Top 25 Egyptian Foods: Where Food is Culture!
Egypt is known for its amazingly diverse and unique cuisine on a Middle Eastern and international level. This is because of the many cultures and communities existing within the borders of just one country.
From the far north in the North Coast, Matrouh, and North Sinai, all the way to the far south in Luxor and Aswan, you’ll find a wide array of dishes ranging from vegetarian to others heavy with meats and fats. Egypt’s cuisine is special because it does not simply take internationally known dishes or ingredients and put its own twist on it, but is rather unique and completely different in concept and commonly used ingredients.
Knowing that most of the dishes are rather traditional and have been consumed over the ages, Egyptians to this day creatively upgrade and alter already known dishes, as food businesses are very popular, especially in Cairo and Giza. If you’ve ever visited the capital, you’re well aware of this because of the many restaurants on both sides of every road and street.
Food is a cornerstone in Egyptian culture, and even a very common way to show your love for someone by cooking for them. This is why Egyptian cuisine should be on the top of every traveler’s list if they’re looking for things they have never tasted before.
Let’s take a look at some of the best food Egypt has to offer.
Those who are Egyptian or familiar with Egyptian food will understand why Kushary has to come first. Kushary is a great representative of Egyptian culture, because it’s everything mixed in one plate. Rice, macaroni, black lentils, tomato juice, garlic vinegar, and hot sauce on top, with a final sprinkle of fried onions and your spice of choice.
It’s one of the most popular and historical street foods, made and served in restaurants as well as by street vendors.
Mahshi is a common oriental food in the Arab world, but nothing beats the Egyptian touch to it. It’s a great vegetarian dish that is comprised of rice, tomatoes, onions, and spices stuffed in, most popularly, grapevine leaves. It can also come in many shapes and forms, as it can be stuffed in tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, squash, zucchini, and more.
Mahshy is a must-have main dish in Egyptian gatherings, served usually as lunch or dinner food, and is definitely a very unique one.
3. Ful Medames
Ful Medames has to come in the top 5, as it is perhaps historically and traditionally the most common go-to breakfast food in Egypt. Ful Medames is mashed fava beans mixed with olive oil, tomatoes, onion, and whatever you’d like to mix it with!
It could be said that each Egyptian household or oriental restaurant adds its own touch to it, whether in the shape of seasonings or toppings. Ful is commonly served with bread or as a sandwich, and is very cheap and available everywhere in Egypt.
4. Taameya (Falafel)
After Ful Medames, Taameya can only come next because they are usually served together and come in pairs. It’s equally cheap, traditional, and common. It’s also made of fried, mashed fava beans that are turned into a paste and shaped like round balls after adding sesame seeds and a lot of herbs.
Taameya can be served with bread, or thrown into a sandwich, and is usually served with a green salad. One usually says “One Ful and one Taameya, please!” to a street vendor or an oriental restaurant.
Molokheya is more of a lunch/dinner food and let me tell you this, it’s a fan favorite. It’s so common to the point that each household might have a special day every week for cooking and eating molokheya. Molokheya itself is a green leafy vegetable, which is then chopped and cooked to finally become a somewhat green slimy liquid eaten with either bread or mixed with rice. Some also add tomato juice on top; and beef, lamb, rabbit, or sometimes even pigeon, almost always come on the side.
Molokheya can also be eaten as soup if you lighten it with some water. This dish is commonly served in oriental restaurants.
6. Shawarma (Shawerma)
While Shawarma (locally spelled as Shawerma) is originally a Syrian dish, it is popular throughout the Middle East, and each country adds its own touch to it. That being said, Egyptian and Syrian shawarma may be the top two competitors when it comes to the best shawarma in the region.
Shawarma is made of shredded beef or chicken, which is sliced off a block of meat on a rotating vertical flame grill.
It is usually served in a sandwich or wraps with a side of Tomeya, which is a famous dip made of garlic, yogurt, and additional ingredients. Shawerma is the go-to street food for those who are hungry and on the road.
Fattah is a very popular dish traditionally served in religious feasts, such as Eid Adha or Eid Fitr, and also in the holy month of Ramadan. It consists of fried bread pieces, rice, and tomato sauce sorted in layers. Garlic vinegar sauce is poured on top, and it is served commonly with meat or lamb.
The garlic scent and taste are very prominent in Fattah, and it is known to be very fattening and very fulfilling to Egyptians, especially as an Iftar meal after a long day of fasting in Ramadan.
8. Fatet Shawarma
Now comes one of the best mergers of all, a dish mixing both shawarma and fattah. This dish has the fried bread pieces and rice of Fattah, and the shredded chicken and tomeya of shawarma, along with other toppings.
Fatet Shawarma is one of the most popular shawarma dishes (as shawarma in different forms), and while it is also known to be originally a Syrian dish, it is served at both oriental Egyptian and Syrian restaurants in Egypt.
While the name could be heavy on the tongue, the dish is certainly very much loved by the heart of every Egyptian! Messaka’a is a very historical, traditional dish and quite an easy one to prepare too. It contains eggplant pieces, ground beef, tomato sauce, garlic, and your choice of spices, all put together in the form of layers in a bowl and cooked in the oven.
It is usually served with bread and lemon to squeeze on top giving it a final chaotic taste. Messaka’a can be found in oriental restaurants but is best cooked in Egyptian households.
10. Fetir Meshaltet
Fetir Meshaltet, or simply Fetir, is a layered flaky pastry made out of stretched dough and a lot of butter. Fetir can have savory fillings, such as cheese or ground beef, or sweet ones, such as powdered sugar.
Fetir is somewhat hard to prepare and perfect, so some shops specialize and compete in making it. It is usually served as breakfast food, and it’s definitely a very traditional Egyptian specialty.
Hawawshy is one of Egyptians’ favorite spicy dishes out there. It’s made of bread filled with minced meet, onion, pepper, and a lot of spices! It is baked in an oven until the bread is super crispy. Hawawshy is a very famous homemade dish and is also considered street food in addition to being served in oriental restaurants.
12. Roz Me’ammar
Roz Me’ammar is considered a main dish or a side dish, and it’s very popular in Egyptian gatherings. It consists of rice, milk, cream, and chicken broth, all slow-cooked in a pot in the oven. Roz Me’ammar has a very rich taste of cream, is very easy to make, and is usually prepared as a dinner food.
Bamya is made up of cooked okra and a lot of tomatoes, is usually served mixed with rice or on the side with beef or lamb. Onion, garlic, vegetable oil, and seasoning are also added.
While Bamya is typically more of a home-cooked meal (for lunch or dinner), you’ll also find it served at some oriental restaurants if you want to give it a try.
Qolqas is basically chopped and fried taro roots with additional ingredients, based on household preferences such as parsley or even basil. It’s served with rice on the side or mixed with it.
When Qolqas is cooked, it produces soup which is also consumed and loved by Egyptians. It is known to be more of a winter dish, as it is served hot and claimed to warm you on the coldest Egyptian winter nights.
15. Egget beid
Egget Beid, or Eggah for short, is a type of omelet cooked in the oven. Eggs are the main ingredient, combined with cream, flour, parsley, tomatoes, spices, and any other complementary ingredients based on your own likings. It can also be served with pickles. Of course, Eggah is a go-to breakfast dish and is very dear to Egyptians’ hearts, especially those who wake up not knowing what to eat.
16. Shorbet Ads
Egyptian Lentil soup, or shorbet ads, is a very traditional and popular soup in Egypt. It is made out of mashed red lentils, garlic, and some sprinkled parsley or fried onion pieces on top.
You can also dip bread pieces in shorbet ads and eat them. While it’s cooked throughout the year, it’s especially popular in winter as it is served very hot. One must not forget to squeeze lemon on top and enjoy the warmth of Shorbet Ads.
17. Baba Ghanoug
Baba Ghanoug is translated into “Father Ghanoug,” but nobody really knows who this man is. While it is originally a Lebanese dish, it is very famous in Egypt and has its own taste and twist there. Baba Ghanoug is served as a dip or a side dish with bread, and the main ingredient is mashed eggplant along with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and seasoning. It can also be eaten in a sandwich as breakfast or a light snack.
Kunafa is a very famous dessert in Egypt, especially in the holy month of Ramadan when it is traditionally usually made and served. While it is a bit hard to explain, Kunafa can be summed up as shredded semolina noodles, which are then rolled and flattened after adding cream, sugar syrup, and nuts.
Kunafa can be stuffed with cheese, mango, and many other creative ingredients. Many dessert shops compete in making Kunafa based on the filling. Lately, the trend has been filling it with Nutella! You will never really understand Kunafa unless you try this heavenly dessert.
Basbousa is like Kunafa’s sister. It is another very popular dessert that somewhat resembles a cake. It is also made from semolina and soaked in sugar syrup.
While it is similar to Kunafa in some terms, it is very different in taste, additional ingredients, and structure, but just as delicious.
20. Loqmet Al Qady
Loqmet Al Qady is translated into “The Judge’s Bite” and is also known as Zalabya. It is simply a crispy round donut, which is then fried and served dipped in sugar syrup, honey, or even Nutella. Loqmet Al Qady, like most other desserts, is especially fattening, very sweet, and most definitely worth a try.
21. Om ali
Om Ali, which literally translated into “Ali’s Mother” has to be included in this list as it’s a national and very Egyptian dessert. Om Ali is a sort of sweet pastry pudding containing ingredients ranging from milk, cream, to coconut flakes, almonds, hazelnuts, and a lot of sugar!
To answer your burning question, nobody really knows where the name came from, and who Ali or his mother is. Humor has it, though, that it is named after the wife of Sultan Izz El Din Aybak who asked for creating a new dessert as a celebration after she murdered Shajaret El Dorr, but history isn’t even sure she was the murderer.
22. Roz Bil Laban
Translated into “Rice with Milk”, Roz Bil Laban is rice pudding and a loved Egyptian dessert. A very popular ingredient in Egyptian Roz Bil Laban that gives it its edge is coconut flakes or coconut milk, along with nuts and whatever additions each household would like to add.
It is definitely a less fattening dessert than Kunafa or Loqmet Al Qady, but equally satisfying and loved.
23. Tamr Hindi
A very special drink to Egyptians especially in the holy month of Ramadan, Tamr Hindi is translated into “Indian Dates.” It is made of a brown and sweet type of fruit picked from Tamarind trees. Tamr Hindi is served cold, even better with ice, and has a very unique taste and a kick to it.
Sobya is also a traditional Ramadan drink and has a very sweet coconut taste to it. This beverage is a must-have when you are very thirsty, looking for a cold drink with a super sweet taste. Sobya is served in many juice stores in Egypt and can be bought as a powder (to be mixed in water) from corner shops.
Karkadeh is basically hibiscus tea with a few other complementary ingredients. It is served both hot and cold but traditionally the latter. Karkadeh is bright red and a perfect refreshment to a hot summer night, and also leaves a red stain on your mouth and tongue.
Related: Top 15 Egyptian Desserts