Learn about the best Egyptian foods, desserts, and drinks that you should try either at home or the next time you’re in the country. As you’ll see, much of Egyptian cusine is vegetarian.
Some of the most popular Egyptian food includes fatteh, ful medames, hummus, koshari, taameya, om ali, and karkade. Egyptian dishes include lots of locally grown legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Pita bread and domty cheese are staples of the Egyptian diet.
I’ve never been to Egypt before (the closest I’ve been to is Morocco). However, I do like food, and this list of Egyptian food that I researched made me really hungry. I look forward to trying these dishes and drinks myself. Let’s get started!
15 Egyptian Dishes
Here are some of the most popular dishes in Egypt. These savory dishes include mains, sides, and popular street foods.
1. Aish Baladi
Aish Baladi is an Egyptian flatbread. Similar to a pita, aish baladi can be eaten in different ways, like with a stew or used for falafels.
You can make this bread at home with a few simple ingredients like oil, salt, water, whole wheat, and yeast. Then the mixture is put on a baking stone in an oven preheated to as high as possible.
Bamia can be found throughout the Middle East. It’s a meat and okra stew. As that suggests, it’s made with okra, and the meat used is usually lamb.
Various spices are added to taste. In Egypt, a garlic sauce called ta’aleya is added for flavoring.
Bessara is a dish that hails from ancient Egypt, during the time of the Pharaohs. This dish is also popular in North Africa.
In Egyptian cuisine, bessara is served as a dip served with bread. It’s usually made with fava beans and herbs or greens that are pureed together.
Fatteh is another dish that is dated back to ancient times, like bessara. And like the previous dish, fatteh is also served in breakfast.
It’s made with chickpeas, flatbread, oil, and yogurt.
Fattah is usually eaten during the first day of Eid al-Adha, a festival that takes in the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah.
Fatteh has been romanized as fette, fetté, fatta, or fattah.
Feseekh is an ancient fish dish that’s generally eaten during Sham el-Nessim, a national festival in the spring.
It’s made with gray mullet, a saltwater fish that can be found in the Red Sea. The fish is fermented, salted, and dried.
This dish does come with a warning: if not prepared correctly, there have been instances where people have contracted botulism, and there have been rare cases of death.
However, feseekh does come with a warning: if this dish isn’t prepared correctly, it could make you sick. There have been instances where feseekh has led to botulism and, and in rarer cases, death.
6. Feteer Meshaltet
Feteer meshaltet is a layered, flaky pastry. It’s sometimes referred to as Egyptian pizza. It’s made with lots of thin layers of dough and ghee.
It can be eaten either savory or sweet. It can be served without fillings and eaten with cheese, honey, olives, or jam.
If filled, it can be made (among other things) with ingredients like ground beef or sausage for a savory taste, or chocolate, or Nutella (which sounds amazing) for those with a sweet tooth.
Feteer meshaltet is also a symbol of hospitality in the country.
7. Ful Medames
Ful medames is another dish that some say dates back to ancient Egypt. Similar to bessara, it’s a fava bean stew, made with cumin and olive oil.
Optional garnishes include hard-boiled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, tahina cream sauce, or garlic-tomato sauce.
For flavor, ingredients such as chili pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley. It is traditionally served for breakfast.
Hawawshi is a dish that was invented in 1971, by butcher Ahmed al-Hawawsh. It’s made with flatbread (aish baladi) that’s stuffed with meat, then flavored with onions, parsley, and pepper.
Sometimes, chilies are added. This is then baked in an oven.
There is a variant to this dish made in the city of Alexandria. Instead of a flatbread being filled with stuffing, the ingredients are put in between two layers of dough and are also oven-baked.
Hummus is the item I’m most familiar with on this list. This dip is made with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice all blended together.
While there isn’t a lot of agreement as to where hummus comes from, one theory is that it’s Egyptian.
There have been Egyptian cookbooks from the 13th Century where a pureed chickpea dish recipe was found.
Wherever it’s from, hummus has become quite popular around the world.
Here’s how to make authentic Egyptian hummus.
10. Kebda Eskandarany (Alexandrian Liver Sandwich)
This Egyptian specialty is named for the coastal city of Alexandria. There isn’t much known about the history of this particular sandwich.
But as the name suggests, kebda eskandarany is quite popular there, being served in fast food shops or street carts.
Ingredients include garlic, liver (usually beef) or “kebda”, and spices like coriander, cumin, and mint.
Many consider Koshari (a.k.a. koshary, kushari) as the national dish of Egypt. It’s considered to be popular street food.
Despite its popularity in the country, it is believed that Koshari actually comes from India was brought to Egypt by the British in the late 19th century.
Koshari is made by mixing lentils, macaroni noodles, and rice. Spicy tomato sauce made with a spice blend called Baharat, garbanzo beans, and fried onions is added.
Molokhia is another dish that dates back to the time of the Pharaohs and is also considered a national dish of Egypt.
Molokhia itself is the plant that’s used to make the soup dish. Coriander and garlic are also added.
Different meats can be used depending on your preference, like beef, chicken, fish, lamb, shrimp (Molokhia Bel Gambary), or rabbit (Molokhia Bel Araneb).
Mombar is a sausage dish made by stuffing sheep or cow intestines.
Minced meat and rice are used to make the stuffing, along with garlic, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and various spices. The sausage is then deep-fried.
Mombar (or its variants) is quite popular throughout the Arab world, not just in Egypt. Like fattah, it’s often eaten during the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha, particularly on the first day.
14. Phyllo Meat Pie or Egyptian Goulash
While it’s true that meat pies are popular throughout the world, the Egyptian variant is made with phyllo pastry and minced meat. it’s sometimes made with cheese.
Phyllo meat pie is also named Egyptian goulash, presumably after the term “gollash”, and does not resemble the meat dish goulash, which originates from Hungary.
15. Ta’ameya or Egyptian Falafel
Ta’ameya is what falafel is known as in Egypt. It may be that falafel itself first originated in the country, though various countries lay claim to the dish.
It’s become quite popular around the world as a go-to vegetarian dish.
While many think of chickpeas when making falafel, in Egypt, it’s made with dried fava beans.
The beans, along with spices, are ground up, shaped into balls, then fried. It’s then served with pita bread (aish baladi), onions, tomato, and tahini sauce.
This is another dish I’m familiar with on this list (the chickpea version, anyway), along with hummus. I may enjoy meat, but I’ve always thought falafel was tasty, and I’d love to try ta’ameya one day.
Here’s how to make Egyptian falafel with tahini sauce.
5 Egyptian Desserts and Sweet Dishes
Egyptian desserts often include almonds, honey, and dates. Grains used include rice, barley, and wheat.
Basbousa is a type of cake soaked in syrup. It’s made with either semolina or farina. Coconut, ground almonds, sugar, and yogurt are also added.
The syrup is often made with a mixture of caster sugar, lemon juice, rose or orange blossom water, and water.
Basbousa is a dessert that has its origins in the Ottoman Empire, which Egypt was a part of between 1517 to 1867.
Kahk is a type of biscuit eaten during celebrations in the Arab world. It’s usually made in small portions and topped with icing sugar.
It can be eaten plain, or stuffed with different ingredients depending on preferences. One such stuffing is agameya, which is a mixture of ghee, honey, and nuts.
Other stuffings include dates, pistachios, Turkish delight, or walnuts.
Kahk is another dish said to be traced back to Ancient Egypt.
In modern times, it’s often eaten during celebrations in the Arabic community, especially during Eid al-Fitr and Easter (another name for the biscuit is Ka’ak al-Eid). It’s also served during weddings.
Kunafa is a pastry dish made with shredded phyllo dough (which itself is called kunafa), syrup, and cream or cheese. Sometimes nuts are added, depending on the region.
While no one exactly knows where kunafa originated from, there is one theory that says it dates back to Egypt and came into existence anywhere from the 10th to the 15th Century.
19. Roz Bel Laban
Rice pudding is a dish that is enjoyed worldwide, and roz bel laban is the Egyptian take on it.
With a name that literally translates to “rice with milk”, this sweet treat is made with rice that’s cooked in milk or cream and sugar, then topped with pistachio pieces.
Since pistachio is my favorite nut, this version of rice pudding is something I would love to try (along with any other dish on this list that has pistachio in it).
20. Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)
Umm Ali is a dessert that’s made with either bread or puff pastry that’s blended with coconut flakes, pistachios, raisins, and sugar.
Sweetened milk is then poured onto it, and is topped with cinnamon. Sometimes crème fraîche added.
Literally meaning “Mother of Ali”, Umm Ali is an Egyptian national dessert and considered to be comfort food.
It’s said to date back to the early part of the Mamluk era of Egypt, which began in 1250 C.E.
One story of Umm Ali’s origin is that it was named after the wife of a sultan (Umm Ali) who wanted a dessert made to celebrate the death of a rival wife (Shajar al-Durr).
Om ali is also known as Omali, Umm Ali, and Oumm Ali.
Here’s how to make om ali at home.
4 Egyptian Drinks
Tea is the most popular drink in Egypt. Beer is the most commonly consumed alcoholic drink, accounting for 54% of all alcohol consumed in the country.
21. Aseer Asab
Aseer asab is sugarcane juice. This drink is made by pressing the juice from peeled sugarcane. Sometimes lemon is added to the drink and allowed to ferment for some time.
This drink is very popular throughout the country and widely available in cafes, restaurants, and street vendors.
Some claim that asab has many health benefits as well.
Tea is a very big deal in Egypt. In fact, it’s considered to be Egypt’s national drink.
Karkade is hibiscus tea. It’s made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers (karkade) in hot water.
Sugar can be added to taste. After the hibiscus has been strained, karkade can then be served either hot or as iced tea.
Sahlab is a hot drink that is usually enjoyed in the winter. It’s traditionally made with a powder called salep, which are made from tubers of an orchid.
With the decline of the orchid, cornflour or cornstarch can be used as a substitute.
Cornstarch, milk, rose or orange blossom water, and sugar are used to make the drink. It has a consistency similar to pudding, and is sometimes topped with cinnamon and nuts (like pistachios).
Yansoon is another tea made from anise. Anise is said to have come from Egypt, with some claims of it being cultivated from the area for 4,000 years.
Water is boiled with the anise for a couple of minutes, and honey or sugar is added to sweeten the drink if desired. It’s then strained to be served.
Keep exploring foods around the world.
Learn about amazing desserts from Ecuador.
As mentioned, I have limited experience when it comes to Egypt and its food. Also, This list is only limited to 24 dishes. I know there is so much more to enjoy. I look forward to learning about them. (And please forgive me if I’ve butchered the spellings of anything above!)
Which foods would you recommend to a newbie like me? What other ones would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!