Serves a Crowd

Egyptian Street-Style Koshary (Lentils, Rice, Pasta and Garlic Tomato Sauce)

October 19, 2020
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Photo by Romeo Delshad
Author Notes

Koshary is the second most popular street food in Egypt, second only to falafel. Popular cafeteria-style restaurants serve this dish in every neighborhood, in every city, town and municipality across the country.

What is Koshary?
Koshary is a layered dish full of carb-loaded dreams. It's brown lentils and rice cooked in onion-flavored oil. Then, topped with pasta and generously bathed in a tangy, garlicky tomato sauce. This yummy combo is then covered in fried onions, chickpeas, and extra spice for those who can stand it.

The result? Garlicky, oniony, soft, crunchy, salty, vinegar-y incredible goodness that will have you filling your plate again and again. This dish is SO addictive, that Koshary joints offer a "kemala," or second serving, regularly on their menus. Because no one eats just one plate.

While it uses, like 4 pots and pans, 2 colanders, and takes over the entire kitchen, this dish is vegan, vegetarian, and is budget-friendly. In fact, you can probably feed 8 people for less than $10! Try it, and you'll be addicted, too.

Bel hana wel shefa (Arabic: enjoy it with happiness and good health)! —Hajar D.

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 6 + leftovers
  • Koshary
  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 large onions
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 pound small-shaped pasta, such as Ditalini or elbow
  • salt
  • sugar
  • 1 can, chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Tangy Garlic Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup oil (preferably the oil used for frying onions, above)
  • 1/4 cup freshly pressed garlic (about 8-12 garlic cloves, use more or less according to preference)
  • 1 can, tomato paste (5 oz)
  • 1 can, tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (15 oz)(14 oz)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
In This Recipe
  1. Koshary
  2. Begin by peeling the onions, cutting them in half and slicing them into thin half moons. Place in a colander over a plate and rub with 1 tablespoon of salt, allow salt to extract excess liquid for a few minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan on medium high heat.
  4. Simultaneously, bring 3-4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a medium non-stick pot. When the water boils, add the lentils (rinsed) and let boil for exactly 5 minutes, then strain in a colander and set aside. The lentils should still have some crunch.
  5. When the frying oil is hot, fry the onions in batches until they are light brown. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar per batch at this stage, stir. Once they reach medium brown, remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate. They will continue to cook and turn a darker shade of brown (See photos).
  6. Cook pasta according to package directions in well-salted water. Drain and set aside, drizzling with olive oil and covering until ready to serve.
  7. Remove around 1/2 cup of the oil used for frying the onions into the pot where the lentils were cooked, along with a sprinkling of fried onions. Add 3 cups of water and 1.5 teaspoons of salt. Cover and allow to come to a boil.
  8. Add all of the lentils and 2 cups of rinsed medium grain rice. Stir well and cover, allow to come to a boil. This is the actual koshary :)
  9. As soon as the koshary mixture boils, reduce heat to very low and allow to cook, covered, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cover until ready to plate.
  1. Tangy Garlic Tomato Sauce
  2. In a (separate) medium saucepan, heat the oil on medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring frequently until it turns a light golden color.
  4. Add the can of tomato paste, stirring constantly. Continue to stir the paste, garlic, and oil until the tomato paste softens and separates a bit (about 2-3 minutes total). Add the vinegar (caution: it will splash).
  5. Add the tomato sauce or diced tomatoes, and an additional 1 can full of water. Add salt, pepper, and cumin.
  6. Stir to incorporate. Cover and allow to come to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until the oil rises to the top, about 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if needed.
  8. Now, it's time to assemble your Koshary Plate: In a wide bowl, add a generous portion of Koshary. Top with cooked pasta. Spoon tangy tomato sauce over the pasta and koshary. Sprinkle with crunchy onions. Enjoy! Optional: add chickpeas and crushed red pepper flakes.

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