Philippines Food Adobo head
Home Travel Guide Philippines Travel Guide Philippines Food Guide: 12 Best Filipino Dishes You Must Try

Philippines Food Guide: 12 Best Filipino Dishes You Must Try


If you’re a food enthusiast with a passion for culinary adventures, the Philippines is a treasure trove of flavors waiting to be explored. With a rich and diverse culinary heritage, the best Philippines dishes offer a delightful journey through taste and tradition. In this Philippines Food Guide, we’ll introduce you to 12 must-try Filipino delicacies, showcasing both traditional Philippines dishes and modern interpretations. With vivid descriptions and tantalizing pictures of these iconic dishes, you’ll be inspired to embark on a culinary expedition through the heart of Filipino cuisine. Get ready to savor the unique blend of flavors that make Filipino food truly exceptional.

1. Adobo: The tangy and savory national dish of the Philippines

This dish holds the title of the Philippines’ national favorite because it’s a go-to choice for Filipinos from all walks of life across different regions. The term “adobo” originates from the Spanish word “adobar,” which simply means to marinate or season. Adobo’s key components include vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Some variations may introduce sugar, coconut milk, or additional spices. The vinegar serves two purposes: preserving the meat and providing a delightful tang. Soy sauce contributes saltiness and color, while garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns infuse the dish with their enticing aroma and flavor. The meat is typically cooked until it becomes tender, and the sauce reduces to perfection. Adobo can be savored hot or cold, paired with rice or bread, or used as a filling for sandwiches or wraps.

Adobo - Philippines food

2. Sinigang: The sour and comforting soup with tamarind and meat

This dish, a sour soup, ranks among the Philippines’ cherished comfort foods. “Sinigang” essentially means stewing in a sour broth. The star ingredient in sinigang is tamarind, which imparts a delightful tangy and fruity flavor. Tamarind can be found in fresh, dried, or powdered forms. Alternatively, other souring agents like guava, calamansi (a citrus fruit), or kamias (a sour fruit) can be employed. The soup also boasts tomatoes, onions, and a variety of meats or seafood options, including pork, beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, or crab. To season the dish, fish sauce and, occasionally, chili peppers are added for a touch of heat. Sinigang can be enjoyed with rice or as a standalone dish, often served alongside a dipping sauce comprising fish sauce and calamansi juice.

Philippines Food Sinigang

3. Lechon: Whole roasted pig with crispy skin

This dish embodies the spirit of festivity and celebration in the Philippines, as it features a whole roasted pig. The term “lechon” has its roots in the Spanish word “lechón,” meaning a suckling pig. The pig is meticulously filled with a blend of herbs and spices, including lemongrass, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. It’s then skewered onto a bamboo pole and roasted over charcoal for several hours, rendering the skin crispy and the meat irresistibly juicy. Lechon typically graces the table during special occasions like Christmas, weddings, birthdays, and town fiestas. It’s usually accompanied by liver sauce or a vinegar dip, which imparts a touch of sweetness or sourness to the dish.

Philippines Food Lechon

4. Sisig: The sizzling and spicy dish with pig’s head and chili

Sisig is a sizzling sensation, prepared with chopped pig’s head, liver, and chili peppers. The term “sisig” suggests indulging in something tangy. The pig’s head undergoes boiling until tenderness is achieved, followed by grilling or frying to a crisp perfection. The meat is then finely chopped and mixed with liver, onions, chili peppers, calamansi juice, vinegar, and soy sauce. This delectable concoction is cooked on a hot metal plate until it sizzles and is typically served with rice or a refreshing beer. Sisig, born in the province of Pampanga in the Philippines, has evolved to include other meat variations like chicken, tuna, squid, or tofu.

Philippines Food Sisig

5. Kare-kare: The nutty stew with oxtail, tripe, and peanut sauce

This dish takes the form of a hearty stew, featuring oxtail, tripe, a medley of vegetables, and a peanut sauce. The term “kare-kare” might bring curry to mind, but it’s distinctly different from Indian curry. Oxtail and tripe are simmered to tender perfection before being combined with a sauce comprised of peanut butter, toasted rice flour, annatto oil (for color), onion, garlic, salt, and water. The sauce is thickened with rice flour, yielding a creamy and nutty flavor. Typically, eggplant, string beans, banana heart, and pechay (Chinese cabbage) are added to the stew for a delightful mix of textures and flavors. Kare-kare is often served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), which enhances the dish with a touch of saltiness and umami.

6. Lumpia: The crispy spring rolls with various fillings

These delicious snacks or appetizers are known as spring rolls and are much-loved in the Philippines. The term “lumpia” originates from the Hokkien word “lunpia,” which simply means spring roll. Lumpia can be filled with various ingredients, depending on regional preferences. Common fillings include minced meat, vegetables, cheese, or even fruits. The thin pastry sheets, crafted from flour, water, and salt, are wrapped around these fillings and sealed using water or egg. They are then deep-fried until they turn a delightful golden and crispy brown. Lumpia can be either savory or sweet and is usually enjoyed with a dip in vinegar, ketchup, or sugar syrup.

Philippines Food Lumpia

7. Pancit: Rice noodles with meat, seafood, and veggies

This noodle dish is a Filipino cuisine staple, and the term “pancit” traces its origins to the Hokkien phrase “pian i sit,” which translates to convenient food. The noodles themselves are crafted from rice flour, water, and salt, and they come in various forms: thin (bihon), thick (canton), or translucent (sotanghon). They’re stir-fried in a wok along with meat, seafood, vegetables, and soy sauce, infusing the dish with a delightful smoky and savory flavor. Often, pancit is garnished with calamansi juice, spring onions, or crispy fried garlic. It’s also possible to prepare pancit using alternative noodles, such as egg noodles (miki) or glass noodles (tanghoon).

8. Halo-halo: Shaved ice with milk and various toppings

This dessert is a delightful, colorful treat in the Philippines, with “halo-halo” translating to “mix-mix” in Filipino. It’s all about blending various toppings with shaved ice and a drizzle of evaporated milk. Toppings may include sweet beans, coconut strips, jackfruit, ube (purple yam), leche flan (custard), and even a scoop of ice cream. Shaved ice is typically created using a hand-cranked machine or a blender, resulting in a fine, fluffy texture. The addition of evaporated milk lends creaminess and sweetness to the dessert. Halo-halo is highly customizable to suit individual tastes and is often served in tall glasses or bowls.

Philippines Halo-Halo Dessert

9. Bibingka: Coconut rice cake baked in banana leaves

A traditional Christmas delight in the Philippines, bibingka is a type of rice cake. The name “bibingka” is derived from the Sanskrit term “bhingka,” signifying rice cake. This cake is prepared using glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, and cheese, and then baked in banana leaves over charcoal. The result is a soft and moist-textured delicacy. Bibingka is often garnished with butter, salted eggs, or grated coconut.

10. Balut: Boiled fertilized duck egg

This intriguing delicacy stirs both curiosity and controversy in the Philippines. The term “balut” is believed to have its roots in the Malay word “balot,” meaning wrapped. A balut is a fertilized duck egg that has been incubated for 14 to 21 days, allowing the embryo to partially develop. It is then boiled and typically enjoyed with a sprinkling of salt, a dash of vinegar, or a pinch of chili. Balut carries a strong aroma and flavor, containing a partially developed duck embryo inside. It is regarded as a delicacy and, interestingly, an aphrodisiac by some Filipinos.

11. Chicken Inasal: Charcoal-grilled chicken with tangy marinade

This dish is a delightful grilled chicken platter with its origins tracing back to Bacolod City, Philippines. The word “inasal” simply means “grilled” or “roasted” in Hiligaynon, a language spoken in the Western Visayas region. To prepare this dish, chicken is marinated in a flavorful mixture of vinegar, calamansi (a citrus fruit), garlic, lemongrass, and annatto oil (a red-orange oil derived from annatto seeds). The annatto oil not only lends the chicken its distinctive color but also imparts a unique flavor. After marination, the chicken is threaded onto bamboo skewers and grilled over charcoal until it attains a delectable char and tenderness. Chicken Inasal is traditionally served with rice, alongside condiments like soy sauce, vinegar, and chili. It’s a favored street food and a restaurant classic, adored by countless Filipinos.

Philippines Food Chicken Inasal

12. Dinuguan: Pork blood stew with meat and innards

This dish is a savory stew made from a combination of pork blood, meat, and innards. The word “dinuguan” is derived from the Tagalog term “dugo,” which translates to “blood.” Pork blood is carefully mixed with vinegar to enhance its depth of flavor and is affectionately referred to as “chocolate meat” due to its rich color. Dinuguan is usually enjoyed with puto, a steamed rice cake, or plain rice as accompaniments. Puto is crafted from rice flour, sugar, yeast, and coconut milk, creating a soft, fluffy texture and a subtle sweetness. Together, Dinuguan and puto constitute a classic pairing, frequently relished during merienda (snack time) or on special occasions in the Philippines.

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