How to find great vegan food in Egypt

It feels like perhaps, outside of Egypt, the best-known Egyptian foods are lamb koftas and meaty shawarmas. It’s understandable therefore that vegans may have some concerns about travelling as a vegan in Egypt. This is, luckily, totally unfounded! Vegan food in Egypt is as abundant as it is delicious.

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Introduction to Vegan Food In Egypt

During our 3 weeks in Egypt, I can honestly say that I did not struggle once, and visiting during Ramadan, there were times when we actually found it harder for my husband, Murray, a well known carnivore, to find the occasional meat dish, than I did to get great vegan food.

It was also one of the few places in Africa where I didn’t need to explain my dietary choices. Often I found in the rest of Africa, people found veganism a very bizarre concept. In Egypt, however, vegetarianism is common, and people often choose to eat no meat on certain days of the week.

We’ve put together a list of the best local vegan Egyptian food you absolutely need to try during your visit.

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A shot from above of a plate of food.

Insurance for travelling through Africa

We all like to think that our travels will always be plain sailing, but the fact is that things can and do go wrong when we travel. Therefore, we always advise having really good travel insurance. We use SafetyWing for our travel medical insurance and absolutely love them because of how simple they are to use.

I will say that for Egypt, we didn’t get sick much, especially from food. It’s always good to be prepared though! Use our pricing calculator below to check the price of your policy.

Vegan Egyptian Food: Meal Staples

Most families in Egypt eat in a communal style. Particularly during Iftah in Ramadan, most families and friends eat together and the concept is very much ‘serve-yourself’. In restaurants, the style is much the same. Portion sizes are generally enormous, so it is usually more manageable to eat this way, rather than ordering individual meals.

It makes sense, because of Egypt’s history, that its food would also be an amalgamation of different cultures. You can expect influences from the Mediterranean, from the rest of Africa and the Middle East, as well as some British and Turkish touches! Many of the staple Egyptian foods are stuffed full of vegetables and super hearty.

A plate of different types of vegan food in Egypt; ta'ameya (falafel) with side dishes of hummus, tahini and baba ghanoush.
Ta’ameya

Ta’ameya

Egypt’s answer to falafel, but ta’ameya has a bit of a twist. Murray doesn’t like falafel at all, but he was happily eating handfuls of this stuff! Instead of chickpeas, ta’ameya is ground fava beans with fresh herbs and spices. The other difference is the shape. Unlike the typical spherical shape of falafel, ta’ameya is flat and disc-shaped. This makes it extra crispy when warm, and stops it being as dense as falafel usually is.

Interestingly, Egyptians often eat ta’ameya for breakfast, along with beans (ful), pita, coriander and tahini.

Ful Madammas

Beans (or ful madammas) in Egypt are another breakfast staple. They are stewed, spiced and often blended to make a dish, which is almost like a sauce. You can buy ful everywhere around breakfast time in Egypt, but many Egyptians also eat them for lunch. If you’re on a budget, ta’ameya or ful can be a great option from many of Cairo’s fast-food restaurants. They come in a pita and make the perfect snack or lunch food!

A bowl of koshari, which is macaroni, tomatoes, rice, vermicelli, lentils and chickpeas
This is Koshari

Koshari

Koshari is the national dish of Egyptian and it’s naturally vegan. It’s hearty, it’s delicious and it’s weird all at once. Essentially you make koshari by combining every carb you can think of and mixing them all together. It contains: pasta, rice, vermicelli noodles, chickpeas, lentils, topped with a tomato sauce, crispy onion, garlic juice, garlic vinegar and hot sauce. One of the most popular places to eat koshari (and somewhere you get a bit of a show) is Abou Tarek.

Abou Tarek is actually, strangely enough, a fast food restaurant and it only serves one thing: koshari. It’s worth noting that because we had absolutely no idea from what we saw online. You do get a little bit of a show, in that the koshari is assembled in front of you, but just don’t go expecting major theatrics or a high end restaurant. It’s a chain cafe, but it is still very nice and definitely one of the best places to find koshari in Cairo. We’d highly recommend it for a lunchtime and you can find them all over Cairo. Plus you can see photos of the famous Abou Tarek himself!

Moussaka/Musqaea

A disclaimer on this one: of course, moussaka is usually not vegan, so be very careful. We found that quite a few places we visited (such as Oldish) served either vegan moussaka or something called ‘musqaea’. We can’t find any mention of this online, but we saw it in lots of places! Either way, it was a tomato and aubergine stew, sometimes with other vegetables, such as okra and peppers.

A platter of beautiful spun sugar Egyptian sweets
Egyptian Sweets

Vegan Sides and Dips

Dips

On of the best parts of meals in Egypt is the dips. Tahini, hummus and baba ghanoush are a key part of almost every meal and it’s a dream for a vegan in Egypt! It really is the best complement to any part of the meal, be it pita bread, ta’ameya or salad. We found that in most restaurants, the tahini in particular would just be complimentary, along with a salad.

Taboulleh and Fattoush

Taboulleh is a herby, bulgur wheat salad, with the main ingredient being parsley. It goes so well with hummus, tahini or pita bread, it’s an absolute must with any Egyptian meal.

Fattoush is a typical side salad in Egypt. It’s usually tomatoes, red onions, sumac, mint and parsley. Both are great additions to the meal and almost always available.

Olives

We found olives were more common in Siwa than anywhere else in Egypt. They are a delicacy in the area and they’re huge! Absolutely one to try if you visit this side of the country.

Vegan Egyptian Sweets

It is definitely true that many Egyptians have a real sweet tooth! We found that every time we ate with Egyptian friends or local families, they’d whip out a box of delicious pastry treats as soon as the main meal was over. Egyptian sweets come in many forms, and look a little like baklava. Normally, we found they came in variety packs, but you can order them individually in restaurants.

I tended to steer away from the cakey sweets, as I couldn’t be sure if they were made with eggs or milk, but the filo pastry sweets were mostly a safe bet, as they tend to be made with sugar syrup rather than honey. For full transparency, I only checked this informally with a local friend. Although he seemed confident, it’s not a 100% guarantee, so if you’re worried, you can always stick with dates. Dates are another speciality of Siwa, and they are delicious in Egypt!

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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