If you want a taste of what ordinary Egyptian families eat at home, you can't go wrong with koshari (variously spelled koushari and koshary), a nourishing vegetarian dish of rice, lentils, macaroni, garlic and chickpeas, bought together by a spicy tomato sauce and topped off with fried onion. A very delicious snack or meal would just play the yum card on family occasions.

A good koshari can send an Egyptian into raptures, and it's also hugely popular as a rib-sticking street food and take-away.


  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin rings

  • Salt

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup cooking oil


  • Cooking oil

  • 1 small onion, grated

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tsp ground coriander

  • 1/2 –1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1 can 28-oz tomato sauce

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1–2 tbsp distilled white vinegar


  • 1 1/2 cup brown lentils, picked over and well-rinsed

  • 1 1/2 cup medium-grain rice, rinsed, soaked in water for 15 minutes, drained

  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

  • 1/2 tsp coriander

  • 2 cups elbow pasta

  • Cooking oil

  • Water

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and warmed




  • Sprinkle the onion rings with salt, then toss them in the flour to coat. Shake off excess flour.

  • In a large skillet, heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat, cook the onion rings, stirring often, until they turn a nice caramelized brown. Onions must be crispy, but not burned (15-20 minutes).


  • In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add the grated onion, cook on medium-high until the onion turns a translucent gold (do not brown). Now add the garlic, coriander, and red pepper flakes, if using, and saute briefly until fragrant (30-45 seconds more).

  • Stir in tomato sauce and pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens (15 minutes or so).

  • Stir in the distilled white vinegar, and turn the heat to low. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.


  • Cook the lentils. Bring lentils and 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot or saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook until lentils are just tender (15-17 minutes). Drain from water and season with a little salt. (Note: when the lentils are ready, they should not be fully cooked. They should be only par-cooked and still have a bite to them as they need to finish cooking with the rice).

  • Now, for the rice. Drain the rice from its soaking water. Combine the par-cooked lentils and the rice in the saucepan over medium-high heat with 1 tbsp cooking oil, salt, pepper, and coriander. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add warm water to cover the rice and lentil mixture by about 1 1/2 inches (you’ll probably use about 3 cups of water here). Bring to a boil; the water should reduce a bit. Now cover and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and both the rice and lentils are well cooked through (about 20 minutes).  Keep covered and undisturbed for 5 minutes or so.

  • Now make the pasta. While the rice and lentils are cooking, make the pasta according to package instructions by adding the elbow pasta to boiling water with a dash of salt and a little oil. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain.

  • Cover the chickpeas and warm in the microwave briefly before serving.