The national dish of Egypt, this authentic koshari recipe presents Egyptian street food at its best!
Koshari (also spelled Koshary or Kushari) is the national dish of Egypt. It’s served in virtually every Egyptian restaurant, in every Egyptian home, and on every Egyptian street corner. Street vendors serve the dish from carts to people eagerly waiting in line to eat this beloved and highly popular dish. An unusual combination, Koshari mixes lentils, macaroni noodles and rice into a single dish and it’s then topped with a spicy tomato sauce that uses a special Middle Eastern spice blend, garbanzo beans, and fried onions. The idea sounds strange…until you taste it. Then you’ll know why this dish is a favorite among Egyptians.
Egyptians and tourists fondly speak of the “Koshari Man,” the title bestowed upon street vendors who sell the dish from their carts. Aziz Awad, who used to be a Koshari street vendor and now works at a downtown restaurant, describes it this way: “The Koshari man grabs a bowl, and scoops a little of each ingredient into the bowl….Each Koshary dish takes about five seconds to [assemble]. His speed can be surprising to you. I have worked here since we opened 10 years ago, and before that I sold Koshary on a street cart, so I have to be fast. My hands are accustomed to the same movements I do all day everyday, so you can say that I memorized the movements rather than think about them” (www.touregypt.net).
Every Egyptian knows and recognizes the sound of Koshari being made from down the street. Heba Fatteen Bizzari explains, “As the Koshari man scoops, he knocks his metal spoon against the sides of the bowls, making the Koshari symphony that you won’t hear elsewhere. When the Koshari man prepares an order of more than four the restaurant fills with sound as if it was a rehearsal for a concert. The restaurants of Koshari are very noisy. One sits to eat while the Koshari man practices his drums in your ears” (www.touregypt.net).
Though it is Egypt’s national dish, it isn’t actually Egyptian in origin. Neither rice nor macaroni are indigenous to Egypt. It is believed that Koshari originated in India and dates back to the time of British Colonization. The name “Koshari” is actually from the Hindu “khichri”, which refers to a dish of lentils and rice. When the British arrived in Egypt in the late 1800’s they brought this dish with them – it was inexpensive and filling. It didn’t take long before the dish was enthusiastically embraced by the Egyptian people.
The crowning aspect of this dish is the flavor-packed, spicy tomato sauce. It’s made with a special spice blend called Baharat (Arabic for “spice”), an all-purpose spice blend commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Just a pinch adds depth and flavor to sauces, soups, stews and meat. I stocked up on on a myriad of Middle Eastern spices when I was in Jerusalem and have been making my own blends since.
Unless you have a Middle Eastern store in your area or order it online, this spice blend can be challenging to find. However, as with any spice blend, it’s much better made fresh in your own kitchen anyway and I’m going to share my recipe for it with you!
Here is another Daring Gourmet recipe using this wonderful spice blend:
Chicken Machboos (Bahraini Spiced Chicken)
Now let’s move on to the Koshari!
This recipe is very authentic and simple to make, but be prepared to dirty up a few pots!
Koshari (Egyptian Rice, Lentils and Macaroni with Spicy Tomato Chile Sauce)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 cup medium grain rice
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 2 cups small macaroni noodles (uncooked)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 garlic clove , quartered
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Salt to taste
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion diced finely
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 15 oz can plain tomato sauce (cooked/pureed tomatoes)
- 2 tsp baharat spice blend
- 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (omit if you don't like it spicy hot)
- 1 tbs red wine vinegar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Crispy Onion Garnish:
- 2 large onions , very finely sliced
- Oil for deep-frying
- 1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans , rinsed and drained
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and fry it for 2 minutes, then add the vegetable stock. Bring it to a boil, decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
- Rinse the lentils under cold water and add them to another medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Add the garlic, cumin and bay leaf and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Once cooked, add the salt and stir to combine. Strain any excess liquid if necessary.Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente.Note: Prepare the rice, macaroni and lentils while the sauce is simmering and leave them covered in the pots to keep warm.
- To make sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown. Add the tomato sauce, baharat, salt and pepper to taste, chile flakes (if using) and red wine vinegar. Bring it to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To make the crispy onions, heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onions and fry until dark brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain and cool.
- Add the rice, lentils and macaroni to a large bowl and toss to combine (or simply scoop out desired amounts of each onto the plates). Sprinkle a little baharat over each portion and serve topped with some of the spicy tomato sauce. Top with garbanzo beans, the crispy onions and another sprinkle of baharat. Serve warm.
For the love of all that’s holy, do NOT burn your onions! Not dark brown, please. They will taste bitter and awful. Caramelize them in a frying pan until browned but not burned, or fry briefly (they burn so fast if you fry them, though) until they are LIGHT brown.
I lived off kushari for a month when backpacking across Egypt. What was always available and amazing was the vinegar sauces you can add to your dish. This was like the icing on the cake. I made this dish a few tismes since I have been back and it just isn’t the same without it! 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp of cumin, 2 tsp of chili powder, 3/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup water, tbsp of sweetener of choice…shake and drizzle on top before serving and it is like fireworks in your mouth! great recipe..thanks for sharing!
In other words you’ve pretty much changed the whole recipe lol.
Mary Cookson says
I have been living in Egypt for some years now, and I love koshary! But when I first tasted it, I really did not like it much. After tasting a few different koshari from different places, now I actually crave it. It is lovely with taamaya and sweet tea. My neighbor makes it with some ground beef in it and hers is the best I have had, of course. The original koshary is a cheap way to feed a big family and wonderful meal for vegans. Thanks for your recipe. If I ever leave Egypt, I will make it, but with all these koshary places, why should I? :)
Charles Azar says
I’ve been to Egypt several times and love the country, people and koshari!! I’ve made this several times and the part I have most difficulty with is the proportion of each ingredients once mixed. Can you suggest what it should be?
P. S. Your recipe is on point
Thanks for posting this recipe. I liked it and is different to my family’s recipe. My dad was from the Suez Canal and his recipe is rice, lentils and pasta which are cooked separately. The pasta we use is the rice shaped pasta, risoni. We don’t add chickpeas but eat Koshari with Tameyes, the broad bean and Egyptian Herb patties and with Molohia, the spinach and chicken soup! a beautiful feast indeed!
The recipe varies depending on how each Egyptian family cooks it. My Egyptian food obsessed family did not add chick peas or red wine vinegar. They use more white vinegar, garlic and red pepper flakes than most recipes call for in the tomato sauce; lus extra white vinegar and garlic on the side for each person to decide how much to use. (I add some red wine vinegar to the tomato sauce). Purists NEVER cook the rice, pasta and lentils together in one pot as it muddy’s the taste and the colour of the rice and pasta. The lentils cannot be mushy. The crispy onions must be cut very thinly and sprinkled with corn starch before frying at medium heat max until they are very crispy and dark brown; then lightly salt after putting them on a cooling rack. The secret is in making the tomato sauce taste great and the onions crispy. It’s all in the details which most recipes don’t provide.
jonathan daniels says
My mother who was a Greek from Alexandria made koshari with rice and lentils served with lots of brown cooked chopped onions. That’s the real koshari dish. No pasta or chick peas.
there must be pasta in it,mabye because your mother is a greek but we make it with pasta in egypt