Egyptian spices are the same as those used in other countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The traditional cuisine in Egypt revolves around intense and complex flavor profiles. Here is a look at some of the essential Egyptian spices for creating the country’s most popular dishes:
Cumin is found in dishes from all over the Middle East and Northern Africa. Its earthy, nutty notes complement an assortment of protein and vegetable dishes. It is a vital part of the flavor profiles of Egyptian dishes like sayadieh, a fish stew from Alexandria. Cumin is also an essential ingredient in the rice and lentil dish known as kushari.
Like cumin, coriander seed is a staple spice in the Middle East. It also belongs to the same family as cumin and is an essential ingredient for cooking the vegetable-based stew known as molokhia.
Dukkah is sometimes spelled duqqa and is Egypt’s blend of spices. It includes a variety of herbs, spices, and nuts. The blend’s ingredients can vary, but the common elements tend to be thyme, garlic, and mint, with hazelnuts being the most popular nut. The resulting mix is highly fragrant and savory with a robust herbaceous element. It is a popular dry rub for roasted meats, including lamb, fish, and poultry.
Egyptian food overall is not particularly spicy in the sense of being loaded with hot chilies. However, heat does play an essential role in some very popular dishes such as the fava bean stew known as ful medames. Ful medames is often referred to simply as ful and is an Egyptian national dish. Egypt has multiple national dishes, including kushari (which sometimes includes hot peppers as well) and molokhia. The peppers used in Egypt are typically cayennes, but any moderately hot pepper may be used as a substitute.
One of the dishes that hold the title of Egypt’s national dish, molokhia refers to the Corchorus olitorius plant. The leaves of the plant are cooked and served in a stew that typically includes chicken or chicken stock. Usually, molokhia is served over rice. The vegetable’s flavor is described as being herbaceous and slightly bitter like spinach. It has a mucilaginous texture similar to that of boiled okra.
Garlic is a key element in the savory flavors of dishes from all over the world. Its pungent sulfur aroma combined with its nuttiness and umami flavor make it an essential component for many savory Egyptian dishes as well. You will need it for sayadieh as well as for other classic dishes from Egypt like ful medames, which is one of the staples of the Egyptian diet. The lamb soup known as fatta (sometimes spelled fatteh) is an example of a popular dish that has garlic as an essential seasoning.
Egyptians love onions and eat them raw, pickled, or cooked in dishes. Red onions are pickled to make basal mekhalel or used to make kushari. Green onions are a popular accompaniment for meals in Egypt and all over the Middle East. They are served raw as sides to dishes like ful medames and hummus.
Egyptians love their hummus and tahini is one of the key ingredients in it, tahini is also served throughout the Middle East on its own, as a condiment or a dipping sauce.