Tibetan food: What to eat and drink in Tibet during your Tibet tour?

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What to eat and drink in Tibet during your Tibet tour?

Most of the Tibetan food is completely different from mainland China or other countries in the world. Originally, Tibet did not have variety of food but those of the Tibetan food was completely organic with lots of nutrition but today, since in the lower places of Tibet grows lots of different kind of vegetables like other countries, Tibetan food has devolved into many different kinds of items.

Due to the special geographical location, The higher part of Tibet is not conducive to the normal growth of ordinary plants. The main crops are highland barley, so the main food in Tibet is relatively scarce. Most of the Tibetan food is meat and dairy products.

In Tibet, the main raw materials are Yak meat, mutton, potatoes, radishes and other vegetables. In the olden days, the Tibetan food is Tsampa, made up of roast barley and Yak meat but in the present day, the diet is mainly rice, flour and highland barley. Tibetan Like oil, thick flavor and crisp food, spicy, they commonly used baking, frying, boiling and other methods.

Yak meat and mutton

Tibetan people mainly eat Yak meat, mutton and dairy products. Generally speaking, there is no so much vegetable in the pastoral area. From a single dietary structure, the pastoral area and even the whole Tibet belongs to a high-flat, high protein diet area. It is well known that Yak meat and mutton are high in calories, which help people living in high altitude areas to resist the cold. What’s interesting is that Tibetan people have the habit of eating raw meat. If you go to the houses of local Tibetan people, you will see the dried Yak meat and mutton hanging in the houses or tents. They eat dried Yak meat and mutton with Tsampa as their main Tibetan food.

Tibetan styled Dumpling, known as Momo in Tibetan.

Momo is not only a very popular Tibetan food but also a very important Tibetan food where people serve Momo to their important guests during Tibetan New Year or when somebody invites some important guests to their families. They also serve Momo when Tibetan people are having big party or celebrating some festivals or during wedding festival. There are several different types of Momo. One is a vegetable Momo, second one is a potato Momo and the third one is the Yak meat Momo which is the most popular Momo and consider as one of the best Tibetan food.  

Fried rice with wild Potato, known as Dreisil

Dreisil dish is a Tibetan special dish that people always serve during special occasion such as during Tibetan New Year, Tibetan wedding festival, special religious festivals and ceremony etc and Dreisil is the Tibetan food that people serve as the first dish because it is the symbol of auspiciousness and good luck. The process of making Dreisil is fried rice with butter, sugar and wild Potato. It is also very delicious and very unique.   


Tsampa is the main Tibetan food. The process of Tsampa is to dry and roast highland barley (barley, white , and grind it into flour. This is similar to the fried noodles in the north of China, but the fried noodles in the north are first ground and then fried, while the Tsampa in Tibet is first roast and then grind without peeling.

When Tibetan people eat Tsampa, they usually pour a small amount of butter tea into the bowl first, add some Tsampa , and mix them with their hands until they can be kneaded into a ball. When they eat Tsampa, they constantly knead it in the bowl with their hands. The ball is called “Ba”, which is delivered to the mouth.

Tsampa can make different kinds of Tsampa soup by mixing some vegetables , called “Thuba”. And also can be made some special Tsampa cakes as well. Tsampa is usually eaten for breakfast in the cities like Lhasa and as daily Tibetan food in the villages or remote area. The Tsampa has lots of nutrition and very good for your health.

Tibetan noodle soup

Since Tibet is a high plateau, the weather is very much changeable and usually it is pretty cold, especially during the winter time so noodle soup is a very popular Tibetan food, especially during winter time, in most of the Tibetan families, they serve noodle soup. Nowadays, in all the tea house restaurants, they serve Tibetan noodle soup and it has become kinds of new Tibetan tradition that all the local Tibetans go to tea houses and have noodle soup as their breakfast and drink sweat tea. These kind of tea houses are very similar to the coffee shops in the western countries.

Tibetan local Drinks

All kinds of local Tibetan drinks are indispensable to constitute Tibetan people’s nutritious food. Tibetan drinks include butter tea, sweet tea, highland barley wine, etc. In addition to the main Tibetan food of Tsampa, butter tea is also used as a daily drink. Butter tea and sweet tea are respectively made of butter, milk, salt and sugar.

In Tibet, it is an ancient tradition of the Tibetan people to treat guests with butter tea. Whether you go into the herdsman’s tent, or the farmer’s mud hut, or visit relatives and friends, the host will always make a yellow butter tea for you. When the Tibetans leave the country, relatives and friends come to the farewell party to present a white Khadha, a white scarf and a bowl of butter tea.They wish the travelers have a pleasant journey.

Like butter tea, they are all Tibetan drinks. In terms of taste, the butter tea is salty and the sweet tea is sweet; in terms of raw materials, the butter tea is made directly from tea, salt and butter, and the sweet tea is made from black tea, sugar and milk; the nutritional value of the butter tea is higher than that of the sweet tea, and the sweet tea is more suitable for the taste of tourists.

Another Tibetan drink is highland barley wine which is brewed after highland barley fermentation. It is drunk by men, women, old and young in Tibet, especial during special festivals, so the Tibetans brew a lot of highland barley wine before the festival.

From April to August in the Tibetan calendar, almost all traditional and non-traditional festivals, religious and non-religious festivals are displaced so during those special festivals, Tibetan drink a lot local barley wine or known as Chang in Tibetan. During summer, the people in Lhasa like to go out to have picnic by choosing beautiful and clean green grassland or pasture land where there is stream water and they drink a lot of barley wine. You can find people in groups of three or five, set up tents of various colors, while drinking barley wine, while singing and dancing, showing the charm of Tibetan wine culture.

There is a set of rules for Tibetan people to drink butter tea. Generally speaking, a cup of tea should be filled and serve to the guests. If you don’t want to drink it, don’t touch it. If you drink half of it, and can’t drink it any more, the host will fill the cup with tea. You will put it on the table and drink it again when you leave. This is in line with the habits and politeness of the Tibetan people.

Dairy products

There are many Yak in the nomadic area and more cattle and sheep and more dairy products in the farming land of Tibet. The most common are Yoghurt and milk dregs. There are two kinds of yoghurt. One is cheese, which is called “Da Xiu” in Tibetan. It is made of milk refined from butter. The other is made of milk without butter, which is called “A xiu” in Tibetan. Yoghurt is a kind of food after the scarification of milk. It is more nutritious and easy to digest. It is suitable for the elderly and children.

Milk dregs are the substances left after butter is extracted from milk. After cooking and water evaporation, the rest is milk dregs. Milk dregs can be made into milk cakes and milk blocks.

What to eat and drink in Tibet during your Tibet tour?

The above are some symbols of Tibetan food, especially the Tibetan food that people had in the olden days but nowadays, in the cities of Tibet, you can get variety types of food including continental, western, Tibetan and Chinese so on. If you are traveling to the major cities of Tibet such as Lhasa city, Tsetang city, Shigatse city, Nyingtri city, Ngari prefecture city, Nakqu prefecture city etc, you will get all kinds of food and drinks. You can find lots of Tibetan, Chinese, continental, western restaurants so you can choose any kinds of food and drinks during your Tibet travel. There are different kinds of local Tibetan beer, imported beer, whisky and red wine so there is no point to worry about the meals and drinks during your Tibet travel.

Even if you did not read about the food and drinks in Tibet before you travel to Tibet, your Tibetan local tour guide can take you to the most beautiful and tasty restaurants according to your wishes.

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