Koshari is a delicious, affordable and vegan-friendly main meal. It’s mildly spiced, but so savoury and satisfying. It costs less than $2 per serve, making it the perfect easy meal to feed a crowd! Typically, Koshari can take a couple of hours to make, but this quick version gets it on the table in just 40 minutes.
Koshari is a delicious accidentally-vegan meal that I was introduced to by an Egyptian friend. Knowing I was vegan and coming to their house for dinner, my friend and her mum kindly made this delicious, filling and super savoury meal for me. I told them how much I loved it, so they sent me home with some spices to recreate it for myself. Koshari is now on regular rotation in my house because it’s so comforting, affordable and packed with flavour.
Because I’m such a fan, I asked my friend if I could share their recipe and she kindly said yes. It turns out a lot of other people also love Koshari too as the recipe video got over 700,000 views on Instagram!
Some Koshari recipes can be quite lengthy and time consuming, but this version only takes 40 minutes and is still packs a punch on flavour. I hope you love this dish as much as I do!
What is Koshari?
Koshari, also spelled Kushari or Koshary, holds a special place in Egyptian culinary heritage and cultural identity. It’s widely recognised as the national dish of Egypt, regularly served by street vendors and in homes across the country. It consists of a base of macaroni, white rice, and lentils, generously topped with a mildly spiced tomato sauce and crispy fried onions. For over a century, Egyptians have been enjoying this humble yet satisfying dish that symbolizes unity and equality. Koshari’s combination of ingredients reflects the country’s history of cultural influences, blending flavors from Indian, Italian, and local Egyptian cuisine.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Flavour packed – Koshari is soooo satisfying and very savoury, especially for a vegan dish. The combination of tender lentils, fluffy rice, al dente macaroni, sour spiced tomato sauce plus crispy onions is such a satsifying contrast of textures and flavours. I can’t stop at one bowl, so be warned, it is addictive!
- Budget-friendly – Koshari is made mostly from canned and dry goods plus a few spices and pantry staples. The only fresh ingredient is the humble onion, and you can make a big batch for less than $2 a serve. It’s the perfect dish if you need to feed a crowd, or as meal prep for a family.
- Simple and quick – although you do have to make multiple components, it’s very straightforward. Basically, you just cook your carbs, make an easy sauce and shallow fry onions. Some Koshari recipes take a long time to cook, but this one only takes 40 minutes, including prep time, from start to finish. It’s a great easy meal for weeknight entertaining.
- Presentation – this may not be traditional, but I love to serve this dish with the macaroni, rice and lentils as three separate sections on a large platter. This is how my friend’s mum plated it at their home and something about the contrasting colours/stripes makes for an impressive presentation. Maybe it’s also due to the scale of a large platter, but it just looks cool and feels very abundant!
- Customisable – when served up on platters, everybody can serve themselves to customise the flavour profile of their own meal. Self-serve means everybody can avoid any ingredients they don’t like, and choose how much sauce and onions they’d like to add. Depending on the ratio of carbs, sauce and onion, your Koshari can taste quite unique! In addition, you can enhance your Koshari experience by offering side additions such as chickpeas, pickles, pita bread, leafy salad, or boiled eggs (if you’re not vegan).
- Freezer friendly – the sauce and the base of rice, pasta, lentils is freezer friendly, which is super handy. I love having a couple of serves of Koshari in the freezer for those weeknights when you can’t be bothered cooking after work and just need something quick and filling. I would not recommend freezing the onions though as they will lose their cripsy texture if frozen/reheated. However, it only takes a few minutes to prepare and fry the onion, so you can have this done and ready in the time that it takes to microwave the rest of the meal. Trust me, for that satisfying crispy texture, it is worth doing it this way!
How to make Koshari
Making Koshari really is just three simple steps – cook the carbs, simmer your sauce then fry your onions. There’s a detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post, but if you’d like a high level step-by-step overview with images, then read on.
Step One – Cook the rice, lentils, and pasta according to package instructions.
Step Two – In a saucepan, sauté garlic and spices, then add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and a splash of vinegar. Simmer until the sauce thickens then blend.
Step Three – Coat sliced onions in flour and fry until golden and crispy.
Step Four– Serve by combining the cooked rice, lentils, and pasta. Top with the tomato sauce and crispy fried onions.
Variations and Substitutions
- Gluten-Free Option: Substitute the macaroni with your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- Enhanced Flavours: experiment with additional spices or herbs such as cumin, coriander, or fresh parsley to add your own twist.
- Lentils: you can swap out lentils for chickpeas or add chickpeas as an extra add-on.
- Pasta: you can use any small pasta you have on hand, like orecchiette, ditalini, orzo or farfalle.
- Flavourful Sauce: when making the tomato sauce, be sure to allow it to simmer and reduce to concentrate the flavors. Adjust the sweetness and saltiness to your preference.
- Crispy Onions: to achieve perfectly crispy fried onions, thinly slice them and coat them evenly with flour before frying. Remove any excess oil by placing them on paper towels.
Koshari will keep for 3 days in the fridge if you have leftovers. You can freeze Koshari for up to 3 months, excluding the onions. Shallow fry the onions just before serving to ensure a crispy texture.
Koshari is complete on its own, but can be complemented with side salad, pita bread, pickles, tahini or natural yogurt. Additions like chickpeas are also very common toppings.
Normally Koshari recipes can be quite time consuming (up to two and a half hours). However, this recipe is a quick version and only takes 40 minutes from start to finish, including prep! It’s a relatively straightforward and easy dish to prepare.
More hearty and affordable vegan dinner ideas
I hope you love my friend’s recipe below as much as I do. We would both love to know if you try it and what you think, plus if you tag me on Instagram I will share your photos on stories. There are a lot of different variations on Koshari, so get creative and let us know how you customise it in your own way 🙂
- Large pot or dutch oven
- Handheld stick blender
- 3/4 cup dry brown lentils
- 3/4 cup dry white rice
- 150 g dry macaroni pasta
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp zaatar or sub with oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 140 g tomato paste
- 400 g can diced tomatoes
- 800 ml boiling water
- 1 large brown onion
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil sub any oil suitable for frying
- In separate pots, cook the rice, lentils and pasta to packet instructions, using salted water. Serve all 3 onto a large platter.
- To make the sauce, heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute before adding all spices and vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the spices from burning (they will start to stick a little to the pan but try your best!).
- Add a splash of boiling water to deglaze the saucepan – run the spoon around the base and edges to loosen all the spices and mix well. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until combined. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half the volume (takes around 20 mins).
- Taste test the sauce and add more sugar if it tastes too sour, or salt if needed. Using a stick blender, blitz the sauce until smooth. Transfer sauce to a serving jug.
- Slice the onion in half then slice into thin half moons. Transfer onion slices to a bowl and coat with flour, using your hands if necessary.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large frypan until hot. You can test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of onion into the oil – if it sizzles and bubbles around the edges, you're good to go!
- Add the onions and shallow fry, stirring occasionally until golden and crispy. Spread out onto paper towel to remove any excess oil, then transfer to a small serving dish.
- Place the jug of sauce, onions and pasta/rice/lentil platter in the middle of the table and allow everybody to serve themselves. You can mix the macaroni, rice and lentils together, and top with sauce and onion to taste. Enjoy!