With culinary traditions stretching back over 5,000 years to the ancient era of the pharaohs, Egyptians really know their food. Over the centuries, many cultures have influenced the food in Egypt, including Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines. But what sets Egyptian cuisine apart, is their unique ingredients and flavours, with aromatic spices and soul-stirring comfort foods.
You’ll also find something for everyone, with traditional vegetarian recipes, plus plenty of meat dishes and amazing seafood on the coast. Ready to dive into the food in Egypt? Here are 11 of the best dishes and drinks you have to try on your trip to Egypt.
This wildly popular deep fried treat is Egypt’s answer to the famous falafel. However, instead of being made from chickpeas like many Middle Eastern falafels, ta’meya is made from crushed fava beans mixed with ingredients like onions, cumin, parsley, coriander and dill. The mixture is then rolled into a ball and fried, and often coated in sesame seeds for that extra crunch.
The locals usually eat ta’meya with tahini, salad and aish baladi (Egyptian flatbread). Whether you eat them at breakfast like most locals, or as a snack any time of the day, ta’ameya is simply delicious.
2. Ful medames
As the ultimate Egyptian staple, you can’t miss trying this food in Egypt. A simple dish of stewed fava beans, ful medames is one of the most common foods you’ll find on every local’s plate. The dish can be made in many different ways, most commonly with oil, lemon juice, onion and garlic. It can also include butter, tomato sauce, parsley, pepper, sausage and fried or boiled eggs.
Fava beans are an ancient relic in Egypt, with the oldest evidence of people eating fava beans dating back to a Neolithic site near Nazareth in Israel. In Egypt, the dish likely dates all the way back to the pharaohs.
Today, it’s a popular Egyptian breakfast food, with the beans simmering overnight in a large pot, ready for a hearty morning meal. The locals typically eat it with aish baladi and pickled vegetables. However you try it, you’ll be tasting a piece of ancient Egypt!
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This uniquely Egyptian dish is sure to become one of your new favourites. Koshary is essentially a carb-fest of macaroni, rice, spaghetti, vermicelli and black lentils. It’s all tossed with fried onions, hummus, tomatoes, garlic, onion, vinegar sauce, chilli sauce, chickpeas, and whatever else the chef throws in!
The combination may sound unusual, but it’s a true culinary work of art. Loved by locals and tourists alike, we’re sure you’ll fall in love with this amazing blend of flavours and textures.
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Loved all over the world, you’ve probably tried shawarma before. But the Egyptians have put their own special twist on it, with different seasonings and ways to eat it.
When ordering shawarma, you usually have a choice of beef or chicken that has been marinated in spices and cooked on a spit with fat melting on top. The chef shaves the meat off the spit and stuffs it in a small burger bun. Topped with tahini or tomaya (garlic sauce), shawarma is cheap, delicious, and the perfect snack to enjoy on the go.
Kebda, or liver, is the star ingredient of many Egyptian dishes. It’s especially popular in the port city of Alexandria, famed for its liver sandwiches (kebda eskandarani) found all over the city from street vendors to fast food cafes. The dish is typically made with chopped calf’s liver, which is stir-fried with capsicum, garlic, lime or lemon, and spiced with everything from cumin and ginger to cinnamon and cloves, and a dose of chilli.
Once cooked to perfection, the liver is stuffed into a bread roll or Egyptian baguette and topped with tahini or hummus, torshi (pickled vegetables), aish baladi and even grilled cheese. Just one bite of this tasty concoction and you’re sure to fall in love!
You can try this iconic dish when you travel with Trafalgar to Alexandra and spend an evening at a local restaurant, dining on local dishes in a wonderful seaside setting.
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Egyptians love to prepare this traditional Nubian dish for special occasions such as newborn babies and religious festivals, and it’s always a highlight at Eid al-Adha, the sacrificial feast marking the end of Ramadan fasting. Your Egypt guide will show you where to find the best fatteh at any time of the year.
The dish is made of layers of fried aish baladi and rice, mixed with chunks of meat, and topped with tomato sauce mixed with garlic and vinegar. Lamb is the most traditional meat to use, but you can also find it with beef or veal. Either way, this is the ultimate comfort food in Egypt.
You’ll find this classic food all over Egypt and the locals spell it differently in almost every restaurant (look out for variations like molokhiya, molokhia and moroheiya).
The dish is made with the green leafy vegetable known as mulukhiya (or jute or Egyptian spinach), which is finely chopped and cooked with garlic, spices, lemon juice and a meat broth until it forms a thick stew. The texture is somewhat slimy, but it has a rich flavour and it pairs well with rice, bread or chunks of meat (usually beef, chicken or rabbit), and it’s well worth a try!
Set between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, Egypt is home to some superb seafood. The seaside cities of Alexandria, Sue and Port Said are some of the best places to try fresh seafood, and we recommend diving straight into a plate of sayadeya.
The locals make this delicious seafood dish from white fish like bass or bluefish marinated in lemon juice and spices and lightly fried. They lay the fish over a mix of yellow rice, tomato sauce, spices and onion, and bake it in an earthenware pot. The result is a heavenly fragrant fish that melts in your mouth. Don’t miss out!
As one of the most popular foods in Egypt, Hawawshi is eaten everywhere from street stalls and restaurants to family homes. It’s essentially a stuffed meat sandwich, filled with ground beef or lamb cooked with spices inside a pocket of aish baladi (Egyptian flatbread).
The locals usually bake it in a traditional wood oven or on a charcoal grill, and the cooking method makes it so delightfully crispy. You’ll find different recipes all over the country, from meat mixtures made with tomato, capsicum, onion and chilli, to hawawshi made with hand-made dough or minced sujuk meat and cheese. You’ll just have to try every variation to find your favourite!
Ready for dessert? It’s got to be kanafeh, one of the most beloved Egyptian sweets, traditionally eaten during the holy month of Ramadan. Egyptians make the dessert with thin semolina flour noodles or filo pastry soaked in syrup and stuffed with a filling of soft cheese like ricotta. It’s then baked until crisp and topped with nuts – and it’s sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
After falling head over heels for the classic version of kanafeh, you can hop around the bakeries of Egypt, trying out all different kanafeh fillings such as chocolate, mango and avocado.
Known as ‘shai’, tea is Egypt’s national drink and an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. More than just a hot beverage, shai is enjoyed morning, noon and night, especially when visiting guests. In Egypt, it’s not so much about the drink itself, but the act of enjoying the tea with loved ones.
Since Egyptians consume at least one whole kilogram of tea per person each year, you’ll find plenty of varieties, including the golden koshary tea in the north and the dark saiidi tea in the south.
You’ll get to be part of this amazing tea culture when you travel to Egypt with Trafalgar, and enjoy a traditional Be My Guest experience in the Valley of the Kings and Luxor’s West Bank. You’ll share freshly baked Egypt bread with honey and mint tea with locals, and really get to know why a good cup of shai is so important in Egypt.
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Have you tried Egyptian cuisine? What is your favourite food in Egypt? Let us know in the comments below!