Egyptians love bread which is why sandwiches of all kinds make up many popular breakfast and lunch foods. While many of these sandwiches have their origins outside Egypt, such as hamburgers, fajitas or Syrian shwarma, there are a few homegrown exceptions, such as hawawshi. Invented in 1971 by a butcher named Ahmed al-Hawawsh who had a stall in central Cairo’s Tawfiqiyya Market, the sandwich was a cheap, hot meal that proved so irresistible that it has spread across the entire country and become a national dish.

The traditional recipe calls for mixing fatty raw ground beef with raw onions, peppers, tomatoes and a mix of herbs and spices. These are then stuffed into a pita bread and either baked in an oven or fried in oil on the stovetop until the bread is crispy and the meat and vegetables inside are done. In Alexandria, the meat is stuffed inside dough instead of bread.

Lentils Hawawshi

A few years ago, a chef on an Egyptian cooking program came up with a new version of hawawshi called “fasting hawawshi.” About 10% of Egypt’s population are Coptic Christians and they maintain a vegan diet most of the year, hence the name. Her version combined TVP with eggplant and potatoes and departed quite a bit from the traditional recipe. 

Even if you aren’t eating a vegan diet, brown lentils are a healthy protein rich substitute for ground beef in recipes, because it has a meaty texture and color. My recipe below sticks close to the traditional version of hawawshi, simply swapping out the ground beef for lentils and adding a splash of soy sauce to give it an umami taste. If you aren’t a strict vegetarian/vegan, this tastes great made with a rich beef broth, but vegetable broth can be used as well. 

And if you can’t do without meat, you can use a pound of ground beef instead of the cooked lentils, skip the step of sautéing the vegetables and leave out the soy sauce and you will have traditional hawawshi.

Lentil Pita Pockets are best served with a simple yogurt sauce that you can drizzle on each delectable bite.


Lentil Pita Pockets (Hawawshi)

Nicole Hansen
4.75 from 16 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Egyptian
Servings 4
Calories 319 kcal


  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2.5 cups beef broth or vegetable substitute
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp red peper (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 large pita breads
  • olive oil (for brushing)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Bring the lentils to a boil in the broth and then cover and simmer for around 15 - 20 minutes or until the lentils are  soft and splitting and almost all the water is be gone.
  • In the meantime, sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and sauté for another 3 minutes.
  • In a large bowl mix the cooked ingredients with the soy sauce, spices and salt to taste.
  • Cut the pita breads in half and stuff them with a thin layer of the lentil mixture. Brush both sides with olive oil.
  • Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, turning over halfway through. They are done when they are crispy and beginning to brown.


Calories: 319kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 18gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 978mgPotassium: 736mgFiber: 17gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 574IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 5mg
Keyword Hawawshi
Have you tried this recipe? Tell us about it!Click here to rate this recipe in the comments section below.
About the Author: Nicole Hansen


  1. Nour March 6, 2023 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    As a non vegan, i am hosting a vegan friend in my house and I cooked this recipe and it is so gooood. Never thought vegan food would taste this good thank you.

  2. Dave November 13, 2022 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    We used whole wheat tortillas and the crispy texture of those with the flavorful lentil filling were quite satisfying

  3. M v Balen September 27, 2022 at 3:46 am - Reply

    5 stars
    I made this dish and it is delicious and the left overs in frozen

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