Discover the top 10 traditional Egyptian dishes – TravMe

Egypt is renowned for its iconic landmarks like the Sphinx, the Pyramids of Giza, and the enigmatic pharaohs, but its culinary delights often remain a mystery to those who haven’t visited. Traditional Egyptian dishes are a must-try for any traveler, offering a rich tapestry of flavors and textures that reflect the country’s vibrant history and culture. Egyptian cuisine is rarely encountered abroad, making it an even more intriguing experience. Whether you’re taking a traditional Egyptian food tour or exploring the bustling streets of Cairo, this guide will introduce you to 10 traditional Egyptian dishes you must eat when visiting Egypt, and where to find them.

 

Top 10 traditional Egyptian dishes

However, the resulting simplicity of Egyptian cuisine is part of its appeal, with fresh, basic ingredients used well. It’s also very healthy, with plenty of vegetables, and chicken or lamb preferred to richer meats.

In Alexandria, you will also find plenty of fish and shellfish. Spices are used in moderation, with cumin being the most common. Here are some of Egypt’s most popular dishes to give you a flavor of what to expect:

1. Koshari

traditional Egyptian dishes

Koshari is often considered the national dish of Egypt. This hearty and flavorful dish combines rice, lentils, and macaroni, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and crispy fried onions. It’s a staple in Egyptian street food and can be found in numerous eateries throughout the country. If I had to choose a single dish that answers the question, “What do Egyptians eat?” It would be koshari, Egypt’s most popular food and its national dish.

Koshari is made from rice, macaroni, and lentils, and topped with chickpeas, onions, and a special tomato-vinegar sauce. It sounds heavy, and it is – known as a “poor man’s dish” because the ingredients are staple items that can be found in any pantry. Koshari has evolved into a cultural phenomenon, with entire shops dedicated to serving this delicious yet inexpensive meal. When exploring traditional Egyptian dishes, trying koshari is essential to experiencing authentic Egyptian cuisine.

Where to Eat Koshary in Cairo:

 

2. Ful Medames

traditional Egyptian dishes

If you’re eager to try traditional Egyptian dishes, then look no further than the king of Egyptian street food, ful medames. Known simply as “ful,” this beloved breakfast dish is made from slow-cooked fava beans seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Ful can be cooked with virtually any spices, with the most basic including salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil, but it’s almost always garnished with additional ingredients.

 

Ful medames is usually served with loaves of pita or French bread, but can also be enjoyed in sandwich form for those on the go. This dish can be found at virtually any food establishment and is a popular choice among street food vendors. If you think hummus is great, wait until you try ful—it will have you thinking “hummus, who?”

 

For anyone exploring traditional Egyptian dishes, ful is an essential part of the experience, offering a taste of authentic Egyptian cuisine that is both satisfying and rich in flavor.

Where to Eat Ful in Cairo:

 

3. Ta’ameya (Egyptian Falafel)

traditional Egyptian breakfast

Unlike the chickpea-based falafel common in other Middle Eastern countries, Egyptian Ta’ameya is made from ground fava beans. These green patties are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, often enjoyed as part of a traditional Egyptian breakfast. Known locally as Ta’ameya, this deep-fried mixture of herbs and beans is a fan favorite, especially among vegetarians.

 

Ta’ameya is typically made with mashed fava beans and parsley, giving it a unique flavor and vibrant green color. Shaped into flat discs rather than round balls, Ta’ameya is usually eaten as a sandwich with salad, making it a popular traditional Egyptian street food. For an authentic taste, head to Felfela, a renowned spot for traditional falafel.

Where to Eat Ful in Cairo:

 

4. Mulukhiya

traditional Egyptian dishes

Molokhia, a green leafy vegetable, is used to make a thick, nutritious soup that is often served with rice or bread. The dish has a unique, slightly bitter taste and is typically flavored with garlic and coriander.

Where to Eat Molokhia in Cairo:

 

5. Mahshi

traditional Egyptian dishes

Another great dish for vegetarian travelers, Mahshi is a delightful Egyptian specialty that consists of baked vegetables, usually peppers, zucchini, or eggplant, stuffed with rice mixed with aromatic herbs like parsley and coriander. Accompanied by a tangy sauce, Mahshi is a favorite at family gatherings and special occasions.

 

Mahshi, which translates directly to “stuffed,” encompasses a variety of stuffed vegetables, including grape vine leaves (known as warak enab in Arabic). While prevalent in most Mediterranean countries, the Egyptian version of Mahshi is often regarded as the best. Small bites of spiced rice are tightly wrapped in grape leaves, then cooked in a tomato-based sauce and served with a squeeze of lemon.

 

In addition to stuffed grape leaves, other popular Mahshi variations include stuffed cabbage (korumb), eggplant (bidingan), and zucchini (kossa). For an authentic taste of Mahshi and other traditional Egyptian dishes, head to Cairo Kitchen, where you can savor these flavorful bites and more.

 

Mahshi offers a delicious and satisfying culinary experience, making it a must-try for anyone exploring traditional Egyptian cuisine. Whether you’re a vegetarian traveler or simply looking to indulge in the rich flavors of Egyptian food, Mahshi promises to delight your taste buds.

Where to Eat Mahshi in Cairo:

 

6. Fattah

traditional Egyptian dishes

Fattah is popular throughout the Middle East, but each country has its own unique take on the dish. In the Levant, it’s made with yogurt and garbanzo beans, but in Egypt, fattah has a distinct recipe. This celebratory dish, often prepared for festive events, consists of layers of crispy bread, rice, and meat (typically lamb or beef), all topped with a tangy tomato and vinegar sauce.

Egyptian fattah is a true representation of the depth and complexity of traditional Egyptian dishes. Newer, trendier restaurants have even started creating fusion options, such as chicken shawarma fattah.

Where to Eat Fattah in Cairo:

 

7. Hawawshi

traditional Egyptian dish

Hawawshi, the Egyptian meat pie, is a must-try dish made from minced meat spiced with onions, peppers, and parsley, stuffed inside a bread loaf, and baked to perfection. Despite its simplicity, wood oven roasting gives the bread a crispy texture, making it a favorite among meat lovers. Often served with pickled vegetables (torshi), this flavorful dish is a standout in Egyptian cuisine.

Where to Eat Hawawshi in Cairo:

When visiting Egypt, be sure to try hawawshi to experience a beloved traditional Egyptian dish.

 

8. Kebda Eskandarani (Alexandrian Liver)

traditional Egyptian dishes - kebda

Kebda Eskandarani, or Alexandrian Liver, is a beloved street food from Alexandria featuring sautéed liver seasoned with a blend of spices, garlic, and chili peppers. Typically served in sandwiches or on warm pita bread, it’s a flavorful dish that showcases Egypt’s love for liver and highlights the richness of traditional Egyptian dishes.

Where to Eat Kebda in Cairo:

 

9. Macaroni with Bechamel and Minced Meat

Macaroni with Bechamel- traditional Egyptian dishes

Macaroni with Bechamel and minced meat is one of a classic traditional Egyptian dishes that’s both delicious and easy to prepare. Perfect for any occasion, this flavorful meal is ready in under an hour. It combines tender pasta, creamy béchamel sauce, and savory minced meat to create a dish that delights every palate.

For an added touch, serve it on slices of toast topped with butter, garlic, and parsley. This simple addition enhances the dining experience, making every bite of this hearty pasta dish even more enjoyable.

Where to Eat Kebda in Cairo:

 

10. Kabab and Kofta

Kabab and Kofta

Kabab and Kofta are the quintessential traditional Egyptian dishes that showcase the country’s love of grilled meats. Kofta is made from minced beef or lamb mixed with aromatic spices, shaped onto skewers, and barbecued over hot coals. Think of them as spiced meatballs shaped like sausages. Kabab, on the other hand, consists of juicy chunks of seasoned beef, also cooked over coals on a skewer. Both are flavorful and satisfying, offering a delightful culinary experience.

 

This hearty platter includes generous portions of both Kabab and Kofta, accompanied by sides of rice, fresh bread, various dips, and vegetables. The combination of succulent meats and savory sides makes for a truly memorable meal.

Where to Eat Kebab and Kofta in Cairo:

 

Egyptian Street Food Guide

To truly immerse yourself in the culinary culture, exploring Egyptian street food is essential. Vendors across cities like Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor offer a variety of dishes that provide a taste of everyday life in Egypt. From the savory delights of kebda eskandarani to the sweet satisfaction of basbousa, street food offers an authentic and delicious experience.

 

Traditional Egyptian Food Tours

For those seeking a comprehensive culinary adventure, traditional Egyptian food tours are an unbeatable way to explore the rich tapestry of Egyptian cuisine. These immersive tours typically include guided visits to bustling local markets, where you can experience the vibrant atmosphere and fragrant aromas of fresh spices, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in hands-on cooking classes led by experienced chefs who will teach you the secrets behind iconic dishes like: Koshari, Ful Medames & Flafel, and Mahshi. Along the way, you’ll taste a variety of traditional Egyptian dishes, each offering a unique flavor profile that reflects the country’s diverse culinary heritage.

Whether you’re sampling street food delicacies or dining in historic eateries, these food tours provide an authentic and delicious journey through Egypt’s gastronomic landscape. At the end of the tour, you’ll not only have a satisfied palate but also a deeper appreciation of the cultural significance and history of traditional Egyptian dishes. So, when visiting Egypt, don’t miss the chance to embark on a traditional Egyptian food tour and savor the true essence of this ancient culinary tradition.

 

10 Fascinating Facts About Egyptian Cuisine

Egyptian cuisine offers a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern flavors. Here are 10 intriguing facts that will give you a glimpse into the country’s culture and highlight what to look forward to when exploring traditional Egyptian dishes:

 

1. Popular Beverages

After meals, Egyptians often enjoy a cup of black tea, which aids digestion and is a staple in social gatherings. Fresh sugarcane juice, known as “aseer asab,” is also a popular refreshing drink found in street markets and juice shops across the country.

 

2. Cultural Etiquette

In Egyptian culture, the left hand is considered unclean and should not be used for eating. Additionally, it’s polite to avoid discussing alcohol or pork at the table.

 

3. Meat as a Luxury

Historically, meat was expensive and rare in Egyptian cuisine, making vegetable-based dishes predominant. Serving meat to guests is a sign of honor and hospitality.

 

4. Food as Currency

In ancient Egypt, food items like bread were used as a form of currency. Workers were often paid in these essentials, with standardized recipes ensuring value consistency.

 

5. Booming Restaurant Scene

Since 2011, over 6,000 new restaurants have opened in Cairo, reflecting the city’s dynamic and evolving culinary landscape. This growth includes both traditional eateries and modern fusion concepts.

 

6. Special Occasion Dish: Fatta

Fatta, a rich dish featuring fried bread, rice, meat, and a tangy sauce, is traditionally served during religious festivals and weddings. It’s a special treat rarely seen outside of these celebrations.

 

7. Ancient Social Welfare

The pharaohs ensured that no one went hungry, distributing stored grain to the poor and allowing fishing and egg collecting along the Nile. This communal approach helped prevent widespread hunger, except during droughts.

 

8. Besarah: An Ancient Recipe

Besarah, a flavorful mash of fava beans, herbs, and spices, dates back thousands of years. Its name derives from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs meaning “cooked beans,” showcasing its long-standing culinary heritage.

 

9. Dietary Simplicity

Ancient Egyptians primarily consumed a diet of bread, beans, and vegetables, with occasional meat for the wealthy. This simplicity continues to influence modern Egyptian cuisine.

 

10. Vegetarian-Friendly

Egyptian cuisine is highly vegetarian-friendly, with an abundance of delicious, meat-free traditional Egyptian dishes that reflect the country’s reliance on plant-based ingredients.

When exploring Egypt, be sure to delve into its culinary heritage by sampling these traditional Egyptian dishes. The rich history and cultural significance behind each dish offers a unique and flavorful journey through this ancient land.

 

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