Mongolian tour guide
top of page
  • Writer's pictureEnza Tours LLC

Mongolian food and drink

Updated: Jun 10, 2023


1. About Mongolian Food and Drinks

Various Traditional Mongolian Foods
Various Traditional Mongolian Foods

Mongolian cuisine has undergone many changes since the time of the Mongol Empire, but traditional dairy products and mutton still hold a special place in the heart of Mongolian food. Traditionally, Mongolian food is divided into two main categories: "white foods" (tsagaan idee), which refers to dairy products, and "red foods" (ulaan idee), which refers to meat.

White foods are usually consumed during the summer, while red foods are more commonly eaten in the winter. However, this division only acknowledges the most esteemed foods, and other significant food groups are often overlooked, including grains, which provide a significant source of calories for even the purest nomads, game, wild vegetables, herbs, fruits, and berries, as well as salts used for seasoning.

Mongolian animals are slaughtered in a unique manner. The animal is placed on its back, and its legs are restrained or tied for larger animals like horses. The butcher creates a hole below the breastbone and quickly rips open the aorta, resulting in a catastrophic internal hemorrhage. This method of slaughter aims to retain all the blood in the body, which is the opposite of Jewish and Muslim slaughtering methods. After removing the organs, the blood is scooped out and used for making sausages. This slaughter style caused conflict in Muslim territories during the empire period, where attempts to impose this method were made. Additionally, the Mongols were notorious for consuming animals that had died naturally or been killed by wild animals.

2. Popular Mongolian foods:

Mongolian cuisine is heavily influenced by its nomadic past and the harsh climate of the region. Traditional Mongolian dishes are simple, hearty, and often made with meat and dairy products. Here are some of the most popular Mongolian foods:

Hot stone cooked Tradtional Mongolian Food Khorkhog
Tradtional Mongolian Food Khorkhog

Khorkhog: This is a traditional Mongolian dish that is made by cooking meat, usually lamb or goat, in a special pot with hot stones. The meat is usually seasoned with salt and pepper and served with vegetables.

Traditional Mongolian food Buuz is on the plate with salad
Traditional Mongolian food Buuz

Buuz: Buuz are Mongolian dumplings that are usually filled with minced meat, onion, and sometimes garlic. They are typically steamed and served with a side of hot sauce.

Traditional Mongolian food Bansh are on the 3 plates with decoration
Traditional Mongolian food Bansh

Bansh - Bansh is a type of steamed dumpling that is similar to buuz, but with a thinner and more delicate dough. Bansh is typically filled with meat, vegetables, or a combination of both, and is often served with a dipping sauce.

Traditional Mongolian food Khuushuur are on the table with cucumber
Traditional Mongolian food Khuushuur

Khuushuur: Khuushuur is a type of fried meat pastry that is similar to a samosa. The filling is usually made with ground meat, onion, and garlic, and the pastry is deep-fried until crispy.

Traditional Mongolian food Bantan is in pot
Traditional Mongolian food Bantan

Bantan: Bantan is a hearty soup that is made with beef, potatoes, carrots, and sometimes noodles. It is often eaten during the cold winter months.

Tradional Mongolian Food Tsuivan is on the plate
Tradional Mongolian Food Tsuivan

Tsuivan: Tsuivan is a popular Mongolian noodle dish that is made by frying meat and vegetables with handmade noodles. It is often served as a main course.

Tradtional Mongolian BBQ is with tomato and potato
Tradtional Mongolian BBQ

Mongolian BBQ - Mongolian BBQ is a popular dish that is found in many Mongolian restaurants around the world. It typically consists of thinly sliced meat, vegetables, and noodles, which are cooked on a hot griddle or wok. Mongolian BBQ is usually seasoned with a mix of spices, sauces, and herbs, and is often served with rice or noodles.

Traditional Mongolian food Aaruul (white curds) and other foods  for festival
Traditional Mongolian food Aaruul (white curds) and other foods

Aaruul: Aaruul is a traditional Mongolian snack that is made by drying small pieces of curdled milk. It has a slightly sour taste and is often eaten as a snack or used in cooking.

Traditional Mongolian Food Boortsog
Traditional Mongolian Food Boortsog

Boortsog: Boortsog are deep-fried doughnuts that are typically served with tea. They are a popular snack in Mongolia and are often given as gifts during festivals and holidays.

Traditional Mongolian Drink Airag in wooden bowl
Traditional Mongolian Drink - Airag

Airag: Airag is a traditional Mongolian drink that is made from fermented mare's milk. The drink has a slightly sour taste and is often consumed during the summer months as a refreshing beverage.

Giving a Traditional Mongolian Milk Tea in silver cup
Traditional Mongolian Milk Tea

Suutei Tsai: Suutei Tsai is a type of tea that is made with milk, salt, and sometimes butter. The tea is often served with snacks such as boortsog or dried cheese, and is a popular drink in Mongolia.

Overall, Mongolian cuisine is simple, hearty, and flavorful, with a focus on meat, dairy products, and locally-grown vegetables.

3. Mongol Empire’s Daily Food and Drinks

Travelers who visited Mongolia during the 13th century documented the dietary habits of the Mongols. In summer, the Mongols mainly consumed KOUMISS, which is fermented mare's milk, while mutton was their primary food during winter. Observers noted that wild game was also an essential part of their diet, including rabbit, deer, wild boar, ibex, gazelle, and kulan, or wild ass. However, the Mongols' fondness for wild rodents, such as hamsters, ground squirrels, and marmots, was a source of disgust for Muslim and Christian observers. In winter, large fish were caught through ice fishing.

For special occasions, meat was roasted on a spit and seasoned only with salt, while for everyday meals, meat and bones were boiled with grains, seeds, and wild onions and grasses to create a thick soup called "shöl." Although animals were rarely slaughtered in summer, the Mongols made sure to preserve the meat of animals that died naturally, which was cut into strips and dried in the sun and wind to make borts, also known as jerky. This process is still prevalent today, and borts can be kept for several seasons. Horse intestines were made into sausages and consumed fresh, while sheep were frequently slaughtered during winter, with horses reserved for special occasions and grand feasts.

Millet was a staple food, boiled into gruel and consumed at least twice daily during winter. It was either grown on the Mongolian Plateau, received as tribute by noble-born Mongols, or purchased by well-off commoners who sold sheep and skins to Uighur and Chinese peddlers.

The only descriptions of mealtime etiquette exist for roasted meat consumed among important men. The meat was cut into small pieces, and the order of eating was determined by the host. The ba'urchis, belonging to the keshig or imperial guards, were in charge of cutting and serving the food and held a high position. It is likely that different clans were assigned various parts of the meat based on their status, and part of the ba'urchis' role was to understand these hierarchies. Food was eaten with fingers, and hands were wiped on clothing or grass.

Painting of the Great Chinggis Khaan
Great Chinggis Khaan

During the early empire, liquor, including Chinese rice wine and Turkestani grape wine, was the most common imported foodstuff. CHINGGIS KHAN first encountered grape wine when it was presented to him in 1204 as tribute by a Mongol tribe envoy. However, he disapproved of it as it was dangerously strong. Drunkenness was commonplace at Mongol gatherings, accompanied by singing and teasing dances that followed a ritual of offering and counteroffering.

At the Mongol rulers' court in China, as evidenced in the Yinshan zhengyao (1330), a cookbook by the Uighur Hu Sihui (Qusqi), Turkestani and Middle Eastern influences on Mongolian cuisine were prominent. Noodles became a major part of the diet, and Mongolian soups were infused with spices like cardamom and Middle Eastern ingredients like chickpeas and fenugreek seeds. The khans enjoyed Turkish or Middle Eastern delicacies like sherbet, börek, güllach (an early version of baklava), and yufka bread.

4. Later Traditional Mongolian Food

Following the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire, many aspects of Mongolian cuisine remained unchanged. In 1594, a Chinese official stationed on the frontier noted that mutton continued to be the dominant meat, with beef being scarce. Thick meat stews and fermented milk liquors were also commonly prepared. Millet, flour, and noodles were fried and mixed with meat stews or milk. Flour and meat stews, known as bantang, and noodles with meat chunks, known as goimon, remained popular everyday dishes. The Kalmyks in Volga purchased rye flour from Russian farmers and made a rye porridge known as budan.

Despite some aspects remaining constant, changes were already underway. Hunting was becoming less of a source for meat, and the introduction of tea accompanied the conversion to Buddhism from 1578 onwards. Tea was a vital part of Tibetan Buddhist monastic life and quickly spread to the laity. Mongolian tea was made with milk, salt, and butter, with millet and meat often added to create a thick soup. Silver and wooden bowls were used for tea, along with spoons. During the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), these changes became more pronounced. Large group hunts became infrequent, and game meat became a smaller part of the diet. Fishing was abandoned due to Buddhist influence. Cane sugar and rice from China became more common, and a special dish made of millet or rice suspended in melted butter and topped with sugar was consumed leading up to the White Month (lunar new year). Bortsog, or bread fried in animal fat, also became an important part of meals. In western Mongolia and among the Upper Mongols of Kökenuur, zambaa, or parched barley flour, was eaten, usually moistened with tea and dairy products and rolled into balls.

Serving styles also changed. Festive meals were presented on a metal plate piled with food for guests to take what they wanted, rather than being served on a skewer. Rural families and many urban households still regularly maintain a hospitality plate, consisting of layers of bortsog, molded dried curd, Chinese moon cakes, öröm, candies, and sugar cubes. Whole boiled mutton, or shüüs, was commonly arranged on a plate with the four legs sticking out, the fatty tail covering the rear, and the boiled head on top, often with a piece of süün khurud crowning the head. The more respectable Mongols adopted a combination of chopsticks and a knife, both carried in a wooden sheath and hung on the sash, although eating with the fingers and knife remained common. Mongols during this time also began to adopt a variety of Chinese-style dumplings and steamed buns, including mantuu, a fluffy steamed and leavened bun, and bänshi, a simple dumpling from China.

5. Later Traditional Mongolian Food and Drinks

After the Mongol Empire fell apart, Mongolian cuisine underwent some changes, but many traditional dishes persisted. In 1594, a Chinese official on the frontier noted that mutton continued to dominate, while beef was rare. Thick meat stews and fermented milk liquors remained popular, and fried millet, flour, and noodles were often mixed with meat stews or milk. Everyday meals frequently featured dishes such as meat and flour stew (bantang) and noodles with meat chunks (goimon). In the Volga region, the Kalmyks bought rye flour from Russian farmers to make a porridge called budan.

Although some traditional foods endured, Mongolian cuisine also underwent significant changes, particularly during the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912). Hunting became less common as a source of meat, while fishing was abandoned under the influence of Buddhism. Tea, which had been introduced during the conversion to Buddhism in 1578, became an essential part of Mongolian life. Mongolian tea was typically made with milk, salt, and butter, and often included millet and meat to create a thick soup. Wooden and silver bowls were used for serving, along with spoons.

Sugar and rice from China became more common, and a dish made from millet or rice suspended in melted butter and topped with sugar was created for the days leading up to the lunar new year. Bortsog, or bread fried in animal fat, also became a staple. Zambaa, parched barley flour moistened with tea and dairy products and rolled into balls, became popular among the Upper Mongols of Kökenuur and western Mongolia. Festive meals were often presented on a metal plate piled high with food, while a hospitality plate, consisting of layers of bortsog, molded dried curd, moon cakes, candies, and sugar cubes, became a regular feature in many households.

For ceremonial occasions, whole boiled mutton (shüüs) was arranged on a plate with the four legs sticking out, the fatty tail covering the rear, and the boiled head on top, often with a piece of süün khurud crowning the head. The more respectable Mongols adopted a combination of chopsticks and a knife, both carried in a wooden sheath and hung on the sash. However, eating with the fingers and knife remained common.

Mongolian cuisine also adopted a variety of Chinese-style dumplings and steamed buns, including mantuu, fluffy steamed and leavened buns, bänshi, dumplings of meat stuffing wrapped in a thin skin and boiled in soup, khuushuur, flattened patties stuffed with meat, vegetables, and salt and fried on a griddle, and buuz, a traditional Mongolian steamed dumpling. Other foods adopted from China included round griddle cakes made with leavened dough and fried or roasted. In some areas, hot stones were used to cook animals in their own skin, producing dishes such as tarwagany boodog (marmot cooked in this manner) and khorkhog (sheep or goat cooked with hot stones and water to create a broth).

6. Modern Changes In Mongolian Food And Drinks

Mongolian cuisine has been significantly influenced by European and Chinese culinary traditions in the 20th century. Distilled liquors with alcohol contents ranging from 45 percent (Mongolian vodka) to 60 percent (Chinese baijiu) have become the main liquor, replacing native milk liquors. Since the 1930s, state-owned hotels and restaurants in Mongolia have served primarily European dishes. The use of chopsticks has been replaced by a combination of European utensils and traditional knives and hands. Fried millet has disappeared from independent Mongolia’s traditional cuisine since the 1930s, when economic relations with China broke off. Beef has become a major part of the Mongolian diet, although mutton and goat's meat remain more popular. Bread, previously unknown in Mongolia, is now served with every meal in urban areas. Despite these changes, the Mongolian palate remains quite traditional, favoring a combination of fatty (dairy and animal) and salty or sweet flavors, and showing a strong aversion to hot spices. In fact, 88 percent of the Mongolian fat consumption still comes from animal or dairy sources, the highest percentage in the world, although cholesterol levels remain relatively low. Vegetables commonly used in Mongolian dishes include cabbage, onions, potatoes, carrots, and radishes. The main seasoning is black pepper, although Chinese spices have been reintroduced since 1990. Apples, watermelons, and imported oranges and tangerines are popular fruits, while wild chatsargana or sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) and pine nuts (Pinus sibirica) are seasonal favorites. Milk tea, noodle soups, flour stew (bantan), fat-fried breads (bortsog), griddle cakes (bin, gambir), and fried noodles are staples in both urban and rural areas. Urban families still prepare a full shüüs for the White Month, while sausage and onion slices, potato salad, and buuz, served with vodka, are reserved for special occasions. Rural families continue to produce a range of milk products, including aaruul (a kind of wormlike sweetened hard cheese) and shimiin arkhi (fermented milk liquor), which are sold in packaged formats. Unhomogenized milk, European-style butter (maasal), tsötsgii (sour cream), yogurt (tarag), and fermented mare’s milk (koumiss) are mostly sold unpackaged and seasonally.

Pork and fish are relatively unfamiliar foods. In Inner Mongolia, restaurants and hotels generally serve Chinese cuisine, and most Mongols are now familiar with highly spiced food. Although noodles, buns, and dumplings are similar to Chinese cuisine, milk tea, fried millet, traditional dairy products, and the higher percentage of meat distinguish the urban Mongol diet from their ethnic Chinese neighbors. In eastern Inner Mongolia, pork is now common, and melted pork fat sometimes replaces butter in traditional dishes.

7. Mongolian Best Restaurants for Traditional Mongolian Food and Others

Mongolia has a rich culinary heritage and offers a wide range of traditional and modern dining experiences. Here are some of the best restaurants in Mongolia:

1. Modern Nomads: Located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, Modern Nomads offers a modern take on traditional Mongolian cuisine, with dishes such as lamb dumplings and smoked salmon.

2. BD's Mongolian Grill: A popular chain restaurant, BD's Mongolian Grill offers a unique dining experience where guests can create their own stir-fry bowls from a selection of meats, vegetables, and sauces.

3. Hazara: Hazara is a fine dining restaurant located in the Blue Sky Tower in Ulaanbaatar, serving a fusion of Mongolian, Indian, and European cuisine.

4. Rosewood Kitchen + Enoteca: A cozy and chic restaurant in Ulaanbaatar, Rosewood Kitchen + Enoteca offers a variety of European and Asian fusion dishes, along with an impressive wine list.

5. Khara Khorum: This restaurant offers an authentic Mongolian dining experience with traditional dishes such as khorkhog, a hearty stew cooked with hot stones, and buuz, steamed dumplings filled with meat.

6. The Bull: Located in the Galleria Shopping Mall in Ulaanbaatar, The Bull is a steakhouse known for its high-quality cuts of meat and extensive wine list.

7. Millie's Kitchen: Millie's Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant in Ulaanbaatar, offering a range of healthy and flavorful dishes such as tofu curry and pumpkin soup.

8. Modern Indian: As the name suggests, Modern Indian offers a modern take on traditional Indian cuisine, with a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

9. Altai Mongolian Restaurant: Altai Mongolian Restaurant is a family-owned establishment serving a range of traditional Mongolian dishes, such as boodog, a dish where meat is cooked inside a hot rock.

10. La Dolce Vita: La Dolce Vita is a popular Italian restaurant in Ulaanbaatar, offering a variety of classic Italian dishes such as pasta, pizza, and tiramisu.


8. Mongolia Tours with amazing Traditional Mongolian food

To see all --> Mongolia Tours <--- from Enza Tours LLC:

Recent Posts

See All


Mongolian Tours