What's your favorite breakfast in Egypt

Eating and drinking in Egypt

Ful with fried egg and bastirma

Traveling to Egypt is popular - the country can offer culture, beaches, underwater world and much more. However, very few people know the culinary side: many tourists stay in hotels that have often adapted their catering to European customs. On the other hand, the home kitchen of the Egyptians is not very present in public; and when Egyptians go to a restaurant it is to enjoy something unusual.


Grave lord Setau and his wife at the sacrificial table, grave of Setau in el-Kab

It is worthwhile: Egypt is definitely in a position to produce high-quality foods that are also used in local dishes. However, the Egyptian cuisine does not reach the level of one Haute cuisine.

Strictly speaking, there is no Egyptian cuisine. Egypt belonged to the Ottoman Empire between 1517 and 1798. This has also left clear traces in eating habits: today's Egyptian cuisine is predominantly Turkish, supplemented by culinary elements from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Greece and from our own past, without completely copying them.

The culinary past can also be studied in the private graves of ancient Egypt. The dishes of the ancient Egyptians included bread, beer, onions, emmer, cattle, fish, game and poultry.

Legumes and vegetables are strong in the dishes, but meat and fish are less common. The cuisine is not necessarily vegetarian, but meat and fish products are much more expensive and more special. Oil, particularly olive oil, is used, but not to the extent that the Greeks used it. Spices are definitely used, but not to the exaggerated degree that is known from Asia.

Of course, the development of Egyptian cuisine does not stand still. So it is very popular among the Egyptians to at least imitate the delicacies of other countries with the local means. Noodles, pizzas, french fries and much more have become indispensable in the local kitchen.

On the search for clues

But if you want to go looking for culinary traces, it is not that easy. There are no restaurants with a full range of local beverages and dishes. So you have to keep your eyes open when strolling through the cities and villages in order to get the most comprehensive picture possible.

  • A walk through the markets and through the grocery stores gives an insight into the range of fruit, vegetables, nuts and spices. The range of meat products made from sheep, lamb and beef is rather sobering, as it is not common practice for European butchers to cut up the animals. The range of fish is usually better where it is offered.
  • At many stalls in the markets and in the streets you can find local fast food and thus get a little idea of ​​what is being served on the local tables. It is not uncommon for there to be only one dish at the stands. In the last few years, restaurants that offer a larger range of traditional fast food and form a real counterbalance to the international fast food chains have also become more popular in the big cities.
  • For the upscale dishes, there are of course restaurants that can be found in the major cities and hotels. In addition to the restaurants with predominantly local cuisine, there are also restaurants with Lebanese cuisine, which is very similar to the Egyptian one. At least the difference between Egyptian and Lebanese lentil soup is just their name.
  • Those who are lucky enough to be invited by Egyptians naturally also have a direct route to local food. However, the hosts will not spoil themselves and only offer dishes of the upper class. Somewhat cheaper, of course, is an unplanned conversation on the street or in the office, where you could possibly be invited to eat with the everyday.

Meals during the day

There is no such strict division into breakfast, lunch and dinner in Egypt.

A breakfast as such can in principle still be identified. The lunch and dinner tables can be very similar. Those who can afford it and are hungry will put together their dish from a soup, various side dishes (mezze), the main course and one or the other sweet for dessert. The midday meal is eaten between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and the communion more or less long after dark. Drinks are of course also served, mostly water. In no case alcohol.

In everyday life, especially among the poorer population, it can happen that lunch and dinner are very similar to breakfast.

There are significant cuts in the daily routine in the fasting month of Ramadan (رمضان, Ramaḍān), in which no meals are taken at all during the day. Breakfast is before daybreak, the second meal, the breaking of the fast, only after dark. This meal can be very generous; so it is not surprising that food prices rise sharply during this time. In addition, tables with food, mostly sweets, are set up in the streets for the poor or for people passing by. Even among Christians there are sometimes very extended periods of fasting in which the consumption of meat is avoided.

In a small group - in the family or in the office - it is quite common to eat by hand just with the right. The left hand is considered unclean and must not touch the food. The Arab flatbread that is always included serves as a replacement for cutlery. After the meal, of course, you wash your hands. As a compromise, sometimes at least spoons are provided. In restaurants, of course, people always eat with cutlery.

Fruits, vegetables and spices in the markets

The range of fruit and vegetables is - at least in the big cities - very rich. Of course, the offer depends more on the seasons than in other European countries. Usually the food is sold in the markets, but there are also grocery stores in the big cities.

Popular types of fruit include:

  • Pineapple (أناناس, Pineapple),
  • Apples (تفاح, Tufāḥ),
  • Oranges (برتقال, Burtuqāl),
  • Apricots (مشمش, Mixed mix),
  • Bananas (موز, Mauz, spoken: Mūz),
  • Pears (كمثرى, Kummaṯra),
  • Dates (بلح, Balaḥ),
  • Strawberries (فراولة, Farāula),
  • Figs (تين, Tīn),
  • Pomegranates (رمان, Rummān),
  • Guava (جوافة, Ǧūafa),
  • Cherries (كرز, Karaz),
  • Mango (مانجو, Mānǧū),
  • Peaches (خوخ, Chauch),
  • Plums (برقوق, Barqūq),
  • Watermelons (بطيخ, Baṭṭīch) and
  • Grapes (عنب, in from).

Some of the fruit is pressed into fresh fruit juices at stalls in the markets.

Fruit and vegetable bazaar in Cairo, Taufiqiya St.
Fruit at the fruit and vegetable bazaar in Cairo
Okra at the fruit and vegetable bazaar in Cairo

The vegetables include:

  • Eggplant (eggplant, باذنجان, Bāḏinǧān),
  • Pods of bamya (بامية, Bāmiya, Okra, vegetable marshmallow),
  • Cauliflower (قرنبيط, Qarnabīṭ, spoken: ʾArnabīṭ),
  • Beans:
    • Green beans (فاصوليا خضراء, Fāṣūliyā chaḍrāʾ),
    • Broad beans (فول, Ful),
  • Watercress (جرجير, Ǧarǧīr),
  • Peas (بازلا, Bāzillā),
  • Cucumbers (خيار, Chiyār),
  • Chickpeas (حمص, Ḥimmiṣ, spoken: Ḥummuṣ),
  • Carrots (جزر, Ǧazar),
  • Potatoes (بطاطس, Baṭāṭis),
  • sweet potatoes (بطاطا, Baṭāṭā),
  • Garlic (ثوم, Ṯūm),
  • Cabbage:
    • White cabbage (كرنب, Kurumb),
    • Red cabbage (كرنب أحمر, Kurumb aḥmar),
  • Pumpkin قرع (بلدي), Qaraʿ (baladī),
  • Leeks (كراث, Curate),
  • Lentils (عدس, ʿAds),
  • Lupine (ترمس, Turmus / Tirmis),
  • Corn (ذرة, Ḏurra),
  • Paprika (فلفل أحمر, Filfil aḥmar, "Red pepper"),
  • Parsley (بقدونس, Baqdūnis),
  • Radish (فجل, Fuǧl),
  • Different types of beet:
    • White turnip (لفت, lift),
    • Beetroot, beetroot (شمندر, Shamandar),
  • Celery (كرفس, Karafs),
  • Spinach (سبانخ, Sabānach),
  • Tomatoes (طماطم, Ṭamāṭim),
  • Wheat, green wheat grains (فرك, Firik),
  • Lemons (ليمون, Laimūn),
  • Zucchini (قرع كوسى, Qaraʿ kūsā) and
  • Onions (بصل, Baṣal).

Not to be overlooked are the stalls with spices, most of which are sold straight out of the sacks. As a rule, these are the seeds of the plants mentioned that are used for seasoning. The spices offered include:

Spices and vegetables in bags
Salted and roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Anise (ينسون, Yansūn) for drinks,
  • Chilli (شطة, Schaṭṭa),
  • Dill (شبث, Shabaṯṯ or Shibiṯṯ),
  • Ginger (زنجبيل, Zanǧabīl),
  • Cardamom (حبهان, Ḥabbahān). The mostly lightly roasted seeds are used for soups and stews,
  • Coriander (كزبرة, Kuzbara),
  • Cumin (كمون, Kammun),
  • Caraway (كراويا, Karāwiyā),
  • Turmeric, turmeric (كركم, Turmeric), yellow dye, significantly cheaper than saffron
  • Laurel (ورقة الغار, Waraqa al-ghār),
  • Swiss chard (سلق, Silq) for stews,
  • Mastic مصطقى, Maṣṭiqā, also (مستكة, Mastika),
  • Mint (نعناع, Naʿnāʿ),
  • Nutmeg (جوز الطيب, Ǧūz aṭ-Ṭīb),
  • Carnations (قرنفل, Qurunful, spoken: ʾUrunfil),
  • Parsley (بقدونس, Baqdūnis),
  • Pepper (فلفل, Filfil),
  • Safflower (عصفر, ʿUṣfur, also Färberdiestel) for pickling vegetables or for coloring rice,
  • Saffron (زعفران, Zaʿfrān),
  • Sesame (سمسم, Simsim),
  • Sumac (سماق, Summāq, spoken: Summāʾ) as a seasoning for chicken, often used in conjunction with thyme,
  • Thyme (زعتر, Zaʿtar) and
  • Cinnamon (قرفة, Qirfa, spoken: ʾIrfa).

Onions and garlic, which are particularly popular in salads, are particularly widespread. Roasted or caramelized onions are also used to decorate lentil soup and kuschari.

For standard applications such as Fūl, spice mixtures (بحيرات, Buḥairāt) offered.

Egyptian cuisine also includes:

  • Butter (زبدة, Zibda),
  • Honey (عسل, ʿAsal),
  • Cheese (جبنة, Ǧibna),
  • Olive oil (زيت الزيتون, Zait az-zaitūn),
  • Vinegar (خل, Chall),
  • Salt (ملح, Milḥ) and
  • Sugar (سكر, Sukkar).

Bread is life

Bread is without a doubt the staple food in Egypt. It is not called Chubs (Arabic: خبس), but ʿAisch baladī (عيش بلدي). The fact that ʿAisch actually means life shows the importance of bread. When food prices rose in Egypt in the spring of 2008, bread also affected, which caused turmoil at the sales outlets for subsidized bread.

The flatbread consists of lightly salted wheat yeast dough that is baked directly on the floor of a stone oven, is one to two centimeters thick and has a diameter of 15 to 20 centimeters. It's hollow inside; when the bread is fresh it looks puffed up. Over time, the loaves collapse. The bread is similar to the Greek one pita bread or the Turkish Pide.

Bread is served with all meals, including celebratory meals. One usually tears off a piece of bread. Since it is hollow on the inside, it is well suited for the inclusion of other foods, so that in principle you could do without cutlery.


The breakfast (فطور, Fuṭūr) is usually more Spartan than the other two meals. It mostly consists of beans (فول, Ful, spoken with a long “u”), falafel (Ta'miya), mixed salad, sheep's cheese, scrambled eggs, fried eggs or omelets. Bastirma is occasionally used as meat. A breakfast with bread, butter, sausage and / or jam like in Europe is not known in Egyptian cuisine.

The national dish in Egypt are the broad beans, namely those cooked and served in oil: Fūl midammis. There are also some variants, including with mashed beans.

  • Boiled beans (fūl) in oil (فول مدمس, Fūl midammis). The name comes from the vessel, the dammasa, a bulbous metal pot with a small opening in which the beans are cooked.
  • Fūl with olive oil (فول بزيت الزيتون, Fūl bi-zait az-zaitūn). Fūl can be served cold or hot with different types of oil. The best oil is that of olives,
  • Fūl with sauce (فول بالصلصة, Fūl biṣ-Ṣalṣa), thereby pounding the beans. Tahini is usually used as a sauce, but tomato sauce, for example, would also be conceivable.
  • Fūl with sausage (فول بالسجق, Fūl bis-Suǧuq),
  • Fūl with bastirma and fried egg and much more.
Falafel are baked in oil
The ingredients and the peeled and soaked broad beans overnight are chopped up and mixed together. Mixing can be done in a meat grinder, for example.Other ingredients, based on 300 grams of beans, include: two to three onions, half a cup each of parsley, chives, dill and coriander leaves, garlic and salt to taste, a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of chili or cayenne pepper and a teaspoon of baking soda. The mixture is left to stand for about an hour. Now you shape the balls either round with a diameter of three centimeters or as discs up to about 10 centimeters in diameter. Finally, you can garnish the surface with sesame seeds. The balls are now baked in boiling oil. Falafel are never fried!

Falafel (فلافل, Falāfil) or Ta'miya (طعمية, Ṭaʿmīya). The same thing is hidden behind both terms. The term falafel is mainly used in Alexandria and on the Mediterranean coast, while Ta'miya in Cairo and the Nile Valley. In contrast to other Arab countries, not chickpeas but broad beans are used for their production. Here, too, there are several variants of the popular dish:

  • Ta'miya (طعمية, Ṭaʿmīya),
  • Ta'miya with Bastirma (طعمية بالبسطرمة, Ṭaʿmīya bil-Basṭirma),
  • Omelette with ta'miya,
  • Chick eye (عين الكتكوت, ʿAyn al-kutkūt), while the Ta'miya batter surrounds a boiled egg.

Egg dishes are also part of the breakfast. On the one hand, these are:

  • boiled eggs (بيض مسلوق, Baiḍ maslūq) and
  • fried eggs (e.g. scrambled or fried eggs, بيض مقلى, Baiḍ miqlan). Scrambled eggs can be mixed well with Bastirma.

Eggs are also used for omelets. Omelette (أومليت, Umlīt), more rarely ʿUǧǧa / ʿIǧǧa (عجة) used. Omelets are also prepared in different variants:

  • Pure omelette,
  • Omelette with vegetables, peppers and onions,
  • Omelette with cheese (أومليت جبنة, Umlīt Ǧubna),
  • Omelette with bastirma (أومليت بسطرمة, Umlīt Basṭirma),
  • Omelette with sausage (أومليت سجق, Umlīt Suǧuq).

Occasionally you can also find pancakes for breakfast.

Shakschūka (شكشوكة) is a specialty. It is a scrambled egg mixed with tomatoes and onions. In Alexandria, halved boiled eggs in a tomato and onion sauce are also sold under this name.

Meat and sausage are occasionally used separately or as part of fillings or egg dishes. These are:

  • Basterma, also pastrami (بسطرمة, Basṭirma). This is salted beef back meat pickled in a garlic-spice mixture, which is then dried and cut into thin slices.
  • Suǧuq (سجق, "sausage"). This is spiced sausage made from beef.

For the hunger in between

For snacking in between, there are stalls in the markets and on the streets

  • Lupine seeds,
  • Nuts, mostly peanuts, and
  • roasted corn on the cob

Tobe offered.

Starters and side dishes

Starters or side dishes (Hors d'œuvre, Mezze, Arabic: مازة, Māza) are served with all meals. These are mostly salads, boiled eggs, raw liver, pies, peppers, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and beets. There is no strict separation between starters and side dishes for the main dishes.


Under salads (Arabic: سلطة, Salaṭa) in Egypt one not only includes salads in the real sense, this also includes various sauces (صلصة, Ṣalṣa) and pastes. They are usually eaten with bread. The choice can be very large in good restaurants. At the top of the popularity list are the green cucumber and tomato salad, as well as tahini sauce and baba ghanug. Here are some important sauces and salads:


Tahini sauce
Tahini is made from sesame seeds and is available in grocery stores. It is refined for use as a sauce. Tahini is mixed well with lemon juice and vinegar in a ratio of about 6: 2: 1. In a second vessel, grind cumin (about one sixth of the amount of tahini) with a little salt and a pinch of pepper; if you like, you can also add garlic. This spice mixture is mixed in with the tahini mixture. Finally, dilute the sauce with water in one to one and a half times the amount of tahini and stir until the sauce becomes smooth. Optionally, you can also add parsley and grated onions.

With the exception of Baba Ghanug, the brackets always contain the Arabic abbreviation. Completely one would put in front of the short name Salaṭa and put the article in front of the short name.

  • Tahini sauce (طحينة, Ṭahīna),
  • Baba Ghanug (بابا غنوج, Bābā Ghanūǧ), this is a tahini sauce made with eggplant,
  • Biṣāra (بصارة), thick porridge made from green beans, parsley and garlic,
  • Béchamel sauce (باشميل, Bāshamīl), a cream sauce,
  • Yogurt sauce (لبنة, Labna),
  • Cheese sauce (جبنة, Ǧibna),
  • Chickpea sauce (حمص, Ḥimmiṣ, spoken: Ḥummuṣ),
  • Milk or yoghurt sauce (كشك, Kishk), thick sauce made from milk, sour milk or yoghurt, sometimes with the addition of chicken broth and / or Burghul (grated wheat grains), is occasionally also dried,
  • Lemon sauce (ليمون, Laimūn).


The Arabic abbreviation is always in the brackets. Completely one would put in front of the short name Salaṭa and put the article in front of the short name.

Who to Kolslo (Arabic: كولسلو ، كول سلو, English Cole slaw, Dutch Koolsla) searches on the Internet will quickly be redirected to this page. Therefore, here is the Egyptian recipe: Mix 3 tablespoons of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 12 teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a glass or a pack of yogurt. Then add the white cabbage cut into narrow strips (a small head), some iceberg or lettuce leaves cut into pieces and a grated carrot and stir everything until it is well mixed. Keep the salad in the refrigerator until you need it. It takes about a quarter of an hour to prepare.
  • Green salad (سلطة خضراء, Salaṭa chaḍrāʾ) made from cucumber and tomatoes,
  • Eggplant salad (باذنجان, Bāḏinǧān),
  • Duqqa (دقة, Duqqa) is an appetizer made from finely chopped nuts with spices and flavors,
  • Mixed parsley salad (تبولة, Tabbūlā), in addition to parsley, burghul (grated wheat grains), mint, onions, spices, lemon juice and oil are added to the salad,
  • Green Bean Salad (فاصوليا خضراء, Fāṣūliyā chaḍrāʾ),
  • Kolslo (كولسلو, Kōlslō), this is a white cabbage salad in yogurt and mayonnaise sauce,
  • Garlic Salad (ثومية, Ṯūmīya),
  • Mayonnaise Salad (خضار مايونيز, Chaār māyūnīz, "Vegetables with mayonnaise"), the salad consists of beet and potato cubes, green peas and mayonnaise,
  • Beet salad (بنجر, Banǧar, "Turnip"),
  • Salad made from vegetables pickled in vinegar and spices (طرشي مشكل, Ṭurschī muschakkal, "Various vinegar fruits"), carrots, turnips, cucumbers and onions are usually added to the salad,
  • Tomato salad (طماطم, Ṭamāṭim).


lentil soup
About 500 g of peeled yellow (or red) lentils, an onion, a tomato and a carrot, of course finely chopped, are added to one liter of water and brought to the boil. Salt and cumin are added while stirring. The soup is then left to cook for 15 minutes. You can add oil or butter and lemon juice to the finished soup. Finally, roasted onions are sprinkled on top of the soup. Sometimes vermicelli is also added to the lentil soup.

Soups are one of the main meals. They are eaten before the meat dishes. The word for soup شوربة, Shūrba or (شربة, Shurba) is derived from the root word Shariba (شرب) for drink off, i.e. they were originally drunk and not eaten with a spoon.

The number one soup is lentil soup, which is made from peeled yellow lentils. The main season for this soup is winter; however, it should be offered in good restaurants all year round.

The following is a list of the most popular soups:

  • Lentil soup (شوربة عدس, Shūrbat ʿads),
  • Tomato soup (شوربة الطماطم, Shūrbat aṭ-ṭamāṭim) or tomato cream soup (شوربة الطماطم بالكريمة, Shūrbat aṭ-ṭamāṭim bil-krīma),
  • Chicken soup (شوربة الفراخ, Shūrbat al-farāǧ),
  • Vegetable soup (شوربة الخضار, Shūrbat al-chaḍār),
  • Broad bean soup (شوربة فول نابت, Shūrbat fūl nābit),
  • Noodle soup,
  • Malūchīya (ملوخية. Malūchīya (Corchorus olitorius) is a leafy vegetable similar to spinach, which is also called long-capsule jute, muskraut or vegetable poplar. The vegetables can be prepared as a soup or dark green sauce for meat dishes. Similar to Kuscharī, Malūchīya is typically Egyptian.
  • Taro soup (شوربة قلقاس, Shūrbat Qulqās). The soup is made from the leaves and the diced tuber of the taro plant and is a typical winter dish.

Main meals

Fast food

Traditional fast food includes the following dishes in particular, which are very popular among the population:

  • half a flatbread filled with falafel and salad,
  • Kusharī (كشري). In Cairo and other cities, kushari has become the most popular main meal because it is also inexpensive. This is a mixture of cooked noodles (mostly small pieces of macaroni), rice and lentils. There is about one cup of rice and one lentil per 125 grams of pasta. Tomato sauce, some chili sauce and roasted or caramelized onions are added to this mixture, although the tomato sauce can also contain minced meat. Kusharī is now considered the Egyptian national dish,
  • Shawarma (شاورما, Shawarma), this corresponds to the Turkish Doner, in Egypt with lamb, beef or poultry, usually offered in a sandwich or flatbread,
  • fried chicken (فراخ, Firach),
  • occasionally fried liver (كبد, Kabid, spoken: also Kibd) or fish (سمك, Samak) offered.
  • From Alexandria, Ḥawāuschī (also Hawawshy, Hawawshi, Arabic: حواوشي) its triumphal march over the country. It is bread or pizza dough that is wrapped in minced meat seasoned with onions, salt, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom and / or chilli. The minced meat mixture is either placed between two layers of dough or enclosed in the shape of a lentil, pressed wide and then baked. Ḥawāuschī should be enjoyed fresh from the oven.

Rice and pasta dishes

Although also part of meat dishes, there are also individual dishes with rice or noodles. These are, for example:

  • Mahschi (محشي, Maḥschī), this is seasoned rice with eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, which is often rolled up in vine leaves (محشي ورق عنب, Maḥschī waraq ʿinab, "Mahschi in grape leaves"), and
  • Macaroni-Béchamel-Casserole (مكرونة باشميل, Makarūna Bāshamīl), this is a casserole made from macaroni, bechamel sauce and a thin layer of minced meat.

Meat and poultry dishes

Main dishes are meat, poultry or fish dishes. They are served with rice, french fries, pasta or couscous and a salad.

Meat (لحم, Laḥm) comes from the calf لحم عبل, Laḥm ʿibl or (لحم بتلو, Laḥm batilū), Beef (لحم كندوز, Laḥm kandūz), Lamb (لحم حمل, Laḥm ḥamal), Mutton (لحم ضاني, Laḥm Ḍānī), Buffalo (لحم جاموسي, Laḥm ǧāmūsī), Camel (لحم جملي, Laḥm ǧamalī) or rabbit (أرنب, Arnab). Pork is one of the forbidden foods in the Islamic world.

Meat is usually cooked or grilled. It is usually grilled over charcoal. The exceptions are lamb chops and sirloin steaks. Some important examples are given below:

  • Fatta (فتة,