12 of the Best Egyptian Foods and Dishes You Have to Try

By Margaux | Updated Aug. 23, 2022

You learn so much about a nation through its cuisine and most popular dishes, that's why we recommend trying as many different Egyptian dishes as possible during your time in Egypt!

In order to familiarize yourself with some of the dishes before you arrive in Egypt, we've made a list of 12 must-eat dishes that you will find while you are there, what they're made of, and how you can expect to eat them if they come with special instructions!

1. Koshary

A mixture of rice, macaroni, chickpeas and boiled brown lentils, koshary is served with onions and a red sauce made from tomatoes and garlic, and is actually Egypt's national dish. The dish is also often served with additional vinegar and hot sauce, or sometimes you'll get garlic juice with it.

In Alexandria, koshary often also comes with grilled liver, and instead of with brown lentils it is made with yellow lentils. This rendition of the dish also includes curry and cumin, giving it a more yellow color and changing the flavors slightly.

You will find koshary on the menu at many restaurants throughout Egypt, but you'll also see it being offered up at street stalls as its an inexpensive and quick meal.

Traditional Egyptian food: KosharyTraditional Egyptian food: Koshary

2. Foul Medames and Taameya

Egyptian Food: TaameyaEgyptian Food: Taameya

A popular breakfast food in Egypt, and a staple of Egyptian cuisine, foul medames is a fava bean stew that is slow-cooked and spiced with cumin, lemon, oil, pepper, salt, parsley, butter and onion. The beans are cooked in a pot known as a qedra. The dish can be served with the fava beans whole, or sometimes they are mashed together.

Foul medames often comes together with taameya, which is like falafel made of fava beans and greens, shaped into small balls and deep fried. These are the perfect dishes for vegetarians during their time touring Egypt.

3. Mahshy

Mahshy is a dish that includes a range of different vegetables that are stuffed with a spiced rice mixture. You might have come across this dish in other countries under the name dolma (for example in Syria and Iraq).

A great option for vegetarians, the veggies that are stuffed include zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Often, leaves are also used to wrap the rice, including cabbage leaves, vine or grape leaves, or even turnip leaves.

The non-vegetarian version can also include a cow's intestine being stuffed with rice, mixed greens and tomatoes — this version is called mombar.  

4. Hamam Mahshi

A dish that goes back many centuries, and that you likely will not get in many other countries, is stuffed pigeon, called hamam mahshi in Egyptian Arabic. Pigeons are common in Egypt, with many families along the Nile River raising them.

The pigeons are boiled first, and then stuffed with one of many stuffings: spicy grains (freekeh, a cracked wheat), rice or bulgar wheat, as well as a sauce made of tomatoes and onions. Sometimes chefs will also include some of the pigeons organs in the stuffing, like their kidneys or heart.

The pigeons are then finished off in the oven or deep-fried. The long preparation makes this dish a treat and it is not usually eaten on normal occasions, but you'll still find it on restaurant menus if you want to try it.

To eat hamam mahshi, Egyptians use their hands.

5. Tarb

A twist on the usual kofta, tarb is similar to kofta but then wrapped again in a layer of lamb fat and grilled until it is golden brown.

If you're not familiar with kofta, kofta is spiced minced meat with onions, similar to a meatball but longer rather than round. You can find kofta in many different cuisines, including Turkish, Indian, Iranian, Lebanese and Greece, meaning you've likely tried it before or seen it on a menu somewhere!

While in Egypt you can find tarb at most restaurants that have grilled meats, as it is a really popular dish eaten with side salads and pita bread.

6. Halabesa

Halabesa is an Egyptian soup made of chickpeas, that is served in a glass or a cup with a straw. The straw is used to drink the soup, and you use a spoon to eat the chickpeas.

To prepare this soup, chickpeas are soaked overnight and are then boiled together with tomato, garlic, onion, and a range of different spices. It is suitable for vegetarians, too.

You'll be able to find many stalls selling halabesa by the river at night, or you will find it on most menus at restaurants too if you'd like to give it a go. While most popular in the winter months, it is available year-round.

7. Molokhiya

Another popular soup in Egypt is molokhiya, a soup made up of jute leaves or molokhiya green leaves. The leaf is often compared to spinach but slightly different.

One thing to note is that because molokhiya is similar to marshmallow (the plant, not the candy) and okra, it creates a mucus-like texture when it is cooked, so it can be a little slimy as a dish!

Molokhiya is made in different ways depending on where in Egypt you are, but usually it is made with garlic, tomatoes and ghee making it a great winter dish full of nutrients. Jute leaves also allegedly are said to boost immunity due to being rich in many vitamins, be good for sleep, help eyesight, and act as a digestion aid. No reason not to give it a try!

8. Feseekh

Egyptian Food - Fesikh or FeseekhEgyptian Food - Fesikh or Feseekh

Feseekh is fermented and salted mullet fish commonly eaten in Egypt, and allegedly it has been eaten since ancient Egyptian times.

Feseekh is often served alongside green onions, some pita bread, and sometimes also herring. A time you might find feseekh is during Sham Al Nessim, an Egyptian celebration that celebrates spring.

This dish is quite a smelly one because it is a fermented and salted fish, but you should give it a go if you come across it on a menu. Most Egyptians either hate feseekh or love it.

9. Fiteer Baladi

Fiteer baladi is almost like an Egyptian rendition of a pizza or a pie, baked in a brick oven. The dish is made of layers of filo pastry, and while originally served plain you can now get it with meats (minced lamb for example, or chicken), cheeses, vegetables, or even in a sweeter version with syrup, honey and sugar.

The fillings are put inside (not on top), but if you go for the plain version we recommend trying it with the molasses and tahini the fiteer is often served with.

You can find fiteer baladi at market stalls when you are out and about, and makes a good snack on-the-go and between meals. However, this is definitely not a lightweight snack so we recommend sharing with others!

10. Keshk

A more traditional and old-fashioned dish, keshk is a savory pudding or porridge that is made out of flour, milk, and yogurt. There are two common versions of keshk, either shrimp or chicken.

On top you will usually find fried caramelized onion pieces to top it off and add some texture!

11. Om Ali

Looking for an Egyptian dessert to finish off your meal? Look no further. Om Ali translates as "Ali's mother," and is basically an Egyptian version of bread pudding.

Allegedly, it was named after Sultan Ezz El Din Aybak's first wife, when she murdered his second wife Shajaret El Dorr and then called for the creation of a new dessert in order to celebrate!

Om Ali is made with bread or pastry soaked in milk, sugar and butter, and baked off with coconut flakes, pistachios, raisins, honey, and sometimes cream. On top you will either find nuts, more butter, or even whipped cream, and sometimes people also add almond flakes into this dish.

Besides being a popular Egyptian dessert found in both fancy and inexpensive restaurants, or even at markets, it is also often found at weddings. Similar to bread pudding in the United Kingdom, this dessert is best eaten with a spoon!

12. Meshabek

Another common Egyptian dessert is meshabek, a round pastry that is made of flour, cornstarch, oil and sugar, which is then deep fried and soaked in honey or sugar. The name translates to twisted, because the dessert looks like twisted threads, almost similar to funnel cake.

It is not only found in Egypt, but you may have come across a similar dessert in either Iran or India, where it is often known as jalebi.

You'll find meshabek throughout the entire country, often sold by the gram. Market stalls are a good place to start your search for meshabek!

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