Varanasi, a city situated on the banks of the holy Ganges River in India, is not only renowned for its spiritual significance but also for its delectable and diverse food scene. The Varanasi’s street food scene is a bustling and aromatic affair, with numerous food stalls and carts lining the narrow lanes and bustling marketplaces. Varanasi’s street food is a sensory delight, as you navigate through the bustling streets, guided by the tempting aromas of sizzling spices and aromatic herbs.
Varanasi’s food culture is rich and vibrant, with a strong emphasis on vegetarian cuisine due to the city’s religious and cultural practices. The local street food is particularly famous, offering a wide array of savory and sweet delicacies that entice both locals and visitors. Varanasi’s culinary offerings are deeply rooted in traditional Indian flavors and techniques, with a unique blend of local specialties and influences from neighboring regions.
Here is my complete guide and best things to do in Varanasi’s itinerary.
While as the name suggests street food is available on streets of Varanasi. When in Varanasi try some traditional street of food. You can do a self-guided tour or maybe can take a guided tour.
There are so many dishes you can try but here is my list of some of the must-have dishes from the street food of Varanasi. You will not feel disappointed and conversation around these food stalls will help you understand the food culture of Varanasi.
Also, read travel and safety tips for Varanasi
Things you must eat in the holy city of Varanasi
Food here evolved with time but kept its original flavors. There are food joints nears ghats and on every other street of the city. Some of the streets are popular for one particular food or a shop.
Some of the must-try street food delights in Varanasi include chaat, a popular savory snack made with a combination of crispy fried dough, tangy chutneys, yogurt, and various toppings like potatoes, onions, and sev. Kachori sabzi, another street food favorite, features deep-fried pastries filled with a spicy lentil mixture, served with a side of flavorful potato curry and pumpkin curry.
Tamatar chaat, a tangy and spicy street food made with boiled potatoes and tomatoes, and garnished with a medley of chutneys and spices, is also a beloved local specialty. Lassi, a refreshing yogurt-based drink available in different flavors such as mango, rose, or plain, is a popular choice to beat the heat and savor the flavors of Varanasi.
Kulhad Wali Chai
India is a tea-loving country and it’s the most consumed beverage. Every part of India has its version of masala tea, which is made by adding milk in tea with some spices/masalas.
Varanasi’s tea stalls serve it in Kulhad. The small earthen clay cups are known as Kulhad. Some people swear that the Kulhads add to the flavor of the tea.
Kulhad wali Chai aka tea tastes different due to the smell of clay. You have to drink it to experience the taste of it.
If you like black lemon tea then you come across some tea vendors, they carry a steel bucket shaped flask filled with tea. They serve black tea with lemon and a pinch of salt/masala, tea is reddish in colour hence named Lal Chai.
If you like to listen to some interesting stories then ask for the recipe to the tea sellers.
Kachori with potato curry and pumpkin sabzi
This combination is the most popular breakfast in Varanasi. You will come across shops selling is combination everywhere on streets of Varanasi and small shops.
Kachori is made of whole wheat flour with little bit stuffing of dal (lentil) paste and sabzi is mostly made of Potato with tomatoes and semi solid pumpkin curry which is sweet and tangy in flavour. There is no onion or garlic used in this but taste of Asefotida is quite prominent.Most of the shops sell Aloo Kachori for breakfast only. They stop making these dishes by 10 AM and usually run out of stock before 11 AM.
Some of the famous Kachori sabzi shops of Varanasi are Ram Bhandar in Thatheri bazar, Chachi ki Dukaan in Lanka, or head to Kachori Gali near Tripura Bhairavi road. If you are a Kachori sabzi fan then you can have anywhere in Varanasi and you will not feel disappointed.
Jalebi with Dahi
All Kachori sabzi shops serve Jalebi also and people buy both for the breakfast. These two are the most popular combination.
In most parts of India Jalebi is served with Rabri. In Banaras jalebi is served with thick curd. It may sound strange to some but it’s a nice combination to try.
I asked a local why Jalebi curd cmbination. He explained when Jalebi is combined with Rabri it becomes too heavy and sweet but if you eat it with curd the sweetness of jalebi is balanced by curd. Moreover, curd helps in digestion. It gives a soothing effect to the stomach after a heavy breakfast of Kachori and Jalebi.
This is one of the most popular drinks of Varanasi and very refreshing an filling. The sweet lassi is made by mixing curd and sugar.
Varanasi being a popular tourist destination among locals and foreign travelers, the lassi has evolved a lot here but is always served in Kasoora (Earthen pot).
Nowadays you will get several varieties of lassi other than regular sweet lassi. Some shops serve lassi with rabri over it.
Some of the popular lassi shops are Blue lassi on the lane goes towards Manikarnika Ghat, they serve dozens of varieties of fruit lassis. Pahalwan lassi shop in Lanka is another popular place though personally I am not a fan. SHiv Prasad lassi bhandar near Ramnagar fort serves one of the best lassi of Varanasi, they top up the sweet lassi with rabri.
In Varanasi Kachori is similar to Puri stuffed with lentil paste and Kashta kachori is with thick and flaky covering. In North and western India this is normally referred as Kachori. There are some shops who sells Kashta kachori with aloo and some sell it with black chickpea curry. My favorite is a small shop near Gate no. 4 of Kashivishwanath temple. The shop sells small bite size kachori with black chickpeas topped with onion and lemon.
One food item about which Varanasi people talks with pride is Banarasi chaat.
Chaat is sweet, savory and tangy in taste. There are so many flavors in one dish. The most popular chaats are Papdi chaat, Bhalla papri chaat, Aloo Tikki Chaat, and Dahi Kachori chaat. The chaat has curd, sweet & tangy tamarind chutney and green chutney.
Head to Kashi chaat Bhandar or Deena chaat Bhandar to taste different varieties of Banarasi chaat.
If you are from Delhi then I am sure you take a lot of pride in Dilli ki chaat. It is a popular topic of discussion among foodies if Delhi’s chaat is better or Banarasi chaat, I leave it to you to decide it yourself.
I would like to mention this verity of Chaat separately instead of adding into chaats because it’s very different from regular chaats. The main reason for keeping it separate is the base of this dish. This chaat is made with tomatoes as the base product.
It’s served warm tomatoes and potatoes gravy. It’s is served in Kulhad and believed to be originated in Varanasi. You won’t get it in other parts of north India. Its’ also available in shops and stalls selling chaats.
Bread Butter and Bread Malai
Laxmi Chai Wals is one of the famous shop selling bread butter and bread Malai. They toast bread pieces on slow flame of charcoal and then apply salted butter or Malai (Milk Cream) with sugar sprinkled on it. You can have these with milk tea.
There is nothing special about it but its very popular among tourist. The tea here was indeed very good.
Malaiyo or Nimish
This is a kind of Indian souffle which is made of milk and sugar with saffron. Malaiyo is available only in winter months. It’s lightweight and melts in the mouth. This frothy dish is mildly sweet and light on the stomach.
In Delhi, it’s known as Dulat ki chaat.
Read more about North Indian vegetarian food
This dish is similar to the “Poha” from Madhya Pradesh. Poha has onions, potatoes, and turmeric whereas Chuda Matar only has lots of green peas in it.
This is a popular breakfast and snack item. It is made with flattened rice and green peas. You will find it on small road stalls in months of winter when fresh peas are in season.
Chena Dahi Vada
It’s is one of those dishes which is made with different forms of milk. Very similar to Dahi vada in looks but it’s different.
The Vada is made with Lentil/Dal in Dahi Vada whereas Vada is made of cottage cheese balls in Chena vada.
The Chena Vadas are served with curd and sweet tamarind sauce. It is food to cool down the stomach. You can try this at Kashi Chaat bhandar and Dena chaat.
Food stalls in Lanka near BHU
Since Lanka is very close to BHU complex so every evening it come alive with the lots of food stalls. Which serve different food items like vegetarian and non vegetarian foods like rolls, kababs, chinese and other food items. These are quite good in taste and easy on pocket.
These food items are very different from what you get in Varanasi city area. If you had enough of Kachoris, jalebis and chaat then head to Lanka for a different meal.
The paan or betel leaf is a very popular and most iconic item of Varanasi. Paan is made by wrapping some interesting masalas in betel leaves. There are several songs and stories related to Banarasi Paan.
You can find a Paan shop in every lane of Banaras and shopkeepers will make it sweet or plain as per your requirements.
Paan is a popular mouth freshener. Though all paan shops in Varanasi are special. Ramchandra Chaurasia Tambul Bhandar in Chowk and Keshav Tambul Bhandar in Lanka are most popular among locals and tourists.
Sweets in Varanasi
The milk-based sweets of Varanasi are the most popular. If you have sweet tooth then try Kalakand, Lal Peda, Parval, Kulfi, Maalpua, Malai Puri and Rabri.
To beat these milk-based sweets Varanasi has a humble sweet known as ‘Lawanglata’. This sweet is very popular among the masses and you will find it in every sweet shop of Varanasi.
Shree Rajbandhu Sweets, Ksheer Sagar, and Rajshree Sweets are some of the popular and oldest sweet shops in Varanasi.
These are some of the must-have items to try from the vast variety of street food of Varanasi.
Varanasi is close to Bihar that’s why its influence on the food on food of Varanasi. Litti Chokha is the rustic food of Bihar and it evolved in Varanasi. There are many food stalls and carts selling it across city selling litti chokha.
If you want to go to a proper restaurant then visit a place with the same name i.e. Baati Chokha restaurant in Teliya bagh in Varanasi.
When you had enough of street food and wanted to have a nice sit in meal then head to Amritara Suryauday Haveli or Kesariya Thal. Both of these places are near Assi Ghat.
Here you will get Thali meal with several dishes in nice ambience. Both are nice to enjoy a relaxed evening.
Pizzeria Vatika Cafe
This is India’s one of the first Pizzeria established with the help of an Italian national and now run by an Indian family. They sell wood fired pizzas and pastas, which are very nice. Pizzas and Apple pies are there most popular and best selling items.
When you are in Varanasi then have at least one meal at Pizzeria. They are situated on Assi Ghat facing Ganga river.
With increase in the number of western tourists, you will find several cafes and restaurants serving continental cuisine. Most of these continental restaurants are near the ghats of Ganga.
For me, food is an important part of my travel and cultural experience of Varanasi. A trip to Banaras is incomplete if you can’t try some of these popular street foods of Varanasi.
When visiting Varanasi pray at the temples of Banaras, explore the Ganga river and its ghats, they take boat rides in the Ganges, meet & see the life of sadhus and discover the spiritual side of city. You have any reason to visit Varanasi but one thing which everyone does is eat food. To experience the essence of the city you have to try the street food of Varanasi.