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.
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.
- Rice: Use Egyptian rice (also known as Calrose short-grain rice).
- 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 onion, sweet onion, or red onion.
- Tomatoes: I like to use tomatoes on the vine or Roma tomatoes. Beefsteak tomatoes work just fine. I don't recommend using canned tomatoes in this recipe.
- Tomato Paste: Any type of tomato paste will do for this recipe.
- Garlic: I recommend using fresh garlic.
- 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.
- Crushed Red Pepper: Just a pinch of crushed red pepper. Alternatively use ground chili powder or fresh chili pepper.
- Spices: This authentic Egyptian koshari recipe needs ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground chili powder.
- 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.
- Oil: Any type of oil can be used, but my favorite is sunflower oil because it makes the fried onions very crispy. 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.
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. Before getting started, 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.
Once the chickpeas are tender, add a squeeze of lime on top.
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.
Make The Fresh Red Sauce (Optional)
Make the fresh red sauce. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, pepper, lime juice, and some oil from the fried onions in a food processor.
Blend on high. Set aside.
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 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
Add the soaked brown lentils and water to the cooked onions. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
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 to 15 minutes, or until the rice is steamed. 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 the tomatoes in a blender. Pour the pureed tomatoes into a strainer.
Use a spoon to press the blended tomatoes through the strainer.
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.
Add the strained tomatoes. Stir in the ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, sugar, and ground pepper.
Boil on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Add a chili pepper if desired.
Assemble your koshari bowl!
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).
- Koshari lentil rice
- Cumin chickpeas
- Traditional koshari tomato sauce with vinegar
- Fresh red sauce (optional)
- 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 using long-grain rice, add a cup more water. Long-grain rice requires more water than short-grain rice.
- 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.
Time Saving Tips
Koshari takes time to make, especially if it's your first go around. Here are some time-saving tips:
- Use canned chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas.
- Don't make the optional fresh red sauce.
- Use store-bought passata (strained tomatoes) instead of blending and straining fresh tomatoes.
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.
Middle Eastern Lentil Recipes
Check out the best Egyptian traditional foods, or try some of our favorites below!
Egyptian Koshari Recipe (The Best I've Had)
- 1 cup dried chickpeas or 2 - 15 ounce cans of chickpeas** See note 3
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ lime
- 1½ lbs onion about 2 large onions
- 6 tablespoon flour to toss the onions in prior to frying
- oil for frying preferably sunflower oil** See note 5
- salt to taste
Fresh Red Sauce (Optional)
- 1 lb tomatoes
- 6 ounces green bell pepper
- 6 ounces onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon oil from the fried onions
- 1 lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 spicy pepper optional
Koshari Lentil Rice
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 cups dry Calrose rice or short-grain rice **See note 4
- 1¼ lbs onion about 1½ large onions
- 4 tablespoon oil from the fried onions
- 4 cups water
- 8 ounces elbow pasta
- 8 ounces dried spaghetti
Traditional Koshari Red Sauce
- 2¼ lbs tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes or cayenne powder optional
- 9 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Soak Dry Lentils and Dry Chickpeas Ahead of Time
- Soak the dried lentils and dried chickpeas in water for 3 hours prior to making koshari.
Prepare the Chickpeas
- See note 3 if using canned chickpeas. Boil the dried chickpeas until semi-cooked (about 45 minutes to an hour). Drain water.
- Add fresh water and the ground cumin. Boil chickpeas a second time for another 30 minutes.
- Once chickpeas are cooked, squeeze the lime over the chickpeas.
Fry the Onions
- Chop the onions into circles. Mix with flour and set aside for 30 minutes prior to frying.
- Fry in oil, preferably sunflower oil. Using a frying spatula, remove the onions from the oil. Set onto a paper towel and set aside. Salt as desired.
- Keep the sunflower oil to use some of it in other parts of the recipe.
Make the Fresh Red Sauce (Optional)
- Blend the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, and garlic cloves in the food processor.
- If you would like a spicy sauce, add 1 spicy pepper.
- Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, oil (from the fried onions), lime juice, salt, and pepper. Blend and set aside.
Make the Koshari Lentil Rice
- Blend the onions in a food processor.
- In a high-rimmed stovetop pot, add the oil (from the fried onions). Cook the blended onions slowly on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the drained brown lentils (these will be about 2.25 cups after being soaked) and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes covered, or until they soften.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add the short-grain rice. Add salt and pepper. Mix the koshari rice and cover. Continue to cook on medium-low heat covered until the rice is tender (about 12 to 15 minutes).
- Turn off the stove and allow the rice to rest covered for 5 minutes.
Cook the Pasta
- Boil water and add about 1 tablespoon of salt.
- Break the spaghetti pasta in half, then break the half again making quarter-size sections of spaghetti. Break about 15 spaghetti noodles at the same time.
- Add the spaghetti pasta and elbow pasta to the boiling water. Cook the pasta until desired firmness. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
Koshari Vinegar Red Sauce
- Blend the tomatoes in a blender. Strain tomatoes into a bowl. Mince the garlic cloves.
- Fry oil (or ghee) with 1 teaspoon chili flakes (or chili powder) for 30 seconds then add the minced garlic cloves.
- Add the tomato paste and vinegar for about 30 seconds before adding the blended tomatoes.
- Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, salt, sugar, and ground black pepper. simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Store koshari rice, pasta, fresh red sauce, koshari vinegar red sauce, fried onions, and chickpeas separately in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Whole wheat pasta is a suitable substitution.
- Substitute 2 cans of chickpeas (15-ounce cans) for 1 cup of dried chickpeas. Because canned chickpeas are already cooked, just drain the chickpeas. Boil for 5 minutes in water with ½ tablespoon of ground cumin. Then squeeze ½ a lime on top.
- Use Calrose rice, Egyptian rice, or Japanese short-grain rice for this recipe. If using medium or long-grain rice, the water ratio will need to be adjusted.
- After frying the onions, save the frying oil. Use some of the frying oil in other parts of the recipe.
- The nutrition facts do not factor in the oil from frying the onions.