Karnataka has one of the mildest cuisines in India. It has many different and diverse regions, each with their own unique Karnataka foods to try. Regions in Karnataka like North Karnataka, South Karnataka, Kodagu, Udupi, and Mangalore have their own staples and specialities, from vegetarian dishes to seafood and meat curries. The staple food items of Karnataka include rice, raagi, and jower (millet). A traditional meal in Karnataka is made up of huli (thick broth cooked with vegetables, lentils and ground paste of coconut, chili, tamarind, and spices), palya (vegetables), tovve (cooked lentils with minimal seasoning), kootu, kosambari (lentil and vegetable salad), saaru (clear pepper broth), obattu (sweet flatbread also called holige), payasa, papad, puri (rolled from wheat flour), pickles, and curd. This is served on banana leaves or muttuga leaves (these leaves are sewn together).
Famous dishes in Karnataka include: bisi bele bhath, Davanagere benne dosa, uppittu, ragi rotti, akki rotti, saaru, kesari bath, bangi bath, khara bath, and ragi mudde. Popular sweet dishes of Karnataka include Mysore pak, chiroti (a light flaky pastry that is sprinkled with granulated sugar and is later soaked in almond milk), obbattu or holige (a flat, thin chapatti/crepe filled with a mixture of jaggery, coconut or copra and sugar and toasted gently on a skillet), gokak, Dharwad peda, kardantu, sakkare acchuhaala-puri, ladoo and shavige payasa (made from milk, vermicelli, sugar and cardamom).
Karnataka’s cuisine is influenced by its neighbours, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to the south and Maharashtra to the north. It is also said to be one of the oldest cuisines in the country, dating back to the Iron Age.
18 Popular Karnataka Food Items You Have To Try
1. Bisi Bele Bhath – An All-In-One Dish
Bisi Bele Bhath is one of the most popular Karnataka foods. Essentially a blend of rice, lentils, vegetables and spices, all cooked together to create a flavourful all-in-one dish. It is often served with generous helpings of ghee and potato chips or boondi. Bisi means hot in Kannada and hence this dish is best eaten piping hot.
2. Dosas – The Perfect Comfort Food
Dosas are a popular dish all across India, and Karnataka is no different. They are essentially pancakes made with fermented batter of rice and black gram, and served with sambar (lentil stew) and chutney. The southern state is known for its many varieties of dosa. One of the most well-known is Davangere benne dosa, which is made with generous amounts of butter, while Mysore masala dosa is smeared with chutneys stuffed with spicy potato filling. Set dosas are thicker versions, while you can also get dosas made with ragi (millets) and rave (semolina). Another popular variation is the neer dosa that comes from Mangalore, where the rice is soaked in water overnight rather than being fermented.
3. Mysore Pak – A Delicious Sweet Treat
Mysore Pak is a well known sweet from Karnataka. It was first created in the kitchens of the Mysore Palace and is made with chickpea flour, ghee (clarified butter) and sugar. The texture varies with the amount of ghee added to the dish from hard and porous (less ghee), to soft, dense, and fudge-y (more ghee).
4. Maddur Vada – The Ideal Snack
A popular snack, the Maddur Vada gets its name from Maddur town in Mandya. Unlike regular vadas which resemble doughnuts, Maddur Vadas are large and circular. They are made with flour, onions, semolina, and spices, and fried until crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. They are quite popular among Karnataka foods.
5. Tatte Idli – A Popular Variant Of The Traditional Idli
Like dosas, idlis are enjoyed across South India. These steamed rice cakes are made with a fermented batter of black lentils and rice and served with chutney and sambar. A popular variation in Karnataka is the thatte idli, a plate-sized flattened variant (thatte is the Kannada word for a plate). Other variations popular in Karnataka are the rava idli, made from rava (or semolina), and Muday idli found in Mangalore.
6. Dharwad Peda – Wholesome Goodness
Named for the city of Dharwad in Karnataka, this sweet is made with milk which is heated and stirred continuously, along with sugar and condensed milk. It is said that that the Dahrwad peda was first created by a 19th-century confectioner in Dharwad, and has been given a Geographical Indication tag making it quite famous among the various Karnataka foods.
7. Jolada Rotti – A North Karnataka Specialty
This Indian flatbread is made with jowar (or sorghum) flour and salt, which is cooked on an iron skillet. It is popular in North Karnataka, where it is eaten with enne gai (eggplants stuffed with spices) or chutney. Other common rottis include akki rotti (made with rice flour, chillies, and onions) and ragi rotti (which is made with ragi, chillies and onions)
8. Pandi Curry – For The Pork Lovers
Pork or pandi is a popular non-vegetarian delicacy hailing in Coorg (or Kodagu). This spicy curry is made with a unique spice blend, and ‘Coorg Vinegar’ made from kachumpuli, a fruit which imparts a distinct sour flavour. It is served with rice balls or akki roti (rice roti).
Read More: The best must-try dishes from Coorgi cuisine
9. Chiroti – A Flaky Pastry
Chiroti is a traditional Karnataka sweet that is prepared with a layered dough of maida (plain flour) fried until it resembles a flaky pastry and sprinkled with cardamom sugar. A version of this is the shredded, flaky peni (also called pheni or sutarfeni) which resembles crispy vermicelli. Also similar is mandige, a crepe with a thin filling of sugar and ghee.
10. Mangalore Bajji – The Monsoon Snack
Also called goli baje, Mangalore bajjis are a popular snack from Karnataka. It is made with flour, yoghurt, gram flour, rice flour, onions, coconut, and green chillies which are shaped into small balls and deep fried. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, it is often served with coconut chutney.
11. Kori Gassi – For Spice Lovers
Kori gassi is a chicken curry which comes from the coastal region of Karnataka and is particularly popular in Mangalore. The chicken is cooked with spices, tamarind, and ground fresh coconut. It is often served with neer dosa or roti.
12. Haalbai And Huggi – Just Like Fudge!
Many desserts from Karnataka are made without dairy products and sweetened with jaggery. One of the most popular of these is haalbai, which is a fudge made from ground rice, coconut and jaggery, as well as coconut milk. Similar to this is huggi which consists of cooked rice with hesaru (dried mung bean), with coconut, milk, elakki (cardamom) and jaggery.
Also Read: 16 mouth-watering Indian desserts to try
13. Saagu – Tastes Best With Dosa Or Puri
Eaten throughout Karnataka, saagu is a creamy vegetable curry made with coconut, spices, and poppy seeds. It is often served as an accompaniment with dosa, chapati or poori and is quite popular as far as Karnataka foods go.
14. Ragi Mudde – A Staple In Karnataka
Ragi mudde is a very popular staple dish in the rural area of Karnataka, and can also be found in cities across the state. It has only two ingredients, ragi (millets) flour and water. The mixture is cooked until it creates a smooth dough which is then shaped into balls. These are eaten with types of saaru (thin stews made of greens with sprouted grams, meat or vegetables) or curry. It is an extremely nutritious food item from Karnataka that’s also easy to make and keeps you full and feeling fit.
15. Obbattu/Holige – Try This If You Like Puran Poli
This sweet flatbread is found across India as puran poli. Known as obbattu or holige in Karnataka, it is made with wheat flour, ghee, cardamom and nutmeg. One version is filled with channa dal (split yellow gram) or toor dal and jaggery, while another has a coconut and sugar based filling.
16. Uppittu And Khara Bhath – Tasty And Wholesome
Uppittu, or upma as it is also known, is a dish that is popular throughout South India and is usually made with dry roasted rava (semolina) cooked with water and vegetables. In Karnataka, a variation of this is mixed with a variety of spices creating khara bhath. A sweet version, kesari bhath, is often served with this (together called chow chow bhath) is also popular, made with rava, sugar, ghee, and milk, as well as saffron and pineapple or banana. When made with coarser rava and unflavoured with saffron, is called sajjige which is similar to sooji halwa from North India.
17. Churumuri – If You Love Chaat
While chaats might be a street food mostly associated with Northern India, Churumuri is one that comes from Karnataka. This snack is made with puffed rice mixed with carrot, onions, tomato, jaggery, spices and ghee or oil. Unlike the similar bhel puri, it doesn’t have tamarind paste.
18. Puri Unde – Bite-Sized Goodness
Puffed rice (or puri) is also used in this sweet dish where they are combined and coated with jaggery to made puffed rice balls (unde). There are also lots of different types of unde, such as rave unde (made with semolina), besan unde (made from besan, or chickpea flour), shenga unde (with peanuts), ellu unde (with sesame seeds, and also called til laddu).
The Food Of Karnataka Has Variety And Exceptional Taste
Each region of Karnataka is known for its special food. Cuisines like North Karnataka cuisine, South Karnataka, Kodagu, Udupi, Mangalorean, North Canara and Navayath cuisine have something to offer to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Local ingredients are used while cooking most of the delicacies. The traditional cooking style of Karnataka uses coconut and coconut oil alongside local spices and curry leaves. Ghee is used on special occasions and festivals. Read about more Karnataka on cozycozy
There are lots of other delicious Karnataka foods you must try, such as kane rava fry (crispy fried fish fried with semolina) or puli kodel (a Mangalorean light stew). But, if we’ve missed any of your favourites, be sure to share them in the comments below.
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