20 Best Recipes From Laos (Updated 2022)

Recipes from Laos and Laotian food is distinct from other SE Asian cuisines. Laotians enjoy sweet, salty, sour, & bitter flavors as long as they are strong.

Steamed sticky rice is the Laos’ main dish. Sticky rice is known as Khao Niao – khao means ‘rice’ and niao means ‘sticky.’ In fact, the Laotians consume more sticky rice than anyone else in the planet.

Sticky rice is thought to be the essence of Laotian culture. Sticky rice, is widely believed in the Laotian community, that it will always be the glue that binds them together, connecting them to their culture and to Laos, no matter where they are in the world.

The Laotian people are often referred to as Luk Khao Niaow, which means “children or descendants of sticky rice.” Sticky rice, Larb, and Tam Mak Hoong are the trifecta of Laos recipes.

Tam Mak Hoong, sometimes known as Som Tam in the West, is a spicy green papaya salad that was invented in Laos.

Recipes from Laos come in a wide variety of regional variants, owing in part to the fresh Laotian foods available in each location. Baguettes are sold on the street in the capital city, Vientiane, and French restaurants are frequent and popular, both of which were initially introduced while Laos was a part of French Indochina.

Traditional Laos Food Recipes


Laotian food is the most essential activity in Laos at all times of the day. It is fairly typical in the local language for people to greet each other by inquiring, “Have you eaten food?” Laotian food is often the topic of many talks, especially when friends and family are dining and sharing meals. Laotian people also take great pride in sharing their traditional Laotian food recipes with inquiring visitors.

Lao people were initially migrants from Southern China, and they were made up of a variety of ethnic groups who spoke different languages and had varied cultures. They brought their traditions with them when they went further south. Lao cuisine has a much greater awareness in the world as a result of historical Lao migration from the Lao PDR to Thailand and adjacent nations. According to Arne Kislenko, there are more ethnic Lao residing in Northern Thailand than in Lao PDR, resulting in the spread of specific Lao recipes far beyond the country’s borders. In truth, much of Thailand’s “Isan” cuisine is actually Lao rather than Thai in origin. However, we believe that the best approach to sample Lao cuisine is to travel within the country’s borders and sample the variety of cuisines available.

Because of the various ethnic groups that make up the country, traditional Laotian recipes are diverse. Southern cuisine is fiery, spicy, and salty, whereas Northern cuisine is gentle. Most Laos foods are steamed, boiled, blanched, or stewed and are not fatty.

Because of migration, several surrounding cuisines, particularly from Southern China into Northern Laos, have influenced Laotian recipes. There is also a major link between northeastern Thai and Cambodian cuisines. ‘Fer’, for example, has been influenced by Vietnamese cuisine and has become a famous dish in Laos (Vietnamese Pho-noodle).

Laos Recipes – Unassuming But Packed with Flavor

The country’s ability in combining herbs, chilies, and the aromatic bacterial riot of fermented meat and fish is on display. Fresh ingredients like as vegetables, poultry (chicken, duck), pork, beef, and water buffalo are used in most dishes.

Fish and prawns are plentiful, but because Laos is a landlocked country, they are almost usually freshwater varieties. Mutton is only eaten by the country’s small South Asian Muslim population, which is almost entirely concentrated in Vientiane.

Laotian food recipes is one of Southeast Asia’s best-kept secrets. Due to its landlocked location, this small country receives less attention than its neighbors, yet it nevertheless has a lot to offer in terms of culture and cuisine. Laotian food recipes are flavorful, with herbs and fresh ingredients. There are several regional differences, but Laotian food recipes can be defined as the entire Lao ethnic group’s cooking heritage and style. The main cuisine of Laos is sticky rice, which is often believed to be the glue that binds Lao populations to their culture and to Laos.

Laotian Food vs Thai Food

Isan (Thai) and Laos food recipes are both herbaceous and vegetable-heavy, with a lot of bitter notes. Thinly sliced banana blossom lends bitterness and floral overtones to dishes like naem khao and laab, while sliced raw Thai eggplant provides bitterness and texture to dishes like naem khao and laab. Fresh bamboo shoots, ginger, galangal, and vast amounts of fresh herbs including mint, cilantro, makrut lime leaf, and dill are among typical ingredients.

Laos recipes are simpler than Thai recipes, with fewer ingredients. It’s additionally hotter because dried chilies are used. While coconut milk is occasionally used in Isan and Laos food recipes, the sweet, thick sauces that are commonly associated with Thai cuisine are not seen in Laos recipes.

Laotians enjoy sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors as long as they are strong. Prepare to eat a lot of sticky rice with your hands if you decide to go native.

FAQs About Laotian Food and their Laotian Recipes

What is Laos Food?

In terms of flavor and ingredients, Laos recipes are quite similar to those found in Thailand and Vietnam, and frequently include fresh herbs, spices, noodles, and rice. The Laotians’ staple dish is khao niaw (sticky rice).

What is it About Laos Food Recipes and Sticky Rice?

Every meal in Laos starts with khao niew, or sticky rice. It’s all over the place. Sticky rice is prepared from glutinous rice, which contains more sugar than ordinary rice and becomes sticky when steamed.

What are a couple of Traditional Food Recipes from Laos?

Laab (also known as “larb” on Thai restaurant menus) is a salad made from ground meat and herbs, laced with fish sauce and lime juice, and topped with a powder made from dry powdered rice. Every meal prepared in Laos includes ‘sticky rice’ and it is considered one of the country’s most defining dish.

Is Laotian Food Spicy?

The most renowned of Laos recipes is Larb (also written laab or laap), a spicy mixture of marinated meat or fish that is occasionally served uncooked (similar to ceviche) with a variety of herbs, greens, and spices.

What is the Difference Between Thai and Laotian Food?

Both Laotian food and Thai cuisine have distinct and excellent flavors. The distinction is that, unlike Thai cuisine, Laos recipes use herbs and vegetables that aren’t cooked or require overnight marinades. Thai food is usually served individually, whereas Laos food is frequently offered in a family setting.

Is Laotian Food Healthy?

Laotian food is fresh and nutritious, with nearly no processed foods. Sticky rice, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, fish and meat, fish sauce, chili, spices, and fruit are the main ingredients of Laotian recipes. In Laos, sticky rice is served with every meal and is considered the country’s main food dish.

Laos Recipes

20 Best Recipes From Laos

1. Laotian Shrimp Larb

Laotian Shrimp Larb - Recipes from Laos

It’s one of the traditional Laotian recipes that’s meant to be eaten with your hands and relies on chopped meat or seafood, flavorful aromatics, and fiery chilies. Toasted and ground rice adds a subtle nutty-sweet flavor and also thickens the sauce for our shrimp variation.

2. Sweet Coconut Cakes

Sweet Coconut Cakes - Laotian Food

Among the hubbub of the Luang Prebang night market, you’ll find a handful of vendors hunched over large steel pans covered in half-moon dips, making these delectable treats. They pour the batter directly into the pans, scoop them up fresh and serve them in banana leaves. For a couple thousand kip (aka 50 cents) you can buy half a dozen cakes and dig in while dodging vendors and other tourists in the night market.

Get in the festive spirit, help out a local Lao street food seller with their sweet coconut cakes. These steamed cakes are dairy and gluten-free and are best when eaten piping hot. This Laotian food creates one of the sweetest recipes from Laos.

3. Incandescent Lao Salad

Incandescent Lao Salad - Laos Recipes

Have you ever had larb? Sometimes it’s spelled laab or laap. It’s a kind of meat salad eaten in Laos and northern Thailand. It’s light, bright, and fiery hot, almost incandescently so, due to hot chilies. And it’s kind of sour due to citrus. It’s absolutely delicious. We have tried many recipes from Laos and this is one of our favorites.

In all seriousness, if you’re not a fan of ridiculously hot food you can certainly cut back on the chilies to suit your taste. Still, the virtue of this salad is that it’s really all in your face with intensity. It’s bright and colorful, it’s intensely flavorful, and it’s hot!

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4. Nam Kao (Lao Crispy Fried Rice Ball Salad)

Nam Kao (Lao Crispy Fried Rice Ball Salad) - Laos Food Recipes

One of the favorite recipes from Laos is a crispy rice salad (Nam Khao) with crispy, chewy textures with a balance of sweet, tart, salty and spiciness. If you have never had a Lao Crispy Rice Salad, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before and you need to try it because my words just won’t do it any justice.

Crunchy, chewy rice with a well-balanced tart, salty, spicy and sweet combination of toppings and fresh herbs. It is one of the tastiest traditional recipes from Laos. The salad is a wonderful combination of flavour and textures. It’s the texture specifically than makes it so memorable. Crispy, soft and aromatic in every bite.

5. Mok Pa (Lao Steamed Fish)

Mok Pa (Lao Steamed Fish) - Laotian Recipes

Bring the exotic flavors of Laotian recipes to your table with this zesty daily staple named Mok Pa. Infused with fresh, aromatic herbs and tender white fish, this melt-in-your-mouth Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) is sure to impress. These steamed fish parcels look and taste amazing! Pair them with rice and steamed greens for a satisfying and healthy meal.

Bathed in fresh, aromatic herbs, Lao Mok Pa is perfect for those who don’t like strong tasting fish. Lemongrass, chilli and spring onion add a burst of citrus alongside the herbaceous hit from fresh dill and kaffir lime leaf. The addition of toasted sticky rice powder adds a unique texture and savoury nuttiness, helping to blend and bind the fish with all those incredible flavors.

6. Jeow Mak Len (Lao Tomato Dipping Sauce)

Jeow Mak Len (Lao Tomato Dipping Sauce) - Recipes from Laos

Charred tomatoes, chilies, and onions are mashed into a sauce, then flavored with fish sauce and cilantro for a delicious accompaniment to meat and vegetables. It is perfect for summer! Tomatoes, chilies, and onions are grilled until starting to blister and char, then mashed with a mortar and pestle into a smoky and spicy sauce.

Spicy and zesty dip used in Laos recipes at virtually every meal. When you want a surprising new dip to roll out then this is the one.

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7. Laab Diip (Raw Beef Salad)

Laab Diip (Raw Beef Salad) - Laotian Food

Another one of the great recipes from Laos is Laab Diip. It is one of the essential Laos recipes that incorporates unique and delicious ingredients. The recipe looks easy, but the key to making this dish is sourcing and making the ingredients from scratch or finding the Lao aunty that has all these ingredients! Enjoy!

8. Tom Khem

Tom Khem (Lao Caramelized Pork) - Laos Recipes

One of my favorite comfort Laotian food is Tom Khem. “Tom” means boil and “Khem” means salty. It is a braised pork dish in a salty, yet sweet broth. The sweetness balances out the saltiness and the pork is ever so tender. But for me, the hard-boiled eggs are my favorite part of these Laos food recipes. After the eggs have been in the simmering broth for a while, the flavors soak into the eggs and make them so delicious!

9. Khao Piak Sen (Lao Chicken Noodle Soup)

Khao Piak Sen (Lao Chicken Noodle Soup) - Laos Food Recipes

When it comes to noodle soups, Asia is the best. An aromatic Lao chicken noodle soup that can be customized to taste at the table. This Lao noodle soup is loaded with layers of flavor. To top it all off, an array of toppings, like fried garlic and shallots, cilantro, chiles, and scallions, allow diners to customize their bowls as desired.

Multiple aromatics go into the rich chicken broth, including onion, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, and cilantro. The handmade tapioca-and-rice flour noodles, meanwhile, are cooked directly in the broth, their excess starch helping to thicken it and give it its signature viscosity.

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10. Luang Prabang Salad (Laos salad)

Luang Prabang Salad - Laotian Recipes

Luang Prabang salad is an easy, simple dish with a slightly unusual dressing that’s a classic in Laos. This Laos salad is a perfect light lunch or side dish both to Asian food and many more. At the top of the recipes from Laos is the freshest salad you have ever eaten.

This salad has maybe a little French influence in it but with a regional twist too. The dressing is almost like a mayonnaise, but uses a clever trick of cooked egg-yolk to keep it more stable. It also has added lime juice to make it more distinctly Laos.

11. Pra Nuea (Lao Style Beef Salad)

Pra Nuea (Lao Style Beef Salad) - Recipes from Laos

Thai restaurants around the world sell larb (also spelled laab) in various styles, usually with ground chicken “Larb Gai” or pork “Larb Moo”. Our Laotian recipe here, made with rare lean ground beef, is exceptional because the meat soaks/cooks in lime juice for several hours then finished briefly in a skillet to give it an especially sour flavor.

Combined with the shallots, sliced lemongrass, fish sauce and ground chiles, it all comes together so well. It’s very healthy too. You can make this same version with pork, chicken, shrimp or lobster.

12. Jeow Mak Keua (Lao Eggplant Dip)

Jeow Mak Keua (Eggplant Dip) - Laotian Food

A smoked and spicy eggplant dipping sauce typical from Laos food recipes. It reminds me of Babaganoush, with fish sauce instead of tahini. The fish sauce in Laos is called Padaek, it is a thick fermented sauce that might be difficult to find outside the country. However, you can substitute it for Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla) found in any Asian store or you can use soy sauce.

In Laos, it is served with glutinous rice (sticky rice), pieces of dried meat or vegetables to dip in the sauce. In Laos, the duo Jeow Mak Keua and Sticky Rice are a favorite breakfast in the school lunchboxes.

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13. Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad)

Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad) - Laos Recipes

If you have never had a Lao Crispy Rice Salad, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before and you need to try it because my words just won’t do it any justice. Crunchy, chewy rice with a well-balanced tart, salty, spicy and sweet combination of toppings and fresh herbs make up these Laotian recipes.

It’s honestly something you absolutely must try once in your life. Laos food recipes like this is usually a hidden gem in the cuisine world, you might be familiar with its flavors if you’ve had Thai or Vietnamese foods.

14. Laotian Omelette

Laotian Omelette - Laos Food Recipes

For crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside Omelettes you can whip up in 10 minutes, check out this Simple Lao Omelette. Filled with perfectly wilted greens and dished up with a tasty sweet and sour dipping sauce, this vegetarian Omelette is deliciously filling and healthy!

A great recipes from Laos breakfast special is the Laotian Omelette. This hearty omelet is loaded with fresh herbs and snake beans to make a great breakfast or as part of a multi-course Asian meal. All from simple Laotian food.

15. Larb Laotian Chicken Mince

Larb Laotian Chicken Mince - Laotian Recipes

A friend taught me how to make these recipes from Laos. They originate from Laos and Cambodia. If you can’t find galangal, substitute fresh ginger and a squirt of lime juice. Pre-ground chicken, turkey, or pork may be used instead of the chicken thigh meat. Serve with sticky rice or in lettuce cups.

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16. Khao Neow Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice)

Khao Neow Mamuang (Mango Sticky Rice) - Recipes from Laos

Mango Sticky Rice is a popular Laotian food dessert. The mangoes have to be fully ripened for them to be super sweet. It’s not just any sticky rice. It’s glutinous rice that is soaked in a sweet coconut mixture. It enhances the flavors of the sweet mangoes and it makes for a simple yet impressive dessert. You can even serve it in a martini glass to make it super fancy.

When you are finished, cut half a mango into bite size pieces. Next to the cut mango, spoon the sticky rice onto the plate and drizzle with the salted coconut sauce. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds for a pretty touch. It’s so easy!

17. Khao Lod Song

Khao Lod Song - Laotian Food

Khao Lod Song is a Lao dessert made with sweetened coconut milk with floating green pandan flavored gems. It can be sweetened with caramelized sugar or palm sugar. The green gems are made from a large strainer with the gems falling into ice cold water like green rain. There are variations on these Laos recipes found across Southeast Asia.

Pandan leaves can be found everywhere in Laos. It’s fragrant smell and vanilla like flavor is used often in desserts. One way to extract the flavors is to blend the leaves with warm water and then strain it. Warm green liquid will come out. I love using the pandan flavoring for all types of desserts.

18. Khao Nom Kok (Coconut Rice Cakes)

Khao Nom Kok (Coconut Rice Cakes) - Laos Recipes

Khao Nom Kok is a popular street food dessert in Laos. These bite sized desserts are sweet coconut semi sphere cakes that will melt in your mouth. A little crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside.

Khao Nom Kok is made out of rice flour, tapioca starch, coconut milk, sugar, salt and oil. Simple ingredients that are whisked together to make a smooth batter. The most classic topping for these Laos Recipes is chopped green onions. You can also use cooked sweet corn kernels, taro cubes and kabochi cubes. You can experiment and try any topping you like.

19. Nam Van Sal Lee (Laos Sweet Corn and Coconut Pudding Dessert)

Nam Van Sal Lee (Laos Sweet Corn and Coconut Pudding - )Laos Food Recipes

Laos food recipes have some of the most incredible desserts including Nam Van Sal Lee, a sweet Laos pudding that is absolutely divine. Sweet fresh corn cut from the cob combined with fragrant, hearty coconut cream and sugar make this pudding undeniably addicting. This Lao sweet corn pudding is so easy to make, you’ll have it on the table to serve in absolutely no time at all.

Nam Van Sal Lee consists of fresh sliced corn, coconut milk or cream, and sugar. Three ingredients and is incredibly easy and fast to make.

20. Khanom Man Sam Pa Lang (Steamed Cassava Cake)

Khanom Man Sam Pa Lang (Steamed Cassava Cake) - Laotian Recipes

It is a steamed cake prepared with coconut milk, sugar, and grated cassava or man tone in Lao. Before being chopped into bits and sprinkled with shredded coconut, the raw mixture is squeezed into a pan and steamed. It has a mildly sweet coconut flavor and a chewy texture.

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