Top 25 Egyptian Foods: Where Food is Culture!
Egypt is known for its amazingly diverse and unique Middle Eastern and international cuisine. 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 exceptional because it does not simply take internationally known dishes or ingredients and put its twist on them but is unique in terms of the approach and staple ingredients.
Food is a cornerstone in Egyptian culture, and cooking something special is a ubiquitous way to show your love for someone. This is why Egyptian cuisine should be at the top of every traveler’s list if they’re looking for things they have never tasted before.
Although most dishes are rather traditional and have been consumed over the ages, Egyptians, to this day, creatively upgrade and alter them.
Food businesses are prevalent, especially in Cairo and Giza. If you’ve ever visited the capital, you’re well aware of this because of the many restaurants you’ll see everywhere.
Let’s take a look at some of the best food Egypt has to offer.
Those who are Egyptian or familiar with Egyptian cuisine will understand why Kushary has to come first. Kushary is a great representative of Egyptian culinary tradition, 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 famous oriental dish found all over the Arab world, but nothing beats the Egyptian touch! It’s a great vegetarian dish comprising 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, usually served at lunch or dinner. If you get the opportunity to try it – don’t miss out!
3. Ful Medames
Ful Medames has to feature in our top 5, as it is Egypt’s go-to breakfast food. Ful Medames are mashed fava beans combined 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, whether in seasonings or toppings. Ful is commonly served with bread or as a sandwich. It’s very cheap and available everywhere in Egypt.
4. Taameya (Falafel)
After Ful Medames, Taameya has to come next because they are usually served together and make such great partners. It’s equally cheap, traditional, and found everywhere.
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 many herbs.
Taameya can be served with bread or tossed into a sandwich, usually with a green salad. To order and get an authentic Egyptian experience, one usually says, “One Ful and one Taameya, please!” to a street vendor or in an oriental restaurant.
Molokheya is more of a lunch or dinner food. It’s so well-loved that each household might have a weekly special day for cooking and eating molokheya. Molokheya 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 appear on the side.
If you thin it with water, Molokheya can also be eaten as soup. This dish is served in every Egyptian restaurant.
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 touch. Egyptian and Syrian shawarma are the top two contenders for the best shawarma in the region.
Shawarma is made of shredded beef or chicken, 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, a famous dip made of garlic, yogurt, and additional ingredients. Shawerma is the go-to street food for everyone who’s hungry and on the move as it’s inexpensive yet filling and delicious.
Fattah is a popular dish traditionally served in religious feasts, such as Eid Adha or Eid Fitr, and 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 Fattah is typically served with meat or lamb.
It’s ideal for garlic lovers as its aroma and taste are very prominent. It is known to be very fattening as well as filling. Egyptians often serve it as an Iftar meal after a long day of fasting in Ramadan.
8. Fatet Shawarma
Now comes one of the best mergers, a dish combining shawarma and fattah. This dish features Fattah’s fried bread pieces and rice, the shredded chicken and tomeya of shawarma, and other toppings.
Fatet Shawarma is one of the most popular shawarma dishes (as shawarma in different forms). While it is also known to be initially a Syrian dish, it is served at both oriental Egyptian and Syrian restaurants in Egypt.
While the name is hard to pronounce correctly, the dish is undoubtedly very much loved by the heart of every Egyptian! Messaka’a is a very traditional dish and relatively easy to prepare. It contains eggplant pieces, ground beef, tomato sauce, garlic, and your choice of spices, all put together as 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 burst of acidic freshness. 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 meat, onion, pepper, and lots of spices! It is baked in an oven until the bread is super crispy.
Hawawshy is not only a dish that home cooks love, it’s also considered street food and served in oriental restaurants.
12. Roz Me’ammar
Roz Me’ammar can be served as a main or side dish, and it’s very popular in Egyptian gatherings and celebrations. It’s made of rice, milk, cream, and chicken broth, all slow-cooked in a pot in the oven.
Because Roz Me’ammar is rich and creamy, yet so easy to prepare, it’s usually served for dinner.
Bamya is made with cooked okra and a lot of tomatoes. It’s usually served mixed with rice, or on the side with beef or lamb. Onions, garlic, vegetable oil, and seasonings are also added – every cook has their secret touch.
While Bamya is typically more of a home-cooked meal (for lunch or dinner), if you want to give it a try. you’ll also find it served at some oriental restaurants.
Qolqas is chopped and fried taro roots with additional ingredients, such as parsley or basil, based on household preferences. It’s served with rice on the side or mixed with it.
When Qolqas is cooked, it produces a soup that Egyptians love. As taro root is a sweet, starchy vegetable similar to a sweet potato, Qolas is considered as more of a winter dish. It’s served hot and claimed to warm you on the coldest Egyptian winter nights.
15. Egget beid
Egget Beid, or Eggah for short, is an omelet cooked in the oven. Eggs are the main ingredient, combined with cream, flour, parsley, tomatoes, spices, and other complementary ingredients based on the cook’s preference. It’s often served with pickles.
As you might expect, eggah is a go-to breakfast dish. It is very dear to Egyptians’ hearts, especially those who wake up wanting a hearty and protein-rich start to the day.
16. Shorbet Ads
Traditional Egyptian lentil soup, or shorbet ads, is made from 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 – the ultimate healthy comfort food.
17. Baba Ghanoug
Baba Ghanoug is translated into “Father Ghanoug.” Still, nobody really knows who this man was or why a dish is named after him. While it is originally a Lebanese dish, it is very famous in Egypt where it’s given its unique twist and distinctive flavor.
Baba Ghanoug is served as a dip or a side dish with bread. The main ingredient is mashed eggplant, with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and seasoning. It can also be eaten at breakfast or in a sandwich as a light snack.
Kunafa is one of the most famous desserts in Egypt, especially in the holy month of Ramadan, when it is traditionally served. Kunafa is made with shredded semolina noodles, rolled and flattened after adding cream, sugar syrup, and nuts.
Kunafa can be stuffed with cheese, mango, and other creative ingredients. Many dessert shops compete in making Kunafa based on the filling. Lately, to the horror of Kunafa purists, the trend is to fill it with Nutella!
You will only really understand Kunafa if you try this heavenly dessert – so go for all the variations you can find.
Basbousa is like Kunafa’s sister as it’s also made from semolina and soaked in sugar syrup. In some parts of Egypt, you’ll find it made with coconut and saffron, while the syrup may be infused with rose water.
The taste and texture are similar to a vanilla cake – crusty outside and spongy inside. Basbousa is traditionally baked in large round trays, cut into squares or diamonds, and served straight from the same tray.
20. Loqmet Al Qady
Loqmet Al Qady translates as “The Judge’s Bite,” and it’s also known as Zalabya. It is simply a crispy round donut, then fried and served dipped in sugar syrup, honey, or even Nutella. Loqmet Al Qady like most other desserts, is cloyingly sweet, incredibly fattening, and totally irresistible!
21. Om ali
Om Ali, which literally translates into “Ali’s Mother, ” must be included in this list as it’s the most iconic Egyptian dessert. Om Ali is a sweet bread and butter-style pudding containing ingredients ranging from milk, cream, coconut flakes, almonds, hazelnuts, and a lot of sugar!
To answer your burning question, nobody 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 a new dessert to be created as a celebration after she murdered Shajaret El Dorr. However, historians aren’t even sure she was the murderer. Regardless, you’ll find Om Ali in every home and restaurant in Egypt.
22. Roz Bil Laban
Translated into “Rice with Milk”, Roz Bil Laban is rice pudding and a much-loved Egyptian dessert. Coconut flakes, or coconut milk, are popular ingredients in Roz Bil Laban that give a uniquely Egyptian twist – along with nuts and whatever additions each household would like to add.
It is 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 the sweet brown fruit of the tamarind tree. Tamr Hindi is served cold, even better with ice, and has a taste and a kick unlike any other beverage. Try it if you ever get the chance!
Sobya is also a traditional Ramadan drink. It has a very sweet coconut taste, and is a wonderful thirst quencher, especially when served chilled.
You’ll find Sobya served in juice stores all over Egypt, and it can even be bought as a powder (to be mixed in water) from corner shops.
Karkadeh is hibiscus tea with a few other complementary ingredients: sugar (of course!), and perhaps some fresh mint leaves as a garnish. It can be served both hot and cold but traditionally the latter. Karkadeh is a vibrant ruby red and makes the perfect refreshment for a hot summer night. Just be aware that it leaves a red stain on your mouth and tongue!
So, that’s the end of our brief tour of Egyptian cuisine, but there is so much more to explore! If you’re ever fortunate enough to be invited into an Egyptian home to share a meal, expect the table to be laden with an incredible array of mouthwatering home-made dishes. And to compliment the cook, don’t just sample each one -load your plate with piles of everything!
Do you have more suggestions about traditional Egyptian specialities to look out for? If so, leave your ideas in the comment section below – we love hearing from our community!
Related: Top 15 Egyptian Desserts