I’ve been thinking a lot about Egypt lately since the news coming out of the Middle East is intense to say the least. Since, lately, the news has been all bad, I wanted to share something amazing to come out of Egyptian culture - Koshary. Koshary is a staple street food in Egypt and is beyond delicious.

“Koshary originated in the mid 19th century, during a time when Egypt was a multi-cultural country and the economy was booming. The lower-class’ usually limited pantry became full with a myriad of ingredients: lentils, rice, pasta, chickpeas, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, oil, etc. At the end of the month, families would usually have a little left of everything, so families would use it up by putting it all together into a tasty dish.”*

This recipe is a little time consuming, but the results are worth it!


  • 2 (14.5 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed**
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ (16 ounce) package ditalini pasta
  • 1 ½ cups short-grain rice, rinsed
  • cold water, to cover
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown lentils
  • water, to cover
  • 1 pinch salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes**
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive oil, vegan margarine)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 (3 ounce) can French-fried onions
** I doubled the amount of chickpeas and crushed tomatoes and I think it was just the right amount. You can adjust that according to your taste.   Directions:
  1. Combine the chickpeas, vinegar, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cumin in a resealable bag or container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in refrigerator while prepping remainder of dish, shaking occasionally.
  2. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the ditalani pasta in the boiling water until cooked through yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes; drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the rice with enough cold water to cover; allow to soak for 20 minutes. Drain.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the lentils with enough water to cover in a pot; season with salt and pepper. Bring the lentils to a boil and cook at a boil until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion and garlic in the hot oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low, and maintain at a simmer while preparing remainder of dish.
  6. Add the oil to a pot over medium-high heat. Add the rice to the oil, increase heat to high, and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the vegetable stock over the rice; bring to a boil. Season the rice mixture with salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until rice is tender, and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  7. Mix the rice and lentils together on a large serving platter. Spread the cooked ditalani over the rice and lentil mixture. Serve with the marinated chickpeas, the tomato sauce, and the French-fried onions as condiments.

* From Wikipedia

via: All Recipes


Considered to be the Egyptian national dish, it consists of pasta and tomato sauce, among other items, including rice, lentils, caramelized onions, garlic and chickpeas. Having four sources of carbohydrates has made it the most popular lunch item in most common food outlets in Egypt for over 100 years. Interestingly enough, Kushari’s origins are not Egyptian at all, in fact it was a dish brought in by the British army in Egypt in the 19th century: the pasta was imported from Italy, the tomatoes are from Latin America and the rice from Asia, however the idea to mix them all together in one extremely delicious and vegetarian dish was conceived in Egypt.

Why is it that “street food” and “food truck food” are always so intriguing?

Take shwarma, for instance, which I first tasted in Jerusalem many years ago. I absolutely couldn’t resist, especially after my daughter Meredith, who had been living in Israel for several months, told me that I would fall in love with this particular dish.

I did. I can still remember that first awesome bite.

I am not tempted by all street food of course. I would never, never try one of those greasy-looking hot dogs that sit in cloudy water with those awful fat globules floating on top.

But when we traveled to Egypt I was fascinated by this wonderful looking/aromatic dish called koshary. Fortunately Ed and I were on a Nile cruise ship and, just our luck! the chef knew how to make it.

Lucky us. He prepared the dish for lunch one day and also told me the basic ingredients, which I have worked with several times to try to make koshary that tasted the way we like it.

That’s it in the photo. This is a dish that takes some time and has several parts (unlike most of my recipes). But it is worth the effort.

Koshary! Street food. Food truck food. Meatless Monday food. Vegetarian food. Filling. Fabulous, even when it’s reheated.


Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 28 ounce can Italian style tomatoes, including liquid, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly. Add the cinnamon stick and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until thick. Remove the cinnamon stick, puree the ingredients (I use a hand blender) and set aside.

The Grains:

  • 6 ounces small pasta (elbows, farfalle, etc.)
  • ½ cup lentils
  • ½ cup Basmati rice
  • 3-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to warm (about 225 degrees). Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook the lentils in lightly salted water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside. Combine the rice with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the heat but keep the cover on the pan to keep the rice warm. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside in the oven to keep warm.

Final Assembly:

Reheat the tomato sauce. Add ½ tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan used for the onions. Add the cooked macaroni and cook over medium heat without stirring, for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom is crispy. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes to crisp the pasta. Remove the pasta to a serving platter. Add ½ tablespoon olive oil to the sauté pan. Add the lentils and cook for 1-2 minutes or until lightly crispy. Spoon the lentils on top of the pasta. Top with the rice. Add ½ tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the chickpeas and cook briefly to warm them. Spoon the chick peas over the rice. Spoon the tomato sauce on top. Top with the caramelized onions.

Makes 8 servings

A Haiku Ode to Koshary, My Favorite Egyptian Food

How Do I Love Thee, Koshary?

Let me count the carbs:

Spaghetti, macaroni

Rice, lentils, chickpeas!

[With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.]

I’ll spare you any further faux-etry other than to say that koshary - an Egyptian street food dish that I like to pretend means “Festival of Carbs” in Arabic - speaks right to my soul.

Because really, why shouldn’t you put all the carbs together in one dish? Who says you can’t mix pasta and rice? Why wouldn’t you enjoy a dish for which the sponsorship slogan could be “Koshary: Brought to You by Carbs.”

To these and other questions, the Egyptians say tafaddali (go on, gurl). And especially in light of recent events, I am not one to argue with the will of the Egyptian people.

Koshary is not a dish I’ve seen much outside of Egypt, but if you live in Dubai you can now get half-decent koshary delivered right to your doorstep courtesy of Zaroob on Sheikh Zayed Road. Order some manakish while you’re at it and you can have yourself a proper little pan-Arab feast

And remember… you’ve got the culinary predilections of 80 million Egyptians backing you on your undeniable right to excessive carbs. 

(Pictured here with leftover Garlicky Roasted Chickpeas from that recipe that everyone on Tumblr’s been raving about lately. I felt fairly “meh” about them… but then again, who needs side dishes when you’ve got ALL THE CARBS?)