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DIY Cairo Food Tour: 5 Must-Eat Egyptian Dishes

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8 months ago

In my opinion, Egyptian cuisine is one of the most underrated gems of Middle Eastern food! Before I spill the secrets of how to organise your DIY Cairo Food Tour, I need to make sure you follow my two golden rules:  

Rule number 1: Put aside everything you think you know about Middle Eastern food! 

Rule number 2: Always save room for dessert (I’ll tell you at the end!) 

a full Egyptian feast in Cairo
The Full Egyptian Feast at my favorite restaurant in Cairo: Mahrous

Egyptian cuisine tells its own story, one deeply intertwined with history and the mingling of diverse culinary traditions. Beyond the pyramids and pharaohs, Egyptian food is a story of cultural fusion, reflecting centuries of influences from Islamic empires, Mediterranean flavors, and colonial interactions.  

And for those who are still questioning ‘is Cairo worth visiting?’, please go spend just 1 day in Cairo eating and then report back to me!

Spread of traditional Jordanian food
Who can say no to a Middle Eastern feast?

Here are my top Egyptian foods that every Cairo food tour must include.

Vegetarians in Cairo

If you are vegetarian or vegan and about to plan a trip to Cairo, Egypt, I am here to calm you down: Egypt is a vegetarian heaven!

fresh pomegranate in cup
You can expect lots of fresh fruit and vegetables across Egypt

Most of my favorite Egyptian foods you should try on this list are completely vegetarian. Of course, I always encourage you to double-check!

Mahshi, stuffed vine leaves or vegetables, is often a safe choice for vegetarians. If you know the Turkish dolma, this is more or less similar!

1. Koshary 

First up on your DIY Cairo Food tour: koshary.

Koshary is Egypt’s ultimate comfort food and a product of centuries of culinary fusion. To understand Koshary is to understand Egyptian food culture itself.  

the first stop on the Cairo Food Tour is Koshary at the legendary Abu Torek
If you ask any Egyptian where to find the best Koshary in Cairo, there is only one correct answer: Abu Torek

Today, koshary is often considered the national dish of Egypt and a symbol of Egypt’s culinary diversity

Koshary’s origins can be traced to the late 19th century when Egypt was under British colonial rule.  

spices chilli peppercorn cumin cinnamon in middle eastern market

Koshary mixes Indian spices, Middle Eastern ingredients, and British culinary traditions, which all come together in a harmonious blend that has captured the hearts and palates of Egyptians for generations. In my opinion, Koshary is probably the most unique dish you can eat during your Cairo trip.  

From London to Jeddah, wherever you can find Egyptians, you will be able to find koshary!

Best place to find koshary in Cairo

Abu Torek is a national institution in Downtown Cairo and a Cairo must-see attraction.

Local tip: The crowds at the entrance of Abu Torek can be overwhelming. Don’t even attempt to order there! Act like a local, push through and head straight upstairs where the friendly waiters will help you.  

2. Taamiya 

Taamiya, the less-famous cousin of falafel, boasts roots that reach back to ancient times, where it held a prominent place in Egyptian cuisine, evolving to suit modern palates. If I’m being completely honest, I much prefer taamiya. I find taamiya a little fluffier, probably due to the dish being made from fava bean (rather than the chickpeas of falafel).  

Don’t forget: never, ever call this falafel!

Top tip: Do not call this dish falafel! You don’t want to offend your Egyptian hosts and, more importantly, give yourself away as an Egypt novice!

Best place to find taamiya in Cairo

Felfela, a popular Egyptian food gem in Downtown Cairo

3. Foul 

Foul, a robust dish of mashed fava beans, is a typical Egyptian dish which has been a culinary staple in Egypt for centuries. With its origins dating back to ancient Egypt, foul stands the test of time. 

Foul sits at the heart of any Egyptian feast!

Foul can be found on the menus of the best restaurants in Zamalek and on the back of dingy street carts in Khan el-Khalili. A popular food in Cairo and a must-eat for anyone traveling for the first time in Egypt.  

Best place to find foul in Cairo

Mahrous Foul in the charming neighborhood of Garden City. Egyptian foodies will know Mahrous, but no Cairo tour guide will ever bring you here!

During my time in Cairo, I would come to Mahrous Foul at least 3x a week. And trust me, if Tarek is around, the foul will be extra excellent!

mahrous foul restaurant
Mahrous Foul also some of my other favorite dishes, like baad iskandirini!

Local tip: Mahrous Foul has some of the most bizarre opening hours, for up-to-date hours always double check with Google Maps.

Mahrous Foul is conveniently located in Garden City and just a short walk from Downtown Cairo. If you want to spend a little more time in Garden City, one of my favorite areas in Cairo.

4. Fiteer Baladi 

The Egyptian answer to pizza, fiteer baladi a typical Egyptian street food. Generally found in the busy bakeries of Cairo, with layers of filo dough and butter, fiteer baladi is a great morning snack. The perfect Egyptian breakfast food or an ideal quick lunch-on-the-go before your Cairo city tour.  

fiteer baladi Egyptian street food snack morning breakfast
The flaky goodness of fiteer baladi

Fiteer baladi will sometimes come with toppings or stuffings – cheese, meat, roast vegetables. Take your pick!

islamic medresa in old cairo
The quiet silence of one of old Cairo’s medresas

Best place to find fiteer baladi in Cairo

The numerous street vendors near Khan El-Khalili, Cairo’s vibrant bazaar district.

Seljuk-era mosque in market
One of my favorite things about Cairo is the way Seljuk-era monuments are just hidden within everyday life

5. Umm Ali  

How can I write a DIY Cairo food tour and not include dessert. Umm Ali takes my award for the best Egyptian dessert.

the last stop on any cairo food tour is dessert. Umm Ali is the Egyptian version of a bread and butter pudding.
Save the best for last: Umm Ali

Imagine an English bread and butter pudding, but with the flavours of the Middle East: cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Umm Ali carries a storied history intertwined with Egyptian royalty and literally means “Ali’s Mother,” with some spectators suggesting the dessert’s origins dates back to the Ayyubid dynasty!

syrian dessert in damascus
In my opinion, Egypt offers a big challenge to the more famous desserts of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon!

Best place to find Umm Ali in Cairo

El Malky, a renowned pastry shop in the heart of Cairo. 

And if you’d rather someone else takes the reins, book a local Cairo food tour for guaranteed amazing flavors and memories.

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