Koshary - Egyptian Lentil Rice

Egyptian Lentil Rice

If you've been to Egypt and haven't eaten koshary, you simply haven't been to Egypt. It's arguably Egypt's national dish and it's absolutely loved by all.

Koshary is a humble yet grand dish. It's humble because it calls for simple and accessible ingredients. But it's grand because it unites the bourgeois and the working class in Egypt, which is not an easy feat.

It's a spicy and tangy lentil rice with some essential condiments. The sauces make the dish so don't skip these. Don't be afraid of the ingredients list. It's just a few base flavours mirrored in all the elements. It's dead easy to make, it's filling, economical, vegan and dare I say nutritious (if you're not watching your carb intake). 

This dish champions the humble onion. Start with the fried onions because the oil that's leftover from the frying will be used in other components to add that deep onion flavour to other elements. 

Not only is it flavour punch, but it's nostalgic for many Egyptians inside and outside of Egypt. Migrants hold it close to their hearts because the koshary aroma filled their childhood homes. It filled mine and if I close my eyes and imagine my mum in the kitchen, I can smell the onions, garlic and spices mingling together to create this magic.

This is my mother's version of koshary that I love and cook at home for my kids too. I'd love for you to take it into your homes too.

Serves 4


Fried onions
1 large brown onion sliced into half moons
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Lentil rice
1 diced onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil (take from the leftover oil used to fry the onions)
1 cup medium grain rice (washed and drained)
1 cup brown / green lentils (soaked for 1 hour and drained)
1 heaped tsp Arabic 7 spice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 cups boiling water (the water should be 1 inch above the rice)
1 cup cooked macaroni
Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato salsa
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
400g can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Spicy Dressing (da'a)
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder 
1 small red chilli sliced (optional)
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
Salt and pepper to taste

400g can chickpeas
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Start with the fried onions. The leftover oil will be flavoured by the onions and will be used for the rest of the components. The oil needs to be smoking hot. Deep fry the onion slices in batches. They should be a golden brown. Allow to drain excess oil on a paper towel. Set aside.

2. Now the lentil rice. Take 1/4 cup of the flavoured oil in a clean pan and fry the diced onion and garlic until golden. Add the rice, lentils and all the spices. Sir until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper before adding the boiling water. The water should be an inch above the rice. Reduce the heat and cover. Let it simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until the rice and lentils are cooked through.

2. For the tomato salsa, heat a couple of tbsp of the flavoured oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and spices. When fragrant, add the can of diced tomatoes, the sugar and the vinegar. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the tomatoes no longer taste raw. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Prepare the spicy dressing (da'a) by adding all the ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix well. Set aside.

4. Season canned chickpeas with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil.

5. Bring all the elements together. Dish the lentil rice on a platter and top with the cooked macaroni. Spoon the tomato salsa on top and scatter chickpeas around the platter. Top with the caramelised deep fried onions and drizzle the spicy dressing over the whole dish. 

Serve with a fresh salad, pickles and more spicy dressing on the side.