Egypt eats are here! I’m sharing all about the food and drinks we enjoyed in Egypt.
I wasn’t sure what to expect for cuisine during our Egypt trip, but I was pleasantly surprised. While my research found a handful of traditional dishes for Egyptian cuisine, I also thought it would be a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, beans, and eggplants. It was all of that and more! Now that I’m back, I find myself wishing I had another bite of taamiya or a big cup of fresh mango juice.
Taking the Bellies En-Route food tour our first night was an excellent way to introduce us to the wonderful food we’d be eating for two weeks. We had an incredible time eating bite after bite, walking the streets of Cairo, and learning about Egyptian culture. From that initial introduction, we ate at restaurants we were recommended, restaurants chosen by tour guides, and a variety of Egyptian cuisine on our liveaboard.
Here are some of the dishes and drinks you can expect when you visit Egypt.
Ful (Fava Beans)
Fava beans are a staple in Egyptian cuisine, and we ate them in taamiya, slow-cooked, and as besara or a paste-like hummus or baba ghanoush.
My favorite way to eat ful is taamiya, the light and fluffy falafels. I didn’t like falafels before I went to Egypt. Something about chickpea falafels has always been off to me, either the taste or the texture. But I could eat these fava bean falafels all day!
Aish Baladi (Egyptian Bread)
Made with whole wheat flour, this Egyptian bread looks like a pita and tastes like a mix between pita and sourdough bread. It’s served with most meals and is the perfect accompaniment to wrap around eggplant or falafel or dip into a soup. I loved seeing people carrying big wood planks piled high with these on the street to sell.
I couldn’t get enough lentil soup in Egypt, and we had it at several meals. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into your soup and it changes the flavor profile.
Muyyet Salata (Salad Water)
This drink is like a salad in a shot glass. Bits of salad are drenched in vinegar, oil, lemon, dill, salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder. It’s fairly strong and seems to double as a palate and stomach cleanser. Usually served before street food, it’s supposed to encourage you to eat more!
Mahshi (Rice-Stuffed Vegetables)
It seems like a simple dish, but it’s actually a dish that’s a labor of love as many told us. The rice is cooked with onion, tomato, dill, cilantro, and parsley. It is then stuffed inside vegetables like cabbage, eggplant, bell peppers, and squash.
The Egyptian dish you’re bound to hear about and try is koshari, also sometimes spelled koshary. It’s a mix of spaghetti, vermicelli, lentils, rice, hummus, and macaroni topped with fried onions, tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar dressing.
Feteer or Fiteer
This layered pastry is known as Egyptian pizza and comes savory or sweet. The dough is like a flakier pita or roti. The sweet version I had was filled with molasses and rolled. Yum!
Bentengan Ma’li (Fried Eggplant)
I love eggplant, so I looked forward to it at multiple meals. We had it fried, grilled, and blended as baba ghanoush. My favorite was lightly fried so that it had a nice crisp on the outside.
Molokhia or Mulukhiyah
This traditional, leafy soup is made with okra leaves, stock, garlic, and spices. The texture is slimy as you can imagine pureed okra would be as a soup. It’s eaten as a dip with Egyptian bread or with rice and grilled meats.
Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeon)
I couldn’t leave Egypt without trying this popular dish – stuffed pigeon! It tasted like chicken. The dish I got had little meat and was stuffed with rice.
You may find this casserole dish familiar. This baked pasta dish is made with penne pasta, béchamel sauce, minced meat, onions, garlic, and spices. Served with a side of tomato sauce, this Egyptian comfort food is a local favorite.
We had shawarma at a popular restaurant recommended by our tour guide. We ordered by pointing and about two words of English. I think the meat was beef and lamb and it was delicious! We also got a plate of pickled vegetables with it.
Is Egypt mango heaven? I ate the best mangoes in Egypt!
You’ll know the juice shops by the hanging mesh bags of fruit. Egyptians stop and order a cup in the morning, down the cup, and move on. Mango juice was my favorite but we also tried cantaloupe and sugarcane.
Kunafa or Kanafeh
This traditional Middle Eastern dessert is made with thin dough and has a layer of cheese, cream, and/or nuts. (See photo below.)
Similar to kunafa and also known as semolina cake, basbousa is made with semolina flour and drenched in syrup. Sometimes shredded coconut is added. This was one of my favorite desserts in Egypt! (See photo below.)
These fried dough balls remind me of donuts. They’re usually dipped in a sugar syrup.
I couldn’t believe this was coffee when I first tasted it! Made from a lightly roasted bean, Arabic coffee looks and tastes like tea, and I love the added cardamom. I’ll definitely be on the lookout to drink more of this!
Tea is the national drink of Egypt. It’s typically black and served warm with tea bags.
Beer and Alcohol
The purchase and consumption of alcohol in public are limited in Egypt because the majority of people follow Islamic tradition, but it’s available at hotels and tourist-oriented restaurants. Stella is the most popular beer brand in Egypt, though you’ll also find a brand called Sakara.
Have you tried any of these dishes before?
P.S. Looking for more Egypt posts? See them here!