Koshari is a comforting meatless dish of pasta, rice, and lentils in spicy tomato sauce. Make this recipe for Egypt’s national dish- a main or side dish that everyone will love!
Ask 25 people what they consider to be the perfect comfort food and you’ll likely find 20 of them who say it’s a carbohydrate of some sort. What is it about pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and other starchy foods that soothe and satisfy us like other foods cannot?
Thankfully, no matter where you travel (and dine) along the Silk Road trade route, there are sure to be comforting carbs to include in your meal.
While traveling through the Middle East, you might enjoy dishes of Arabic kabsa (chicken and rice), Moroccan couscous, or Lebanese hashweh. Don’t leave the area without a stop in northern Africa to visit Egypt. It's one of my all-time favorite countries to visit and explore! I'm planning a trip for a January 2022 visit and can't wait (3rd trip)!
Egyptian cuisine includes dishes with warm flavors and a wide array of textures, but one dish in particular is such a well loved comfort food that it’s been deemed Egypt’s national dish.
Alternate names/spellings: Koshary, kushari
Preparation: Stove top
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Description: Beautifully presented side dish or entree with layers of rice, lentils and macaroni noodles covered in baharat spiced tomato sauce with chickpeas and a topping of crispy fried onions.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Fried Onion Topping
You’ll be making a batch of crispy, fried onions for the top of the koshary. If you’d like a quicker option, you could just bake frozen onion rings, but the flavor and texture aren’t nearly as good as fresh fried onions.
If you live in the States, another option is to use prepared fried onions that come in a can. I’m not certain if those are sold outside of the U.S., but it’s possible.
Classic koshari recipes call for Basmati rice, which is a long grain, aromatic rice that typically doubles in size when cooked. If you need another option, any long grain rice will be fine. You could even use long grain brown, wild, or black rice if you prefer. Just note that they take quite a bit longer to cook.
- Lentils- Either brown or green lentils may be used
- Pasta- Elbow macaroni is typically used, but Orecchiette (shells) and Ditalini are also good options
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)- You can use canned or buy them dried and cook them yourself. If you need instructions, check out my post on how to cook chickpeas.
- Tomato Passata - Passata is very similar to tomato puree. The primary difference is that the tomatoes in passata are typically uncooked, and have been skinned, seeded, and strained. If you’re unable to find tomato passata in your local grocery store, tomato puree is a good substitute.
- Baharat Spice- This Arabic spice blend adds a fantastic smoky-sweet flavor to the tomato sauce. I have a baharat spice recipe you can make, or look in the notes of the recipe card below for a quick spice blend you can substitute for the baharat.
Video: Making Koshari
Watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of the post for step-by-step instructions on how to make this recipe. You’ll also see how to plate it for a gorgeous presentation!
Koshary is a pretty straight-forward dish, and not difficult to make at all. Here’s a summary of the basic steps:
- Make the fried onions.
Toss the onion slices in flour and pan fry them until they’re crispy. It’s that simple!
- Cook the rice, lentils, and macaroni.
You’ll need to cook each of these separately. If you’d like to save some time, feel free to cook any of them a day or two ahead of time.
If you decide to cook anything ahead, just allow the food to cool first, then place it into a covered container or zip top plastic storage bag. Keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the koshar. Just re-heat everything before layering.
- Make the passata sauce.
This is easy as well; just place the passata or tomato puree into a saucepan with the spices and add the cooked chickpeas. Simmer for a few minutes and you’ll be good to go.
- Layer the ingredients in a large bowl.
Koshari is a beautiful dish when all of the ingredients are layered, but this step is optional. If you’d rather, just combine everything together in a large serving bowl and sprinkle the fried onions on top.
If you have experience turning cakes out onto a platter, plating the koshary should be very easy for you. If not, don’t worry, it’s not difficult, but I recommend watching the video in the recipe card to see exactly how it’s done.
- Layer the ingredients into a large bowl, then use your hands to gently press down and compact them.
- Place a platter upside down over the top of the bowl.
- Invert the plate. Hold the bottom of the bowl in one hand and place your other hand on top of the plate. Then, invert it so that the platter is on the bottom and the bowl is on top.
- Remove the bowl. Gently lift the bowl off of the koshari and then garnish the top with fried onions.
Koshari (Egypt's National Dish) + Video
- 2 large yellow onions thinly sliced
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 cup green or brown lentils picked over and rinsed
- 2 tbsp Baharat Spice Blend divided (See Note 2)
- 1 cup elbow macaroni
- 2 cups tomato passata/sauce
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 15 oz cooked chickpeas rinsed
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or red grape vinegar)
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley minced
- In a large, deep sided skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat.
- In a large bowl toss the thinly sliced onions with the flour. Working in batches, fry onions until a dark golden brown. Drain on paper towel lined plate. Season with salt and repeat with remaining onions. Set aside.
- Rice: Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold water until water runs clear. In a saucepan bring 1 ½ cups water and a teaspoon of kosher salt to a boil. Add rice, 1 tablespoon Baharat Spice Blend, stir and cover. Bring heat to low and cook 18 minutes. Set aside.
- Lentils: In a saucepan bring 4 cups water and a teaspoon each of kosher salt and Baharat Spice Blend to a boil. Add lentils and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Macaroni: In a saucepan bring 3 cups water and a teaspoon of kosher salt to a boil. Add elbow macaroni and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Tomato Sauce Chickpeas: In a saucepan over medium heat add the oil. Saute the garlic for 1 minute and add the tomato passata/sauce, salt, remaining 2 teaspoons Baharat Spice Blend and cooked chickpeas. Turn heat to low and simmer 10 minutes covered partially. Stir in the red wine vinegar and parsley. Set aide.
- Options are to layer for great presentation OR mix all together reserving crispy onions to go on top.
- For Layered Presentation: In a large bowl transfer half of the crispy onions and place on bottom of bowl. Top with the Tomato Chickpea mixture, then the cooked elbow macaroni, then the cooked lentils, and finally the last layer is the cooked basmati rice. Gently press down with spatula to firm up the koshari for presentation when flipped.
- Cover the bowl with a large plate or platter (larger than bowl width). Carefully and confidently grab each side, holding both plate and bowl sides and flip away from you and firmly shake and place plate side down on counter top. The koshari should release itself. Top with more crispy onions, chopped parsley and enjoy. Serve with hot sauce (Shatta) and garlic sauce (Toum).
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.