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Egyptian koshari—a texture and depth that will surprise you

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Yella, let's eat Koshari, the national dish of Egypt (also known as koshary and koshari). It is a genius solution to using leftovers in the pantry or fridge. It's a comfort food through and through. Rice, small bits of vermicelli, combined with chickpeas, smothered in a punchy tomato sauce. The crunch comes from the crispy thin fried onion rings lathered on top. It may not seem like much but it has a texture and depth that will surprise you. You really have to try this one!

A bowl of koshari, chickpeas, tomato sauce, lentils, rice and pasta
Egyptian koshari—a texture and depth that will surprise you

The Story

Apparently koshari was created in mid-19th century. An Indian rice and lentil dish known as khichdi was introduced to Egypt during the British rule. Some accounts believe that the pasta added to the dish was influenced by a minority of Italians who lived in Egypt at the time.

Koshari is known as "The food of the Poor".


The Recipe - Koshari


Crispy Fried Onions

3 yellow onions large, peeled and thinly sliced

1½ cups sunflower oil

2 pinches salt

¼ cup all purpose flour


2 tablespoons cooking oil the onion oil from above

1½ cups Jasmine rice rinsed and drained, see note

¼ cup vermicelli optional

1½ cups green lentils or brown, rinsed and drained

1½ cups elbow pasta

1 teaspoon salt

1 420gms canned chickpeas rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder


2 tablespoons cooking oil from cooked onions

5 cloves garlic

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste


Crispy Fried Onions

In a wide frying pan, heat oil.

In a large bowl combine sliced onion and two pinches of salt, then toss with flour. Shake off any excess flour.

Fry onions in batches until crisp and golden brown. Drain and set aside. Do not throw out the oil.


Rice: In a cooking pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the onion oil, add vermicelli and saute until light golden brown (watch carefully as it burns quickly). Add rice, 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and let it cook for 15 minutes until steam builds up well.

Lentils: In a saucepan, take lentils, 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon oil, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon pepper, ⅓ teaspoon salt and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes until all the lentils are well cooked (do not let them turn mushy). They should still have a nice bite and texture. Drain any excess water and set aside.

Chickpeas: In a pan, heat 2 teaspoons onion oil. Add drained chickpeas, ½ teaspoon coriander, garlic powder and stir it couple minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Pasta: In a cooking pot take 6 cups of water, 2 teaspoons salt, a drizzle of oil and bring it to the boil. Add pasta and let it cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente (check time on package). Drain the pasta and set it aside.


Heat 2 tablespoons onion oil in a saucepan. Add grated garlic and saute 1 to 2 minutes but do not let it turn brown. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, chili flakes and stir it well. Transfer half of this mixture into a small bowl.

Tomato Sauce: To the remaining mixture in the saucepan, add tomato sauce and simmer 5 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Garlic Vinegar: To the other half in the bowl, add 2 tablespoons vinegar, ¼ cup water, ½ teaspoon cumin (optional) and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice or vinegar and water to make more sauce as per taste.

Plating: Plate with layers in the following order;

Rice-vermicelli, lentils, pasta, chickpeas, dollops of tomato sauce, crisp onions.

Serve garlic vinegar and hot sauce on the side.

Make Ahead: You can make ahead all the layers of this dish, expect the fried onions.

Leftovers: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months. Warm it up before serving.

Download recipe here

Download PDF • 1.10MB

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