One of our absolute favorites, Koshari is one of those dishes that hits all the right notes – hearty, flavorful, and deeply satisfying. Originating from Egypt, it’s a true staple and beloved street food. Trust us, once you taste it, you’ll understand why it’s so popular!

overhead large bowl of koshari with the fixings on top and the sides

We grew up eating Koshari. Mom would spend hours making this dish, and to be honest, we never actually made Koshari ourselves, partially, because we thought it was just too much work.

But! Since you all started requesting a koshary recipe, we knew we were going to figure out how to make it AND try to simplify it! After weeks of recipe testing with Mom, and lots of failed attempts (and eating  A LOT of koshary), we finally got this recipe right!

A little more about the dish …

Brief History About Koshary & Some Common Questions

Koshari is an Egyptian dish that has been around for centuries. It’s considered the national dish of Egypt (very big deal for a simple recipe!) and one of the most popular street foods in Cairo, Alexandria, and other major cities.

The history of the dish is a bit of a mystery and some people argue that it was brought to Egypt by the Ottomans during their rule in the late 1800s. While koshary is very popular with students, who can often be seen eating at street food carts on college campuses, it’s a dish that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Is it expensive? The short answer is: no. 

People are often curious how much it costs to buy koshari in Egypt but prices for this street food will vary depending on where you’re eating, what ingredients are used, etc. 

If you have never tried this dish before, it’s best to keep an open mind when trying it, especially since there are so many different ways of having it. For example, if you were to eat it at a street cart, which sell some of the most traditional versions, there will be several layers of rice (usually three), topped with lentils, chickpeas, pasta noodles (macaroni), red sauce/red pepper flakes/paprika powder mix (shatta), and garbanzo beans.      

Just in case you ever catch yourself near an Egyptian food vendor, just know that Koshary can be served wet or dry. When you go to a restaurant and order koshary, they will usually ask which version you would like: “shatta?” meaning with shatta (red sauce/pepper flakes) on top or “tammem” meaning without any red pepper in it.   

If you’re having some homemade koshary at a friend’s house, they will serve it with the works, including the red sauce, cumin sauce, fried onions, and crushed red peppers. Everyone can customize a plate to their liking. Some like more of the rice with lentils, some like it with a little extra pasta, others like it really spicy!

What Does Koshary Taste Like? 

To be honest, koshari tastes like heaven. It’s a spicy, savory dish that combines lentils and rice with pasta (the best of both worlds). 

It’s traditionally served with fried onions, vinegar (cumin sauce), and a spicy tomato sauce. Some people add ketchup to it for an extra kick or garlic powder but that can be pretty controversial when it comes to this already delicious dish! 

While many Egyptians have their own version of how they prepare koshary at home (and some will argue about which one is the best), you’ll typically find most street food vendors serving koshary in Egypt using a variation of this recipe. So don’t worry, this is authentic as it gets — minus the desert heat! However, we are in the Northern US, so maybe we can use some of that heat this winter.

How Long Does Koshary Last?  

When refrigerated, koshary can last up to three days. However, if you’re making this dish at home and plan on saving it for later, make sure to use a microwave or stovetop when reheating because using the oven will dry out your koshary – nobody likes dried pasta!

Is Koshary Healthy?  

Yes, it can be! Koshary is high in carbohydrates and plant-based protein so this makes it an ideal meal for athletes. It also has lentils which are great for fiber intake while the tomato sauce provides a good amount of Vitamin C. All of those nutrients make koshary the perfect meal for when you’re on the go or after a workout.  

What’s more, there are many ways one could prepare this dish depending on their preferences. – if you want to make your koshary healthier then try preparing it without frying each component before serving! 

Before I Cook It Am I Saying it Right? How Do You Pronounce Koshary?

Don’t worry, we always like to make sure that we’re saying things right, too. This dish is pronounced ‘ko-sha-ree’ and some people will also say it’s called koshari.

As with many dishes from different countries around the world, there can be multiple names for them depending on where they come from and how they’re prepared. Think spaghetti bolognese (UK) vs spaghetti meat sauce (US). Though there are different derivatives when it comes to its spelling Koshary/kushari/kishri all refer to the same dish but each name has its own meaning:

  • Kushary – means mixed or blended in Egyptian Arabic.
  • Kishri – is the name for rice that’s used for koshary and refers to a type of round-grained rice, similar to basmati.
  • Kosheri means ‘to mix things together’ in Greek so it makes sense why this dish would have multiple names depending on where you are!

Here are all the components of Koshary

Fried Onions – An absolute must. It’s the base of every step of this Koshary. Not only that but the oil is used in every step as well. The reasoning is the oil has a deep onion flavor, which gives a nice flavor boost to the rice and lentils, and the tomato sauce.

Chickpeas – These are a great source of fiber and protein and give the koshary another texture element.

Rice and Lentils – You can’t have koshary without these. They are the heart of what koshary is.

Tomato Sauce – Also known as “Dimaa,” this is the main flavor component of this dish. It’s tangy, salty, and delicious! We love to load on the tomato sauce! Tip* Take half the tomato sauce and add cayenne pepper. That way you can add some extra spice!

Cumin Sauce – Also known as the “daqaa,” it’s garlicky, tangy, and has a unbeatable flavor from the cumin!

Koshary is all about the layering! Add the rice with lentil mixture as the base, top with cooked pasta, chickpeas, and fried onions. Drizzle with tomato sauce and cumin sauce.

close up view bowl of koshari with the fixings on top and the sides

Time To Make Some Koshary! Let us know what you think about the dish

So now that we’ve covered everything from what exactly koshary is, how its pronounced (and spelled), along with some history behind it…hopefully by now your stomach will be rumbling because our mouths are watering just thinking about it. Let us know what you think in the comments below…

a bowl of koshari

Recipe for Koshary: an Egyptian National Dish

4.50 from 8 votes
Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 8
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 30 minutes
One of the most popular street foods in Egypt, worth every step!

Ingredients  

  • 16 oz canned chickpeas rinsed and drained (or homemade)
  • 12 oz ditalini cooked according to package instructions

Fried Onions

  • 3 large onions sliced thin into rings
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tbsp fried onions
  • 1 tbsp reserved vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • cayenne pepper optional

Rice and Lentils

  • 2 tbsp reserved oil
  • 1/3 cup fried onions
  • 2 cups brown lentils rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups short grain rice rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup toasted vermicelli see notes
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups HOT water
  • ground cumin optional

Cumin Sauce

  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt more or less to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper optional

Instructions 

Fried Onions

  • Slice onions thin. Sprinkle salt and cornstarch. Toss together. 
  • Add vegetable oil to a large deep pan to cover the bottom by 1-inch. Fry at 350 degree F. stirring every now and then, onions should be nice and golden brown, Approximately 10-12 minutes. Reserve oil!
  • Line a plate with a paper towel. Add onions in a single layer and let drain on the paper towel. Set aside to harden.

Tomato Sauce

  • In a saucepan on medium heat add oil, and garlic. Sautè until fragrant. approximately 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
  • Add onions, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover, let simmer for 15 minutes.

Rice and Lentils

  • In an enameled dutch oven or heavy pot on medium high heat, add oil with the fried onions, lentils, and 1 tbsp salt. Stir for 1-2 minutes. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Keep heat on medium high, (it should be a gentle boil) for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the lentils are al-dente. *DO NOT DRAIN WATER.
  • Stir in rice, vermicelli, hot water, and additional tablespoon salt.(Option to add Cumin*) Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat low for 12-15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Fluff with a fork.

Cumin Sauce

  • All the ingredients in a measuring cup. Whisk to combine.

Assembly

  • Koshary is all about the layering! Add the rice with lentil mixture as the base, top with cooked pasta, chickpeas, and fried onions. Drizzle with tomato sauce and cumin sauce.
  • A great option for serving: Arrange all the ingredients on the table and everyone can assemble with all there favorite toppings!

Video

Notes

*How to toast vermicelli: In a medium non-stick pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil or ghee on medium-high. Add the vermicelli and continuously stir to toast it evenly. It will turn a nice golden brown, but be careful as it can burn easily! 

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

If you want more Egyptian recipes, try our Egyptian Orzo Pasta .

Shopping:

If you’re looking for the pretty bamboo wooden spoon, you can find it here.

The 4 qt. blue swirl enameled pot here.

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

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Recipe Rating




16 Comments

  1. 2 stars
    This dish was ruined by your inauthentic and watery tomato sauce. No Egyptian worth their salt would add 3 cups of water to the tomato sauce for koshary. It’s supposed to be tomato sauce with spices. Not watery tomato.

    1. We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy it, Celeste. You can, of course, modify to fit your preferences. We do our best to make our recipes simple and accessible to everyone.

      Xo,
      Alia & Radwa

  2. As salamu aleikum. I visited Egypt in August 2023 & had koshary in both Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh. still kicking myself that i didnt go to Abou Tarek in Cairo. The recipe you have provided is so simplified and i made a few steps simultaneously. Now I miss Egypt. Shukran so much, all the way from Mozambique!

  3. Hello from Austria!
    I just made this dish, ang it was absolutely great. I made a horrible mess in our small kitchen, and it took me two and a half hours from start to finish. Now I’m exhausted. Truth be told, I doubt I’ve ever cooked such a cooked such a complicated dish. I think though, that it’ll be easier, the more often I make it.
    I also wonder what those insane portion sizes are! I made half of the smallest size , just for myself and it’s still enough to feed a family!
    I also love how spicy it is. I often make Shakshuka, which reminds me of this due to the cumin and tomato combination alongside pleasing hotness.

  4. 4 stars
    So delicious! I made this for dinner tonight. One question: when cooking the lentils prior to adding the rice,etc, are you supposed to cook it with the lid on? I found nearly all the water was gone by the time I added the rice and vermicelli and adding just 2 more cups of hot water wasn’t enough for the rice and vermicelli. I added more and it came out fine, but perhaps the lentils should have been cooked with the lid on.

  5. Hi, when you say to add fried onions to tomatoes sauce and rice, are these the onions that were fried at the beginning of the recipe? If so do you need to fry more onions to top the final dish with? Thanks!

    1. Yes, they are some of the onions that were fried in the beginning! You don’t need to add all of it, just a little bit, which gives it flavor. You don’t need to fry more unless you prefer a lot of fried onions!

  6. 5 stars
    Egyptian recipes are a new experience for me. There are so many complex flavors to this dish. It’s definitely one of my new favorites. I especially love the lentils. It’s truly amazing!

    1. Hi Trish! We are so happy you’re giving Egyptian food a go and that you love this recipe! Let us know what else you end up trying! xo, Alia & Radwa

  7. I almost left out the cumin sauce, but I did want the total experience… Koshari is amazing… So delicious so incredible I may not ever need to eat meat again… says:

    I made it!!!! I almost left out the cumin sauce, but I did want the total experience… Koshari is amazing… So delicious so incredible I may not ever need to eat meat again…

  8. Hi, in the ingredients you say: 1 cup toasted vermicelli see notes, but I don’t see the note!
    How would you recommand we toast the vermicelli?