What do You Eat in Tibet?

Tibetan food
Tibetan food

A lot of you ask us what kind of food you can expect to find in Tibet. If you’re traveling to Tibet and don’t eat meat, or gluten, or sugar, or dairy — will you be able to find food you can eat? Not to worry! 

Gallery: 30 Days of Eating in Lhasa and on the Road in Tibet

(Click to open up the images)

It’s true that the Tibetan plateau is not very amenable to growing fruits and veggies, but today there are lots of greenhouses, and a huge variety of food imported from China. You may not be able to find the brand names and exact types of food you have at home, but the great majority of folks can find something they like in Tibet. Of course the selection is best in Lhasa and in the larger towns, and pickings can be slim when you’re way out in the countryside somewhere, but you can almost always get some kind of veggies, meat, bread, noodles and fruit.  And if you don’t already, there is a good chance that you will love Tibetan food — momos, balep (bread), thukpa (noodle soups), shamdrey (rice, potatoes and meat).

It helps a lot if you like yak meat, since the great majority of meat dishes are yak. If you’re squeamish about wild meats, don’t worry, yak is lean and mild, very much like beef. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference most of the time. 

And if you’re a vegetarian, there are many restaurants and little Chinese hole in the wall joints where you can get stir-fried veggies of all sorts, or noodles with vegetables. Even in meat-centric Tibetan restaurants, you can usually find some kind of “sha may” — meatless — dish. 

If your diet is particularly restricted, or you just don’t like experimenting, you should probably bring some food from home, especially for the more remote areas. 

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Updated on February 17, 2020. First published on December 9, 2017.

Your Tibet travel advisors, Lobsang and Yolanda

Most people who want to go to Tibet don't know how to get there or who to trust for help. We’re Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, and we help make Tibet travel more simple, safe and ethical so you can feel peace of mind about your trip. Learn more about us and YoWangdu here.

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