Koshari (also spelled kushari and koshary) is the national dish of Egypt made with brown lentil rice, spicy tomato sauce, pasta, and crispy onions. It's popular Egyptian street food, and it hits the spot. This Egyptian koshari recipe is a family recipe and the best I've ever had. If you are ever visiting Egypt, I recommend trying ful medames, mulukhiyah with roz, and koshari (of course)!
What Is Koshari?
Koshari is a hearty vegan meal made with lentil rice, pasta, chickpeas, vinegar tomato sauce, and topped with crispy thin fried onion rings.
What I Love About This Recipe
This meal is delicious! However, the thing I love the most about this recipe is it's perfect for batch cooking and meal prepping. It reheats extremely well, so it's one of my favorite meals to prepare ahead of time. It takes some time to make, but it's worth it!
Why This Koshari Recipe Is The Best
Many koshari recipes only have a cooked red vinegar sauce. However, this recipe has two types of red sauce: a fresh red sauce and a cooked vinegar red sauce. This recipe has been perfected over a lifetime, and the fresh red sauce is the secret sauce.
- Tomatoes: I like to use tomatoes on the vine. However, Roma tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes work just fine. I don't recommend using canned tomatoes in this recipe.
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): I recommend using dried chickpeas; however, canned chickpeas can be substituted to save some time.
- Pasta: Traditional koshari uses white pasta, but a healthier alternative is whole wheat pasta. In fact, I prefer whole wheat pasta for this recipe when I can find whole wheat spaghetti and whole wheat elbow pasta.
- Brown Lentils: I recommend using brown lentils for the right koshari experience; however, green lentils can be substituted.
- Onions: You can use white onion, brown onion, yellow onions, sweet onion, or red onion.
- Tomato Paste: Any type of tomato paste will do for this recipe. The tomato paste is used for the koshari vinegar red sauce.
- Garlic: I recommend using fresh garlic.
- Bell Peppers: I use green bell peppers, but yellow, red, or orange bell peppers can be used.
- Spicy Pepper: If you like spicy food, you can use any type of spicy pepper. Be careful not to overdo it though!
- White Vinegar: I use distilled white vinegar. I don't recommend using any other type of vinegar because it will change the flavor of the koshari vinegar red sauce.
- Lime: I use fresh limes and prefer limes over lemons for this dish.
- Oil: Any type of oil can be used. One tip is to use the same oil that was used for frying the onions (after frying the onions) because it's infused with an onion flavor. I prefer olive oil for the vinegar red sauce.
- Rice: Use Egyptian rice (also known as Calrose short grain rice).
- Spices: This authentic Egyptian koshari recipe needs ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground chili powder.
How To Make Koshari
This koshary recipe is split into four parts: make the chickpeas and crispy fried onions, blend the fresh red sauce, cook the lentil rice, and make the vinegary sauce.
Soak the lentils and chickpeas ahead of time for about 3 hours.
Make The Chickpeas and Fried Onions
Boil the chickpeas with cumin while preparing the fried onions. Chop the onions into thin circles. Allow the onions tossed in flour to rest for 30 minutes prior to frying. Sunflower oil yields the most crispy fried onions. Fry the onions in oil until golden brown, then put them on a paper towel lined plate. Once the chickpeas are tender, add a squeeze of lime on top.
Make The Fresh Red Sauce
Make the fresh red sauce by adding bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves. Blend on high. Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, pepper, lime juice, and some oil from the fried onions in a food processor. Blend on high.
Make The Koshari Lentil Rice
Prepare the koshari lentil rice by blending the peeled onion in the food processor. Add some oil to a high-rimmed pot and fry the blended onions for about 15 minutes on medium heat.
Add the soaked brown lentils and water to the cooked onions. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the rice and more water. Add salt and pepper and mix the rice. Cover and cook for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep the rice covered.
Make The Pasta and Koshari Red Vinegar Sauce
Cook the pasta until al dente per the package instructions while making the tomato vinegar chili sauce. Blend five medium tomatoes in a blender and strain the tomato juice.
In a medium saucepan on high heat, add some oil and fry the red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper) and minced garlic for about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and white vinegar for about 30 seconds before adding the strained tomatoes. Stir in the ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, sugar, and ground pepper and boil on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Add a chili pepper if desired.
How to Assemble the Perfect Koshari Bowl
Because koshari has several parts to it, you might be wondering how to assemble everything. I made the list in order of how you assemble the bowl starting with the bottom-most layer (being the koshari lentil rice).
- Lentil rice
- Chickpeas in cumin
- Tangy tomato sauce with vinegar
- Fresh red sauce
- Crispy fried onions
Tips and Variations
- I recommend following the steps just as I lay them out in the recipe instructions to save the most time.
- If you want to lighten this recipe up, use whole wheat pasta and reduce the amount of oil used for the koshari rice.
- Use the oil from the fried onions in other parts of this recipe. This is a tip I've heard from 2 sources to make the most flavorful koshari.
- Substitute brown rice in lieu of white rice.
The secret to an amazing bowl of koshari is the right portions of each layer. Personally, I go overboard with the fresh red sauce and fried onions. But, experiment for yourself with what you prefer.
Normally, koshari is served as a standalone dish. However, you can add some boiled eggs to the side. Also, a chopped salad goes well with this dish.
Koshari is not difficult to make, but it has a lot of parts. Each part is easy to do, but if you are in a hurry, it can get overwhelming. If you are making this for your first time, block off about 2 hours and 30 minutes to take your time. When you've made koshari a few times, you can cook it in less than 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you have made this meal a lot, you can get it down to an hour.