Ancient Egyptian Food

Ancient Egyptian food was plentiful thanks to the rich soils provided by the yearly flooding of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians loved to eat a variety of foods that were available such as poultry, grains, fruits, meats and breads.

Ancient Egyptians used several techniques to prepare their food including baking, drying and salting. In general, ancient Egyptians ate very well except during years of drought along the Nile River.

How we know about food and drink during ancient Egyptian times

Researchers know what type of food and drink ancient Egyptians consumed on a daily basis. The ancient Egyptians left plenty of clues about their food and drink in the form of hieroglyphics etched into the walls of tombs, woven into tapestries, painted on pottery and inscribed on scrolls.

The most common hieroglyphics were of people fishing, working in the fields, hunting and preparing food.

How did they eat?

The diets of each person in ancient Egypt varied based on status and wealth in their community. For example, rich families ate on small individual tables that were brought to them.

Their diet was more diverse with meat, milk, wild birds, lots of dates and vegetables too. Rich people ate with their fingers and would rinse their hands after each course of their meal.

Poor families ate more bread, vegetables, fish and onions. They ate with their fingers but did not wash their fingers between courses. Poorer families also ate on woven reed mats lying down.

What type of foods did they eat and drink?

One of the more popular foods in ancient Egypt was garlic. Garlic was used to add spice to a variety of foods from oils to breads to lentils.

Ancient Egyptians preferred sweet breads made with figs, dates and honey. There was also a wide range of breads including breads made with yeast, flatbreads and barley or wheat.

Vegetables such as leeks, cabbage, radish, lupines, lentils, cucumbers and turnips were the most common vegetables eaten regularly by the ancient Egyptians.

Ancient Egyptians ate plenty of poultry and birds. Poorer families ate more swans, ostriches and cranes, while rich families indulged in more geese, ducks, quail as well as pigeons.

Meat such as beef was very expensive and only the rich people ate beef. Pigs were part the ancient Egyptians diet until priests deemed the animal as a bad meat to eat.

Other common animals like goats and sheep were also eaten by all ancient Egyptians. Goats, cows and sheep also provided much needed milk, butter and a variety of cheeses.

Ancient Egyptians rarely drank water, especially from the Nile River which was polluted. There was a well in each town but they preferred to drink milk, wine, fruit juices and beer.

The ancient Egyptians made both red and white wines which were drank by all classes of people, young and old. Fruit juices were made from grapes, figs, chuba root, raisins and dates.

The ancient Egyptians also used fruit juices to sweeten foods, especially breads and oils. Beer was the most popular drink by far in ancient Egypt.

People would consume beer throughout the day from morning till bedtime. Ancient Egyptian beer was made from barley and was thick like a milkshake with lower alcohol content.

Abundance of food for everyone

Ancient Egyptians had a wide variety of foods at their disposal which they enjoyed each day. Not many people in ancient Egypt went hungry. The Nile River provided the ancient Egyptians with bountiful crops that were stored and eaten throughout the year.

Important things to know about ancient Egyptian foods

  • The yearly flooding of the Nile River provided nutrients for agricultural crops.
  • Beef was expensive and only eaten by rich people.
  • Ancient Egyptians drank wine and beer because the water of the Nile River was polluted. Beer was the most consumed beverage in ancient Egypt.
  • Poultry such as ducks, geese, cranes and wild ostrich were consumed by poor and rich ancient Egyptians.
  • Breads were sweetened by fruits like dates, figs and grapes.
  • Pork was not part of an ancient Egyptians diet.
  • Garlic was the most popular food in ancient Egypt.
  • Researchers studied hieroglyphics to determine what ancient Egyptians ate and drank.

Questions

  • What was the most consumed beverage in ancient Egypt?
    Beer
  • Which fruits were used to sweeten breads?
    Dates, Figs and Grapes
  • What was the most popular food in ancient Egypt?
    Garlic
  • What type of meat was not consumed by ancient Egyptians?
    Pork