Kushari: Egypt’s National Dish

Koshari: Egypt's National Dish

I celebrated Egypt’s bright future by making kushari كشرى in Seattle.

Inspired by thousands of Egyptian protesters and their peaceful and successful uprising last week, I decided to try my hand at preparing their national dish to pay tribute.  There are as many ways to spell kushari as there is to prepare it.  Surprised to find this recipe missing from my copy of Maddhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook, an online search yielded many different recipes ranging from bland to spicy. All intended to replicate and share a beloved food memory.

These ingredients may seem ordinary but don’t let this recipe fool you. These simple ingredients resulted in a delicious, satisfying and healthy meal.  In fact, it tasted a lot better than expected.  No wonder restaurants across Europe and North Africa specialize in kushari.  J and I both went back for second helpings.

The combination of lentils, pasta and rice make this dish is a high protein, vegetarian, and complex carbohydrate meal. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose more slowly than simple carbs, providing a gradual stream of energy throughout the day.  I adapted my recipe from multiple sources, served this with a Greek-style salad with feta, olives and cucumbers, and washed it all down with Spanish red (blended) wine.

Serves 4 to 6


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup long-grain or basmati rice
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni pasta
  • 9 cups water (divided)
  • 1 cup dry green lentils
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon pepper vinegar (I used vinegar left over from home canned pickled jalapenos- refer to post August 16, 2010 http://wp.me/puzr3-6A)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • lemon wedges

In large skillet add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat, fry onion and shallot stirring frequently, until brown and slightly crispy, about 10 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and then spoon into a separate dish and set aside.

Wipe out the same skillet with a clean towel and turn heat back to medium high. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and rice and stir to coat.  Then add raw macaroni pasta and stir to coat.  Add 4 cups water and bring to a low boil. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. Turn off heat and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine 4 cups water, lentils, and turmeric and boil until tender, about 40-45 minutes minutes.  Drain and stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium high meat, add 1tablespoon olive oil, garlic, cumin, and cayenne.  Fry for 2 seconds before adding the tomatoes, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ cup water.  Do not scorch spices. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon pepper vinegar and stir. Turn off the heat and set aside.

To serve, pour the seasoned lentils over the rice and pasta mixture in the skillet. Create a well with a spoon or your clean hand, and pour the hot tomato sauce into the center of the well.

Sprinkle the crisp-brown onion and shallot over the top, followed by chopped parsley.  Cut up wedges of lemon and serve on the side.  A squirt of lemon brightens up the flavors.




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