It’s a bold statement, but Filipino food might be some of the tastiest out there. If you’ve ever chowed down on a hearty plate of pork in adobo sauce or bitten into a perfectly crispy banana lumpia, you’ll probably agree. Drawing on flavors and ingredients of Mexico, Spain, and its fellow Southeast Asian countries, Filipino cuisine knows how to do fusion right, while also being its own deliciously unique culinary tradition.
But we’re not going to lie: With a big emphasis on meat and fried foods, a lot of dishes can be heavy. So we’ve scouted out 19 recipes that honor everything that’s wonderful about Filipino food recipes without sending you (too far) into a food coma. Some stick to tradition, while others are lighter adaptations, but we guarantee they’re all seriously sarap (delish)!
Appetizers, Salads, and Soups
Green mango is a popular Southeast Asian ingredient. Here, the unripe fruit adds a sweet-and-sour flavor alongside juicy cherry tomatoes. With savory, slightly pungent shrimp paste in the mix, you don’t even need a real dressing.
If there’s one Filipino dish you’ve heard of, it’s probably lumpia—the islands’ take on the spring roll. This recipe opts for a lighter, Vietnamese-inspired version instead of the traditional fried type, using fresh (and gluten-free) rice paper rolls to wrap the tasty savory pork and veggie filling.
Thinly shaved, raw Japanese radish is lightly doused in an oil-free vinegar dressing for this super-refreshing salad. It’s a perfect starter or accompaniment to the heavier curries and meat dishes that make up so much of the Filipino cuisine.
Pako, also known as the fiddlehead fern, is a Filipino favorite, and makes up the fiber and vitamin B-packed base of this easy, four-ingredient salad. If you’ve never used it before, this no-cook recipe is a simple and delicious way to start.
Another Spanish-inspired recipe, these empanadas have a flaky crust on the outside and a juicy potato-and-beef mixture on the inside. They may look tough to put together, but store-bought pastry dough makes the process much easier, while baking instead of frying saves you effort as well as a considerable amount of cleanup.
Fish sauce, jasmine rice, and fragrant chunks of ginger add a Filipino twist to this classic comfort soup. It’s just different enough to be interesting, while still satisfying the need for something cozy and familiar.
The Filipino answer to mozzarella sticks, these cheesy rolls are traditionally battered and fried. This recipe spares us some of the extra grease by foregoing the oil and using the baking method instead. They still come out golden brown and crispy, making the perfect party snack.
It’s hard to believe such an aromatic curry takes just 30 minutes to come together. Sweet potatoes may not be a traditional ingredient, but they add enough complex carbs for this to be a one-pot meal (although it’s super tasty on a bed of rice too).
If you can find calamansi juice, be sure to use it in this recipe—the citrus fruit’s sweet-and-sour flavor is the secret to taking this beef stew from simple to special. Like most other stews, this tastes even better the next day, so make it in advance—or better yet, just make an extra-large batch so there are leftovers to enjoy.
Go to a Filipino potluck, picnic, or birthday party, and you’re likely to come across this shrimp and noodle dish. With a rich gravy ladled onto a pile of chewy rice noodles and topped with anything from hard-boiled eggs to grilled squid, pancit palabok is a surefire hit at any gathering.
Fried rice is as common a breakfast in Asia as pancakes are in the west. But if you’re not used to garlic and soy sauce first thing in the morning, think of this recipe as a perfect lunch or dinner instead. The flavors are too good to skip out on.
So much of Filipino cuisine is influenced by Spanish flavors, and this recipe is a perfect example. With chicken and veggies simmered in a unique combo of tomato sauce, garlic, and canned pineapple chunks, it tastes kind of like a paella, just without the rice.
It wouldn’t be a Filipino food roundup without an adobo recipe. While pretty much any protein works with the popular soy/vinegar/garlic marinade, this blogger goes for chicken—a typically leaner option than beef or pork—and even throws carrots and potatoes in the mix so veggies get some adobo love too.
Ground pork, sliced hot dogs, and evaporated milk make this spaghetti distinctly Filipino. It’s not traditional, or even particularly healthy, but it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser and, like pancit palabok, a common sight on birthday party tables. You’ve got to try it at least once.
While champorado originated as a hot chocolate in Mexico, the Filipinos made it their own by adding sticky rice. This blogger makes hers vegan by stirring in nondairy milk with cocoa powder and spices. Sweet, chewy, and chocolaty, this pudding hits the spot.
Traditionally a super-rich custard made with delicious but not-so-great-for-you ingredients such as sweetened milk, a bajillion egg yolks, and lots of sugar, it’s no wonder this Filipino dessert is usually only eaten during special celebrations. This one, using nondairy milk and coconut sugar, is good enough to eat on a weekly basis, and is much easier to make than you’d think.
Clearly, Filipino cuisine doesn’t make you choose between corn or rice pudding—this recipe gives you both. With coconut milk lending it a creamy consistency, and fresh corn and short-grain rice providing the chewy contrast, it’s tasty served warm or cold.
These dumpling-like treats are naturally gluten-free thanks to the use of rice flour instead of wheat. No complicated crimping of wrappers or frying either—just flatten, boil, and dredge in coconut to get that snowball effect.
We’ve covered savory lumpia already, but the sweet version is just as common. This is another baked variety, allowing the banana and brown sugar filling to get ooey gooey without the need for a deep fryer. If making your own lumpia wrappers is too much, try store-bought egg roll or spring roll sheets.