vegetables, tomato sauce and liver paste.
The vegetables often include tomatoes, olives, potatoes, hot peppers, and bell peppers.
The meat could vary from goat meat to beef, chicken, or pork.
Its name comes from the Spanish word caldera which means cauldron.
Kaldereta is very much similar to the meat stews made in Iberian Peninsula and was brought to the country by the Spaniards.
This traditional Filipino food is unique to Philippines.
A hearty stew dish, Kare-Kare is a famous local dish that contains a rich savory peanut sauce.
It consists of meat, often one or more of beef, tripe, oxtail, pork leg, beef, and even at times goat.
Then vegetables are mixed in the peanut sauce, a sauce prepared from ground roasted peanuts.
Some people even use peanut butter with garlic, onions, and annatto seeds.
This main entree is often served with shrimp paste on the side to enhance the flavor of the dish and balance the rich peanut sauce.
I know Adobo is more popular, but I personally enjoy Kare-Kare more.
Also Read: Indian Street Food Guide
Laing is a Filipino recipe that consists of shredded or whole taro leaves simmered in thick coconut milk with labuyo chile, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, and shrimp paste.
This traditional Filipino dish came from the Bicol region of the Philippines, where it is popularly known as pinangat.
Laing is also known as ginataang laing because it is a form of ginataan (Filipino meals cooked in coconut milk).
This vegetable side dish is typically served with boiled white rice to accompany meat or fish side dishes known as ulam in Filipino.
What I love doing is adding a lot of laing on top of white rice and then mixing it all so the white rice becomes so flavourful.
The most iconic Filipino food, Lechon, often known as “roasted suckling pig,” is a famous Filipino dish served at festivities and special occasions such as birthdays and weddings.
In fact, in one area in Manila, you’ll streets lined with lechon.
This area is called La Loma and is the Lechon Capital of the Philippines!
One of several Spanish inspirations on Filipino food, this traditional Filipino food can be prepared in two ways: ‘Manila or Luzon lechon’ and ‘Visayas or Cebu lechon.’
Before roasting, Manila lechon is normally merely spiced with salt and pepper.
However, Cebu lechon is usually stuffed with a variety of spices such as tamarind, lemongrass, tamarind, onions, garlic, and chives, to name a few.
Both are slowly roasted over an open fire for many hours.
You can notice a difference in the skin for both kinds of lechon.
I personally prefer the skin on the Luzon lechon which is smooth and thin with a crispy crunch.
I find the Cebu lechon has more of a hard crackling crunch.
Leftover lechon is typically chopped then used to make another Filipino dish called Lechon Paksiw, in which they stewed the leftovers in vinegar, liver sauce, and spices.
If you’re in Manila, Kamayan is one of my favourite restaurants in Manila for lechon and it’s all you can eat!
Lechon is not always easy to find or make since it requires a whole pig and an open fire.
The next best thing you can get instead is Lechon Kawali, deep fried pork belly!
The name basically means Lechon cooked in a wok (kawali).
Similar to Crispy Pata, the pork belly is boiled first with some spice mixture, then air dried with salt rub, and then fried in a wok until crispy when the skin turns into a crackling texture.
Crispy skin with tender fatty meat! What more can you ask for!
It’s typically served with soy-vinegar sauce like crispy pata.
But another popular sauce for Lechon Kawali is pork liver sauce like Mang Tomas, which I personally prefer over the soy-vinegar sauce.
If you’re ever in Toronto, Sampaguita Village is the best Filipino restaurant in Toronto for lechon kawali.
Perhaps the most traditional Filipino breakfast dish, Longganisa (Longaniza) is Philippines’ favorite sausage and my favourite for a Filipino breakfast.
It is a long pork sausage that is spiced with paprika, aniseed, vinegar, cinnamon, and garlic.
There are regional varieties to Longganisa with the most popular being from Pampanga (sweeter) and Vigan (more savoury).
When you visit Philippines, longganisa is a must-have.
It is considered the king of Filipino breakfast and is paired with garlic fried rice and fried egg, which is called longsilog on the menu.
Also Read: Korean Food Guide
Ask any Filipino: there’s no truer heartbreak than going to a Filipino party and finding out there’s no lumpia!
One of the most popular Filipino appetizers, Lumpia (or Lumpiang Shanghai) is inspired by Chinese egg rolls and is essentially a deep-fried spring roll.
This traditional Filipino snack or side dish is stuffed with a combination of chopped vegetables and minced meat, infused with the right sauces to makes it the perfect appetizer for lunch.
Fried Lumpia is spring roll taken to the next level and is a major part of Philippines’ food culture.
You can find them in almost every party and special occasion.
Pancit, or pansit, is a common term for traditional Filipino noodles often cooked with vegetables and meat.
Pancit Palabok is a popular variety specially prepared with shrimp sauce and is garnished with cooked shrimp, crushed chicharon, boiled pork, tinapa flakes, fried tofu, scallions, smoked fish, and friend garlic.
It’s one of the most popular dishes during celebrations particularly birthdays since pancit palabok is associated with long life and good health.
Philippine fast food chain, Jollibee, is very known for their Palabok Fiesta, which you can get in a party size for those special occassions.
Go outside the streets of the Philippines, you are sure to find Pork Barbecue, one of the most popular Filipino street food.
But it’s not just for the streets.
It’s also a staple in restaurants, parties and at home for gatherings.
Popular for pulutan, this traditional Filipino dish is marinated pork slices on a stick that are charcoal grilled.
What makes them different from other pork BBQ is the marinade since the Filipino version has a mix of sweet, salty and, sometimes, slightly spicy, whereas others tend to be salty and/or spicy only.
The secret? The marinade typically includes banana ketchup and 7-up/Sprite!
The spiciness would come from chili oil or chili peppers.
Also Read: Air Fryer BBQ Pork Tenderloin Recipe
Aside from bulalo, Sinigang is one of the best Filipino foods to try if you’re searching for something that might warm you up during the monsoon season.
This traditional Filipino food is meat or seafood-based Filipino stew or soup in which the acidic stock is made with tamarind (sampalok) for a sour and savoury taste.
With its sour taste, sinigang is definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone.
Water spinach (kangkong), okra, radish, taro, eggplant, and string beans are all commonly used in a traditional Filipino sinigang.
Aside from tamarind, spices like citruses, gooseberry tree fruits (called karmay in Ilocano), and others are used to enhance the sourness.
Sisig is another popular Filipino dish that developed in the province of Pampanga, specifically in Angeles.
Portions of a pig’s head, such as its ears, cheeks, and jowls, are customarily chopped, boiled, and then sauteed or grilled or fried before being dressed with chicken liver, calamansi, chili peppers, onions, salt, vinegar, and pepper.
Some people find sisig to be exotic, but this is nothing compared to other exotic Filipino food!
Different places serve sisig in either soft or crispy form.
It’s soft when it’s sauteed, and crispy when grilled or fried.
The traditional sisig uses pork, but variations have come out due to its popularity.
It’s now common to find chicken sisig (I love the one at Casa Manila in Toronto), bangus sisig (for pescatarians) and tofu sisig (for vegetarians).
I even had cocodile sisig during my trip to Palawan!
Sisig is popular as a pulutan dish with beer because of how flavourful along with the sizzle and the crunch.
It’s one of my favourite Filipino food, something I always order when I’m in a Filipino restaurant.
Luckily, I found the best sisig in Toronto at Bella’s Lechon.
If you’re in the Philippines, I found Manam Cafe is one of the best restaurants in Manila (if not, the best!) for sisig.
Tapa is made from dried or cured beef, mutton, venison, or horse meat, although it can also be made from other meats or perhaps even fish.
Unless otherwise stated, tapa typically refers to beef tapa in the Philippines. It’s like the Filipino version of “beef jerky.”
This traditional Filipino breakfast food is made by slicing thin strips of beef and preserving them with salt and spices.
It’s frequently fried or grilled.
In Filipino restaurants, you’ll usually find it as Tapsilog, a combination of the Tagalog terms (beef) tapa, sinangag (fried garlic rice), and itlog (fried egg).
As a side dish, it may include atchara, pickled papaya strips, or sliced tomatoes.
As a condiment, vinegar or ketchup are commonly used.
Hope this list of Traditional Filipino Food helps you decide what are the best Filipino dishes to eat when visiting Philippines, or in any Filipino restaurants in the world!