The Complete Guide to Eating Vegan in Sri Lanka

Vegan curry in Sri Lanka

A country lush with tropical green jungles, thrilling train rides, and exciting wildlife adventures, Sri Lanka is an amazing destination for travelers. If you’re traveling to this gem of a country soon and wondering what’s like for a vegan in Sri Lanka, this is the perfect guide for you. We traveled around Sri Lanka for 2 months and enjoyed every minute and every vegan meal.

There will never be a shortage of fresh fruit, rice, and tasty vegetable curries to try while traveling around Sri Lanka. We were surprised to learn that eating vegan in Sri Lanka was not as hard as we originally thought. After exploring the country for 2 months, we decided to help out future travelers by putting together this guide for eating vegan in Sri Lanka.

Eating Vegan in Sri Lanka: A Food Haven

Is it easy to find vegan food in Sri Lanka?

Yes! Eating vegan in Sri Lanka is relatively easy as the majority of meat-free dishes are vegan without other additional changes. In this post, we have provided tips for eating vegan in Sri Lanka, dishes to look for, and links to vegan guides to different locations in this tropical paradise.

Is the Vegetarian diet common in Sri Lanka?

Yes and no, but mostly no. Locals were often shocked to hear we were vegetarian. We thought we would come across more vegetarian Sri Lankans because of the Buddhist culture but surprisingly it was not that common. However, this doesn’t mean there was any less delicious food for us to eat!

Views of Sri Lanka
Little Adams Peak in Sri Lanka

Tips for Vegans in Sri Lanka

Learning about the Food

Sri Lanka’s national dish is Rice and Curry and you will definitely get your fill while visiting this tropical country. I think we ate our weight in rice and curry within the first week (but no complaints here).

However, there is so much more to Sri Lankan cuisine. One of our favorite meals to enjoy a country’s cuisine is to learn more about it through a cooking class or food tour. We did both in Sri Lanka and this taught us so much about the food and what to eat.

We highly recommend this street food tour in Colombo! Our guide was able to make the tour vegetarian and vegan and everything we tried was delicious! If you’re looking for a cooking class in Sri Lanka, we loved the class we took in Mirissa!

It Never Hurts to Ask

As vegans in a new country, it is sometimes nerve-racking to try to ask about ingredients and substitutes. Generally, the people in Sri Lanka are extremely kind and happy to help. Yes sometimes the language barrier may get in the way but if you are willing to learn a few phrases or have google translate downloaded, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Plus, because of the common religions in Sri Lanka, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, dietary restrictions are commonly understood and respected. Don’t be afraid to ask about the food you’re ordering!

Use Google Maps + Reviews

One of our ultimate vegan travel hacks is relying on Google Maps and the search function. When in different locations around Sri Lanka (and the world) searching words like “vegan” “vegetarian” and “veg” allow different results to pop up including places with those words on the menu or in the reviews.

We always try to leave reviews at places we eat if we can find them on Google Maps (but they aren’t always listed, see below). Mostly, because we use this trick ourselves and want to help others. If you’re in a destination where we haven’t written a vegan location guide for, this trick can help you find some delicious vegan meals in Sri Lanka!

The Best Meals in Sri Lanka

Okay, to be honest, these locations often don’t have an obvious sign or even a location on Google Maps. The best vegan meals we have found have been in small “hotels” in the middle of nowhere or in tiny shops sharing metal tables with the locals.

One thing we recommend for tracking down the best places to eat is to eat where the locals are eating. If the place is empty, that’s not a great sign. However, if it’s busy, you can almost guarantee a good meal is waiting for you.

It’s pretty easy to find vegan food in Sri Lanka and the local cuisine is so gosh darn delicious. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about the food we had in our two months there. The various curries, coconut milk rice, kottu, vadai, ah the list goes on.

Common spices in Sri Lankan dishes: Paprika, Tumeric, Curry Powder, and Pepper

Etiquette for Eating in Sri Lanka

Here are some quick notes on common concerns for eating in Sri Lanka. If you’re looking for more detail, make sure to check out this post all about eating in Sri Lanka (COMING SOON).

– Cost of Eating in Sri Lanka + Tipping

Meals in Sri Lanka are, for the most part, very cheap. Sticking to local cuisine, a plate of vegetable rice and curry can be roughly 250-500 rupees. However, it can cost more in touristy destinations depending on where you eat. Western food will cost more, of course, starting around 1000 rupees per plate and often more.

Tipping is common in Sri Lanka however not mandatory. But, we always encourage rounding up your change or leaving a small tip if you are happy with your service. Sri Lankan people are normally so kind and always grateful.

– Where to Find Meals in Sri Lanka

Eat where the locals go! We always had our favorite meals in places that have little to no tourists but is filled with locals. In Sri Lanka, not all of the eateries are called “restaurants”. Often you will see signs for “hotels” or “bakeries” that actually serve lunch and dinner. If you stay at homestays and guesthouses, you will also be able to have most of your breakfasts and dinners made for you there, and these are always some of the best meals since they are homemade.

– When to Eat Meals in Sri Lanka

Breakfast is usually eaten between 6-9 am. If you stay at homestays, you will usually have breakfast included in your stay or at least available to order. Read below for some delicious vegan breakfast options!

Lunch is usually around 1-2 pm, however, you will find places serving lunch from roughly 11-3 pm. At this time you will also find vendors of Short Eats and Street Food (more on this below too, don’t worry!)

Dinner is served around 7 pm most often. If you are going out for dinner, places will usually be serving dinner around 6-9 pm. If you plan to eat at your homestay, 7 is the norm but they are often willing to accommodate depending on your plans.

Vegetarian food in Sri Lanka
– Eating with your hands

In Sri Lanka, people eat with their hands instead of with spoons and forks. In tourist-heavy areas, you will probably be provided with cutlery though. If you plan to travel outside the major tourist towns, make sure to pack a travel cutlery set if you are not comfortable eating with your hands. There is a specific technique to eating with your hands and no matter how much we tried, we never got it down.

Worried about hygiene? There is almost always a sink and soap to wash your hands before and after your meal at restaurants because everyone eats with their hands.

Ingredients to Watch Out For


Eggs are often included in the breakfast provided by your homestay if they do not serve Sri Lankan style breakfasts. When you check in, ask if they serve Sri Lankan breakfasts so you can try some of the amazing dishes noted above or if you can have extra fruit in place of egg.

Similar to many other destinations, ordering vegetarian or vegetable kottu and fried rice sometimes comes with the assumption that egg is okay. Make sure to ask for no eggs when you order your meals.

Ghee and Butter

Commonly used in Indian dishes, Ghee is sometimes used in Sri Lankan cooking. Although coconut oil is more common, you may want to check that any oil used is plant-based. We did not see this much outside eating at Indian restaurants.

Shrimp or Fish paste

An ingredient common in South and Southeast Asia, shrimp and fish pastes is sometimes added to dishes like the various Sambals. It is also sometimes used in curries.

Milk Powder

Just like at home, sometimes things that DON’T need anything added, contain milk powder and Sri Lanka is no different. Sometimes Milk Powder is added to coconut milk. Why? We will never fully understand. However, if the coconut milk is handmade as it is in many home kitchens in Sri Lanka, you won’t have to worry. But you can always ask to make sure!

Vegan Food You MUST TRY in Sri Lanka

Vegan Breakfasts in Sri Lanka

Oh, how we miss the homestay breakfasts in Sri Lanka. There’s so much variety in their morning meals and it’s so hard to decide which one is our favorite.

If you stay at homestays or guesthouses in Sri Lanka, breakfast is most likely included in your accommodation and if not, can be ordered for a good price. All of our homestays were able to accommodate vegans, even if it took a little explaining and help from google translate.

Breakfast meals typically include coffee or tasty Ceylon tea and fresh tropical fruits like papaya, mango, passionfruit, bananas, and pineapple. Along with tea and fresh fruit, you may be served Coconut Milk Rice, Rolled Pancakes with a sweet coconut filling, Rice and Curry, String Hoppers, or Roti.

Coconut Milk Rice

Coconut Milk Rice is rice made with coconut and formed together in a ball or other shapes (like on the plate in the far left of the photo above). Sometimes it is filled with a sweet shaved coconut filling like the rolled pancakes. Other times it is served with curries. This might be our favorite breakfast food we ate in Sri Lanka!

Rolled Pancakes

The rolled pancakes are thin like crepes and filled with a sweet shaved coconut filling. The sweetener is often Kithul Treacle, made from the sap of a native tree, similar to agave. If you get a chance to see the harvesting of treacle, it’s very interesting to watch!

NOTE: Sometimes egg is used in the pancakes, so always make sure to ask!

Rice and Curry

Rice and curry is pretty self-explanatory. Dhal is a common curry served at every meal of the day, including breakfast made from lentils.

Vegan curry in Sri Lanka
Vegan Rice and Curry in Sri Lanka


You may also be served Roti which is like a flatbread or pita instead of rice to dip in the dhal, but it also can be served with jam. There are two types of Roti in Sri Lanka. This roti served for breakfast is thinner and different than the kind used for Kottu described below.

Vegan roti in Sri Lanka


There are 2-3 different kinds of hoppers you will find in Sri Lanka: Regular, Egg, and String. Regular hoppers are made with rice flour and cooked into a bowl shape in a round pan. String hoppers are made from rice flour noodles and served like a patty. Hoppers are normally served with dhal or a sambol.

NOTE: Sometimes the regular hoppers are made with egg, even if it’s not an “egg hopper”.

Vegan Lunch and Dinner in Sri Lanka

Rice and Curry

Just like for breakfast, rice and curry will be your top meal of the day. However, curry in Sri Lanka is much different than curries you’d see in Thailand or Cambodia. Instead of one large bowl of curry and rice, most of the time in Sri Lanka you’ll have 3-5 curries. Each curry will be made with a different vegetable like pumpkin, okra, or eggplant. Dhal is extremely common and if you are eating at your homestay, it will probably be included in every meal.

There are so many different kinds of vegan curries and sambals in Sri Lanka. Even after two months, I don’t know if we tried them all but we had so many! If you’re in Ella, we highly recommend going to Matey Hut. Here you can get a plate of 4 curries and rice for a great price and pick which ones you want to try!

The curries are often, if not always, made with coconut milk, curry leaves, chilis, pepper, turmeric, salt, cinnamon, garlic and ginger. And even though most are made with the same general ingredients, it’s shocking how different they taste. Learn to make your own with a cooking class in Sri Lanka like this one in Mirissa (highly recommend).

Vegan curry in Sri Lanka
Vegan Rice and Curry in Ella, Sri Lanka


Sambols are also commonly served with plates of rice and curry. Sri Lankan sambols are made from ground coconut and then flavored with spices and herbs. The coconut is often ground coconut that has been pressed for coconut milk. We aren’t huge sambol fans but it’s worth a try (again, go to Matey Hut and try 1 or 2 from their menu).

Kottu Roti

Ty’s favorite dish from Sri Lanka, and probably his dinner every other day, is Kottu Roti. This roti is much different than the flatbread roti served at breakfast. Kottu is a dish made from a thin crepe-like pancake (but not sweet) and chopped into small pieces. When served, it looks like similar to small noodles. It’s then fried with spices and vegetables and is delicious! Sometimes the vegetarian kottu is served with egg so make sure to ask for without if you are 100% vegan.

Kottu roti - vegan food in Sri Lanka
Vegan Kottu Roti


Another popular dish if you are in cities like Kandy or Colombo is Dosa. Stemming from the south Indian influence in Sri Lanka, dosas are large almost paper-thin “pancakes” (not sure how else to describe it) that are then filled with a curry or vegetable and served with dipping sauces. You won’t find this outside of the city much, but they are delicious vegan meals to try in Sri Lanka if you’ve never had one before!

Vegan Dosa in Sri Lanka
Vegan Masala Dosa in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Vegan Short Eats and Snacks

Fresh fruit

In this tropical island country, there is no shortage of fresh fruit. From sweet bananas to fresh coconuts, you’ll always be able to find some fresh fruit to snack on between meals! If you’ve never tried Jackfruit before, Sri Lanka is a great place to try some. Mango, bananas, and papaya are all very common as well!

“Shorts” or Short Eats

Short Eats in Sri Lanka are street food snacks and most are vegan-friendly. These include items like vadai and vegetable roti. There are two types of vadai. The first is a delicious fried dough that is often flavored with onion and other spices. The other is made from lentils and made similar to the first but has a different texture. Vegetable roti is made with the thin pancake used in Kottu but it is wrapped and stuffed with vegetables, most often potato and onion.

You can find these being sold by street food vendors in the afternoon, at shops in town, or at the food stands buses stop at during long journeys.

Store-Bought Snacks

There are plenty of convenience stores selling snacks around Sri Lanka. Although you won’t find them as nice as the 7-elevens around Thailand, they are plentiful. However, they don’t always have a great variety. Most snack items at the stores contain milk and include cookies, crackers, or biscuits. There are rarely chips sold at the stores.

For vegans, you can find peanuts and some other crunchy snacks for a good price. Cashews are more expensive, and most stores are limited to these two options.

If you can find a store with more local snack options instead of name-brand packaged items, you’re in luck. Some of the Sri Lankan snacks we recommended trying are masala peanuts, manioc or cassava chips, and Mulu Maruku.

  • Masala Peanuts or snack mix are coated with masala spices and are so delicious!
  • Manioc chips are made from cassava, similar to a potato.
  • Mulu Maruku is a unique snack that’s hard to describe but delicious and worth trying!

You can find these snacks in smaller shops, being sold on the train by vendors, and in shops in the Pettah Market in Colombo!

Where to Eat as a Vegan in Sri Lanka

The top vegan-friendly destinations in Sri Lanka are Colombo, Ella, Dickwella, and Mirissa. However, that doesn’t mean vegan food is super hard to find elsewhere.

If you’re traveling to this gem of a country, you are probably heading to a few of these destinations. To make your trip planning easier, we’ve created vegan guides for the following places based on our experience in each. In these guides, you will find our favorite veg-friendly restaurants and some tips for visiting each place.

Ella: Heading to hill country? Ella is our favorite town in Sri Lanka because of the amazing views, exciting hikes, and vegan food of course. Check out this vegan guide for Ella, Sri Lanka

Kandy: The 2nd largest city, has plenty for vegans to eat! Although it wasn’t our favorite place in Sri Lanka, we were never disappointed by a meal!

Mirissa: On the beach, this destination is full of vegan eats! From fresh smoothie bowls and veggie burgers to local Sri Lankan buffets, a trip to Mirissa is perfect for vegans who want to head to the beach!

Colombo (COMING SOON): Vegan street food, local meals, and charming cafes

Galle (COMING SOON): This old dutch fort is surprisingly vegan friendly

Vegan curry in Sri Lanka

Conclusion: Vegan in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka truly is a food haven for vegans. You can travel all over the country and never worry about having something delicious to eat. From coconut milk rice at breakfast to the numerous vegetable curries for dinner, you will always have a full and happy belly as a vegan in Sri Lanka. We loved every meal we ate in Sri Lanka and can’t wait to have some Sri Lankan food again one day soon. We hope this guide relieved any anxiety you might have about traveling to Sri Lanka as a vegan and finding places to eat in the country!

Looking for more posts on Sri Lanka? Click here for all of our guides to this wonderful country!

Sri Lanka