Talking about the civilization of ancient Egyptian people, we’ll remember the great sphinx and pyramids, as well as the notorious beauty Cleopatra and their innovative civilization which invented and laid the foundation of various knowledge we have today. This civilization resided near the banks of Nile was truly a prodigy in their time. Accordingly, as people say ‘the foods you eat define what you are’, the Egyptian diet was likely as advanced as their creation was. And indeed, thank you to the Nile River which flooded their land annually, the Egyptian had a fertile land that allowed them to consume better staples than other ancient civilization. Their culinary habit could be seen from paintings on the tombs and walls where it depicts the lifestyle when they’re still alive. In addition, the sample of food remnants around the tombs which apparently used as an offering for the deceased also gave a great input for the archeologist to track the diet that made the ancient Egyptian as a remarkable civilization they were. Thus without further ado, let’s dig a little further to the top 10 popular ancient Egyptian Food which was served for their daily diet
One of the most popular ancient Egyptian foods is milk and other dairy products. Although this staple wasn’t widely consumed by all the Egypt population, milk and dairy products were a common diet for the upper-class Egyptians. It’s usually enjoyed for their morning routine, which was rather an exclusive diet.
Milk and other dairy products became a popular culinary habit in ancient Egypt because people saw benefits of cattle raising practices. Accordingly, the cattle business was the emblem of prestige as the products were exclusive for the people with fortune. It eventually became a popular sector and so it made a clear mark in their diets. While bulls were raised to do the farm work, other livestock such as goat and cow were raised to provide milk. The milk then later used to make other dairy products like curd, whey, and milk cream which were favorite delicacies for many ancient Egyptians.
However, despite the fame it had among the Egyptians, milk and dairy products were forbidden staples in some belief, depending on the gods they followed. Hence, although it’s a popular diet, milk and dairy products were limited for some reasons.
If someone happens to tell you that the ancient Egyptian was advanced in their culinary creation, believe them. The Egyptians were the creator of juice which enjoyed by a lot of people for centuries. Although it wasn’t as popular as other fruit products like wine, juice still made a major breakthrough in the ancient Egyptian diets.
Unlike the juice we have nowadays, however, the Egyptian had their juice mostly from the citrusy fruit group which would be mix with sweetener to enrich the taste. For that, they usually added honey. In addition, they also used grape and figs which they would squeeze it until the last drop and until the fruits were totally drained to be enjoyed as syrup.
For the sweetening purpose, while honey was their best choice, raisins, figs and the roof of Chuba (a common plant which grew in the marshes of Delta) also became the varieties of sweetener for their juice.
Before Egypt imported fruits such as apple and olive from their neighbor around the regime of Hyksos, fruits were already a popular staple loved by the majority of Egyptian. In fact, they had numerous variations for it which proved and tracked through the paintings on the wall and the remnants around the tombs.
Since their land was blessed by the Nile with annual floods, it made the land highly fertile for agricultural sectors like fruits and vegetables. Hence, the Egyptian could enjoy variants of fruits since it was an abundant commodity in their land. What makes it surprising is that the land was so fertile, it got to a point in which documenting every fruit consumed by them becomes a tough job.
However, we could narrow down the popular fruits in the ancient Egyptian staples by focusing on the fruits which were commonly found in the remains of several tombs. Seemingly, the Egyptian loved to have fruits from high sugar and protein group. Grapes, figs, melons, and dates are the few names which were often found in their staples. On a different note, the rich Egyptians had high anticipation for coconuts. This imported luxury was an exclusive culinary habit in the antiquity time of Egypt.
It’s not a secret that to get a great mind, anyone should have a happy and healthy tummy. That only means that a nice and balanced diet is an important thing. That being said, the Egyptians were highly aware of that. Vegetables which were rich in protein and vitamin made a popular diet throughout this ancient civilization. It was a common complementary staple to their daily diet.
Again, since the well-known river Nile gave them flood every year, it made their land always ready for vegetation. Thus, vegetables were easily grown and it made the most commodity of Egyptian kitchen. Accordingly, it’s a major staple among the poor families which usually lived near the Nile. Vegetables were customary food consumed by them. Yet, the vegetables weren’t only found and made a big diet for the poor ones, the rich families of Egyptian also favored this group of staples for its composition which was believed to bring them health.
The popular vegetables in ancient Egypt time were lentils, cabbage, radish, turnip, leek, garlic, and onions. It’s usually consumed with meats and bread. Until now, these vegetables are still a popular staple in Egyptian culture.
While other civilizations on their time had the foods plain, the ancient Egypt diet was different. They’re very creative to give their food flavors. In the ancient time, commodities used to spice the plain taste of bread, meat, and their other main staples were very popular. They found it necessary to make the food tasteful and delightful. And that’s why it gets the place in our list.
In the antiquity of Egypt civilization, oil was the major commodity for the culinary creations. This was widely used especially to cook meat. The Egyptians were fond of using oil and this claim is strengthened by the fact that they had around 21 different types of oil. Isn’t that a significant number? The oil used for the diets was usually made from vegetables such as radish seeds and castor plants. In addition, the most popular one was made from horseradish, it was said to give a rich flavor for the meat.
Accordingly, the spices like salt, cinnamon, cumin, aniseed, mustard, and etc., also became the significant names in the ancient Egyptian diets. Those were important to give the salty and savory taste in their cuisines. Other names such as dill, fennel, and thyme were the additional spices often found in their culinary history.
While we have talked about the savory taste, for the purpose of sweetening their food, the Egyptian didn’t use sugar which we widely know as the match of salt. Sugar isn’t yet found in Egypt until many years later. To get the sweet flavor, they usually use honey or syrups (made from dates, grapes, and figs).
Meat is one of the food sources that is good for the body since it serves a big amount of energy and nutrients. Thus, it’s not surprising to find it as one of the popular ancient Egyptian foods. Although it isn’t strongly supported by the evidence found in the remnants. The wall and tomb paintings give a bold statement that the ancient people of Egypt did enjoy to feast on meat which is also widely believed by the archeologists.
Fish and poultry products were considered to make a regular presence on the table of the Egyptians in the old time. Their meat consumption came from various sources such as hunting. They also got their meat from domesticated animals and cattle animals. However, for the cattle ones, only men with fortune could enjoy the delicacy regularly. The regular and poorer class mostly had poultry products from ducks and geese.
In the era of the New Kingdom, exotic animals became commodities that were enjoyed by the Egyptian. They usually used it as offerings to their gods. Yet, exotic animals didn’t make it as a daily diet for the Egyptian since it’s more for a ritual.
For fish, which made the big portion of their staples, the ancient Egyptian people caught the fish from the Nile. However, there were only some fish species that they could take home and eat because some fish in the Nile River was believed to belong to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife.
In the modern world, poultry products can be found in any kitchen and so was it in the ancient time of Egypt civilization. Since the old time, Egyptian people were already familiar with this diet as it was a popular food among their ancestor. From rich families to the poor ones, poultry products were a popular staple in the course of ancient Egyptian food.
However, the poultry products in ancient time were quite different from what we have now. While chickens become the major commodity for poultry products, in ancient Egypt it was the relatives. Goose, swan, duck, and quail were the names often found in their culinary habits. Duck and goose were especially the common food for every Egyptian.
In addition, although a big part of poultry products was very common, some were exclusive for the upper class. Swan and ostrich, as for example, weren’t affordable for the peasants. Even though it’s not impossible for them to taste those poultry animals, they would need a great effort to catch them in the wild.
Aside from the meat, other poultry products such as eggs were regularly consumed for daily diet. Eggs from ducks were especially favored by the Egyptian people.
Often times for the poultry products, they would keep it with seasonings so it could be consumed for later. As it’s one of the popular and loved foods in the ancient time, keeping their kitchen stocked with poultry products was a great thing to do.
Move to the top three, in the third place of popular ancient Egyptian food, we have the famous product, wine. In every generation, since it was invented, wine surely has a special place. In ancient Egypt time, this drink was also a popular and favored product.
This drink which called ‘jrp’ in Egyptian culture had a long history. In fact, the relation between wine and Egyptian went a very long way since the early 3000 BCE. Hence, the Egyptians have been consuming wine sing a long time. In the 18th dynasty, this product made the boom and became the love for many people. In addition, wine was the most famous product of fruits. If it’s compared with juice, the wine was on the far up. Around that time, red and white wine products could be found in the market for anyone consumption.
The process of winemaking in ancient time was quite similar to the way it’s made nowadays. The Egyptians picked the grapes, squeezed the juice by stepping them on a big bowl that could fit around 6 people. Then, it was put in a clay pot with date and vineyard to be stored.
Although wine was a common commodity in the ancient time, it’s not generally consumed by poor people. It was since centuries ago more a commodity of the upper class. Rather than in a common setting, the wine was usually found in the court of the pharaoh. Nonetheless, wine makes a big part in the Egyptian staples and their culture until now.
On number two, there’s bread. In ancient time, bread was the fundamental staple for the Egyptian diet. However, the Egyptian bread was certainly different from the bread we have today. In the ancient days, the bread wasn’t as soft as the bread produced today, yet for the ancient Egyptian, their bread was very rough.
The main reason for the rough and hard texture was the crude utensils. Years ago, because of the primitive utensil, unwanted materials such as feldspar could accidentally get into it. However, there’s another reason. In the past, making bread was laborious work. It was usually done by women while the men did the heavy lifting jobs to build the city. In order to make the process easier, the people in ancient Egyptian added sand in the grain. It worked pretty well to speed up the whole process and to ensure their stock. However, the downside was the sand mixed in the flour. It’s surely not a flattering idea to make bread from a bag flour which contaminated by sand, but in the ancient time, it was the only choice they had to make everything on time. Thus, it made the bread texture rougher and harder.
After the flour was ready, the Egyptians made the bread. They firstly mixed flour and water for the dough. Then, once it was well mixed, they added yeast and kneaded the dough with hands on a large place. In the bread making process, the Egyptians were quite fancy than other civilizations. They purposely gave extra flavor by adding salt, honey, or other spices and seasonings depending on how they liked it. If they’re fortunate enough, they usually added milk in the dough. When all the steps were done, they cut it into a smaller size and placed the dough to be baked in a stone oven.
Bread, albeit the hard and sandy texture, was a major and popular commodity for ancient Egyptian food. They ate it as their daily diet and it could be seen on the teeth of mummies. From the archeologist analysis, the Egyptians had their teeth worn down to the pulp as the result of the regular activity of biting the bread-sand throughout their lifetime.
While bread made the popular diet and major food for the ancient Egyptians, it couldn’t beat the fame of beer. In ancient Egypt time, beer was definitely the most popular product consumed by the Egyptians for a lot of reasons.
The main reason became to be sanity reason. Although it’s a bit conflicted since the Egyptians consumed bread which based on flour and sand, the main reason beer became a famous drink was because the Nile didn’t provide clean water. Unlike sand which could be tolerated since it was already going through a long process with the bread, the bacteria in the Nile River caused illness. Thus, beer made its name in this first position.
Beer was the drink for everyone in ancient Egypt. It was consumed by all class, and all age just like how we consumed water nowadays. For the Egyptian, beer was the main source of their diet. They got beer for their breakfast to begin the day, and they took it with their dinner to close the day. If you have the chance with a time machine and go back to the ancient Egyptian time, you’ll see beer everywhere.
The existence of beer was really prominent. It was even paid as the wage for workers along with bread and other commodities. In the era of Pharaoh, the rotation of two jars of beer, about three liters, was a standard daily rotation for them. Hence, it’s no wonder that the Egyptians seemed to be always high and energized in what they’re doing, the beer fueled it.
It’s clear that the eating habits of the Egyptian people were remarkable. The ancient Egyptian food is truly fascinating since they had a wide variety of staples, giving them a rich choice. As we could see in this list, the popular food they consumed made a balanced and healthy diet. Their staples were widely supported by the fertility of their land which got annual floods from the Nile such as vegetables and fruits. In addition, they also had the diet from meat and poultry products. Furthermore, the Egyptian was really creative with flavor which made spices and seasonings as a big portion for their diet. For their daily consumption, the Egyptians had bread and beer that were the food for every class. So, for the big frame, we could conclude that the diet in the ancient Egyptian time was gained from agriculture, cattle practice, and hunting. Accordingly, the people of Egypt were all stuffed with enough food either the poor ones or the rich ones. Thus, it gave them enough energy to create, giving us a clear outlook of their advanced civilization.