Egyptian Fatta

Egyptian celebrations aren’t complete without this crowd-pleasing dish of toasted pita, fragrant rice, and slow-cooked beef drizzled in a garlic-vinegar sauce.

Overhead view of a half of dish of Egyptian fatta

Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Why It Works

  • Blooming the spices in hot ghee brings out the warm aromas that will flavor the dish.
  • Coating the basmati rice in the fat prevents the individual grains from sticking together and results in fluffier rice.

Egyptian fatta is the quintessential festive meal. It’s a crowd-pleasing dish bursting with bold flavors and textures: layers of seasoned, toasted pita and fragrant rice are topped with slow-cooked beef and drizzled with a punchy garlic-vinegar sauce. The dish is associated with all religious celebrations of Egyptian Christians and Muslims, and celebratory feasts aren’t complete without a lavish fatta at the center of the table, surrounded by a myriad of delicacies. 

In Arabic, fatta means “cut in pieces,” which in the context of this recipe refers to sliced, toasted pita, the first layer of the dish. Though they share the same name, Egyptian fatta is unlike its Levantine counterpart: the Egyptian dish doesn’t include a yogurt sauce and uses a different cooking technique. 

Overhead view of two servings of Egyptian Fatta

The long list of ingredients may be daunting, but the recipe itself is easy to break into manageable parts. Much of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge, then reheated and assembled right before serving.

Variations of Egyptian Fatta

While bread, meat, and rice are pretty much the main components of any Egyptian fatta, there are still some subtle variations. If Egyptians are making fatta for Eid, for example, they may decide between lamb or beef. Also, the cut of meat used is subjective. Some families prefer rustic and fatty bone-in cuts of meat, while others treasure the leaner flavor of fat-trimmed meat and the ease of boneless pieces.

Typically, Egyptian fatta is made with ruz masri (Egyptian rice), but that kind of rice is hard to find outside of Egypt. A good substitute is basmati or another long-grain rice instead; it works well and, I've found, complements the rest of the dish beautifully.

In researching the many versions of Egyptian fatta, I have learned that Egyptian Muslim families tend to drizzle a tomato-based sauce—in addition to a garlic-vinegar one—on their fatta, while their Christian compatriots use just the garlic-vinegar one to dress it. I’ve included both sauces below so you can try each, then decide if you prefer one over the other or like having both.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 3 hrs 10 mins
Soaking Time: 30 mins
Total: 4 hrs
Serves: 8 to 10 servings

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For the Meat and Broth: 

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1kg) boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes 

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) ghee (see note)

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed 

  • 2 mastic resins, whole (optional; see note)  

  • 10 whole black peppercorns

  • 5 allspice berries

  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick

  • 1 medium yellow onion (8 ounces, 225g), unpeeled, halved lengthwise keeping root intact 

  • 5 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled

  • 6 cups (1.4L) hot water, plus more if needed 

  • 15-20 parsley stalks (about 1.4 ounces; 40g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

  • 1 beef bouillon cube (optional; see note)

For the Rice: 

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) ghee (see note)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 green cardamom pods

  • 1 mastic resin (optional; see note)

  • 2 cups uncooked basmati rice (12.7 ounces; 360g), soaked for 30 minutes in room-temperature water, then drained and rinsed 

  • 3 cups (710ml) warm meat broth (recipe above)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Toasted Pita: 

  • 4 pita (roughly 17 ounces; 480g in total), cut in 1-inch squares (about 7 cups) 

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)

  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 

For the Garlic-Vinegar Sauce: 

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) ghee (see note) 

  • 8 medium cloves garlic (26g), minced (about 2 tablespoons) 

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) distilled white vinegar  

  • 1 cup (237ml) meat broth (recipe above)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Tomato Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup (118ml) garlic-vinegar sauce (recipe above)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) tomato paste

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To Assemble:

  • 1 tablespoon ghee (see note)

  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts, such as almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, or cashews


  1. For the Meat and Broth: Season beef with salt all over, set aside. In a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat ghee over medium heat until shimmering. Add the bay leaves, cardamom, mastic resin (if using), black peppercorns, allspice, and cinnamon, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Working in batches to avoid crowing the pot, add beef in a single layer (you can leave the whole spices in the pot). Increase heat to medium-high and cook, turning occasionally, until beef is browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate with the whole spices and repeat with remaining beef.

  2. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook over medium-high heat until beginning to blister, about 1 minute.

  3. Return beef and whole spices to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Stir in hot water (the water should cover the beef by about 1 inch; if necessary, add additional water) along with parsley stalks, cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne. Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high; let boil for 5 minutes.

  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the broth simmer gently, uncovered, until the beef is fork-tender and the broth becomes fragrant and laden with flavors, about 2 hours; occasionally skim and discard any fat that rises to the surface. Season with salt and add beef bouillon cube, if desired. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

  5. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof bowl. Transfer the cooked beef cubes to a separate plate, discarding onion, garlic, parsley stalks, and whole spices, then cover broth loosely to keep warm. Transfer the broth to a clean medium saucepan, skimming and discarding any fat on the surface; you should have 4 cups of broth (if necessary, add additional water to reach 4 cups). Cover to keep warm.

  6. For the Rice: In a large saucepan, heat ghee over medium heat until shimmering. Add the bay leaves, cardamom, and mastic resin (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and mastic has melted, about 1 minute.

  7. Add the rinsed and drained rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is very lightly toasted and evenly coated with the ghee, 2 minutes.

  8. Stir in the meat broth (see note), cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed, following timing on rice bag instructions.

  9. Remove from heat, uncover rice, and fluff with a fork, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper; discard cardamom pods and bay leaves. Let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes (this allows excess steam to escape so the rice remains fluffy). Then cover rice with a clean tea towel to keep it warm until you assemble the fatta.

  10. For the Toasted Bread Chips: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle pita squares all over with oil. Sprinkle all over with garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and sumac, along with a large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss until evenly coated.

  11. Bake seasoned pita, tossing once halfway through, until crispy and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm until you assemble the fatta.

  12. For the Garlic-Vinegar Sauce: In a small saucepan, heat ghee over medium heat until shimmering. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic becomes fragrant and starts to turn golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately whisk in the vinegar, then whisk in the broth and remove from heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside.

  13. For the Tomato Sauce: In a small saucepan, heat the 1/2 cup of the garlic-vinegar sauce over medium heat until nearly simmering. Whisk in tomato paste until fully dissolved. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

  14. To Assemble: On a large serving platter, arrange the toasted pita chips in an even layer. Spoon the hot rice on top in an even layer. Drizzle 1/2 cup of hot garlic-vinegar sauce over the rice.

  15. In a large skillet, heat ghee over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add cooked beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange the cooked beef over the rice.

  16. Drizzle the entire dish with the tomato-garlic sauce. Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the fatta. Serve immediately with the remaining sauces on the side.

Special Equipment

Large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot; fine-mesh strainer


Ghee is clarified butter and it is the common type of fat used in Egyptian cuisine. If you don't have ghee or clarified butter, you can substitute a neutral oil like canola oil for the searing steps (to avoid scorching of the milk solids in regular butter), though the flavor won't be the same; for steps where searing isn't involved, you can use a 1:1 mix of unsalted butter and neutral oil in place of ghee.

Mastic resin, aka mastica, is a natural extract of the mastic tree, a shrub that grows in Greece. Mastic is used in several savory and sweet Egyptian dishes. Mastic offsets the gamey flavor of poultry and meat in home-cooked dishes and imparts the food with a wonderful and very particular flavor that is difficult to achieve with a substitute. 

The beef bouillon cube can be a nice addition to easily add a little more depth and umami to the meat, but isn't required.

The cooking time of the meat depends on the cut and the quality of the meat itself. The beef stewing cubes I often use in this recipe cook in about 2 hours, while other cuts like beef chuck or lamb shank might need a longer cooking time.

The ratio of 3 cups broth to 2 cups rice is generally a good one, but you should defer to the ratio printed on your rice packaging if it differs from this.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Given that fatta has multiple components, I recommend making the broth and beef cubes 1 to 2 days ahead to break up the work. Store them separately in airtight containers in the fridge. In fact, all the fatta’s layers can be cooked ahead and kept in the fridge, and then reheated and assembled right before serving.

Store leftover fatta in airtight containers for up to 3 days in the fridge and up to 3 weeks in the freezer.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
480 Calories
22g Fat
40g Carbs
31g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 480
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 8g 38%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 731mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 15%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 31g
Vitamin C 7mg 36%
Calcium 86mg 7%
Iron 5mg 27%
Potassium 428mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)