There’s a reason why Jogja is one of the most popular cities in Indonesia for its legendary Yogyakarta architecture and culture.
It took me a year traveling Indonesia to visit Yogyakarta. I knew the city was popular but how good could it be?
Hands down this little city on the island of Java is one of the best.
It was Indonesia’s original capital before it moved to Jakarta and so there is beautiful architecture and city planning without the crowds and grime of a capital city.
Instead it developed into a haven for art, culture and food.
It’s known for classical Javanese fine arts, batik textiles, silversmithing, wayang puppetry and music.
And it’s one of the best places to eat Indonesian food.
If saying Yogyakarta is a mouthful don’t worry, most locals say Jogja and it’s perfectly acceptable.
Yogyakarta Food Influences
Yogyakarta, like many other regions in Indonesia, has been influenced by various countries and immigrants over the years.
Some of the significant influences on Yogyakarta’s food include:
Javanese cuisine has a significant influence on Yogyakarta’s food.
Dishes such as gudeg (young jackfruit stew), nasi liwet (rice cooked in coconut milk) and sate klathak (grilled chicken skewers) are popular in the region.
Compared to other islands the food may be much sweeter with the use of sweet soy called kecap manis. And both tofu and tempeh are common ingredients in non-vegetarian food.
Chinese immigrants have had a significant impact on Yogyakarta’s food as well as all of Indonesia.
Many of the most popular Indonesian foods are a spin on classic Chinese cuisine.
In Yogyakarta Chinese dishes such as bakmi (noodles), bakso (meatballs) and lumpia (spring rolls) have become popular street food in Yogyakarta.
Colonizers for 350 years the Dutch have left their mark on Yogyakarta food.
Dishes such as nasi goreng (fried rice), bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs) and kroket (croquettes) are popular in the region.
Indian spices and cooking techniques have also influenced food in Yogyakarta.
Dishes such as nasi kebuli (spiced rice), roti canai (Indian-style flatbread) and samosas in Java.
Middle Eastern Influence
Although you’ll find more Arab influence in East Java because of the important port cities such as Surabaya, Middle Eastern influence on food is visible in dishes such as the use of goat or lamb.
Today Yogyakarta is an exciting food city with so many great street food options, traditional food restaurants and coffee shops with designer interiors.
It’s a safe city but you need to be careful about one thing – you’ll never want to leave.
Traditional Yogyakarta Food
Yogyakarta is known for its rich culinary heritage, which is a fusion of Javanese and Indonesian influences. Here are the most popular traditional dishes in Yogyakarta.
Gudeg is a traditional Javanese dish made from young jackfruit cooked in coconut milk and a blend of spices.
The dish is usually served with steamed rice, chicken and tempeh. I also had krececk, a spicy beef skin stew (more on it below) which was my favourite part of the dish.
Gudeg is a must-try dish when in Yogyakarta, as it is considered the city’s signature dish.
In fact there is a whole street dedicated to gudeg restaurants although you can find them everywhere.
Gudeg Yu Djum is the most famous. However, it’s so famous it’s now a brand you can get frozen and in supermarkets.
In my Yogyakarta video I went to a spot where there were only locals and bonus you can sit lesehan style.
Is Gudeg Vegan?
On its own, gudeh is vegan as it’s simply a stew of unripe jackfruit, coconut milk and spices. However, the side dishes of egg, chicken or krecek are not vegan.
Tofu and tempeh are also common dishes and restaurants can often accommodate.
Mie Jawa is a traditional Javanese noodle dish made from yellow noodles, vegetables and meat (usually chicken or beef).
The dish is served with a sweet and savory broth and sometimes topped with a boiled egg.
Mie Jawa is a popular breakfast dish in Yogyakarta and personally I think soup for breakfast beats cereal any day of the week.
Lotek is a traditional Indonesian dish that originated in West Java but is also popular in Yogyakarta.
It is a salad made of mixed vegetables, tofu and rice cake, served with a peanut sauce. The sauce tends to be very sweet and so I often ask for it on the side.
It is very similar to the national dish gado-gado and is a great vegetarian option for travelers.
This goat satay is originally from Pemalang, a few hours away in Central Java.
The satay is cooked in iron skewers instead of bamboo, the heat conductor helps it cook more evenly.
Sate klathak only uses salt and pepper for its seasoning. The flavor is in the curry sauce, known as gulai served alongside it.
It’s common to see this satay style in West Sumatra but less so in Yogyakarta.
It is impossible to walk the streets of Yogyakarta without encountering bakpia.
Influenced by Chinese cuisine, you’ll also find it in the Philippines known as hopia.
It is a small round pastry roll traditionally stuffed with mung beans.
Indonesians love to experiment with flavors so you’ll also find chocolate, durian, cappuccino and various fruits.
It’s called bakpia pathok in Indonesia after the Pathok neighbourhood in Yogyakarta famous for bakpia.
Another Yogyakarta food originally from Pemalang,
There are many rice dishes in Indonesia, but this one is different as it is very saucy. It’s a simple dish of sliced water buffalo or beef over rice in a gravy.
It’s not easy to find this traditional food in Yogyakarta city, but head to Kedai Grombyang, which gets glowing reviews by locals.
Tengkleng is a traditional Yogyakarta soup made from beef or goat bones, cooked in a blend of spices and coconut milk.
The soup is usually served with steamed rice and is a perfect dish for those who love hearty soups.
Tengkleng is originally from Solo, also known as Surakarta it is a city just outside Jogja.
This Indonesian food has humble beginnings.
The Dutch colonized Indonesia for 350 years and only elders from Solo and the Dutch were allowed to eat goat meat.
The head, feet and bones were left for commoners.
In this dish the bones have a thin curry-like sauce and you eat them like ribs. Yet if you think you don’t like ribs don’t let that from stopping you as I love tengkleng.
It seems so simple but it’s full of flavor.
Nasi Kucing | Cat’s Rice
Nasi kucing is a popular street food in Yogyakarta. It is a small portion of rice wrapped in a banana leaf and served with a variety of side dishes such as fried chicken, tempeh and vegetables.
And it’s called cat’s rice because it’s a snack size portion perfect for a pet.
Look for small banana leaf packets with a small portion of rice topped with small dried fish, tempeh and a bit of sambal.
Garang Asem is a traditional Javanese dish made from chicken or beef cooked in a sour asem and spicy coconut broth steamed in a banana leaf.
Nasi langgi is a traditional Yogyakarta food originally from nearby Surakarta.
White rice is mixed with thin coconut milk, bay leaves, galangal, lemongrass then steamed in a banana leaf.
Nasi langgi is served with a variety of side dishes such as fried chicken, tempeh and vegetables.
Ayam Goreng Kalasan | Kalasan Fried Chicken
Who doesn’t love fried chicken?
Ayam goreng Kalasan is a traditional Yogyakarta fried chicken from the Kalasan region. Specifically the village where you’ll find the Kalasan Temple in Sleman.
Because it’s so popular it’s also called Javanese fried chicken.
It doesn’t have a thick KFC style batter. Instead chicken is marinated in a blend of spices and coconut water.
The coconut water gives it an interesting flavour that Indonesians love.
If you like this Indonesian chicken dish also look for ayam pop, which is chicken boiled in coconut water then flash fried.
Sambal Goreng Krecek
Sambal goreng krecek is a traditional Yogyakarta dish made from beef skin cooked in a spicy and savory sauce.
I was lucky enough to discover this while trying gudeg as it was one of the side dishes.
And as much as I liked the gudeg the krecek stole the show.
At first look I didn’t know how I’d feel its gelatinous texture. But it has a soft texture and rich spicy flavor with a touch of sweetness.
The most traditional recipes use the inner skin of water buffalo, which is what I tried. But today many Indonesian cooks use cattle skin crackers known as rambak or krupuk kulit.
Nasi Liwet is a traditional rice dish from Central Java, which is also popular in Yogyakarta.
The dish is made from rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken stock and a blend of spices including lemongrass.
I don’t usually love white rice but nasi liwet has a strong, bold flavour worth trying.
Nasi kuning, also known as nasi kunyit, is a traditional Indonesian dish often used in celebrations.
It is made from yellow rice cooked in coconut milk and a blend of spices, including turmeric which gives it its color.
Nasi kuning is a symbol of prosperity and is often served during important events, such as weddings and religious festivals.
The dish is usually served with a variety of side dishes such as fried chicken, rendang tempeh and vegetables.
I first had it while shooting this Jakarta breakfast video and the fragrant, slightly sweet flavor blew me away.
It also exists as a common Filipino food in Mindanao.
A simple Javanese snack that doesn’t use rice but instead sun dried cassava or yuca flour mixed with sugar and steamed.
It’s served with a touch of salt and grated coconut.
Gatot is a traditional Javanese food in Yogyakarta made with sun dried fermented cassava, also known as yuca.
Cassava is sundried for a week, making it black then soaked in water to rehydrate and steamed then topped with coconut.
It’s one of the few Indonesian foods that is not eaten with rice, but instead with vegetables. It’s also commonly served with tiwul.
Oseng-Oseng Mercon | Firecracker Beef
Oseng Mercon is a spicy dish that is made from beef and chili peppers.
This is a recent dish that was created by a widow who was struggling during Indonesia’s financial crisis in the late 1990s.
She opened a street food cart and sold beef cooked in chili. Yogyakarta food isn’t known to be spicy like that in East Java or Sumatra.
And so locals said the spice exploded in their mouth like firecrackers, or mercon in Javanese.
10 Street Food in Yogyakarta Locals Love
Yogyakarta street food is so good you never really need to step into a formal restaurant.
Locals love eating on the street and so you can get everything from snacks to soups and noodle or rice dishes.
Indonesian Street Food
In 2022, government authorities relocated 799 Malioboro street food vendors. It was a very controversial move as Maliboro is one of the most popular streets and many people came for the street food.
Today it can still be a bit confusing to find the most popular vendors as information online isn’t always up to date. So it’s best to ask a local.
Here are some of the must-try street foods in Yogyakarta:
Kopi Joss | Charcoal Coffee
Kopi Joss is a unique coffee drink that is famous in Yogyakarta.
This charcoal coffee is made by pouring hot coffee mixed with sugar over a piece of burning charcoal, which gives the drink a smoky flavor.
The coffee is mixed with sugar and served hot. Kopi Joss is a must-try for coffee lovers who want to experience something new.
But don’t expect anything drastically different.
It started in the 1980s at Angkringan Lek Man, a push cart (called angkringan) north of Tugu Station that was popular with railway staff from East Java.
Since the 1960s Lek Man served East Javanese style kothok coffee, which boils coffee, sugar and water together.
One day he couldn’t make it kothok style and stuck a piece of burning charcoal into the drink which people loved.
And since then many other kopi joss spots have opened up. Although Lek Man is now retired his brother continues to run the angkringan with help from staff.
It gets busy but there is plenty of space to sit on carpet on the sidewalk alongside locals and order a sweet treat alongside the coffee.
Sate Kambing | Goat Satay
Sate kambing is a popular street food in Yogyakarta but it originated in East Java where there any Arab immigrants settled and brought the tradition of eating meats other than chicken and beef.
Today as Jogja is a city with citizens from all over you’ll find many East Javanese street food vendors selling grilled goat skewers.
The meat is marinated in a blend of spices and served with peanut sauce.
You’ll often see a piece of fat in between two pieces of goat meat to keep it moist and tender. When eating make sure you eat the piece of fat in the same mouthful as the goat meat.
It’s the perfect bite.
Cenil is a sweet snack that is made from glutinous rice flour and sugar.
The sweet snack is bite sized and has a chewy texture. Sometimes it’s usually served with palm sugar syrup, which gives it a sweet and flavorful taste.
It is an iconic Yogyakarta food and once only existed in the market but now you can find it alongside other Indonesian sweets and desserts.
Nasi Goreng | Fried Rice
Nasi Goreng is a popular Indonesian dish that is made from fried rice, vegetables and meat or seafood.
The dish is cooked with a blend of spices and served with a fried egg on top.
While you can certainly eat nasi goreng in restaurants in Yogyakarta, Indonesians believe it tastes better on the street.
In the evening you’ll find in many street food stalls in Yogyakarta.
Wedang ronde is a hot drink that is made from ginger and peanuts.
The drink is sweetened with palm sugar and comes in a glass with a spoon. It’s one of those Indonesian sweet foods that I wonder, is this a drink? a dessert soup?
Wedang ronde is served with glutinous rice balls so I think it’s a bit of both.
Although it is typical of Central Java, I first tried it while exploring Malang in East Java.
It seems a bit odd at first but it’s a fantastic drink if it’s cold, rainy or you have a sore throat.
Nasi Pecel is a great vegetarian food in Yogyakarta made from rice cakes, vegetables, and peanut sauce.
You can find it all over Java but each region has its own spin. For example in Jogja pecel is often served with bacem, which tempeh or tofu in a sweet simmered sauce.
I love nasi pecel because of the variety of greens. Along with cabbage, bean sprouts and green beans you may also find yuca leaves, amaranth leaves or anything else in season.
Teh Telur Recipe
Klepon is a popular snack in Yogyakarta that is made from glutinous rice flour filled with palm sugar and coated with grated coconut.
It’s a ball shaped snack with a chewy texture.
Klepon is a sweet and delicious snack that you can find in almost every corner of the city.
Another Chinese food in Yogyakarta, lumpia is a snack that is basically a spring roll.
It’s made from a mixture of vegetables, meat, or seafood, wrapped in a thin crepe-like wrapper and fried.
One of the most famous places to eat it is Lumpia Samijaya where they have a chicken version and a “special” with chicken, vegetables and a quail egg.
Es Dawet is a sweet and refreshing drink that is made from coconut milk, pandan leaves, and palm sugar.
The drink is served with small pieces of glutinous rice flour and coconut meat.
Also known as cendol, es dawet is a popular drink in Yogyakarta, especially during the hot and humid days.
Leker is a snack that is made from a thin crepe-like batter filled with chocolate, cheese, or peanut butter.
The snack is then rolled into a tube and fried. Leker is a popular snack in Yogyakarta, and you can find it in many street food stalls at night.
Famous Yogyakarta Restaurants
When it comes to culinary experiences, Yogyakarta is a city that has a lot to offer.
From traditional street food to high-end dining, there is something for everyone.
Here are some of the most famous local restaurants that you should definitely check out when in Yogyakarta.
Malioboro Dining Spots
Malioboro is one of the most famous streets in Yogyakarta and it is also home to some of the best dining spots in the city. Here are some of the must-visit restaurants in Malioboro:
- Sate Klathak Pak Pong: This restaurant is known for its sate klathak, which is a type of grilled chicken skewer. The chicken is marinated in a special sauce and grilled over charcoal, giving it a smoky flavor.
- Warung Bu Ageng: This restaurant is famous for its nasi liwet, which is a type of rice dish cooked with coconut milk and served with various side dishes. The nasi liwet here is flavorful and aromatic and it is a must-try when in Yogyakarta.
Gudeg Yu Djem
Gudeg is a traditional Javanese dish that is made from young jackfruit that is cooked in coconut milk and various spices.
This Yogyakarta restaurant is famous for its gudeg. Here are some of the must-try dishes at Gudeg Yu Djem:
- Gudeg: This is the signature dish of the restaurant. The gudeg here is sweet and savory and it is served with rice and various side dishes, such as chicken, tofu and tempeh.
- Ayam Goreng: This is a type of fried chicken that is marinated in a special sauce and fried until crispy. It is a must-try when at Gudeg Yu Djem.
- Sambal Goreng Krecek: This is a type of dish made from beef skin that is cooked in a spicy sauce. It is a must-try for those who love spicy food.
Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants
As a vegetarian or vegan, finding suitable food options seems easy at first as Javanese food uses tofu and tempeh.
But tofu and tempeh aren’t just for vegetarians. All Indonesians eat it. However, many dishes with tofu and tempeh also include seafood or meat.
So it’s important to understand the dish before you order. Indonesians are very hospitable and will adapt the dish if possible, just let them know what you can and can’t eat.
Indonesia Vegetarian Food
Plant based eating is becoming more popular in Indonesia and these Yogyakarta restaurants are sure bets to find something good.
- Akkar Juice Bar: This spot serves up fresh, healthy juices and smoothies, as well as vegetarian and vegan snacks. The ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, making for a delicious and guilt-free snack.
- Warung Vegetarian Jambon: Chinese Indonesian vegetarian restaurant with lots of Chinese options as well as vegetarian versions of traditional Indonesian food.
- Warung Vegetarian Somayoga: Restaurant attached to renown yoga school. The menu is a bit pricier than other local restaurants.
- Jejamuran: Dishes that are primarily mushroom based. Some include meat so it’s best to specify while ordering as staff understand vegetarian and vegan restrictions.
- Simple Plant Vegan Kitchen & Artspace: Vegan restaurants in Yogyakarta featuring meatless versions of traditional foods in Yogyakarta. They also have an artspace featuring local artists.