Bali is food heaven for everyone, regardless of whether you're ready to try every exotic delicacy on the island or if you have a certain diet to follow. Like most Indonesian food, Balinese food is rich in flavour with various herbs and spices in its ingredients.
As the majority of the population in Bali is Hindu, finding pork dishes in Bali is easier than in most regions in Indonesia. Since cows are considered sacred creatures in Hinduism, finding beef-based delicacies in Bali can be challenging, although it's not impossible.
Like other Indonesian food, rice is the primary staple in Balinese food, so you can expect everything to be served with rice instead of bread on the island. Sambal, the Indonesian spicy condiment, has become a distinguished side dish in Balinese food, which can be an additional treat for those who enjoy spicy delicacies.
Visitors need to be aware that the term "Bali belly" is used for a reason, and it's important to understand how to avoid food poisoning while trying the traditional food in Bali.
There are two ways to enjoy traditional Balinese cuisine: in a proper family restaurant or a warung. Warung is usually a small family-owned business that sells various types of local food in Bali, with some of them usually having buffet-style service where visitors can choose any side dishes on display.
High-end family restaurants in Bali usually offer various Balinese foods, and are usually preferred by domestic and international tourists on the island due to their high-quality food and hygiene. If you rent a car with a driver in Bali, some big family restaurants like Bebek Tepi Sawah usually provide complimentary meals for the driver. The space for the drivers is usually separated from the main restaurant area, so don't feel bad if your driver politely refuses your offer to eat with them if you go to this type of restaurant.
As bread is not a staple for Balinese people, you rarely find bread-based meals at local restaurants. Unless otherwise stated, all menus that start with the word "nasi" (Indonesian word for rice) usually include the rice in the package.
Mineral water is not complimentary. However, some restaurants and warungs offer complimentary hot tea if you order something there.
Some local restaurants have two different seating areas, including tables and gazebos. There is no difference between the two, except that local families usually prefer gazebos as their seating area for a more intimate meal. You can sit cross-legged on this gazebo area while enjoying your favourite Balinese dishes.
Many restaurants in Bali have designated smoking areas, so if you're a smoker, you can ask the servers to be seated accordingly.
Like most Indonesian, Balinese quite often use their hands for eating without any cutlery. Restaurants and warungs usually provide a bowl with water, sometimes infused with a slice of key lime. The latter is usually what locals know as "kobokan" and if you see this type of water when ordering food in Bali, keep in mind that this bowl is NOT for drinks. While restaurants and warungs usually have sinks for guests to wash their hands properly, this water bowl is usually given so you can rinse your hands before or after eating.
If you want to use cutlery, a pair of fork and spoon is used for eating in Bali.
Most restaurants in Bali only have the base price on the menu, so expect to pay 10% extra for tax. Depending on the restaurant, sometimes they also include a 5% to 10% service fee in addition to that.
Bali is one of the provinces in Indonesia that strictly prohibits people from using single plastic bags daily, so make sure to bring a shopping bag on your own in case you need to order a takeaway at the restaurants in Bali.
The legal age for drinking in Indonesia is 21 years old, and servers have the right to ask for your ID if you order any alcoholic drinks.
Bali has banned single-use plastics since 2019, so bring your own bag if you want to take away food or beverages from restaurants.
While tipping is not mandatory in Bali, it is always appreciated. For restaurants or warungs that charge a service fee to customers, tipping is not necessary since technically, the fee will go directly to the restaurant staff.
If you want to leave a tip, you can also expect to pay from 3% to 5% of your bill. Alternatively, you can also round up your payment and leave the change as a token of appreciation for the restaurant staff.
Bali is an island that never sleeps, so you can expect some restaurants to be open for 24 hours, even if you need to grab something to eat in the middle of the night. For food delivery, you can also use Grab or Gojek app and take advantage of their GrabFood and GoFood features.
Typically, Balinese will have breakfast between 8am and 10am. Most warungs are already open during this time, although it can be challenging to find one that's open early in the smaller islands like Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, or Nusa Ceningan.
Lunch usually starts at 12pm up to 4pm, which is usually the peak period for warungs and restaurants in Bali.
Some warungs and restaurants usually also offer happy hours from 5 to 8 PM, which is the best time especially if you want to order alcoholic beverages for a better deal in Bali. Depending on the restaurant, you can usually order dinner from 6pm in Bali.
You will find various international restaurants in mainland Bali, especially the central areas like Kuta, Seminyak or Jimbaran. Local bars, beach clubs, and fine-dining reastaurants are also common around these areas and you can easily find any eateries that are open 24 hours too.
However, this may not be the case if you visit smaller islands in Bali. Most restaurants on islands like Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, or Nusa Ceningan usually only open up to 10 PM. They usually take the last order an hour before closing time, and unless they provide in-house food delivery, GrabFood and GoFood on these islands are not the option since the services are not available there yet.
Bali's beach clubs are some of the best in the world, and you need to make a reservation first to guarantee a spot if you plan to eat there. Depending on what day and what time you plan to come, most restaurants in Bali can accept go-show customers for dining there. Even if you happen to come when the tables are full, most restaurants usually have a waiting list system, although it may take longer until you get to be seated.
Family-owned warungs are the best option for a more budget-friendly dining experience, as they usually serve homemade local dishes at more affordable prices. Reservation is not necessary, although warungs can be super busy during lunchtime.
Bali has plenty of options for people with dietary restrictions, whether you are looking for vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options. You won't find any beef-based meals in traditional Balinese restaurants or warungs, but it's relatively easy to find some halal restaurants that also serve beef on their menu.
While some big chain restaurants also have halal certificates, you can easily find Kapau restaurants in Bali. Kapau restaurants in Indonesia are associated with a place to go if you want affordable and halal food. As the name stands, they serve West Sumatran-style food so don't miss trying rendang, the top of the world's 50 Best Food according to CNN, in one of these restaurants in Bali!
Balinese traditional food varies and you can always find something in Bali that suits your diet requirements. From plant-based dishes to strong alcoholic drinks, here are some food and beverages you should try in Bali:
Ayam or Bebek Betutu is a highly seasoned and spiced dish using base genep, traditional Balinese seasoning. Usually made with steamed and roasted chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek), they typically use around 15 types of spices to serve this dish.
Sate lilit is a Balinese satay made with meats wrapped around the skewer. Unlike some other Indonesian satay that's usually served with peanut sauce, there's no additional condiment with sate lilit as they usually mix the seasonings prior to cooking the satay.
Nasi jinggois one of the most popular budget-friendly meals in Bali. The rice-based food is usually served in banana leaf, with various side dishes like sambal goreng tempe (sambal mixed with fried tempeh and anchovy), shredded chicken and coconut.
Serombotan is a Balinese-style vegetable salad served with shredded coconut and peanut sauce. They usually use a mixture of cooked veggies like long beans, bean sprouts, aubergine, and water spinach as the ingredients. While this Klungkung traditional dish is vegetarian-friendly, if you're a vegan you can ask not to use uyah sere limau in the sauce as the latter typically adds a pinch of shrimp paste as a part of the ingredients.
Bulung kuah pindang is a seaweed-based side dish in Bali. Served with spicy gravy, they use fish like tuna in the gravy ingredients.
Sambal matah is a Balinese-style condiment made with a mixture of shallot, chilli, shrimp paste, and oil. A great addition to any rice-based food in Bali, you can find sambal matah in every corner of the island.
Es Daluman is a Balinese dessert made with grass jelly, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Add some ice cubes, it's a great option to enjoy during hot weather on the island!
Arak Bali is a traditional Balinese liquor made of fermented coconut water. The fermentation process usually takes about 2-3 days, and the next step will be distillation before extracting the alcohol. Unlike most fermented drinks, you can only consume arak bali for a certain period, so be aware of its expiry date before drinking.
The most popular food festival in Bali is the Ubud Food Festival, held annually for three days at Taman Kuliner Ubud.
The festival blends engaging conversations with renowned chefs, local food pioneers, and ambitious entrepreneurs with free masterclasses and live demonstrations. There are also stalls where you can try food from around the island.
Although the festival is typically held around June or July, you can check the official website of Ubud Food Festival for the updated schedule for this festival, as the date differs each year.
The food price in Bali may vary, depending on the type of warung or restaurants you go to. You can expect to pay around IDR 30,000 to 40,000 per portion for a simple lunch in a regular warung, while the price can escalate up to IDR 150,000 per pax in a fancy restaurant.
Local people in Bali drink coffee regularly, and the popularity of modern coffee shops has been increasing in the past few years that you can get a cup of black coffee for around IDR 15,000 per cup.
With the high tax on alcoholic beverages in Bali, you can expect to pay around IDR 30,000 for a 300-ml beer at the minimarket, and the cost can be higher if you choose to dine in and drink at a cafe or restaurant.
Some beach clubs, especially the more popular ones like Cafe del Mar or Potato Beach Club, have minimum spending requirements if you want to book a spot there. Typically, it starts from IDR 500,000 per booking where you can pre-order your meals and drinks to reserve a spot at your favourite beach club.
Last Updated 26 July 2023