Whenever someone says Egypt, we instantly get images of the Pyramids, the Sphinx, pharaohs, camel rides, hieroglyphics, and the Egyptian dance.
Yeah, right, but Egyptians don’t dance like that by the way.
Despite the fact that most people are relatively familiar with all of the above, if you haven’t ever visited Egypt, there’s a good chance you don’t know much about Egypt’s cuisine. It’s probably because you rarely encounter Egyptian restaurants abroad.
We can assume that Egyptian cuisine remains a mystery to avid travelers till date.
But, it won’t be the case anymore.
With the help of a local, we’ve compiled 47 traditional mouth-watering Egyptian foods you must try on your next trip to the land of the Pharaohs and where to find them.
Also, you should be particularly careful because some foods can be dangerous and might lead to botulism poisoning and, in some cases, death.
Here’s your survival guide to safely eating authentic Egyptian specialties:
A good day starts with a good breakfast.
Wondering what Egyptians have for their first meal of the day?
Here’s how a rural breakfast in Upper Egypt looks like, accompanied by Eish Shamsi and Eish Baladi:
From breakfast to dinner, here are our favorite Egyptian foods for appetizers, sides, salads, main courses and desserts.
Koshary is also called the poor man’s dish. This list of the best Egyptian dishes cannot be complete without mentioning it. Koshary is one of the most popular foods in the country.
To make Koshary, you need items that are part of every home’s pantry such as lentils, rice, and macaroni. For topping, onion and chickpeas are used. But, what gives this dish an extra zing is the specially created tomato-vinegar sauce.
This dish is no less than a cultural phenomenon in Egypt. There are entire restaurants dedicated to serving this inexpensive but delicious dish.
The Local’s Hint: The best place to find Koshary is Koshary Abou Tarek in Cairo. I love this place because it made me become a fan of Koshary.
You might already be familiar with this delightful dish because it is very popular in the Western world. Also known under the name of Falafel in the Middle East, you might have found this dish, which spread north to the Levant after originating in Egypt, on a Lebanese restaurant menu.
Egyptians love fava beans so much that they could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Falafel is a dish made of deep-fried herbs and beans. It is the first choice of vegetarians around the world.
The Local’s Hint: If you want to try authentic Falafel in Egypt, head to Felfela or the relatively modern Zööba. Zööba also serves an amazing Koshary dish. You can also find exquisite varieties of Falafel on the streets of Cairo. However, I would suggest that you avoid eating street food too much in this part of the world.
3. Egyptian Fatta
The Egyptian Fatta or simply Fatta is a traditional dish mainly eaten on Muslim and Christian festive occasions such as Eid al-Adha and Easter. To prepare Fatta, Aish Baladi is fried and used as a base layer followed by a layer of rice, meat stock, vinegar, and garlic. After assembling all the layers, the dish is baked.
Sometimes vinegar is replaced with tomato sauce to avoid the extra tangy taste that vinegar gives to the dish. Fatta is also eaten on other days, but it is so extravagant that people associate festivity with this dish. Therefore, they like to make it on special occasions. To compliment Fatta, big chunks of stewed beef are added, which prominently happens during Eid al-Adha.
If you haven’t been to Egypt yet but are planning to do so, don’t forget to taste this delectable dish. It is very delicious and fulfilling.
If you want to taste authentic Egyptian street food, then Ful Mudamas is something you should try.
It is called the King of Street Food, and the dish lives up to our expectations.
Egyptians call if Ful and eat it at breakfast. Ful is simply fava beans cooked with a variety of spices including salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil. Traditionally, Ful is eaten with pita loaves or French bread.
However, it can be eaten as a sandwich when you are on the go. You can easily find it at any food joint. In fact, it is one of the most famous street foods in Egypt.
The Local’s Hint: I would particularly recommend Gad. I guarantee you that after trying Ful, you will forget about Hummus.
5. Kebda Iskandarani
Egyptians living in Alexandria are known to prepare the best Kebda Iskandarani. Perhaps, that’s why the dish is named as Iskandarani, which means Alexandrian.
It’s a dish in which liver is cut in small pieces and prepared in its juice while the dish is spiced up with pepper and lemon. People may serve it with macroni or kushary. Usually, it is eaten with bread. Kebda is as commonly found on the streets in Egypt as in homes because it is quite inexpensive and very delicious. If you want to try authentic kebda, book a ticket to Alexandria.
Molokhia is so popular among Arab kids that so far I haven’t met even one who doesn’t love it.
Molokhia is a leafy green vegetable that you probably have never heard of before now. It is more of an appetizer in Egypt that isn’t eaten raw but cooked with various aromatic spices.
After being cooked, Molokhia transforms into a thick stew, which some resemble with slime. Molokhia is traditionally served with beef, chicken or rabbit meat and often served over rice.
The Local’s Hint: You must give it a shot and Abou el Sid is the place that serves excellent Molokhia.
You won’t believe how simple this dish is yet people hardly know about it. In simple words, it is a minced lamb sandwich. However, it isn’t just that, it is an experience in itself.
After eating Hawawshy, you’ll never be able to eat the regular sandwiches again. Hawawshay is a type of sandwich that is roasted in a wood oven.
The bread becomes so crisp that it tastes heavenly. You might feel that the bread has been deep-friend but believe me it isn’t.
The Local’s Hint: In Egypt, Hawawshy is served with pickled veggies, and Hawashy el Refaey is where you can enjoy it most.
Knafa is another heavenly dessert made in Egypt but famous the world over. It will look like hay, but it is actually very thin and fluffy filo dough. Usually, Knafa is stuffed with cream or nuts and topped with sweet syrup/sharbat.
Besara is probably one of the oldest traditional dishes in Egypt. It is part of Egyptian cuisine since ancient times. Even today, you can eat the classic version of this dish all over the country. Unlike the west, Egyptians like to keep the traditions intact and never try to revamp their staple dishes.
Besara is a green colored, creamy paste, prepared using crushed fava beans, green bell pepper, onions, dill, parsley, coriander, and leek along with spices. It is eaten as a side dish followed by the main course or consumed as a main dish with bread. You cannot resist eating it with a spoon too since it is so incredibly tasty. It is quite regularly prepared in ole people’s homes and not a common item that you would find on the streets.
Halawa can be termed as the trademark Middle Eastern desert. It is rich, flavorful, and unique. In Egypt, it is one of those desserts that you will find at every nook and corner from street food stalls to restaurants and even grocery stores.
Halawa is s dessert prepared using sesame paste. There are countless varieties of Halawa available in Egypt, so, you’ve got to pick one of your choices to try. You can choose between the hair halawa, halawa blocks, and halawa bars, etc. Sakalance, which is a combination of jam, halawa cream, and honey, can also be prepared with halawa.
After eating oily and spicy foods like the Kebda Iskandarany, Egyptians like to eat halawa to lighten up their mood. However, halawa is the perfect breakfast item if you don’t have diabetes. In Egypt, halawa with cream, called Halawa bl Qeshta, is eaten as breakfast. It is a light, delicious, and healthy dessert that can make you feel lighter and better after feeding yourself with big chunks of grilled meat.
Egyptians never stop innovating with Halawa as they have come up with many different versions. It is now prepared using every possible dry fruit and chocolate.
11. Umm Ali
Um Ali means Mother of Ali in English. It is a special bread pudding made with puff pastry or filo dough. The dough is generously soaked with milk and topped with nuts. Um Ali is a light and tasty dessert that is best served by El Malky.
The Local’s Hint: If you want to try a wide range of Egyptian desserts, head to El-Abd.
12. Aish Baladi
If there is one food item that appears quite frequently and commonly with dishes and main courses in Egypt, it is Aish Baladi. Over 60% of the foods in this country are served with Aish Baladi.
Dishes like Kebda, Ful, and Falafel are incomplete without this bread. It can be termed as the Egyptians’ favorite bread because it is inexpensive and used in a variety of ways. People in Egypt use it as a base for pizza, bread for sandwiches and hamburgers, and even in desserts. Aish Baladi dough is prepared by mixing wheat flour, salt, and water, and baked to perfection.
Dukkah is preferred by many as a side dish. The dish is best served with raw veggies like tomatoes and flatbread. Dukkah is prepared using herbs and nuts, mixed with spices including salt, cumin, coriander, sesame, and mint. Dukkah is a commonly prepared dish at Egyptian homes. It is a tasty side dish that you shouldn’t miss when you are in Egypt.
14. Tahini salad
Tahini salad is a delicious side dish usually served with minced meats, liver, and sausage, etc. Tahini is a kind of dressing or salad cream prepared using sesame butter, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, pepper, parsley, cumin, olive oil, and parsley. Sometimes people mix tomato and pickle in Tahini salad, which adds more zing to its already delicious taste. Tahini salad tastes best with Ful, Ta’meya, and grilled chicken in Egypt.
Mesakaa is commonly prepared at homes in Egypt and happens to be a very healthy dish. It’s a combination of aubergine, vinegar, lemon, and vegetables, all mixed in a flavorful tomato sauce. Mesakaa is a preferred food item at lunch or dinner, with rice or bread, and hot or cold, it is entirely upon your discretion.
You probably won’t be able to understand how exquisitely flavorful it is until you smell it and get to try it yourself. So, if you are ready for the magic, head to Egypt without wasting any time.
Basboosa is a light cake baked until it gets crumbly. After baking, it is topped with sharbat.
17. Colocasia soup
This dish is prepared using Taru plant, which came to Egypt from South Asia many years ago. Egyptians love to cook this dish.
It’s made by peeling the taru plant and boiling it until it reaches the broth stage. Lemon juice, garlic, and coriander are added to enhance the flavor of the broth. It not only looks but smells tasty as well. The soup is served with rice or flatbread. It can be cooked with chicken too. Traditionally, Colocasia soup is associated with Epiphany celebration, which happens to be a Coptic Christian’s event.
18. Baba Ghanoush
Just like Tahini salad, Baba Ghanoush is another great side dish that compliments almost every breakfast, lunch, and dinner table in Egypt on a daily basis.
It’s prepared using grilled aubergine, peeled and mashed into a thick paste and mixed with Tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, olive oil, and parsley.
Baba Ghanoush is an incredibly flavorful dish served with Fatta, Shawarma, and seafood. However, people prefer to eat it with plain bread as well. It’s a great appetizer as well.
19. Gebna Qaresh (Gebna Domiati)
Gebna Domiati is typical Egyptian cheese. It is white and has a soft texture. Gebna Domiati is made from buffalo milk or cow milk. It is named after Damietta, the place where it largely created. Damietta is a city in North Egypt. Gebna Qaresh is a platter comprising of cucumber, tomato, and Gebna Domiati. People also prefer to eat it with flatbread or solely as a snack. In summers, people eat it was watermelon. People say that the more mature the cheese is, the better it tastes. Therefore, it is stored for around three years in tin cans before being sold to the markets. Gebna Domiati is a common breakfast item in Egypt.
Taro root is peeled and prepared with tomato or chard to make Qolqas. The intriguing black dish ṭabkha sawda is prepared with unpeeled qolqas and eggplant. The recruits in the Egyptian Armed Forces revile the black dish though.
This popular Middle Eastern and North African delicacy may also be spelled chakchouka or shakshuka. Shakshouka is a dish prepared using poached eggs cooked in tomato sauce, onions, chili peppers, and cumin.
It’s the staple dish of Arabic cuisine and pretty commonly eaten in Morocco, Israel, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Levantine, apart from Egypt. Traditionally, Shakshouka is served in a tajine (a cast iron pan) with bread.
22. Mahshi (Dolma)
Mahshi means stuffed in English. However, many also state that it means stuffed grapevine leaves.
You will find Mahshi in a majority of Mediterranean countries, but no one does Mahshi as brilliantly as Egyptians do. You may call me biased but believe me, I have tried it everywhere and in Egypt, it tastes much better.
To make Mahshi, bite-size balls of spicy rice are tightly wrapped in grape leaves and cooked in a tomato-based sauce. It can also be served with lemon. It has many variations such as stuffed cabbage called Korumb, stuffed zucchini called Kossa, and stuffed eggplant called Bidingan, etc.
The Local’s Hint: Om Dahab is where you will find the tastiest Mahshi.
Torly is a staple casserole in Egypt, which is prepared by mixing lamb meat with vegetables including squash, carrots, potatoes, and onions, and baked in tomato sauce.
The word Bamia means okra. In simple words, Bamia is a stew prepared using okra, sinew (lamb tendons), and tomatoes.
This Middle Eastern dish is made even more flavorful with the addition of onion, garlic, coriander, cardamom, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil. An Egyptian garlic sauce called Ta’aleya is also added to enhance the flavor. Since tendons have to be simmered for hours, therefore, this is a time-consuming dish. But, it’s definitely worth the wait.
25. Kabab And Kofta
Kofta is a trademark Middle Eastern dish. It is a dish made of minced beef or lamb. The meat is marinated with different herbs and spices and rolled into balls or a skewer. Koftas are then grilled over coal, which gives them the unique flavor.
Kabab isn’t too different from kofta in terms of cooking method. Kabab does not include mincemeat but juicy chunks of meat seasoned with a range of spices.
After marinating, the meat is rolled on a skewer and grilled over coals. In Egypt, you’ve got to try Shaker, the mixed platter of kababs and koftas. It will be enough to satiate your meat cravings for at least a year. Usually, the kabab and kofta dish is served with bread, rice, vegetables, and dips.
26. Hamam Mahshi
If you still think that Hamam is only a place to bathe, then you are mistaken.
Now, you can even eat Hamam.
It is yet another excellent North African delicacy. Hamam Mahshi is among the many Egyptian dishes that you’ve got to try. In America, Hamam Mahshi has a reputation of a rat with wings. But it isn’t so. Hamam Mahshi is a dish made with pigeon meat grilled to perfection. Cracked wheat is used to stuff it.
The Local’s Hint: The best place to try Hamam Mahshi is Farahat.
After spending some days in Egypt, your tummy will be ready and eager to try out different street foods. Shawarma is perhaps the best option that you can try. It isn’t something new, and you may very well be aware of the dish already.
Shawarma is a global street food phenomenon.
To make Shawarma, chicken or meat is cooked on a spit and stuffed into pita bread or sandwich bread along with veggies and sauces.
The Local’s Hint: But, don’t try Shawarma at any random food point, head to Kazaz located in Downtown Cairo.
Torshi is simply pickled vegetables. You must be wondering why it makes an appearance on this list then. Well, it isn’t your regular pickled veggies at all but a staple of Egyptian cuisine.
Torshi complements almost every food in Egypt, and any vegetable can be “torshified.”
I mean, any veggie can be turned into Torshi from peppers to cucumbers and cauliflowers. You might already have eaten Torshi at some Egyptian restaurants. If you haven’t yet experienced Torshi, then do give it a try on your next trip to Egypt.
29. Egyptian Baklava
It’s a delight made of crushed, baked nuts stuffed between multiple layers of filo dough and topped with sharbat (sweet syrup).
30. Fiteer Baladi
Fiteer Baladi is Egypt’s version of a pizza.
It has a distinct buttery flavor, and this dish is a bit heavy on your stomach. The reason is that multiple layers of filo dough are used to make it. Fiteer Baladi has to be cooked in a huge brick oven. According to Egyptian tradition, this dish is served plain but you may order the sweet or savory version of Fiteer Baladi. The sweet version involves the use of honey, powdered sugar or syrup.
The savory version of Feteer has meat or vegetables and topped with cheese.
The Local’s Hint: The best place to eat it is Fatatri El Tahir. Be warned: Fatatri El Tahir isn’t a fancy restaurant but a small hole in the wall place with minimal seating. However, it serves delicious Fiteer Baladi.
Similar to a frittata, Eggah is an Egyptian omelette with parsley and flour baked in the oven in a deep skillet.
Part of Egyptian cuisine, Sudanese cuisine and Tunisian cuisine, Kamounia (sometimes spelled Kamouneya) is a is a liver and beef stew prepared with cumin.
33. Gebna Makleyah
Gebna Makleyah are Egyptian style baked cheese balls.
These oven fried cheese balls are very nutritious, high in protein and constitute an amazing side dish.
Atayef is a delicious dessert served exclusively during the month of Ramadan.
It’s a kind of sweet crêpe filled with nuts and raisins or cream.
35. Loqmet El Kadi
Loqmet El Kadi are round, small donuts.
Crunchy on the outside and syrupy and soft on the inside, Loqmet El Kadi are usually served with powdered sugar and dusted cinnamon.
Kahk is a sweet biscuit traditionally served during Eid al-Fitr in Egypt, which is the religious holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan.
Kahk is covered with icing sugar, and may also be stuffed with walnuts, dates or ‘agameya’ (similar texture to Turkish delight) or can be just be served plain.
37. Balah El Sham
Balah El Sham are delicious Middle Eastern, churro-like fritters crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
They get dipped in vanilla sugar syrup right when they come out of the fryer, which makes them squirt to the bite.
Ghuribiya is a sweet and tasty biscuit made with sugar, butter and flour.
It’s similar to shortbread and can be topped with black cardamom pods or roasted almonds.
39. Egyptian Gollash (Phyllo Meat Pie)
Gollash is a savory pastry, where ground beef and Phyllo dough dominate the ingredient list.
It’s crunchy and crispy, ideal for a marvelous teatime snack or as a starter.
Masaa’a is a tasty and delicious veggie fusion of potatoes, chickpeas, eggplant, and green bell pepper. A bunch of spices is added for its seasonings such as tomato sauce, garlic, pepper, mustard, and coriander.
This vegan-friendly dish is very nutritious and tastes really good, as each of the vegetables stands out from the other regarding taste.
Sayadeya is a traditional seafood platter made from white fish (mullet, bluefish, bass) cooked with rice and seasoned in onion sauce or tomato.
If you like spicy dishes, you’ll love it so much that you’ll lick to the last bit.
42. Red Lentil Soup (Egyptian Vegetarian Food)
This is another vegan-friendly Egyptian traditional dish. This soup is very nutritious, red lentils being the main ingredients with onion, garlic cloves, coriander and cumin added for its seasonings. You can garnish it with spinach leaves and lemon wedges.
This soup has a soothing, mild taste, and spices are adding to its richness. You can accompany it with flatbread and salad for a wholesome lunch.
43. Macaroni Béchamel – Modern Egyptian Food
Macaroni Béchamel is a delicious pasta dish, usually eaten during Ramadan.
It consists of ground meat sitting between two layers of macaroni and richly coated with creamy béchamel sauce.
There’s a vegan-friendly version of Macaroni Béchamel where you replace the beef with a whole lot of veggies. Any variety of pasta can be used to prepare this dish such as ziti, rigatoni or angel hair.
Macaroni is cheesy and full-flavored, attaining a creamy, rich flavor because of the bechamel sauce’s taste.
44. Roz Bel Laban
Roz Bel Laban literally means rice with milk: it’s actually Egypt’s version of rice pudding.
If you’re a fan of rice pudding, you will love it. Usually, rice is cooked in milk and sometimes cream (ishta), with sugar typically topped with pistachio pieces.
Roz Bel Laban is a simple yet satisfying dessert loved by everyone!
It’s probably Egypt’s most popular sweet, warm drink, a savory treat that’ll warm you right up!
It’s made of hot milk mixed with pure orchid root powder, which gives it its thickness and flavourful taste.
Sahlab is very easy to make as you conveniently use instant sachets that already contain this powder and other ingredients such as sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
You can have some fun with it and add the toppings that you like; I love it with strawberries and banana.
In the traditional recipe, Sahlab is topped with shredded coconut, crushed pistachio, a pinch of cinnamon, and eventually some raisins.
For many locals, Sahlab is their favorite Egyptian food and their go-to treat.
These cow’s trotters is a typical Egyptian dish usually served with Fattah believed to be an aphrodisiac in the land of the Pharaohs.
It’s also common to boil the trotters into a broth: the resulting broth and the tendons from the trotters are enjoyed as a soup.
Feseekh is a traditional Egyptian fish dish which consists of fermented, salted and dried gray mullet.
It’s a celebratory traditional plate eaten during the Sham el-Nessim festival, a spring celebration from ancient times in the land of the Pharaohs.
Be careful about this dish as it can be dangerous and might poison you. However, the good news is that there’s a place where you can taste it safely.
Keep reading to discover where.
Food Safety Warning
I can go on and on about the amazingly delicious Egyptian cuisine. But it is my responsibility to make you aware of those dishes from which you should stay away. There’s one dish that is strictly not recommended; it’s called Feseekh.
Almost every year the Ministry of Health in Egypt issues a warning to inform people about the dangers of eating Feseekh. So I am also warning you to stay AWAY from Feseekh no matter how curious you might feel to try it. It is just not bad for health, it is DANGEROUS.
I mean, why would someone want to try smelly, decomposed, and fermented mullet fish in the first place? It’s a strange world indeed, but you have been warned.
Here are some reactions of some foreigners trying feseekh for the first time:
Feseekh dates back thousands of years and has been making people sick ever since. Cooking it is very tricky, and if not fully prepared it can cause botulism poisoning. In some cases, it leads to death.
There’s one shop in Egypt that claims to be the expert maker of Feseekh. It’s quite a famous shop in Cairo; you might even know about Shaheen for Salted Fish and Caviar. Sabry Shaheen, the shop’s owner, says that all the warnings have actually helped them sell Feseekh more than ever. After all, a bad reputation is also a type of promotion.
While strolling down the streets in Cairo, you will see many shops named as Shaheen. However, all of them are not linked to the original Shaheen franchise. There are only two branches of Shaheen while others are merely trying to cash the name.
Eating Feseekh isn’t your cup of tea at all. For your information, there have been reports of deaths caused by eating Feseekh. The number reached an all-time high in 1991 with 18 people dying from Feseekh. From then onwards, the Ministry of Health has been warning people from not eating it. Given that so many shops are selling Feseekh, I find it hard to believe that people are listening to the government’s warnings.
The good news is that Shaheen’s has a reputation for cooking Feseekh expertly. So far, there haven’t been any complaints or death incidences associated with Shaheen’s. In fact, Sabry Shaheen flaunts the certificates he has received. Even the Ministry of Health has approved of its business.
Feseekh can be served with onion, some oil, lemon, and brown Baladi bread, which make it somewhat edible. You may not find Feseekh on the menu of other Egyptian restaurants. It is only available in selected outlets that only sell Feeseekh.
I often wondered why Egyptians eat this stinky fish when there are so many fantastic options. I found out that it is part of their culture from thousands of years. The dish was first prepared in Pharaonic times. Back then, the Nile River used to leave a large number of dead, rotting fishes on the shore in the spring season. People used to collect those rotten fishes and cooked them. With the passage of time, people started waiting for the spring season to eat feseekh. They even associated a festival named Shem el-Nissim (smell the breeze) holiday with this event. Every spring, they used to celebrate the festival when the fishes emerged. Till today, Egyptian tribes commemorate this festival as a reminder of their heritage.
Feseekh is also called borai fish. It is dried in the sun and placed on huge wooden vats containing salty water. The fish stays there for 45 days during which the salt cooks it. Technically, it remains raw, and salt only prevents it from rotting further. The result is a grey-colored, gooey fish with an unbearable stench. The trick is to mix enough amount of salt otherwise the rotting fish will develop botulism bacteria. If it is undercooked, Feseekh can lead to nausea, paralysis and even worst conditions.
So, there you have it, the 12 best Egyptian dishes and the worst one. Egyptian food is a crazy blend of sweet and savory delights. With minimal use of spices and lots of emphasis on herbs and nuts, the cuisine has every food lover’s dream come true, with Feseekh serving as the nightmare.