An Exploration of Egyptian Vegetarian Food

One of the most common questions I get about traveling is “isn’t it hard to travel as a vegetarian?” People are often surprised when I tell them about all of the options out there for us veggies. No matter where in the world I am, I can always find delicious, local, vegetarian options. It’s easier and more varied in some countries than in others, but so far the absolute best place I’ve visited for vegetarians is Egypt.

Egypt is famous for incredibly well preserved ancient history, vast deserts and pristine scuba diving, but their mouthwatering vegetarian food should be added to the list of why everyone should explore Egypt as soon as possible. I was very pleasantly surprised by the grand variety of options - admittedly I had low expectations for my food options before I arrived, but the chefs of Egypt very quickly proved me wrong!

The Pyramids of Egypt

A Love Letter to Egyptian Food

Let me start off my love letter to vegetarian Egyptian food with just one word: falafel. This is a heavily debated topic in the region, but I must say that Egyptian falafel blows all other falafel out of the water. Most countries make falafel using chickpeas, but in Egypt they use fava beans, and I think it makes a world of difference. Simultaneously crispy on the outside and lusciously warm and soft on the inside, the perfectly spiced, bright green falafel of Egypt is a godsend for vegetarians visiting the country (and for absolutely anyone with taste buds, for that matter.) Before Egypt, I always thought of falafel as a lunch or dinner food, but during my trip, falafel became a breakfast staple as well. There’s no better way to fuel up for a day of exploring ancient tombs, tropical reefs, or sprawling desert than with a big sampler plate of falafel, tahini, olives, fresh tomato and cucumber, and the salty, tangy cheese called domiati.

As much as I am deeply in love with the falafel, Egypt has tons of other veggie options as well. Every menu I saw listed many delicious soups. Soup may not be the first thing you think of eating when traveling somewhere that can get as hot as Egypt does, but it tastes so good you’ll forget about the heat. Molokhia is one soup that absolutely must be tried on any Egypt trip. It is a green soup made from the leaves of a plant called corchorus. This super green is similar to spinach and is jam packed full of nutrients. It goes well with rice, pita, and any other vegetable dish you like, and is a great way to restore some energy after a long day of adventuring. The soup is usually made with a vegetable broth but some places do use a meat broth, so ask in advance if you are unsure.

Falafel

If you’ve been anywhere in the Meditteranean region (or to a Meditteranean restaurant back home) you’ve probably tasted or heard of stuffed grape leaves. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices are a common dish in the region, and I had eaten it many times on previous trips to Greece. I was surprised to find them on my dinner table in Egypt, but even more surprised by the flavor when I bit into them. While the Greek stuffed grape leaves are a bit more on the sour side, the Egyptian version (called warak enab) is more heavily spiced, a little sweeter, and downright delicious. Everywhere I ate them, they were a little bit different. Some were loaded with mouthwatering fresh mint, while others were a little sweeter with the addition of raisins. Warak enab is a super tasty dish that I wolfed down at every opportunity.

No Egyptian vegetarian food roundup would be complete without a shout out to koshari. Koshari is one of Egypt’s national dishes and is a very popular street food. Made up of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, onions, and a vinegar-tomato sauce, this dish is extremely filling and will keep you on your feet and exploring all day. On top of being hearty and nutrient dense, koshari is extremely cheap, so it is a great way to fuel up for your adventure when you’re traveling on a budget.

I could write forever about all the amazing vegetarian foods Egypt has to offer, but if I did, there’d be nothing left for you to discover! Fiteer baladi, foul medammas, hummus, shakshuka, and so much more is waiting for you in the kitchens of Egypt. Egyptian food is best experienced for yourself, so book your ticket, pack your bag, and prepare your tummy and taste buds for the adventure of a lifetime.

Dara Israel

 


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