We had a friend from Banaras. Every time she whines about how badly she misses Banaras food in Bangalore. She never found our Panipooris and golgappa enough and loved our Dosas most. I argued with her, wondering what was so great about Banaras food until I went to the spiritual and food heaven of Varanasi – She is right
Varanasi street food is unmatchable.
Facts about Varanasi food
- Banaras is old, and some of their food joints are old too. They have the highest reputation and serve the best authentic Banarasi food.
- Typical Banarasi breakfast is bread toast or Kachori poori with Channa sabji or Jalebis.
- Not every streetfood is unhygienic. With a little bit of research and our food guide, you can devour local delicacies. When in doubt, take a food tour as we did.
The concept of meals for lunch isn’t common in Banaras.
- Our walk narrator Anupam explained that the ladies of the house come out late in the noon for daily grocery shopping and prefers to eat snacks instead of lunch. So chats and fried snacks are any time of the day food.
- Chai is served in Kullad(clay pots) mostly. These are one-use cups. So you can either throw it in the bin or take it home.
- Street food is always vegetarian. Since it is a holy place and many Jains visit it, most street foods are prepared without onion and garlic.
- Uttar Pradesh is India’s highest milk-producing state. The deserts made with Buffalo milk are orgasmic.
- Bhaang is legal in Varanasi. It is consumed with Lassi or Thandai. If it is your first time, have patience after one drink before you gulp another one to make you dizzy.
- Cafe culture in Kashi is strong. Southern parts of Kashi near Ghats are highly influenced by foreign tourists. Israeli Shakshuka to Japanese Sushi, Korean Kimchi, Brown bread, Cinnamon rolls and Vegan food options are available.
- Indian cheese is called Panner. But these cafes have Gouda, Mozzarella, Cheddar and many more types of cheese.
- The Chaat and Bajji shops aren’t just made for tourists. At Pandey Ghat, we eat Bajjis for three days at the same time in the same place. A few nearby residents came every day and the bajji maker handed them their usuals without even asking!
The South Indian influenced famous Varanasi food
I never knew I would like to eat Dosa outside south India because they are its masters. The number of Dosa and Idli shops in a North Indian town shocked us. Slowly, we realised that Varanasi receives many South Indian travellers, and there is a big community of Telugu and Malayalis living in the city. So Dosas are super popular in Varanasi.
Best Varanasi street food & where to find them
- Kachori with Channa Sabzi for breakfast.
- Malai toast for breakfast.
- Bajjis and cutlets
- Samosa Chaat
- Jalebi for breakfast
- Tamatar chat
- Laal Pedha
- Palak Patta chat
- Chuda Muttar
- Aloo Tikki
- Kullad tea with Aloo Bhujiya
On our food tour, we weren’t keen on trying golgappes until our narrator insisted on it. The first pour inside our mouth stopped our heartbeat with its tangy, spicy taste. To top it, a kind of powder mixed with the potato filling inside poori makes it the best Golgappa in India, in our opinion. The treat doesn’t end after he gives you the last Golgappa with Dahi chutney. A few drops of lemon along with black salt and Jeera powder is sprinkled on your empty bowl, and he fills it with a bowl of paani – That little burning sensation because acids calm down and makes your stomach lighter.
The best place in Varanasi for Golgappe is Raju Bhaiya’s Vishwanath Chat Bhandar – He has an individual serving golgappas.
Kachori with Channa Sabzi for breakfast.
As a south Indian, kachori has always been an evening snack. Anything beyond one piece was paving the way to my gastric trouble. When The potato+peas +lentil paste stuffed inside the dough gets deep-fried in oil, it floats crispily. That one crunchy bite of it with channa dal takes your taste buds on a food bonanza and makes you have more of it without causing acidity trouble because it is neither spicy nor bland. A perfect balance of taste. One plate of it cost 20Rs
Best place in Varanasi for Kachori- A small shop right beside Lakshmi Chaiwala. The shop doesn’t have a name board, but the owner says the name is “Balaji Kachori.”
Malai toast for breakfast.
Malai means the topmost layer of milk. Varanasi’s buffalo’s milk is thicker than usual. So when boiled and served, the cream is super tasty and thick. It spread on a bread toast with sugar sprinkles is high-calorie healthy food and a treat to the taste buds.
The best place in Varanasi for Malai toast is Lakshmi Chai Waala.
The Smokey flavour of burning charcoal adds a different taste to the toast.
This shop isn’t a place to eat, a phenomenon to be felt and observed. Their square bread is custom made by a particular baker. Their white butter is obtained locally. The toaster is an open basket with coal, so you get that charry smell along with the taste of bread. They have other types of toasts like Underground toast, where the butter and chat masala is stuffed by cutting the edges of square bread. Chai here is a must after hogging the toasts.
Cutlets and Bajjis
Cutlets, aka fried Patties, are made of different types of fillings. They taste best with either tomato sauce or tamarind chutney. Vegetables like potato and Bajji Mirch deep-fried with Besan floor batter goest best with Kullad chai. What makes Banarasi bajjis special is the powder they add while serving. Black salt with cumin powder adds a savoury taste and reduces the acidic effect.
Best place in Varanasi for Bajjiss – Near Diljeet Cafe. The shop is open from 3.30 to 9 PM
Don’t forget to observe the fan he has kept below the flaming Chulha to enhance flame and heat. It is fascinating how smaller shops come up with innovative ideas to utilise space the most.
Malaiyyo -the milky mist of Banaras
The foamy-light milk product mixed with crushed almonds, pistachio and saffron, is the best Varanasi desert. Sometimes they add a few rose petals or strawberry flavour. While I love the simple ones with crushed pistachios. The best time to taste this is winter because the foam rises and stays the same in lower temperatures better than in summers. If you want to try it in summer, make sure you eat during breakfast to have the best of all Malaiyyo.
Best place in Varanasi for Malaiyyo – Opposite Balaji Kachori and next to IDBI Bank in Ghagrani Gali.
The Persian (Uzbek, to be precise) origin dish is so common in India that most of us thought Indians invented it. Banarasis, being the masters of fried snacks, knows how to Indianise this Persian dish perfectly. Crushed Samosas are poured with Channa sabzi and grated cabbage along with sprinkles of coriander leaves and grated onion. The boiled potatato+peas stuffing is royally mixed with spices. Hence, the sweetness of channa sabzi or the sweet tamarind chutney compliments it flawlessly.
Best place to eat Samosa Chaat in Varanasi – Kashi Chaat Bhandar.
Jalebi & Jamoon for breakfast
It is essentially a sweet dish served for lunch in many Banarasi’s breakfasts. This surprised south Indians like us, but they love it. I suggest a jalebi after you have the breakfast of Kachori poori.
Best place to have Jalebis in Varanasi – Unnamed cart opposite Balaji Kachori
There is a hint of cashew,hing, ginger, lots of softened tomatoes and potatoes with lots of Garama Masala floating in ghee sprinkled with crunch namkeens – Tangy to spicy. This chat is Banarasi’s favourite for all the right reasons.
Best place in Varanasi for Tamatar chaat – Vishwanath Chaat Bhandar & Deena Chaat
This milk dish isn’t new to us as we also prepare a similar dish in my home state. What makes Varanasi Pedha the most delicious Pedha is the quality of milk they use. The caramelized sugar and thick milk with pistachio or almond sprinkles on the top are mouth-watering.
The best place in Varanasi for Laal Pedha – is Shree Madhur Jalpaan, A CENTURY OLD SHOP
Palak Patta chaat
The Palak leaves deep-fried with besan batter with a twist of sweet curd chutney and spicy chilly chutney. Hing, cumin powder and turmeric powder dominate the taste and the Palak. The curd chutney beats the crunch and spiciness of chilly red powder.
Best place in Varanasi for Palak Patta Chaat – Deena Chaat Bhandar.
This is a revised version of vegetable poha. Suppose you are done with the fried street food of Kashi; two bowls of this must be your breakfast/dinner because it is all about non-spicy, tasty snacks. It is made of flattened rice soaked in desi ghee and cooked with spices, green peas, & saffron. The milk cream is sometimes added for taste, and crushed black powder is good for digestion. We have tasted it in three places, but-
Best place in Varanasi for Chuda Muttar – Deena Chaat Bhandar.
This is a common chat across North India, but Banarasis know how to make it. Mashed potatoes mixed with garam masala powder is made into balls and flattened to place on a large tawa until both sides of it get crispy. The beauty of it is no batter or dough gives crunch to the dish. Potato is the sole here – crunchy from the outside superfast from the inside. After 15 minutes, the potato flats are put in place, topped with lots of chutneys, tomatoes and coriander leaves along with fresh namkeen.
Best place in Varanasi for Aloo tikki – Kashi Chaat Bhandaar.
Varanasi’s parathas are the best for breakfast, lunch, or snacks because of the desi ghee they use. The vegetable stuffed parathas are filling but don’t make you feel heavy. The best dip for the Gobi and Aloo Paratha is curds prepared with buffalo milk and local pickles.
Best place to have Parathas in Varanasi – is Diljeet Cafe.
The cafe is on the 4th or 5th floor. You don’t have the river view, but the neighbourhood view is amazing. Especially in the evening, kids flying kites are out in the terraces playing. Their two dogs make your time in the cafe even more lovely.
India’s highest milk-producing state obviously produces India’s best lassi. (Punjab’s lassi is still a strong contender to Varanasi Lassi, though). This drink is any time drink of the day irrespective of the season and time. You find hundreds of lassi shops all over Varanasi and each has its unique twist to its drink. Many places offer Lassi with Bhaang. If you know how to handle the “Bhaang-ness” , go for it.
A random shop near Dashaashwameda Ghat
Best places in Varanasi to have Lassi – Blue lassi and Shiv Prasad Lassi Bhandar in Ram Nagar.
The king of all “soft drinks/cold drinks” in India must be Thandai. The concoction of various dry fruits or seasonal fruits mixed with milk and sometimes with only water is a delight for Varanasi’s summer. This is local’s “go-to drink” in every season. They say there is no party like Shivratri in Varanasi. So the Thandai makers say that the sales are five times more than they do during peak tourist season. Some Thandai makers specialise in particular fruit and make only that always. In comparison, others who are masters of multiple flavours prepare different Thandai each day. The real party begins when you add a ball of Bhaang to Thandai, and you begin to float in the air.
Best Place in Varanasi to have Thandai – Pakhak Ji’s Thandai shop next to Narayan Mistan Bhandar in Thateri Bazar
Kullad tea in Kashi
Every time I saw a local Chai seller, the clay pots AKA kullads called me “Come to Mama” Being a chai fan, sipping tea in those serpentine lanes was a few minutes of being in heaven. Asking for “Adrak Waali” and ” Elaichi waali” Chai would always start conversations with the chai seller.
Most Chai we had in Varanasi was super good, so I can’t specify a place. Still, I would vote for Lakshmi Chai Wala to be the best chai maker in Varanasi.
Whenever I heard Amitab Bachhan’s “Paan Banraswaala” song, I wondered about the hype about Banarasi paan! After all, it is beetle leaves with some ingredients,” I thought until I had real paan in Varanasi. What makes Banaras paan the best and most famous is the kind of local beetle leaves they use and the curd mixed with lime. Each paan maker is particular about the kind of beetle nuts & ingredients they use. The right amount of saunf, tobacco, nutmeg, tutti frutti, cardamom, and grated coconut – A tiny paan shop with small steel boxes containing at least 20 different ingredients a miniature grocery shop display.
Usually, for me, the lime is what makes paan irritating. Banrasis add thick curds to dilute the lime with the tastiest milk products. So the paan doesn’t give you a dizzy feeling but still kicks you a little.
Banarasi Meetha Paan in making
Best cafes in Varanasi
The Indianised Monalisa in the background at Monalisa Cafe
One of the world’s oldest living cities, considered the epitome of spirituality and salvation, has a highly hipped cafe culture. Since British time, Varanasi has been one place foreigners have loved to come to. The Beatles, Emilia Clarke, and Morgan Freeman have wandered in this holy city. Hundreds of backpackers flock to the city searching for yoga, spirituality, the vibe and marijuana. Observing the trend, Banaras people learnt to comfort and cater for them. So hostels and cafes have filled Southern Varanasi on the west bank. Korean Kimchi, Israeli Shakshuka, Japanese Sushi, Dutch Gouda cheese, French croissants, German brown bread, and even Vegan food are available. Though we stuck to Kachoris and Malaiyo most, we sat in cafes sipping coffees and eating noodles at the end of the day. Some of our favourite cafes are
Continental cuisine served in ancient Havelis
- Filocafe – A cafe in a haveli’s interior and fresh coffee is what we loved most. Ask for less sweet dishes since most food we tried there was overly sweet.
- Monalisa Cafe – The sidewalk cafe is super chic with low height seating on which you can almost sleep and serves tasty noodles and good coffee.
- Diljeet cafe – After climbing almost three floors, the cafe with two Indie dogs and a view of the compact town from above is worth it. Their Parathas and Chai are a must-try.
- Brown bread bakery – Their shelf display made me wonder if I was in Europe or India. The variety of cakes and bread is a lot for a historical town Varanasi. Their carrot cake was tasty and worth the money.
- Sree cafe: The cafe near the most important Dashaashwameda ghat serves you tasty local food like pooris. The cosy interiors with lots of great photographs from Kumbha Mela and their handsome dog make me recommend this place for breakfast.
- Chulha Chauka – For healthy , tasty meals with Tawa rotis, panner sabzi and sweets.
Which is your favourite Banaras food? Let us know in the comment section below.