Pakistan is one of the most populous countries in the world with a storied and tumultuous history. The ethnic and religious demographic of Pakistan, in addition to its recent history as an Indian state, informs its vast culinary culture.
Blending Indian cuisine with middle eastern cuisines, Pakistani cuisine is a flavorful and rich array of stews, rice dishes, drinks, and meat dishes.
Read on to learn more about my favorite types of Pakistani food.
Perhaps the biggest staple in both Pakistani and Indian cuisine is Biryani, a rice pilaf dish involving countless aromatic spices in both the marinade and cooking liquid.
Biryani is usually a rice and meat dish, and this recipe uses chicken to marinade in a blend of over ten different spices to add to an equally spiced pilaf.
Animal brains are a common protein in many culinary traditions, from sweet bread in France to tacos de sesos in Mexico.
If you can wrap your own brain around the idea of eating brains, this traditional Brain Masala is certainly one of the most flavorful varieties.
The abundance of coriander, chili powder, and ginger infuse the brains with a wonderful flavor.
If you think this is an unusla food, check out other weird foods.
A homemade rendition of one of Pakistan’s most iconic street foods, Bun Kabab, is essentially a lentil patty slider slathered in various chutneys.
This might be my favorite dish to serve for happy hours.
This is an involved recipe, requiring you to make the lentil patties bathed in egg wash and fried, as well as two different chutneys. It’s well worth the effort.
Chicken Karahi is a popular Pakistani curry that’s spicy and savory.
The rich ghee brings out the flavors in the numerous aromatics that lay the foundation for the bite-sized pieces of chicken.
As with most curries, the “sauce” comes together in layers. The aromatics used to fry the chicken blend with the water it releases and diced tomatoes. The final touch is whisking in yogurt.
A sweet and savory comfort food, Halwa Puri is a typical breakfast or brunch meal that consists of a fried flatbread and sweet, buttery porridge.
The porridge, or Halwa, reminds me of fancy oatmeal, except it’s made from semolina fried in a lot of butter with sugar, cardamom, and chopped nuts.
If that wasn’t enough, you get to soak it up with fluffy, airy fry bread!
These Pakistani-style beef patties have everything but the kitchen sink in them!
Along with fresh herbs like mint and cilantro, you also get a spicy kick from ginger-garlic paste and cayenne.
The key to the texture of these hearty patties is to add scrambled eggs to the raw mixture.
Originating in Afghanistan, Kabuli Pulao is now a popular side dish in Pakistan.
It is a delicious rice pilaf that uses a blended spiced chickpea gravy mixed with water for the cooking liquid.
Along with whole spices, the rice also contains shredded carrots, toasted pine nuts, and dried golden raisins. I could eat this all day!
This super hearty recipe blends barley grains and lentils into a smooth porridge atop which you place creamy stewed chicken.
This recipe has you make everything from scratch, soaking the lentils and barley overnight before boiling them pilaf-style with spice pastes and aromatics.
You get double the protein, with a complementary protein of lentils and grain along with the chicken in yogurt sauce.
If you don’t like to let anything go to waste, you can use nearly every part of a goat in this meaty stir fry.
Consisting of boiled and fried brain, heart, kidney, and chops, this mutton dish has a variety of textures infused with the typical myriad of spices and aromatics.
Kheer is the Pakistani version of rice pudding.
For once, this is a Pakistani dish with a list of ingredients you can count on one hand! Plus, it requires you to overcook your rice to get it to that creamy, mushy consistency.
So, if you accidentally overcook your rice, don’t throw it out. Just add milk, sugar, and cardamom to it and serve it for dessert!
While you’ve undoubtedly heard of Mango lassis in India, this Pakistani and Northern Indian lassi is even simpler.
It’s just a blend of sour yogurt, water, sugar, and ice. The result is a refreshingly sweet and tangy smoothie that’s perfect for summer mornings.
Considering Saag Paneer is my favorite Indian dish, this Pakistani rendition has a special place in my heart.
It’s actually a form of curry, even though I’ve always likened it to creamed spinach.
This recipe switches paneer for chunks of chicken, using aromatics, tomato paste, and yogurt to create a rich, creamy base.
A specialty of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Balochi Sajji is the Pakistani version of a rotisserie chicken.
It is as juicy and special as a Thanksgiving turkey as it is both brined and marinated before being roasted over an open flame.
Most of us don’t have an open fire spit, nor do we have a rotisserie oven, so this recipe also gives home cooks the option to oven-bake it.
This flavorful, deep red chicken stew gets its irresistible consistency from a blend of yogurt, wheat flour, and fried aromatics.
The blend of fat and flour is reminiscent of a roux. When blended with aromatics and stock, this roux turns into a curry-flavored chicken gravy.
Another popular street food dish, Aloo Tikki, is a potato pancake.
It consists of boiled potatoes mashed with fresh aromatics, herbs, and a blend of Indian spices, formed into patties and deep fried in oil.
These are bite-sized snacks that I like to serve with yogurt-based chutneys for dipping.
There’s no shortage of potato dishes in Pakistan! This is the marriage of fried potato balls and curry sauce in one delightful and very filling dish.
The potato balls, or Pakoras, are made like a meatball, blending mashed potatoes with onions, herbs, spices, and flour before frying and smothering in a rich yogurt-based sauce.
The defining characteristic of this beef kabab is yellow split peas blended into the mixture. These kebabs have split peas and potatoes for an all-in-one meat and carb dish.
You have to cook the mixture before forming the kebabs into patties and frying them. They’re a great dish for making use of tough beef parts.
Aloo Pakora translates to potato fritters.
These fritters are a show-stopping and crowd-pleasing appetizer, blending smashed potatoes with spices, chickpea flour, and baking powder to create light and fluffy fried fritters.
I recommend serving them with green cilantro chutney. They’ll be gone in a matter of minutes!
This traditional chicken and tomato stew has been adapted from a clay pot to a wok for easier execution. It’s just as delicious, too!
It blends diced tomatoes, chicken, aromatic pastes, spices, and herbs in a wok with yogurt, cooking until reduced until there’s nearly no liquid left.
I especially love the desiccated coconut you add at the end to supply a nutty sweetness to the savory spice of the chicken.
This impressive kofta recipe reminds me of a Scotch egg. It is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in a thick layer of mutton meatball, bound with breadcrumbs, and fried to perfection.
Despite how impressive they look, they aren’t too hard to make. Plus, they lie atop a thick curry sauce.
I like to serve them cut in half so you can see the beautiful layers of yolk, white, and meat.
The ultimate flavor pot is this Sindhi Biryani.
It starts by frying onions, aromatics, prunes, and tomatoes into an intensely flavorful reduction in which to add chicken, yogurt, and water for a curry.
This dish then layers the curry over partially cooked rice, simmering the two together in a covered pot until it’s one cohesive dish.
This tomato-gravy-based chicken curry is a favorite Pakistani dish. It is spicier and soupier than yogurt curries.
This is the perfect chicken curry to pair with the simple Biryani dish I wrote about for the first dish on my list. I like to dip naan in the leftover sauce after I’ve eaten all the chicken.
I’ll end my list with dessert! Besan is chickpea flour, which is a popular ingredient to thicken curries or bind pakoras. It’s also a great texture agent in this Pakistani pistachio fudge.
To make Besan Ki Barfi, you start by making a roux from the besan and ghee, stirring in the water and sugar until the batter becomes thick and bubbly.
The final touch is the pistachios which add nuttiness and a delightful crunch to besan fudge.
Which Recipe Will You Try First?
If you’re visiting Pakistan or just trying new cuisines, try out these Pakistani dishes and tell us which is your favorite!
Check out other foods from around the world on our blog, from Russian dishes to Kenyan cuisine and much more!
1. Choose your favorite recipe.
2. Gather the necessary ingredients.
3. Prep and cook your recipe.
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