Koshary is a lot like Egypt: a million disparate ingredients blend to create a beautiful experience.
One of my favorite ways to learn about a new culture is through food, and koshary is as Egyptian as it gets. I lived in Cairo, Egypt for two years, and the ways I experienced koshary were just as varied as its individual ingredients. Eating koshary now takes me back to breakfast on the beach, mountains of food delivered on a bike, and marveling over the miracles of Egyptian cooking with friends old and new.
When I originally learned about koshary, I was pretty skeptical. Rice plus chickpeas plus pasta plus lentils? How could all of these different types of food combine to make anything worth eating? But trust me, it so does! Not only will koshary give you the feel of Egypt, it will open your mind to the world of possibility that lies within your pantry.
In this recipe, I used three different pots, both a food processor and a traditional blender, and an 8×11 glass baking dish. While there are a lot of moving parts in koshary making, once you get a handle on everything it is a pretty easy dish to make. Also, the variety of sauce additions make it an easily adaptable meal for people of all preferences and spice tolerances.
Essentially, koshary consists of bases and sauces. The bases (rice, lentils, chickpeas, noodles) all take around the same amount of time to cook on the stovetop, so you’ll cook those all on the stovetop at the same time. You’ll want to prepare the tomato sauce ingredients first as it takes the longest to make (30 minutes) and then as the tomatoes are roasting away in the oven, you can prepare and cook the base ingredients.
Eat Like an Egyptian: Quick and Easy Koshary
- 1 cup rice
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 ½ teaspoons vegetable stock powder
- ½ cup Lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
- 1 cup macaroni salad noodles
- 3-4 cups water
- 2 large tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ large onion
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Dash of salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Dash of salt
- 1 can chickpeas AKA garbanzo beans
- Crispy fried onions amount to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Start with the tomato sauce. Cut the tomatoes and onion into quarters and peel the garlic cloves.
Place tomato, onion, and garlic in an 8x13” baking dish. Cover with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges of the onion begin to brown.
While the tomato, onion, and garlic are in the oven, prepare the bases. Take out three pots (one for rice, lentils, and noodles).
In one pot, mix 1 ½ teaspoons vegetable stock powder with 1 ½ cups water until powder is dissolved. Add 1 cup rice.
Cook rice on medium heat until water begins to simmer, then turn to low for fifteen minutes.
In a second pot, add 3 cups water and ½ cup rinsed lentils. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1 teaspoon cumin and mix.
Cook lentils on medium heat until water begins to simmer, then turn to low for fifteen minutes.
In a third pot, add 3-4 cups water and 1 cup macaroni noodles. Boil for 10 minutes.
While the rice, lentils, and pasta are simmering, make the garlic sauce. Peel 3 garlic cloves and put them in a food processor with ½ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Add salt, garlic, and lemon juice to taste.
Pour the finished rice into the bottom of a large serving bowl.
Drain macaroni noodles. Pour over rice.
Drain extra liquid from lentils. Pour over noodles and rice.
Rinse the chickpeas. Pour over the layered rice, noodles, and lentils.
Remove the tomatoes, onion, and garlic from the oven and spoon into a large blender. Blend until smooth.
Add 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Blend.
To prepare your plate, put the rice, noodle, lentil and chickpea mixture in a bowl and pour over as much tomato sauce and garlic sauce as you want. Add fried onions to the top and enjoy!
STEP ONE: PREPARE TOMATO SAUCE
Dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves for the tomato sauce. Place them in a baking dish, cover with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes.
STEP TWO: PREPARE THE RICE
In a pot, mix 1 ½ teaspoons vegetable stock powder with 1 ½ cups warm water. You could also use a vegetable bullion cube. Mix until the powder is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup of rice to the vegetable stock and put on a burner. Don’t turn the burner on until you have completed the next step.
STEP THREE: PREPARE THE LENTILS
Rinse your lentils. Then, in a second pot, mix 3 cups of water with ½ cup lentils. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1 teaspoon cumin to the mix. Stir gently until seasonings dissolve. Place on a burner. Turn the lentils burner and the rice burner form the previous step to medium heat.
STEP FOUR: SIMMER RICE AND LENTILS
Watch the rice and lentil pots. When both start to simmer, put lids on the pots and set a timer for 15 minutes.
STEP FIVE: PREPARE THE NOODLES
In a third pot, put 3-4 cups of water and 1 cup noodles. Turn on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
STEP FIVE: MAKE GARLIC SAUCE
While your rice and lentils are simmering and your noodles are boiling, make the garlic sauce. Peel 3 cloves of garlic and put them in a small food processor. Add ½ cup of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth with a creamy consistency. It will happen faster than you think!
STEP SIX: LAYER RICE, LENTILS, NOODLES
When the 15 minute timer goes off, put the rice directly in a large serving bowl. It will be slightly brown from the veggie stock. Then drain the extra water from the lentils (be sure your colander has small enough holes to prevent the lentils from running through, too) and pour the lentils on top of the rice. When the noodles are done, drain those as well and add the noodles on top on the lentils. If your noodles are finished before the lentils, add them first instead.
STEP SEVEN: ADD CHICKPEAS
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add to the top of the rice, noodles, and lentils.
STEP EIGHT: BLEND TOMATO SAUCE
When the tomatoes, onion, and garlic are finished baking, remove from the oven and spoon into a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the seasonings (1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon) and blend again to fully mix. Taste before and after seasoning- the difference is amazing! Add salt/pepper as you wish.
STEP NINE: ENJOY!
To prepare, ladle the rice/lentil/noodle/chickpea mixture into individual bowls and top with tomato sauce, garlic sauce, and fried onions.
Even though there are a lot of different elements to koshary, it’s an amazing feeling to look around after blending the tomato sauce and realize that you have a finished, delicious meal in front of you!
I did consider using an immersion blender instead of a traditional blender for the tomato sauce, but as I was transferring the tomato sauce mix directly from the oven and didn’t need to add more liquid, I decided to go with a traditional blender. If you want your tomato sauce a bit thinner, you can put the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a pot and add vegetable broth before blending.
If you want to make this especially authentic, turn the heat up to 100 degrees, put your sauces and fried onions in little take away packets, and add as much or as little of each as you want!
An excellent addition to koshary is a spicy sauce. Full disclosure, I attempted to make a homemade spicy jalapeno sauce to add to my koshary, but I couldn’t even handle it! So for those who are blessed with stronger eyes and stomachs than I, try adding an easy spicy sauce to kick it up a notch!