Top 18 Street Food You Must Try In Pakistan

street food in pakistan
| 8 min read

Asia is a giant continent, home to a myriad assortment of cultures and civilizations. And located in such a sweet spot is Pakistan, where South and Central Asian influences, not to mention Islamic culture, collide. There is a lot to experience in Pakistan, top of which is the natural sites which are in abundance in this beautiful country. You’ll get to enjoy exquisite scenery in every turn. One aspect of everyday life where the Asian and Islamic cultures collide is most evident is in Pakistani food. It’s a celebration of all the cooking traditions from these places, merged in one exceptionally large melting pot. There are thousands of restaurants, big and small, which you should definitely try, but of course, we shouldn’t forget the street food scene. You can say that street food in Pakistan is like a teaser of what’s to come. Here is a list of the top street food you must try in Pakistan.

1. Masala French fries

Masala french fries yummy lip smacking.

Posted by JUICE WORLD -fresh'n'juicy on Friday, 24 August 2018

East meets West in this Pakistani favorite: Masala French Fries, which locals love to eat whenever. It’s basically sliced potatoes fried in a deep-bottomed pan until they’re a lovely golden brown color. After they’ve sufficiently cooled down, the fries are sprinkled with a mixture of spices: chili powder, cumin powder, as well as black salt and regular salt. The fries are shaken in a container until each piece is coated with the mixed spices. Enjoy this as is or with your favorite dip (or whatever the locals recommend for a more authentic experience).

2. Paratha (flatbread)

Aloo paratha 2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sandeep Gupta used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Paratha isn’t just your run-of-the-mill street food. It’s a staple, not just in Pakistan, but in other countries in the Indian subcontinent as well. Paratha is a kind of flatbread made with atta (wholemeal wheat flour), maida (a kind of Indian white flour made from wheat), ghee or clarified butter (but butter or cooking oil can be used as well), and depending on who’s cooking, stuffings. People usually eat paratha with their breakfasts and it is best served hot.

3. Spicy papad

Deep fried rice Papad
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Charles Haynes used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another popular local snack is spicy papad. It’s made of papad (or papadum), a thin and crispy snack made of seasoned dough. There are two ways to prepare papad– by frying or by cooking it in dry heat. To make spicy papad, people mix the cooked papad with a variety of spices, but usually red chili powder. Some people cut the papad into smaller pieces before mixing it with the spices to make a more bite-friendly snack.

4. Bhutta (corn on the cob)

Bhutta combo!!
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Arshita Singhal used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Who knew Pakistanis also love some good corn on the cob? Locally known as bhutta, this top snack is sold by “bhuttawallahs,” which you can find almost anywhere in the country. Bhutta is usually roasted, but you can ask the friendly neighborhood bhuttawallah to prepare it the way locals like, which could be with a coating of butter, dusted with salt and chili powder, some lemon juice, or all of the above. Take note, however, that bhutta is seasonal (because corn is), and they’re usually popular during the monsoon season.

5. Bun kebab

Bun Kabab
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user LunaticFringe97 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The origins of the now world-famous kebab are often disputed, but there is no doubt that Pakistan is the birthplace of the bun kebab. Also known as “anday wala burger,” bun kebab is a sandwich. At its center is a spicy patty, topped with chutney, sliced onions and, finally, with a generous heap of cumin and chili powder. The patty can be made from beef or mutton, but there are also vegan patties usually made of mashed lentils. This Pakistani sandwich is extremely popular in Lahore, Karachi, and other big cities, but you might also find some vendors selling bun kebab in other parts of the country.

6. Shawarma

Shawarma (8503517413)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user cyclonebill used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This Middle Eastern favorite is also a popular snack in different parts of Pakistan. If this is completely new to you, shawarma is a dish composed of thinly sliced meat, which could either be lamb, mutton, chicken, or beef, among other varieties. It’s cooked in a spit and stacked like a cone, slowly roasted by the heat. You can enjoy shawarma on its own, a mountain of meat on your plate, or with other food such as flatbreads like pita, in a sandwich, or in a wrap.

7. Pakora (fried vegetable fritters)

Pakora (6005558506)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Upendra Kanda used under CC BY 2.0

If you’re itching to munch on something, might we suggest pakoras? These are fried vegetable fritters, meaning you can snack all you want without having to worry about being unhealthy! Pakoras originated from India and are popular in the entire subcontinent, and yes, that includes Pakistan. You can also find it in restaurants, on the street, and any home you visit. The standard recipe for pakoras involves a mix of onions, potatoes, and other vegetables, finely sliced and mixed with gram flour, chili flakes, water, lemon juice, and chili powder, to name a few. Enjoy it with a glass of masala chai to go.

8. Gol gappay

Pani puri Gol Gappa, Foods of India
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Apoorva Jinka used under CC BY 2.0

We tried to come up with a rough English translation for gol gappay (also referred to as panipuri or paani poori), but you should just try this. In Pakistan, though, this snack goes by the name above, gol gappay. So, what is it? It’s really hard to describe. Think of it as a crepe, hollowed out to make a round shape and then filled with imli pani or flavored water, chaat masala (a spice mix), tamarind chutney, onions, and chili. This one’s an explosion of spices and flavors and it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

9. Kulfi (ice cream)

Punjabi Kulfi
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miansari66 used under CC0

After the spice fest that is gol gappay, cool off your taste buds and let the steam out with a healthy serving of kulfi, which is basically the traditional ice cream in the sub-Indian continent. Unlike the regular ice cream that you and I know, kulfi is creamier and thicker, almost like custard. And since it’s denser, it also takes more time to melt- great if you’re visiting Pakistan at the height of summer. You can find it in a variety of flavors. The more traditional includes include mango, cardamom, rose, saffron, and cream, but there are also newer flavors out there, such as strawberry and avocado.

10. Ice gola (crushed ice lolly)

Ice Gola - The Colorful Flavoured ice sticks
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Abinandhan Sundar... used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Speaking of Pakistani summers, the heat can be so powerful, it’s a must to constantly cool off if you’re visiting during the hotter months. One way to take a break from the heat is to treat yourself to some ice gola or crushed ice lolly (or popsicles, depending on where you’re from). You can get this basically everywhere in Pakistan, but just in case you’re not in luck or you still want to try some but you’re no longer in Pakistan, you can make ice gola at home. All you need are ice cubes, ice cream sticks, chaat masala, a small glass, and your syrup of choice. The process is similar to making crushed ice.

11. Jalebi (syrup-covered sweet pretzels)

Jalebi - Closeup View of Jalebis
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lion.harvinder used under CC BY-SA 4.0

In the mood for some sweet snacks that are preferably not cold? Check out jalebi, which is popular not just in South Asia, but in the Middle East as well. Nobody knows for sure, but some people say it probably came from Iran or India. Regardless of where it came from, jalebi is well-loved in Pakistan. It’s made of maida flour, shaped like a pretzel and then deep-fried to perfection. Once fried, it’s soaked and covered in syrup, which can be made with sugar, lime juice, and rose water. This is one sticky and chewy snack you shouldn’t miss, hot or cold.

12. Samosa

Samosas and pakoras in Jaipur, India
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rishabh Mathur used under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most famous South Asian food to have traveled to different parts of the world, you should definitely try samosas while you’re in Pakistan. Best served hot so you can see the steam rising out of the pastry, samosas can have all kinds of fillings. Peas and lentils are the go-to fillings for vegans, but samosas can also be filled with onions, meat, and spiced potatoes. Some samosas are shaped like triangles, others like half-moons, and it is almost always served with chutney on the side. During the month of Ramzan, samosas are especially popular within the Pakistani community.

13. Faluda

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zeel Patel used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Also spelled as falooda, faluda is another popular dessert in Pakistan that found its way after traveling thousands of miles. It was originally created by the Persians (see faloodeh, its Iranian counterpart) which became massively popular in India between the 16th and 18th centuries. Today, faluda is also well-loved in Pakistan, and it is especially popular during Islamic holidays. Faluda is often made of milk mixed with rose water, then added with vermicelli and sweet basil. People often serve it just like ice cream, but take note, faluda is a cold beverage.

14. Chaat

Papri Chaat
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sumit Surai used under CC BY-SA 4.0

From desserts, we’re going back to excite our taste buds with some savory snacks like chaat. Widely popular in South Asia, you can get chaat from roadside stalls and hole-in-the-walls around Pakistan. Chaat is usually crispy fried dough served with potatoes, chickpeas, gram, and a sprinkle of spices, dried ginger and tamarind sauce, then topped with yogurt. Chaat goes well with samosas, so if you’re looking for a filling meal instead of just a snack, pair these two together. Additional tidbit: Gol gappay is actually a kind of chaat!

15. Chicken tikka

Chicken Tikka
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Umair Mohsin used under CC BY 2.0

Chicken tikka is another famous South Asian dish. It might be offered in the Indian, Pakistani, or South Asian restaurants near you. However, it’s still best to taste the authentic chicken tikka straight from the source. Chicken tikka are small pieces of boneless chicken, marinated in a combination of yogurt and spices, skewered on sticks, and then baked on an angeethi, which is a kind of South Asian brazier. One of the best things about chicken tikka is that you can have it as is, or enjoy it with other foods such as kebabs, biryani, and more.

16. Biryani

Biryani Home
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Shyamveer.singh1982 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Biryani is more than just a snack (although it can be if you eat it in smaller portions)- it’s a full-on meal! It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this mixed rice dish came from, although one thing’s for sure- it was made by the Muslim communities of old that lived in the Indian subcontinent. There are different types of biryani in Pakistan. One example is Sindh biryani, made with aromatic basmati rice, spices, and different vegetables. Memoni or kutchi biryani is another popular type of biryani in Pakistan, with the rice mixed with lamb, potatoes, onions, and dahi.

17. Haleem

Haleem hyderabadi
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Chandu7299 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Ending this list on a good note is haleem, a hearty stew popular not just in Pakistan, but in other parts of Asia as well. Haleem’s main ingredients are barley, meat, lentils, and wheat, with rice sometimes mixed in. The cooking process is slow- the traditional version of the stew is cooked overnight, but nowadays, you can prepare a generous helping of haleem in about six hours. It’s well worth the wait.

18. Kebab rolls

Kebab rolls
Source: Pixabay

You know how kebabs are often served in skewers? Well, here’s another way to enjoy this Middle Eastern snack in Pakistan: kebab rolls! Instead of eating it on a stick, the kebabs are served in parathas with onions, coriander leaves, and other vegetables, and then rolled. This makes eating kebab easier if you’re on the go. This delightful treat is quite filling, although it’s considered a mere biting. However, it’s savory and spicy combination makes it a memorable treat for your taste buds. You can easily pack it in your bag and enjoy it wherever for a quick snack.

Feast on Pakistani street food

There are so many options (we barely scratched the surface since Pakistan is one large country) and you’ll find that people here are eager to have you enjoy a second, a third, and maybe even a fourth helping. However, with the list above, you should be able to taste the best of Pakistani cuisines without leaving a hole in your wallet. Be sure to go on a culinary adventure in this Asian country and share your experiences with us. For more on Pakistan, browse our websites and check out our Pakistan travel guides.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Vanna is born and raised in the Philippines and describes herself as a local tourist-- she's made it her mission to see as many of the country's 7,000+ islands. But that doesn't mean she's not...Read more

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