Straight from my Egyptian kitchen, this hawawshi recipe is made with crispy pita pockets that are stuffed with a tantalizing meat mixture with onions, hot peppers and fresh herbs. Think of it as Egypt's answer to a hamburger but on steroids!
Watch my video below to see how to make hawawshi step-by-step.
As an Egyptian (born and bred), nothing excites me more than sharing childhood favorites. And today is all about a famous street food we call hawawshi. Think of it as Egypt's answer to a burger--no, it's so much more!
What is hawawshi?!
Hawawshi! Say it with me: ha-WOW-shi.
Hawawshi is a popular Egyptian street food, particularly in Cairo and Alexandria (where they call it baladi). It is basically dough (or pita) stuffed with a mixture of ground beef that is seasoned with tantalizing warm spices, onions, garlic, hot peppers and fresh herbs.
Legend has it that one butcher by the name of Ahmed Al-Hawash in Cairo's Tawfeek Souq came up with this sandwich back in the early 1970s and gave it his name. The idea has traveled throughout parts of Africa and the Middle East (in Lebanon, another version of this sandwich is called Arayes).
Homemade hawawshi shortcut
In Egypt, hawawshi pitas are typically made to order so they're fresh out of the oven when you get them. When local Egyptian restaurants, particularly in Cairo or Alexandria, make it, they start by making a special dough (similar to the dough used for pita bread) and then they wrap the dough around the meat mixture and cook it in their large ovens (some use clay ovens or pizza ovens).
In this shortcut version, I skip making the dough and use ready pita pockets, which when heated become nice and crispy. No special equipment is needed but a large sheet pan or two and your oven.
High heat (around 400 degrees F) is best for baking hawawshi sandwiches, which take about 15 minutes to bake.
What's in it? And how do you make it?
There are three components to making this hawawshi beef patty sandwich recipe:
- Hawawshi seasoning
It's not a hawawshi sandwich without the unique seasoning or spice mixture of coriander, allspice, paprika, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and a pinch of cinnamon (find these spices and more at our online shop).
- The meat mixture
Lean ground beef combined with finely chopped vegetables including garlic, onion, bell pepper, hot pepper like jalapeno (optional), and finely chopped parsley. The hawawshi seasoning is added to this mixture and combined before cooking (kinda like how you would prepare meat for meatballs, except in this case you do not form the meat into balls).
- Pita pockets
Like I mentioned earlier, this is the shortcut version which uses already available pita pockets (I do bake my own pita often, here's my recipe for homemade pita bread). The seasoned meat mixture is spread in the pita pockets and then baked until the meat is fully cooked through. It will take about 25 minutes or so in a 400 degrees F heated oven.
The key is to cook the pita on both sides so it's nice and crispy.
How to serve it?
This satisfying sandwich is typically served hot without much else to accompany it, but I like adding some sliced veggies or quick pickles and a side of tahini sauce (which is awesome drizzled in the sandwich). And it's never a bad idea to add a big salad like this lazy Mediterranean salad, fresh bean salad, or even Greek salad.
Leftovers & storage
This recipe makes 12 pita pockets, so you can easily feed a crowd of at least 6 people. But I often make it for our little family of four and save the leftovers in the fridge for lunches.
Fully cooked hawawshi sandwiches can be stored in the fridge in a tight-lid container for 3 days or so. Warm them up in a medium-heated oven.
You can also freeze fully cooked hawawshi. To freeze for later, I typically wrap up the individual pita sandwiches in foil that's been lined well with wax paper or parchment (or you can use freezer bags or containers). You can warm them up from frozen.
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Egyptian Hawawshi Recipe
- 1 large yellow onion quartered
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 green bell pepper cored and cut into large chunks
- 1 jalapeno halved and seeded (leave some of the seed if you like heat)
- ½ ounce fresh parsley stems trimmed (cut most of the stem but leave some for extra flavor)
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- Kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 6 loaves of pita bread you need the kind with pockets
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, add the spices and mix to combine.
- Put the onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno, and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse a few times until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a sieve to drain excess liquid (it helps to push with the back of a spoon).
- Transfer the onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the ground beef and tomato paste. Mix to combine. Add the spice mixture and a dash of kosher salt. Mix again until the mixture is well combined and the spices are well distributed within the meat mixture.
- Cut the pita loafs in halves to create 12 pita pockets.
- Prepare a large sheet pan brushed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
- Stuff each pita pocket with ⅓ cup of the meat mixture. Using the back of a spoon, spread the meat mixture inside the pita pockets.
- Arrange the pitas in the prepared sheet pan. Brush the pita pocket tops with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake in the heated oven for 15, then carefully turn the pitas over and cook on the other side another 5 to 10 minutes until the meat is fully cooked and the pita is crispy on both sides.
- Visit our Shop to browse quality all-natural and organic spices used in this recipe, olive oils and more.
- To bake your pita from scratch, follow my homemade pita bread recipe
- To store leftovers cooked hawawshi in the fridge: cool completely and transfer to tight-lid containers. Refrigerate for 3 days or so. Warm up in a medium-heated oven,
- To freeze leftover cooked hawawshi: You can also freeze fully cooked hawawshi. To freeze for later, I typically wrap up the individual pita sandwiches in foil that's been lined well with wax paper or parchment (or you can use freezer bags or containers). You can warm them up from frozen.