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With recipes dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Egyptian food is one of Africa’s most unique and fascinating cuisines.
With Mediterranean, North African, and Middle Eastern influences, the foods of Egypt are rich, wholesome, and combine hearty staples with plenty of heat, spice, and kick.
Egyptian cuisine can open your palate to a wide range of diverse and mind-blowing flavors, from the rich and filling to the sharp and spicy.
Prepare for a truly unique culinary journey to one of Africa’s most famous countries, as a native writer tells us all about 20 of Egypt’s most popular and traditional foods.
Foul Medames is a slow-cooked fava beans stew. It is the most popular breakfast food in Egypt in most families.
Foul Medames can be served as whole beans or mashed. The most common toppings added to it include cumin, lemon, oil, pepper, salt, parsley, onion, and butter.
There are several restaurant chains specialized in Foul Medames. Popular dishes served alongside Foul Medames include fried eggplants, fries, fried cheese, and falafel.
Falafel (Taameya) is made of fava beans and greens mixed together, shaped into balls or patties and deep-fried. Sometimes, the falafel patties are stuffed with red spicy paste; those are called Falafel Mahsheya.
Modern chains and some young chefs make cheesy falafel, which is stuffed with cream cheese before frying.
Koshary is a popular local food that is made of boiled lentils, rice, macaroni, and chickpeas, along with fried onions and special Egyptian red sauce.
It is usually served with extra packs of vinegar and hot sauce, to be added to taste.
Alexandrians have their special twist to Koshary – they add grilled liver to it!
Like Foul Medames, you can find Koshary in many restaurant chains but also sold by street vendors.
This is a very inexpensive plate of food. You can enjoy a large dish, sometimes with extra liver, for just a dollar and a half!
Stuffed pigeons is a dish you probably won’t see in many other places in the world.
The pigeons are first boiled, stuffed either with either spicy rice or grits along with onions and tomato sauce.
Then, the pigeons are either deep-fried or baked in the oven. This dish certainly has loads of fat and carbs, but the experience is worth it!
Set the fork and knife aside – you can only enjoy this dish using your bare hands!
Some restaurants add something special to the rice or grits stuffing – the pigeon’s internal organs! Yes, you read that right. You may find the kidneys and heart within the rice, only if you are lucky.
Tarb is a beautiful fatty twist of the usual “Kofta“. Kofta is made of minced meat, onions, a bit of minced fat, and spices mixed together. Tarb is kofta wrapped in a layer of lamb fat that has then been grilled to a golden brown color.
There are specialized grilled meat products restaurants all over Egypt. That is where you can find Tarb.
These restaurants usually serve grilled chicken, grilled meat, Kofta, Tarb, kebab, and other grilled meat products along with rice, pasta, and desserts.
Molokhiya is a green soup made of shredded Molokhiya green leaves. It can be made with meat, chicken, or even rabbits!
This soup has lots of ghee and garlic hidden in there. Molokhiya is made in many different ways depending on the region.
In upper Egypt, for instance, it is served cold, and it’s called “Shalwlaw.”
In Aswan, people make it with dried Molokhiya leaves, so it is darker in color and has a different consistency than the Molokhiya served in any other place in Egypt.
Wherever you are going to have your Molokhiya, you will enjoy the nutrients coming from the broth, Molokhiya leaves, garlic, and tomatoes, which make it an immunity-boosting soup.
Halabessa is a soup, but it served in cups with straws. It is made with chickpeas boiled with tomato, onion, garlic, and lots of spices.
You get it in a cup, with a spoon to eat chickpeas and a straw to drink the soup. It is a healthy vegan option that keeps you full and warm at night.
Halabessa is sold in mini kiosks right by the sea or the Nile. The kiosks are usually decorated with colorful lights and Arabic calligraphy, and they also play classic Egyptian music.
All of the above, along with the spicy taste of Halabessa, make up a perfect atmosphere for a cold Egyptian night.
Eating Halabessa is often more about the experience than just about the food.
Egyptians like to stuff everything with rice. Zucchinis, eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes, and vine leaves are some of the most popular veggies that are stuffed with rice in Egypt.
The special rice mixture stuffing adds a whole new taste to vegetables; they just don’t taste the same without it.
If you ever get the chance to have some Mahshy, order a mixed plate and decide for yourself what you like the most.
Another type of Mahshy that is not vegetable based is “Mombar.” Mombar is made of a cow’s intestine, which is filled with rice, mixed minced greens, and tomatoes.
Cleaning the cow’s intestine is a crucial and a tiresome step before filling it. It is then boiled and deep-fried to perfection. Some areas in Egypt also call it “Usban”.
Kawaree is a dish consisting of cow feet that are well-cleaned and boiled. The consistency is gelatinous, and it is used to make Kawaree soup.
Kawaree is served in so many ways, but it usually appeals to the older generation more than the younger generation.
It is sometimes eaten with rice and tomato sauce (“Kawaree Fettah”) or with stuffed vine leaves. You eat a little piece of Kawaree with 1 stuffed vine leaf together in one bite to tackle all of your taste buds at once.
Hawawshi is essentially minced meat stuffed inside Balady pita bread, buttered and then baked.
Like most of the Egyptian traditional dishes, Egyptians have been adding interesting twists to it. Now, there are multiple versions of Hawawshi, including sausage, tuna, and pastrami.
An interesting twist in Alexandria is that the meat is not placed inside pita bread but rather inside fresh dough. As such, it feels more like pizza than bread. Alexandrians then take it to the next level and add tomatoes, pepper, and mozzarella on top so it looks just like pizza.
This dish is perfect for every occasion and can be served with literally anything, or simply just on its own.
It is made of three delicious layers. The bottom layer is made of boiled penne pasta. The second layer is a mixture of minced beef with onions and tomato sauce.
And finally, the top layer is made of a heart-warming thick white sauce called Bechamel.
When the casserole is baked, the top layer gets a beautiful golden brown color.
It is a delicious and filling meal on its own as it consists of protein, carbs, and fat all together.
Feseekh is an ancient Egyptian meal that Egyptians have been eating for hundreds of years.
It is made of salted and fermented mullet fish. Feseekh is usually served along with green onions, pita bread, and herring during Sham Al Nessim, which is an Egyptian celebration held yearly in the spring.
During that day, Egyptians go out and enjoy the beautiful weather, and they never skip Feseekh!
This fish is not for everyone, though. It smells terrible, that is for sure, but the taste is quite controversial. You will either fall in love with it or you won’t stand swallowing that one bite.
Feteer is one of the tastiest and heaviest Egyptian foods! It translates to pie but it is definitely more than just a pie. It is made of so many layers of thin buttery dough.
It can be served without any fillings along with molasses and tahini, which is a heavenly mixture that you have try!
Filled Feteer is also really popular with both sweet and savory fillings. Sausages, chicken with various sauces, vegetables, and minced meat are some of the few savory fillings Egyptians prefer.
Sugar custard pie and Nutella pie are the two most popular sweet pies.
Akawi is made of ox tail, cut into thick slices and baked along with onions and tomatoes in a clay casserole.
It is usually served in grill houses along with white Egyptian rice or white pita bread. Get ready to get your hands and face super greasy; no cutlery is allowed while eating Akawi.
By now, you have surely noticed how fatty and calorie-loaded Egyptian food is, right? Akawi is one of the fattest!
There are two types of Egyptian Keshk: the orange Shrimp Keshk and the white Chicken Keshk.
This pudding is basically made out of milk, yogurt, and flour along with chicken or shrimp broth. Fried caramelized onion pieces are sprinkled on top to take that dish to a whole new level of indulgence.
This dish is not so popular among young Egyptians; some of them have never even seen it. In fact, not very many restaurants serve it anymore.
Katayef is the Egyptian version of pancakes. They are sold almost exclusively during the holy month of Ramadan in every bakery.
Some people choose to eat them straight out of the box. Other people choose to fill them up with custard or even feta cheese and bake them or air fry them for a healthier version.
Most Egyptians fill Katayef with nuts and sugar, deep fry them, and then add sugar syrup on top. It is an indulgent Egyptian dish definitely worth trying!
There are so many different ways to make Sobia, but it generally consists of coconut milk, rice, rice water, vanilla, and sugar.
Sobia powder is sold in Egyptian markets, and you can make Sobia by just adding water to the powder. Some places mix Sobia with mango or strawberry juice, and it is super yummy!
Sobia is found in Egypt all year long. However, Muslim Egyptians enjoy this drink the most during the Holy month of Ramadan as they break their fast with this refreshing drink.
The name translates to “Ali’s mother,” and Egyptians never get tired of making fun of its name.
Om Ali is made of pieces of special bread soaked in milk, sugar, and butter, all baked to perfection. More butter or whipped cream is then added on top.
Whenever you ask for Om Ali in an Egyptian restaurant you will be asked a standard question: “With or without nuts?”
A fun fact about Om Ali is that it managed to be an essential dessert at every Egyptian wedding. The reason is not quite known; it’s just another secret of Egyptian cuisine.
Konafa is the most popular dessert on the Egyptian streets during the Holy month of Ramadan when Konafa floods every dessert shop, every café, and every small kiosk!
Raw Konafa is made of long threads of vermicelli-like dough. A few years ago, Egyptians only ate Konafa two ways: Konafa with custard and Konafa with nuts and milk. Those are now known as the classic versions of Konafa.
Nowadays, you can find many different types of Konofa in pastry shops, including Konafa Nutella, Konafa Mangoes, Konafa Lotus, Konafa with fruits, and Konafa Ferrero Rocher.
It has become one of the things Egyptian youth look forward to every year. They usually can’t wait to see what new versions of Konofa are invented every Ramadan.
Medalaa is a dessert originating from Tanta, the Egyptian land of sweets.
Medalaa is a multi-layer dessert. The bottom layer is made from Basbousa, which is another popular dessert made with semolina batter.
The top layer is made of Konafa. The middle layer consists of cream. Additionally, the whole dessert is topped with caramel sauce.
This dessert was first created just a few years ago, but it quickly gained popularity all over Egypt. You definitely don’t need to go to Tanta to get a Medalaa bite, unless you want to see it in its hometown.
Meshabek is a rounded sweet made of a deep-fried crunchy batter soaked either in honey or sugar syrup.
Its name translates to “twisted,” and that is what it looks like: thick, twisted threads of deliciousness!
It is another dessert originating from Tanta and Damietta to spread all over Egypt.
You can now find Meshabek anywhere in Egypt for a very affordable price. 500 grams of Meshabek costs a little less than a dollar!
Egyptian food has so much to offer. The diversity is breathtaking, and any trip to a food market will open your eyes and senses to some truly incredible food.
It’s quite something to know that some of the dishes on this list have been made for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt.
Those established foods and techniques have laid the foundation for one of Africa’s most vibrant cuisines.
Egypt’s geography means it is surrounded, hence influenced, by some of the world’s most well-known cuisines.
Lining the Mediterranean Sea opens Egypt up to fresh seafood, and many of the classic Mediterranean flavors, such as olive oil and lemon.
Then, the African and Middle-Eastern influence packs the dishes with spices, juices, and plenty of herbs. All bring lots of spice, heat, and zest, in abundance.
All of this combines to create a cuisine that may be lesser-known in the region, but packs so many flavors, textures, and fusions.
So, one final time, here’s the full list of all Egyptian foods covered in this article for reference.
Be sure to have this list of Egyptian food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
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Contributor: Nouran Elsadek is a creative writer and editor, based out of Alexandria, Egypt. She has written for a number of publications in both Arabic and English and is eager to share her writing about Egyptian culture and cuisine with broader audiences.
Images licensed via Shutterstock
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