Kushari

I watched Tony Bourdain eat kushari on a No Reservations: Egypt episode and it looked and sounded amazing to me.

And though he didn’t call it the national dish of Egypt, I have heard some do so.

However, I have seen the name of the dish spelled several different ways: kusheri, kushary, koshari, koshary, and others.

 

Because I love the combination of lentils and rice (or any beans and rice), pasta, red sauce, and fried onions on their own, I couldn’t wait to mix them together into one dish!

Note: I’m aware some people use broth to make this, even chicken stock (like Yotam Ottolenghi), but I just use water. Vegetarian / vegan all the way for this one. Plenty of protein all by itself.

I’ve heard stories that this dish is a thousand years old and others claim a hundred. It was vegetarian peasant food, military food, street vendor, and now restaurant fare. Part Indian, Italian, maybe Persian, and of course Egyptian. A blend of cultures which come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts. What’s not to love?

 

Lentils

I’ve been cooking a lot with lentils lately. And by scouring the local grocery stores, I managed to find four different varieties. There are more than a dozen that I’m aware of but they’re not so easily found. At least not locally.

But I wanted — no, needed! — small brown lentils and I found them online from the Palouse Brand farm in Washington State.  And it was well-worth it. They taste so good.

five bowls of different lentil varieties
Lentils come in several varieties. Here, clockwise from top left, are French Le Puy green, regular green, black (or beluga), brown, and red.

 

I toasted some coriander seed first, then ground it up. I used it in both the base mix of lentils and rice and again in the spicy tomato sauce. You could, of course, just use ground coriander.

coriander seeds toasting in a pan

 

Onions

an onion and some flour

Peel a large onion. Then slice it very thinly.

sliced onions on a cutting board

Toss with some flour and a little salt in a bowl, enough for a thin coat. Shake off any excess.

In a fry pan over medium heat, add a couple of glugs of oil. I used avocado oil, you could use just about any type you’d prefer.

Fry the onions slowly, turning occasionally (I just use a small pair of tongs), until they’re well-browned and crispy but not burnt. It takes 15-20 minutes, so be patient.

The picture below is about mid-way through.

sliced onions frying in a pan

Once they’re crispy, remove them to paper towels to drain.

One of my kids doesn’t care for the onions (though he loves the dish itself). My wife and I think they make the dish.

 

Sauce

ingredients for kushari spicy tomato sauce

How spicy you make the sauce is up to you. I prefer the heat and would add the optional cumin and red pepper flakes. I might even accidentally add a bit extra. But you do you.

For the tomatoes, you could of course use fresh or even canned whole. Just carefully take a hand blender, regular blender, or food processor to them. A 28oz can or two 15oz cans of tomato sauce will also work.

Mince the onion. Cook with a glug of oil and a pinch or two of kosher salt over medium-high heat until it’s tender. Because it’s cut so small it should only take a couple of minutes. Add the minced garlic, spices, and pepper and cook for another minute, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Yes, it’s a good amount of garlic. Add even more if you’d like.

Finally, add the tomatoes and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, loosely cover the pan to prevent splatter, and let it cook on the back burner for 15 minutes until the raw tomato taste is gone and enough liquid evaporates to thicken it a bit.

 

Base

kushari ingredients

I used canned chickpeas so they were already cooked. If you need to cook yours, do so ahead of time since it takes a while.

Rinse the rice and put it in a bowl. Cover with water and set it aside.

Rinse the lentils well. Make sure there is no debris in there.

I have an OXO bean, grain, or rice colander that is absolutely perfect for this but a strainer will work too.

lentils covered with water in a pan

Into a pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer and let the lentils cook until they’re tender but well-short of mushy. These small brown ones took about 15 minutes.

(By the way, I found that slotted spoon in a shop downtown. It also works as an egg separator. I just though it was too cool. You can get it online too, of course.)

Drain the lentils but save the water — it’s flavored now! Also drain the rice.

 

I use the same pan for this next part so it’s still hot.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and get the pan hot.

Add enough oil to the pan to lightly coat the bottom of it. Then add the rice, lentils, salt, pepper, and coriander to the pan.

Keep stirring and let these cook for a few minutes.

Then add the reserved cooking water and enough more so everything is covered by water plus an inch or two.

Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to low. Cover the pan and let it cook for 15 minutes (or as long as the rice you’re using takes according to the package).

Drain off any excess water once it’s done and fluff with a fork.

rice and lentils cooking in a pan

Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to its package directions. I used elbow macaroni, which I see done quite often for this dish. I’ve also seen vermicelli or thin spaghetti, broken into pieces about an inch or maybe two inches long. I’ve also seen a combination of the two.

Regardless, cook it to al dente and drain.

Also warm up your chickpeas. Everything’s about to come together now.

 

Final Assembly

Spread a thick layer of the lentils and rice mixture on a plate.

Next, spread a (thinner) layer of pasta.

Then a handful of chickpeas.

A couple small ladles of the spicy tomato sauce.

And finally, some crispy onions.

closeup of kushari served on a plate

This dish is good enough that the family asks for it as part of the regular menu rotation.

Be aware, my recipe makes a boatload of food — though I’ve never seen it go uneaten — but feel free to cut it in half if you want.

kushari served on a plate

Kushari

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Egyptian, Mediterranean
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Author: Bill
Egyptian kushari is filling, inexpensive, and delicious. Lentils, rice, pasta, spicy tomato sauce, and crispy fried onions. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
Print

Ingredients

Base

  • cups brown lentils (or regular green if unavailable), rinsed, free of debris
  • cups medium grain rice, rinsed
  • cups elbow macaroni or 2-inch pieces thin spaghetti or a combination of both
  • cups chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • water
  • oil

Sauce

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
  • 3 cups crushed tomatoes with juices
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar

Crispy Onions

  • 1 large onion, cut in half then sliced thin
  • pinch or two kosher salt
  • flour for dredging
  • oil

Instructions

Crispy Onions

  1. Peel then halve a large onion. Slice thinly into half-rings.
  2. In a bowl, toss the onions with enough flour to coat them. Gently shake them off to remove any excess.

  3. Add some oil to a pan over medium heat. Toss the onions plus a couple pinches of kosher salt.
  4. Cook the onions, turning every few minutes, until they’re golden brown and crisp but not burnt.
  5. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Sauce

  1. Add a glug of oil to a pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the minced onion, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin (if using), and red pepper flakes (if using).
  3. Let cook until the onions are tender.
  4. Add the tomatoes and vinegar. Loosely cover the pan to avoid splatters, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let cook on the back of the stove for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Base

  1. Rinse the rice. Cover with water in a bowl and set aside to soak.
  2. Rinse the lentils and remove any debris.
  3. Cover with about 4 cups of cold water in a pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until almost tender, about 15-20 minutes or the suggested cooking time for the type of lentils you’ve chosen. Stir occasionally.
  4. Drain but save the liquid. (I use a colander set into a large bowl.)
  5. Drain the rice.
  6. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  7. Mix the rice and lentils in the pan. Add the salt, pepper, and coriander.
  8. Toast over medium-high heat for a few minutes stirring frequently to keep from sticking.
  9. Add the saved water and enough more to cover the ingredients plus about an inch and bring to a boil.

  10. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let cook for 15 minutes or the suggested cooking time for the rice you’ve chosen.
  11. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  12. Warm the chickpeas just before serving.

To Serve

  1. Drain the lentils and rice mix if necessary. Fluff with a fork. 

  2. Spread a thick layer of the lentils and rice mix on a plate.

  3. Add a layer of pasta.

  4. Sprinkle some chickpeas on top of that.

  5. Add a small ladle or two of the spicy tomato sauce (to taste).

  6. Sprinkle some crispy onions on the very top and serve.

Recipe Notes

You can halve this recipe if needed.

As long as you keep the tomato sauce separate, you can store the kusheri and the sauce in the refrigerator, in sealed containers, for several days.

Be well, friends, and thank you for stopping by. Cook for each other and until next time, peace.
Bill (signature)

I hope you enjoyed this and found it useful. If so, please consider sharing it. And I'd really appreciate a recipe rating below if you made this dish at home. Thank you!

Instagram logo

If you make this recipe, post a photo with the hashtag #suppertimeblues and tag @suppertimeblues — I'd love to see it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

You may also like:

Suppertime Blues is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

2 thoughts on “Kushari

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.