There is an old saying that you are what you eat so depending on where I am in the world at the time, this could mean that I am a samosa, a piping hot plate of paneer butter masala, a freshly grilled cheese quesadilla, or a generous portion of pad thai that was cooked right before my eyes by a street vendor.
I will be one of the first people to admit that I am not a quintessential foodie. I am vegetarian, I always forget to schedule meals while I am rushing from one attraction to the next, and I am kind of happy eating pizza for every meal for the rest of my life (and yes, I am a grown woman). However, there are some places in this world that have food that is so good that it makes even a non-foodie like me tear up with joy.
As a passionate traveler (125 countries and counting!), I have found plenty of places where the food is a bit “meh” and others where a typical reaction is more like “oh, man … please leave me alone so I can revel in the deliciousness of this pasta/curry/taco/etc.).” The latter is absolutely what earned certain destinations their places on this list of countries with the best food in the world!
Work up an Appetite on a Scavenger Hunt
If you’re looking for a fun way to explore cities around the world, check out our fun-filled scavenger hunts! These carefully curated experiences will have you racing through the streets to find your next attraction. Enjoy some sightseeing, photo ops, and friendly competition as you make memories in the location of your choice. Don’t worry, though—if you get hungry, you can always pause the hunt to grab a bite to eat!
The Countries With the Best Food
With so many heavenly treats found all over the world, it is actually pretty difficult to “rank” them. So instead, I have divided them into continents or regions to make them a bit easier to consume. (Pun intended!)
Asian food, in general, has long been prized for its unique mix of spices, fresh ingredients, and flavor combinations. The continent is incredibly diverse and each country (and sometimes region) has its own specific style of cuisine. From the fresh-from-the-water seafood options in Japan to the thick, rich curries of India, there are plenty of options to choose from and food-lovers could spend months, if not years, traveling across the continent trying different things.
When you think of China, you probably imagine the Great Wall, the glittering and futuristic skyline of Shanghai, oh-so-cute pandas, and delicious food. Chinese restaurants can be found virtually everywhere on the planet and it is kind of easy to see why (and it doesn’t just come down to the amount of enterprising Chinese restaurateurs in the world!). Chinese food is good, really, really good. It is also incredibly versatile and can be easily adapted to suit the tastes of pretty much anyone eating it.
As one of the biggest countries in the world both by geographical size and population, it is no surprise that China has an incredible array of options regardless of whether you want to try the tear-jerking heat of Sichuan cuisine, juicy soup-filled dumplings of Changzhou, or the eclectic dishes of Cantonese dim sum. It is important to remember that the Chinese food that you eat around the world is actually very, very different from what you find in China itself so while you may love it or hate it at home, the experience that you get in China will be completely new.
Some of my favorite Chinese dishes are spicy tofu cooked in a thick, red sauce with just enough chili to get your eyes watering and broccoli or bok choy fried in enough garlic to ward off vampires. A bowl of plain, steamed rice is the perfect accompaniment to help clear (and cool!) your palette in between delicious bites and you can splash it down with delicately prepared tea.
Expert tip: Chinese people take their food seriously so if you are never sure about a particular restaurant or street food stall, then just look for the crowds. If there are a lot of people eating in a place, you can pretty much guarantee that it is safe to eat in.
Like China, India offers an astonishing variety of food choices and one whiff of the rich aroma is enough to get my mouth-watering. When people think of Indian food, they often think of thick curries (which seriously are one of the best things on the planet) and generally not much else. However, you can also find plenty of rice-based dishes like poha and dosas. The country is a vegetarian’s paradise with a dazzling list of options including a delicious choice of breads that are still made the same way that they have been for hundreds of years and are served fresh from the oven or pan.
My absolute favorite foods are paneer butter masala which features a slightly-sweet tomato based gravy and garlic naan and I will never turn down a plate of chole bhature made with stewed chickpeas served with fried bread. The important thing to remember when eating your way through India is that many of the heavier curries originated in the northern part of the country while most of the rice-based meals started in the south. While you can now find most types of food throughout the country, if you want to try the most authentic versions, it is always good to go straight to the source!
If you are worried about experiencing the Delhi Belly (which is a very real thing) make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get used to the different types of spices and oils before you jump in swimming. Most stomach issues are actually linked to unfamiliar foods rather than food poisoning and they are actually pretty easy to avoid if you just slow down a bit. Like Chinese people, Indians adore their food and have an extremely strong food culture. They are also extremely careful about food hygiene standards so it is a good rule of thumb to always go where plenty of other people are eating regardless of whether it is a 5-star hotel or a street-side stall.
Expert tip: If you are offered to go to someone’s house for “home food” do it! This is a rare treat when you are traveling through the country and you will likely get spoiled with a mouth-watering array of chapatis, dahl made with lentils, and mixed vegetable curry. Unlike in many other countries, Indians tend to prefer to eat at home and many of the wealthier people have maids that come and cook their food for them. I guarantee that this will be some of the best Indian food that you will ever have in your life.
Expert tip #2: Eat at Mcdonald’s. I know, I know … this is probably not something that is high on your culinary wish list but McDonald’s in India honestly has such an astonishing array of options unlike what you find anywhere else in the world that it is well worth a visit. You won’t obviously find any pork or beef on the menu but you can choose from things like the Maharaja burger and McPaneer which are a special treat.
While Chinese and Indian food tend to be quite heavy, Japanese food is the exact opposite. Some of the most popular dishes include sashimi, vegetable tempura coated in a light, crispy dough, and, of course, freshly rolled sushi. If you can’t decide what you want, you can always go for a bento box which normally includes rice, a source of protein like meat or fish, and a variety of vegetables. They are filling and healthy and as an added bonus, they almost make you feel like a kid again because they are so fun to eat! If you aren’t necessarily a huge fan of seafood, don’t worry. There are still many other options such as tofu, vegetables, and rice as well as extremely high-quality international food (I actually had some of the best pasta in my life in Tokyo!).
If you are in a rush or are looking for a cheap meal, you can also pop into a ramen shop where you can get your fill of these delicious wheat noodles served in a spicy broth served in a deep bowl with chopsticks and a spoon. Don’t be shy about slurping while you are eating and try to eat as fast as you can as this is when the noodles are at their best consistency.
Expert tip: Despite the mouth-watering concoctions available in restaurants across the country, one of my favorite things is to try all the great snacks at the convenience shops like 7-11. You would be amazed at the crazy flavors available for many products that you probably know and love from home. You can also buy teeny tiny cans of beer from vending machines located all around the country which despite being slightly impractical are a lot of fun to drink!
As part of Indochina, Thai food kind of resembles a mixture of Indian and Chinese food with rich spices, a sweet and salty flavor combination, fresh vegetables, and copious amounts of lemongrass. To give you an idea of how delicious and well-loved Thai food is, just think of the tons of Thai restaurants that you can find virtually everywhere in the world. If that alone doesn’t stand testament to how delicious the food is, I don’t know what does!
Although Bangkok has a whopping eight Michelin-starred restaurants and scores of amazing eateries, when I go there, one of the first things I always do is find a street vendor selling pad thai. They usually cook the noodles in a giant wok right in front of you with a mixture of sweet and salty sauces and give you the option to have additional spices, or extra nuts added to the mix and it is phenomenal. If you go to restaurants, you can also add in vegetables, seafood, tofu, or meat to make it even more filling. Prices vary drastically depending on where you have it and we highly recommend trying it at a number of different restaurants and food stalls to find out which style you like best! Many travelers also head straight to the many night markets where you can try a slew of freshly made dishes from across the country.
Expert tip: Finish any meal off with a bag of freshly cut pineapple from one of the fruit sellers or an ice-cold Singha beer and you will be close to reaching nirvana!
Although Vietnamese doesn’t seem to get the same international attention as Thai food, this fascinating country creates some spectacular culinary delights. Once part of the French colony of French Indochina, many of Vietnam’s most popular foods are unique twists on French cuisine, particularly the banh mi which is basically a sandwich made with French bread made from rice.
Vietnam is probably most well-known for pho which is a soup dish made from broth, rice noodles, meat, and vegetables. You can find it virtually everywhere in Vietnam (as well as at Vietnamese restaurants around the world!). However, there is also a wide variety of dishes made of meat, fish, and vegetables and you can spend days wandering through the various night markets trying all kinds of new things.
Expert tip: Eating in Vietnam can be a real treat but the coffee is something that you may not forget easily. Vietnamese coffee consists of coffee and condensed milk which gives an extra boost of energy and sugar. It is good but be prepared that it can be extremely sweet if you aren’t expecting it!
Spread across two continents, the Americas provide an extensive array of diverse foods and you can easily see the influences of immigration on the regional cuisine throughout both continents.
Tacos, quesadillas, mole – oh my! Our friends south of the border sure do know how to eat! Like China and India, you can find an incredible array of regional cuisine throughout Mexico which sometimes feel like Mexican food couldn’t be any more different than the Tex-Mex you find across the United States. From the rich moles of Oaxaca and Puebla to the unique blend of European, Mexican, and Caribbean influences that make up Yucatecan cuisine, Mexican is much, much more than tacos.
Although Mexican cuisine tends to be very meat-heavy, you can find a ton of vegetarian restaurants and eateries, including vegan taco stands, in many of the big cities as well as a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables as well as freshly made tortillas and fresh Oaxaca cheese that are perfect to take home with you to your Airbnb or hostel.
Expert tip: If you are vegetarian, always keep on the oil that people use when they cook food as they sometimes use animal fat in the strangest of places. This can wreak havoc on your stomach and it is always better to be safe than sorry in situations like this unless you want to feel that wrath of Montezuma’s revenge.
With a country the size of the United States, it is no surprise that there is an unbelievable array of wonderful food. Although many people think of hamburgers or hot dogs as being like our national dish, American cuisine goes way beyond burgers and French fries. Many areas throughout the country have unique dishes that represent the immigrants that settled there. In the Midwest, you can find traditional dishes from countries across Northern Europe including parts of Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland while in New York City, you can try some authentic Chinese food, Italian cuisine loaded with hand-rolled meatballs, Malaysian or Indonesian street food, and egg tarts from Portugal – basically, you want it, you got it in the Big Apple.
The southeastern United States has some of the country’s most unique food options thanks to the area’s turbulent history and you can easily find food incorporating French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences. While much of it may not be particularly healthy (nor is most American food for that matter), it is just one of those things that are totally worth the calories!
Expert tip: It is really important to remember that tax and tip aren’t included in the menu prices and that these could add as much as 30% to your bill. Waitresses make very little in hourly wages and tips are how they make a living. Don’t skimp on these unless the service is completely terrible as they really do represent someone’s livelihood.
While much of the food throughout South America is relatively bland compared to Mexico (sorry South America, we still love you!) Peru is the standout when it comes to interesting culinary exploits. While Peru may be more well-known for the magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, and the intriguing city of Cuzco, this country really does have a lot to offer hungry travelers.
One of the most famous dishes in Peru is “cuy” (aka guinea pig) which can be served roasted or grilled and is usually eaten whole. While many people in the United States see them as pets, Peruvians view them as delicacies and have done so since Incan times. If the thought of eating a guinea pig doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry—there are plenty of other things to choose from including ceviche, stuffed peppers, and roasted chicken.
Expert tip: When it comes time to unwind at the end of a long day of sightseeing, Peru has plenty of beer options to choose from. However, one thing that you shouldn’t miss is the famous Pisco Sour. Made with pisco, a type of brandy, lime juice, egg whites, and bitters, this beloved drink has a unique taste combining tart, and sweet with a smooth texture. However, you may want to stick with just one!
Argentina is famous around the world for its high-quality meats but few people know how delicious their desserts and dairy products are (which kind of makes sense considering how good their beef is). If you have a sweet tooth, you may even think you have died and gone to heaven! Besides, what better way to refuel after a long hike through the soaring mountains of Patagonia than with a melts-in-your-mouth pile of ice cream?
The other must-try food is their pizza. Now, you may be thinking “Pizza? In Argentina?” but hear me out. Throughout the 20th century, many Italian immigrants moved to Argentina and brought their traditional foods and cooking styles with them. Thank goodness that they did because now you can get some of the most delicious pizza in the world from pizzerias across Buenos Aires as well as some of the other big cities. If you are traveling through South America long-term, this may be a marvelous treat after spending months eating rice and beans.
Expert tip: Argentina is well-known for its high-quality wines but they also have a pretty impressive beer scene which goes perfectly with their heavenly slices of pizza!
Argentina can get very expensive, very quickly if you are traveling on a budget but if you want to save some money, grab some fresh French bread, bright red tomatoes, some of the country’s famous cheese, and if they are in season, an avocado that is the size of a softball. This may not be Michelin star dining but it certainly makes a fantastic meal during long bus journeys and is a great way to eat healthy, delicious meals while on the go.
A thousand years ago, it would have been a hard stretch to say that Europe had “good” food. Thanks to the spice trade with Asia, things began to get way, way better and now, there are a number of countries that top the list
This one probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. Italy is nearly as famous for its amazing food as it is for the Roman Forum and Coliseum and Italian food is often ranked #1 around the world. I have spent a lot of time in Italy over the years and I can testify that there is sometimes nothing better in life than digging into a Margherita pizza made with fresh mozzarella cheese and tangy tomato sauce. When you follow it up with a scoop of gelato, you are in for a major treat.
Italy is one of the most heavily visited destinations in Europe and it is a good idea to steer clear of the touristy spots and try to find where locals eat. Regardless if you are looking for a pizza laden with all the goodies, a hearty bowl of risotto, or a plate of penne pasta, this is usually significantly cheaper and much more flavorful than what you find at the run of the mill restaurants that cater to tourists. Don’t be afraid to venture off the main squares and into back alleyways to try and find the hidden culinary gems of the city. If you are lucky enough to find some of the best restaurants in the city, try to keep them a secret as the last thing you want to see on your next trip is a restaurant full of fellow tourists!
Expert tip: if you go to a cafe in Italy for a quick pick-me-up, always check the menu to see the price difference between having a coffee and a pastry at the “bar” and having one at a table. Depending on where you are, you may be shocked to see how much more they charge if you decide to sit. If you have been walking all day and this is a good excuse to rest your aching feet, by all means, go for it. However, if you are just leaving home in the morning and just want an espresso and a croissant to get you going, it may be better to stand at the bar. In my experience, this is actually a really fun way to start the day and you feel very immersed in the local culture while you stand there sandwiched between old men either gossiping or reading the local newspaper.
When you are considering what is some of the best food in Europe, France is always one of the first countries that come to mind. French food manages to be a sort of jack of all trades – they basically do everything well. From mouth-watering main courses full of butter and cheese to light and fluffy crepes (ie thin pancakes) stuffed with Nutella and bananas, you seriously can’t go wrong when it comes to food in France. And to make everything even better, they also have some of the world’s best wines that you can wash it all down with! The cuisine changes as you tour the country so make sure to take advantage of each new region you visit and try their local specialty.
Expert tip: France can be very, very expensive to travel through but if you are moving along on a shoestring budget, you can still take advantage of many of the country’s delicacies! Flaky croissants fresh from the oven cost just one or two euros or you can head to one of the grocery stores or local markets to pick up some tomatoes, a freshly baked baguette, and cheese along with some fruit and make your own little picnic! If you want to try out some of the wines but don’t want to blow your food budget on wine, just pick up a bottle at the store and take it with you to the nearest park. In Paris, you can often find people doing exactly this along the canal. It creates a wonderful, laid-back atmosphere and is a great way to meet new people!
Ok, ok … I am just going to admit that many people may be raising their eyebrows at the thought of Germany as being one of the best places in the world for food and this is definitely one that is a matter of perspective. Germany is obviously heaven for beer lovers but they also offer some hearty cuisine that is great for filling you up and can soak up any excess beer that you may “accidentally” drink.
While Germany is known for many pork-based dishes and is generally considered a meat and potatoes kind of place, you can also get an impressive array of vegetarian options. I absolutely adore kase spaetzle which is the German version of macaroni and cheese and is incredibly delicious. If you decide to try some more “international” fare, you can almost always find many different veggie-friendly options.
And did I mention the beer?
Expert tip: Make sure to check out what is on offer at some of the fast-food restaurants. They often have interesting burgers on offer and have some great salads. This is a good way to eat healthy when you are on the move without having to spend a fortune to do it!
Belgium is one of those places that seems to have plenty of amazing things to offer but somehow gets lost between the heavy hitters of Amsterdam and Paris (I mean, one of the most well-known tourist attractions of Brussels is the tiny statue of a little boy peeing. Standing at just 24 inches, he really is tiny). However, what it may lack in top 10 sites to see, it certainly makes up for in food.
Belgium certainly leads the way when it comes to chocolate, waffles, fries, and beer which can be the dream combination for your inner child/college student. The waffles are a bit different from what you get in the United States and come with a sweet glaze that is just enough to give you a little sugar rush. Meanwhile, the chocolate is thick, and creamy with a ton of flavor. While Godiva is probably the most famous Belgian chocolatier, you can find plenty of smaller brands that are worth trying as well. If you are looking for something a bit more savory, the fries normally come in a paper cone and can be loaded up with so many condiments that you may not be able to find the fries at the bottom!
And of course—the beer! Belgium is famous for its wheat beers and it is easy to try a bunch of different varieties of handcrafted beer at many bars across the country. Some of the best are the monastic beers which are still brewed in monasteries even today.
While Greece isn’t as famous as Italy or France for its cuisine, perhaps it should be. Greek food combines a smorgasbord of ingredients, flavors, and textures to create some incredible food. Some of the best food includes souvlaki which consists of juicy morsels of meat grilled on a skewer, zucchini balls, stuffed grape leaves, and tomato fritters (who knew that was even possible?). You can also get mouth-watering baklava that is definitely worth the calories, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
If your stomach starts to feel a bit overloaded with so much new food, there is always the option of a Greek salad made with remarkably fresh vegetables that taste like they are straight from the farm (because they most likely were).
Each area of Greece has something special to offer so it is a good idea to set aside plenty of time for eating. You may want to write down the names of a few dishes before you head out though as some of the names can be very long and difficult to remember (and pronounce!) and this will make ordering at a restaurant much easier.
Like so many other countries on this list, Spain has a long and fascinating history and Spanish food showcases the regional diversity of the country. Wherever you go, you can find incredibly fresh produce, and Mediterranean flavors blended together to create a treat for your tastebuds. From the tangy gazpachos of Andalusia which are perfect for beating the summer heat to the rice-based paella which features a mouth-watering array of spices and can be served with chicken, seafood, vegetables, or anything else that you can think of!
Just remember that Spanish people tend to eat dinner very, very late. If you head out to eat anytime in the evening, it is likely that you won’t find much open beside the really touristy places which are generally good to avoid if you want to have the chance to try authentic Spanish food.
Expert tip: If you want to try as many different kinds of Spanish food as possible, make sure to visit one of the many tapas bars located throughout the country. Many of them give tapas dishes out when you purchase a drink, and they are usually decent quality, flavorful, and filling!
As a country, Turkey firmly straddles Asia and Africa and is one of the most diverse countries in the world and almost serves as a cornucopia of cultures. You can easily see the influences from both continents in Turkish food ranging from their famous kebabs to their filling breakfasts rich with feta cheese, fresh bread, and slices of blood-red tomatoes. If you are a big breakfast fan, you must try the menemen, which is basically Turkey’s version of scrambled eggs. The eggs are cooked in thick tomato sauce with green peppers and a tasty combination of spices that makes them almost taste a bit like Israeli shakshuka and are guaranteed to keep you full as you explore Istanbul!
Although food varies a lot across the country, Turkish cuisine often incorporates nuts, yogurt, and eggplant (often in the same dish!. Although it may sound like a strange combination, the various flavors and textures combine perfectly to create a wonderful explosion of flavors that invigorate your taste buds.
Expert tip: Outside of the big cities, it can be a bit challenging to find a lot of vegetarian foods. However, anywhere you go, you can always find pita (at least in the morning and early afternoon). The pita basically serves as a type of Turkish pizza and usually comes just with cheese or with different types of meat layered on top. It is then served with a type of tomato sauce/salsa-type condiment that has just enough chili and garlic to give it a bit of kick without being too overpowering. Bread, cheese, and tomato sauce sound like everything you need for a pizza right?
Middle East and the Levant
The Fertile Crescent is considered the Cradle of Civilization thanks to the evolution of farming that occurred there and changed the way that people lived forever. The food that people were eating there thousands of years ago actually hasn’t changed too much and you can find meals featuring dates, figs, lentils, chickpeas, and yogurt that create a long-lasting impression on your taste buds and your memory!
Although you can find slight variations throughout the region, especially when comparing the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant region, Middle Eastern food is generally healthy, and filling with plenty of fruits and vegetables (unless you decide to go for falafel that is!). Some of the most popular food across the region include hummus, falafel which are both made from chickpeas and olive oil, fattoush and tabouleh, baba ganoush, and the same pizza-like things that you find in Turkey.
While you won’t find much pork in the Middle East for obvious reasons, you can find plenty of chicken, lamb, and beef and the area is famous for its shawarma. If you have a sweet tooth, you absolutely must try the flaky, honey-soaked bundle of goodness more commonly known as baklava. It is very easy to get addicted to it so try to limit yourself to just a few pieces at a time!
Ready to Roam?
We hope that this article has woken your taste buds and your sense of wanderlust! Have you tried any of the aforementioned foods? If so, let us know in the comment section.
If you want to get some new ideas of places to go around the world where you can indulge in amazing culinary delights, keep your eyes on the travel section of our blog. We offer tips, travel hacks, and destination ideas that will have you packing your bags at the next opportunity!
Frequently Asked Questions
Food is subjective, but there’s no denying that the cuisine of some countries stands out. For farm-fresh fare, countries around the Mediterranean are a great bet. Heavy and spicy? Try India and China.
The world is full of wonders when it comes to culinary appreciation! Some of the countries with the best food include France, Italy, India, and China.