Ali was born and raised in Pakistan, dividing her time between Karachi and Lahore. She was educated at the Karachi Grammar School. Ali was the daughter of lawyer and attorney-general Ashtar Ausaf Ali and educator Farezeh Durrani. She learned to cook from her father, her grandmother, and her family's cook, Qadir. She immigrated to America at age 18 to attend the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 2011.