Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet
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Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet. When we hear the now cliché, “Traditional Nepali Cuisine,” a well-lit “Thakali Khaja Ghar” with all the sophisticated aesthetics might come to our imaginations, but it isn’t often that we pay close attention to how medieval Nepalese society might have come to rely primarily on these food items, and more importantly, the kinds of health considerations they might have taken into account. Our bio-agricultural and cultural diversity is often manifested in the form of an various number of diets produced and consumed throughout the country, from the well-known ones like Daal, Bhat, Tarkaari to the ones like Bara (Woh) and Kinema, which not a lot of people know about.

A Brief Overview of Traditional Nepali Foods

Let’s begin with a slight insight into how amazingly knowledgeable our ancestors were in terms of what they allowed on their plates, with an example uncommon for some and not for others, the Bara(Woh). With its origins traceable back to hundreds of years ago in the city of Bhaktapur, it is mainly prepared during the occasion of “Siti nakha“, an important festival for the Newari community. 

To prepare these delicious “Newari Pancakes,” as locals might like to name “Bara“, different sorts of ingredients from green and black grams, peas, and lentils are used. The subsequent soaking, dehulling, and careful deep-frying eliminate the anti-nutrients that are present in the ingredients. What’s more, the food, in and of itself, is rich in dietary fiber, which helps prevent the risk of diseases mild to severe, such as diabetes mellitus, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few. 

And, the good news is: Bara is only one of the countless other dishes.

From the smoky and spicy grilled “Choila“, the savory and crispy rice flour crust “Chattamari“, the sweet and syrupy funnel-cake “Jeri“, the tangy vegetable salad bursting with bold flavors, “Sandheko“, to “Shaak“, “Yomari“, “Chiura“, “Sukuti“, etc., the list of enticing traditional Nepali foods goes on and on. 

1. Dal Bhat Tarkaari

A typical Nepali meal, Dal Bhat Tarkari is sure to create a symphony of tasty flavors that’ll leave your taste buds tantalized. Elements used in the recipe are not only prepared with utmost care but are complemented with a range of aromatic spices. Moreover, as delicious as it sounds, it is also comprehensively nutritive, in the sense that a good knack can provide you with almost all bodily requirements, and this is also why it’s the most affirmed and favored staple food in the country. 

It consists of three primary elements;

i. The Daal, which is a creamy aromatic soup packed with protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients, is prepared with a wide variety of legumes including yellow lentils, red lentils, or black lentils. 

ii. The Bhaat, an accompaniment to the Dal, is fluffy and light and adds a rich luxuriance to the Daal, and a nutty texture to the meal.

iii. The Tarkari, often cooked in a fragrant melange of a wide range of spices like garlic, ginger, coriander, cardamom, etc. is a medley of fresh and locally sourced vegetables, including onions, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, okra(lady’s fingers), gourds, etc. 

From rich plant-based protein reserves in the lentils of the Daal that are imperative to muscle building and regulation of sugar levels to Vitamin B’s in the rice, which help maintain cognitive function and overall metabolism, and many other vitamins and like iron, folate, magnesium and other minerals in the Tarkari, this pick in the menu consists of everything for it to be deemed a complete, wholesome meal.

Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet in 2023
Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet

2. Sel Roti

Sel Roti, a rice-based, ring-shaped doughnut, spongy, soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside, is a traditional Nepali food consumed often during festivals and special occasions, particularly the festival of Tihar, or Diwali, and Maghe Sankranti. It is made from a pretty basic batter consisting of rice flour, sugar, water, and ghee, with a hint of cardamom and other aromatic spices, which is later poured through a funnel into boiling oil to deep-fry.

(The batter can be kept for fermentation by yeasts or lactic acid bacteria for a few days to a week, and can even be refrigerated to preserve it for long durations, which could be the reason that it’s such a sought-after and favored item in many street shops and cuisines.)

As luscious and mouth-drooling as it sounds in terms of taste, it is also quite nutritive. Its ingredients are good reserves of carbohydrates and fats, and so we might get glimpses of Nepali people enjoying a knack of Sel-Roti early in the morning, to keep themselves warm and energized in the face of the chills of the winter, particularly in the high Himalayas and hills. 

Additionally, it can be made with whole grain rice flour mixed into the batter, contributing fiber and micronutrients to this much-enjoyed snack. Moreover, the use of aromatic spices including cardamom and cinnamon can provide health benefits as well, as these spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  

However, as prolonged deep-frying in reused or even fresh oil might add significantly high degrees of calories and unhealthy saturated and trans fats to it, paying close attention to the preparation of the Sel Roti that ends up on our plates should be a priority.

Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet
Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet Sel Roti

3. Gundruk and Sinki

The native word, “Gundruk“, originates from “gundru“, which means dried stalk of the “taro” plant in the Newari language. Commonly prepared by fermenting taro leaves with other leafy greens including mustard greens(Tori ko Saag), radish greens(Mula ko Saag), and spinach such as Malabar Nightshade (Poi ko Saag), Swiss Chard, etc., it is a great pick for anyone who’s looking for fine texture, great taste, and plentiful nutrition in an all-in-one solid diet.

Many first-timers might find the taste somewhat less captivating, but as their taste buds grow accustomed to the fermentation-produced tangy and sour notes and the earthy and sharp undertones of its ingredients that complement it, they grow to love the food. 

Sinki, in contrast, is a food that’s prepared with fermented radishes and cauliflower. Having been cut into little slices, salted, and then allowed to dry for a few days, they tend to acquire a distinctive, strong flavor that is both sour and savory.

The fermentation process used in Gundruk and Sinki increases the bioavailability of certain vitamins and minerals, and recent research has shown that the lactic acid bacteria used in this process also have other potential health benefits in terms of digestion and immunity. 

Both Gundruk and Sinki are excellent sources of Vitamins C, K, calcium, fiber, and antioxidants. Moreover, Gundruk is particularly rich in iron, potassium, and calcium.

Image by : Yummy Food World

4. Dhindo 

Dhindo is a beloved traditional food that has been enjoyed for generations, particularly in the higher Himalayas and hills. A simple food made by combining cornmeal and water, and by cooking or baking it slowly till it attains a porridge-like, thick consistency, Dhindo exhibits a uniquely appealing taste. The nutty, earthy sweetness, which is the result of a careful cooking process, makes it a soothing, pleasing meal. It is a versatile staple in many parts of Nepal and is typically eaten with a variety of stews, curries, and vegetables.  

When asked about the food, the words given by locals are mostly somewhere along the lines of “We eat Dhindo with bare hands, and they suffice. No forks, no spoons, not just out of respect for traditionally, but for the enhancement of experience.” 

The cornmeal used in Dhindo is a rich source of fiber, Vitamin B6, fiber, iron, etc., which is a good reason why the diet is considered to be complete in terms of nutrition. The complex carbohydrates in the cornmeal are broken down into simpler units, making them easy for the body to digest and derive energy from. It’s also low in bad cholesterol, as it’s prepared substantially with salt and water.

Image by : Desserts and More

5. Kwati

Being an exquisite dish that teases the taste buds with its earthy, savory, and slightly sour flavor, the Kwati favors various lentils and beans that are harmoniously melded together with aromatic species, creating a taste sensation that is not only delightful but irresistible. 

Kwati is a blend of nine different bean varieties, which are slow-cooked with a variety of fragrant spices and herbs. The black-eyed peas, green lentils, kidney beans, and soybeans that are used in it do not just add to Kwati a rich and succulent taste, but also important fibers, proteins, and carbohydrates to make it a wholesome meal.

The fragrant spices and herbs used in Kwati, dominantly cumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and coriander, enhance its flavor and add to it more depth and complexity. Besides that, they have a spectrum of health bonuses for us. For instance, curcumin, an antioxidant found in turmeric, aids in reducing inflammation. Kwati, in and of itself, is a fantastic source of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, and iron which are no less than fundamental to maintaining optimum health.

Image by : Lifethrualens2016

6. Aloo Tama

A mouthwatering blend of potatoes and bamboo shoots, Aloo Tama is a traditional Nepalese meal that is cooked in a fragrant and savory broth composed of unique spices and herbs. The potatoes, having first been sufficiently boiled, are sauteed with a variety of aromatic species, including turmeric, cumin, and coriander, which lend to the dish an earthy, and warm aura. 

The bamboo and the tamarind shoots add a distinct fragrance to it, and the vivid assortment of vegetables and spices decorate the dish and give it a lively, enchanting look. You will surely be taken to the beautiful and lush highlands of Nepal with each spoonful.

Aloo Tama offers a range of essential elements to support a healthy, comprehensive diet. The recipe consists of significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fibers, such as potassium, vitamin C, and iron. The tamarind, which is used as a vital ingredient, aids in better digestion and is a natural source of antioxidants. 

Into the bargain, here’s a piece of good news for anyone watching their fat intakes: the dish is mostly prepared with minimal mineral oil, and so it’s also very low-cal.

Image by : Foodpleasurehealth

Health Benefits of Traditional Nepali Foods

A. Rich in Nutrition

The nutritional value of traditional Nepali foods is immeasurable, and it reflects itself in a spectrum of instances. Nepali foods consist of a range of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that are imperative to maintaining good health. 

For example, Asthamandal, a traditional Newari meal produced from fermented soybeans, has been associated with decreased risk of heart diseases and osteoporosis(weakening of the bones), and various cancers, due to a sizable presence of isoflavones in it. 

The use of Mashyaura, an edible plant that grows in the wilds of the upper Himalayas, is another one of the many good examples. The carotenoids and flavonoids found in this plant act as antioxidants and help the body fight off dangerous free radicals lingering around in the blood vessels, hence reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

The incorporation of vegetables like mustard greens and pumpkins in everyday dishes like Saag and Tarkari, as well as the usage of whole grains like millets and barley in foods like Tsampa, adds into our lives a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fibers too.

The list goes on and on. However, it is to note that what we consume must be nutrient-rich and fulfilling in terms of bodily necessities to lead a qualitative life, because otherwise, from the function of the brain to the immune dynamic, everything becomes prone to failure. In this regard, traditional Nepali cuisines are more than worth a try! 

B. Promotes Digestion

At a time when digestive complications regarding constipation, food poisoning, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, etc. are so ordinary, whenever sat in front of an Ayurvedic professional, or even any elderly from a local community, they always seem to have some sort of solution up their sleeves. And this, particularly, is attributed to the fact that Nepali cuisines have been known for their ability to promote digestion since time immemorial. 

Have we ever perhaps given careful thought to why we use ginger and turmeric so much? Here in Nepal, you’ll find these items in one part of the recipe or another in at least one of every two food items. It’s because they aid in digestion; gingers consist of gingerols to stimulate the digestive system: getting the food to break down fast, increasing the production of digestive enzymes, reducing inflammation, etc., and likewise Turmeric, known locally as Besar, also helps in relief from a spectrum of digestive complications.

Furthermore, traditional Nepali food items often include fenugreek seeds, which help encourage regular bowel mobility and hence lower constipation.

A good and working digestion dynamic is extremely necessary for the entirety of the body to properly absorb nutrients from food, maintain a healthy gut microbiome, and eliminate waste products efficiently. In this context, a traditionally Nepali staple diet is a very clean choice.

C. Boosts Immune System

“Switching to traditional can prove to be a milestone in the life of someone looking to boost his immunity.” How? From high degrees of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium in the mainstream Dal, Bhat and Tarkari, Aloo Tama, and Kwati, to the probiotics in fermented foods like Ghundruk and Achaar, traditional Nepali cuisines have served a comprehensive role in preserving the efficiency of the immune dynamic of many Nepalese to this day. 

And now, we’re putting in garlic and ginger as examples yet again, and this time too, we can’t help it. The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that they exhibit make them a vital incorporation into so many kinds of our traditional foods, from Thukpa to Ghundruk ko Jhol and even Choila. Everywhere that they’re included, they help ward off infections as well as boost the immune function.

Keeping a body disease-free takes careful and consistent considerations of what’s on the plate; and if it’s a nutrient of traditional Nepali cuisine, then you’ve made a choice that’s likely one of the best.

D. Lowers Cholesterol

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the salad on the other side and lower its cholesterol!

Lowering Cholesterol is a BURNING ISSUE in middle-aged adults, but traditional Nepali foods can help out. 

Food items like soy products, lentils, and beans, which are so fervently incorporated into our traditional diets, are rich in soluble fibers; and soluble fibers bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing them from entering the bloodstream right then and there. 

Here’s yet another reason why we use ginger, garlic, and turmeric so much: their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties also help in lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol which accumulates in the arteries and increase the odds of heart disease.

Gundruk and Spinach, which are such common food items in our traditional diets, consist of compounds like flavonoids, which work to lower cholesterol by preventing its absorption right in the stomach, and also by raising levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good friend” cholesterol, that aids in removing extra “bad” cholesterol from the bloodstream.

The 5 Best Nepalese Dishes to Try


Traditions exist for a reason and Nepali cuisines are the best examples. They offer a rich and diverse cuisine that is both delicious and healthy. With diversification of dishes ample amount of nutrients, low fat, and a balanced magnitude of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, Nepali foods can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet or can be entirely accommodated into daily lives. From the staple, Daal Bhaat and Tarkari to the popular snack Momo and traditional dishes like Dhindo, Aloo Tama, Choila, and Gundruk, Nepali foods provide a unique flavor profile and a wide range of health benefits. Let us all enjoy the flavors of Nepal while promoting a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle!

Are Nepali foods spicy?

Many Nepali cuisines might be somewhat spicy to people that aren’t accustomed to them, mostly because they’re supposed to be that way. However, that’s not a universal case, and such spiciness does not manifest itself in all food items, and even in which they do, their levels might vary. Nepali foods are indeed incorporated with spices like chili peppers, ginger-garlic, turmeric, coriander, and cumin, amongst many others, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask the cook to keep the fiery feature out of the food for your plate! And, there are always foods that exclude spice, like Dhindo, or Sel Roti.

Is it safe to eat street food in Nepal?

There are safe places, yes, but unfortunately, mostly not. Street vendors might not always necessarily pay heed to sanitation and consumer protection, and there have been cases where the consumption has had severe consequences for some. We advise looking for food stalls that have a high turnover of customers, because this might be an indication of safety considerations including the freshness of the food, and also recommend avoiding food that seems to have been kept out for long, or food that seems only partially cooked.

What is the staple food in Nepal?

In general, it is “Daal Bhat Tarkaari“, but it may vary depending on the specifics of geography and ethnicity. In the high Himalayas and the hills, Wheat, Maize, Uwa, Barley, etc. are also common staple foods, as is Roti in Terai. For protein, the Nepalese depend primarily on milk, meat, and eggs. 

Can vegetarians find good options in Nepali cuisine?

Yes, Nepali cuisine has tasty options for vegetarians. In reality, vegetarianism predominates in traditional Nepali cuisine. Legumes, lentils, and vegetables are used in a variety of cuisines. Dal Bhat, Tarkari, Aloo Tama, saag, and chana masala are a few famous vegetarian Nepali cuisines. It’s almost a given that by simply leaving out the meat or using a substitute, many Nepali dishes can be made vegetarian.

What is Gundruk?

Gundruk is a traditional Nepali dish made from fermented leafy vegetables. It is high in fiber and vitamins and a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial for good health.


Dr. Samridhi Shrestha
Traditional Nepali Foods for a Healthy Diet

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