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Koshari – a national dish of Egypt

A more complex yet similar dish to Mujadara (rice and lentils), Koshari is considered to be Egypt’s national dish: a delicious comfort-food meal that is sometimes made from left overs: if you happen to already have a bit of chickpeas, a bit of lentils and a bit of rice left over in the fridge all you have to do is make the sauces, crisp or caramelize some onions and boil some pasta. The secret ingredient here is the vinegar: it breaks down the carbohydrates Koshari is all about. (See Notes, below.)

Cuisine: Egyptian

Serves: 8 people
Cooking time: 60-70 minutes
You will need: 3 saucepans, 1 frying pan, 3 pots, 3 mixing bowls, 1 serving platter and 4 sauce bowls for serving. If you have just a few pots and pans then wash them as you go.
Soaking: If you’re not using canned chickpeas then soak your chickpeas overnight. Next day drain, rinse and cook them before you start cooking the Koshari.


For the crispy onion garnish

  • 2 onions cut into thin rings,
  • ½ cup olive oil,
  • Salt.

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 onion grated or diced,
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1 Tsp ground coriander,
  • 1 Tsp chili flakes,
  • 3 cups tomato puree (a.k.a. tomato coulis or passata). Tinned is OK.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil,
  • 3 Tbsp vinegar (preferably apple cider).

For the cumin sauce

  • 2 Tsp crushed garlic,
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin,
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil,
  • 6 Tbsp water,
  • 6 Tbsp vinegar (preferably apple cider),
  • Salt.

For the Koshari

  • 1 cup brown lentils well-rinsed and drained,
  • 1+ ½ cup of canned chickpeas (15 oz or 425 g) or ½ cup of dried chickpeas you cooked the day before.
  • 1 cup white rice previously soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, then drained,
  • 2 cups pasta, preferably ditali, tubetti, or elbow. If you don’t have this kind of pasta in the pantry then just crack into small pieces whatever normal thickness pasta you happen to have and use that instead,
  • ½ Tsp salt,
  • ½ Tsp pepper,
  • ½ Tsp ground coriander,
  • Olive oil,
  • Water – some of it hot.



  1. If you’re not using canned chickpeas then you need to soak your chickpeas in cold water overnight.
  2. Wash the rice [link] and put it in a bowl to soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Wash the lentils and put them aside.

While the rice is soaking…

Tomato sauce

  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil.
  2. Add the grated onion, cook over medium-high heat until the onion becomes a little golden and translucent (not brown).
  3. Add the garlic, coriander and chili flakes and saute briefly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and salt.
  5. Bring to a boil and cook at medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  6. Add the vinegar, lower the heat and simmer for another 3-4 minutes or so.
  7. Turn off the fire, cover and keep the sauce warm until you’re ready to serve.

While the tomato sauce is cooking…

Cumin sauce

  1. In a saucepan, saute the garlic and cumin until they are fragrant. It will take about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the vinegar, water, and salt.
  3. Cover and set aside.


  1. Put the lentils in a pot, add 3 cups of cold water turn the fire on and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce the fire and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are slightly tender. You don’t want them fully cooked. You want them half-cooked.
  3. Drain and season with salt.


  1. Drain the rice that has soaked for 15 minutes.
  2. Take a mixing bowl and mix the half-cooked lentils and the rice.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and add the coriander. Mix well.
  4. Time for a heavy pot if you have one: put it on the stove, add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and turn the fire on to medium-high heat.
  5. Add the rice and lentil mixture and saute for about 3 minutes, gently stirring constantly.
  6. Add about 3 cups of hot water to cover the ingredients.
  7. Bring to a boil.
  8. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, until the rice and lentils absorb the liquid and are cooked through. During the process you can add more hot water if necessary. Important tip: do not stir.
  9. Turn off the fire and half-cover with a lid.

Macaroni / Pasta

  1. While the rice and lentils cook, prepare the macaroni according to the directions on the package. Basically: bring the water to a boil, add salt, and cook them to al dente.
  2. Drain.


  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  2. Put them in a pan under very low fire to warm up. They should not be hot.

Crispy onion garnish

  1. Pat dry your rings of raw onions with a paper towel.
  2. In a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Saute the onions, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes, until they caramelize. You wan them crisp. You don’t want them burnt.
  4. Set them aside.


  1. First layer: rice and lentils: use a fork to fluff the mixture in the pot. Arrange it as your first layer in your serving dish.
  2. Next layer: chickpeas.
  3. Next layer: macaroni / pasta.
  4. Next layer: drizzle half of the tomato sauce.
  5. Next layer: drizzle half the cumin sauce.
  6. Next layer: half the crispy onions.
  7. Put the remaining sauces and onions in separate bowls and serve on the side.

Notes on Koshari

  • When you first cook Koshari it might seem like a big deal. This is why Koshari is often made with left over lentils, rice and chickpeas, namely: small amounts from other meals that you might otherwise throw away. (Why throw food away?) So, if you really enjoyed this recipe then each time you cook lentils, rice and chickpeas you can make a little extra so that you can put together a Koshari a few days later.
  • Can also wrap it up in a falafel pita bread if you’d like to make a sandwich out of it.
  • Regarding the chickpeas: you can soak them in cold water overnight and cook them the next day; or use canned chickpeas – the choice is yours.
  • The copious amount of vinegar used in Koshari not only gives it the tangy, sharp flavour people love. It also helps break down the carbohydrates Koshari is all about. Also, the amount of iron the cumin sauce contains is impressive. Read more here. (Scroll down to the post’s Notes.)
  • Important tip: the recipe uses many pots and pans. If you have just two or three, just wash them as you go. (Less work to do at the end, n’est-ce pas?)

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