What to Eat in Tibet - Tibetan Cuisine

21 July 2017 Last updated at 14:38

Tibetan food, like Tibetan people and their culture, has a very distinct character. Many people have given Tibetan cuisine a bad reputation while others like it and think it's not that bad. Whether it's tasty or not, you need to try it yourself. Even if you have explored all Tibet attractions, your trip to tibet is never complete without trying tibetan food.

Tibetan people have unique food and drink due to the high altitude, harsh climate, their religious belief and ethnic customs. Their diet mainly consists of meat, milk and other high protein food to help them fight the cold. Tibetans eat a lot of yak meat and mutton but they don't eat horse, dog, donkey or even fish.

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Tsampa (??) is the staple food in Tibet. Tibetan people eat tsampa at every meal and bring it as a ready-made food when traveling. Tsampa is a dough made with roasted barley flour and ghee (yak butter).

There are 2 basic methods to make and eat tsampa. One is to make dough with butter tea. The other is to make porridge with beef or mutton, and vegetables. The former one is salty while the latter is added with sugar to give it a sweet taste.

  • Tsampa
    Tsampa with Raw Yak Meat (in the bowl)

Beef and Mutton

Beef (yak meat) is the most popular meat eaten by Tibetans. Beef and mutton contain high protein which is helpful in fighting the cold. Many Tibetans often eat raw meat, while others boil beef and mutton with ginger, salt and spices. Dried beef and mutton strips are also popular in Tibet. The dried meat can be difficult to chew but tastes good. Additionally, the dried meat can be stored and are useful when traveling long distance.

  • Yak Meat
    Yak Meat
  • Dried Yak Meat
    Dried Yak Meat

Tibetan Noodle (Thenthuk or Thukpa)

Tibetan noodle (??) is usually served with simple vegetable and brewis. Those who live in cities of Tibet prefer to have Tibetan noodles and sweet tea as their breakfast. Some say Tibetan noodle soup is the most enjoyable for the meal as the soup tastes nice together with a bit shallot.

  • Yak Thukpa
    Yak Thukpa - Tibetan Noodle Soup

Milk Curd and Yogurt

Tibetan people eat all kinds of dairy products, including ghee (butter), cheese, yogurt, and milk curd. Milk curd or named milk sediment (??) is solidified sediments of boiled milk, which tasts sour. Tibetans bring it when traveling to avoid environmental inadaptability. Milk curd can be eaten as snacks or used to make Tibet buns. Besides, fried milk curd tastes good too.

  • Milk Curd
    Milk Curd - Solidified Sediments of Boiled Milk
  • Cheese Momo
    Cheese Momo - Momos with Milk Curd Filling

Tibetan Sausages

Tibetan people are fond of varied sausages, including meat sausage, blood sausage, flour sausage, liver sausage, lung sausage, etc.

  • Tibetan Blood Sausage
    Tibetan Blood Sausage
  • Tibetan Liver Sausage
    Tibetan Liver Sausage


Momos (??) are Tibetan dumplings which are made with either meat or vegetables. The half-moon-shaped momo can be either steamed or fried and served with chili sauce.

  • Momos
    Momos - Tibetan Dumplings

Ginseng Fruit Rice

Ginseng fruit rice (????) is considered as a lucky food by Tibetans and they eat ginseng fruit rice during festivals especially the Tibetan New Year Festival. Ginseng fruit rice is made with rice, ginseng fruit, butter tea and sugar. Ginseng fruit is rich in nutrition and benefits a lot to your digestive system.

  • Ginseng Fruit
    Ginseng Fruit
  • Ginseng Fruit Rice
    Ginseng Fruit Rice

What to Drink in Tibet?

Interesting Tips

  • Some visitors call the butter tea "yak butter tea", but actually there is no such thing as "yak butter tea". Why? Because yaks are male and they can’t produce milk. Females, called "dri", produce milk.
  • Tibetans usually serve tea in small bowls instead of cups.

Butter Tea

Butter tea (???) is another staple of Tibetan meal. To put it simply, the butter tea is boiled tea added with ghee and salt. Tibetan people drink butter tea to keep themselves warm and it usually drank whiling eating tsampa. Some say the butter tea tastes more like soup rather than tea.

  • Tibetan Butter Tea
    Tibetan Butter Tea

Tibetan Sweet Tea (Tibetan Milk Tea)

Tibetan sweet tea (????) is another popular tea in Tibet. How to make it? Boil milk with brick tea and sugar added. Tibetan milk tea is better acceptable by visitors than butter tea as it smells more pleasant and the taste is not that strong.

  • Tibetan Sweet Tea
    Tibetan Sweet Tea

Tibetan Barley Wine (Chang)

Tibetan barley wine (???) is brewed from fermented barley grown on the highland. It's the favorite alcoholic drink of Tibetans. The wine is mild, slightly sweet and sour, and contains little alcohol. The taste of Chang differs from one to another due to the brewing method and duration.

  • Chang
    Chang - Tibetan wine made from highland barley

Related information about Tibet Food:

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