Egyptian Rice and Lentil Pilaf (Koshari)

I have come to know and love koshari thanks to a blessed albeit shortly lived marriage of a cousin of mine to an Egyptian lady. I have vague memories of it in a version which, unlike this one, contained plenty of macaroni. I found this recipe in the Ottolenghi cookbook and thought it would fit the bill; and it did, in a big way. It was very tasty.


This wonderfully filling dish is a street food sold in large pots on stands or ambulant carts everywhere in Egypt. It is served in a bowl with a generous serving of spicy tomato sauce. It makes fantastic lunches that will keep hunger away for hours and hours. If you’ve ever had mujaddara, you’ll find this dish very similar.

This recipe is from the very inspiring Ottolenghi Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. I love their fresh and colorful cooking and am impatiently awaiting their upcoming book, Jerusalem.



Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 min.

Cook Time: 45 min

Koshari reheats well, tasting fresh and bright for many days so feel free to make a large batch of this leftover-friendly food.

I didn't make any changes to the recipe except that I only made half the amount of tomato sauce suggested below, which still yielded over two cups.


For the koshari
1 ½ cups green lentils, washed
1 cup long grain rice, washed and drained (I used instant brown)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces vermicelli noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 ¾ cups chicken stock or water
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 white onions, halved and thinly sliced

For the tomato sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot chilies, seeded and finely diced
8 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Chopped cilantro leaves


To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredient for the sauce except the cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves.

Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with lots of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, until the lentils are cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vermicelli and fry them, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add the rice and stir to coat it with butter. Add the water or stock, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove the lid and turn off the heat. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 20 minutes, until dark brown. Transfer onto a paper towel to drain.

Add the lentils to the rice. Add most of the onions, reserving some for garnish. Toss to combine. Plate the kosheri in a bowl and top it with the remaining onions. Serve warm with the spicy tomato sauce.


5 Responses to “Egyptian Rice and Lentil Pilaf (Koshari)”

  1. 1

    Yasmeen @ Wandering Spice — 05/30/2012 @ 6:25 pm

    How lovely – I love koshari. I grew up eating mujaddara, and I still make it week after week for it’s health properties, ease to cook and as you said, very filling nature! Your koshari will be a welcome twist to our favorite weeknight staple. Thank you!

  2. 2

    Eha — 05/31/2012 @ 6:43 am

    Oh yum! Truly! A darling Lebanese girlfriend taught me to make mujaddara a long time ago and it was one of my favourite things to take along on sailing days on Sydney Harbour. BUT, the koshari recipe looks heaps more interesting and will be tried out this very weekend! Being somewhat of a ‘health nut’ I’ll feel very virtuous also :D !!

  3. 3

    Sues — 05/31/2012 @ 10:14 am

    I’ve never heard of this dish before, but it sounds right up my alley! I love everything about it :)

  4. 4

    Christine @ Fresh Local and Best — 06/01/2012 @ 7:46 pm

    I’ve never had koshari, but I just pinned it onto my board to try. I love the idea of lentils and rice warmed up by sweet spices.

  5. 5

    Oriane — 06/04/2012 @ 1:12 pm

    Bonjour Nisrine,

    Our grown children are increasingly turning to meatless meal and I like to surprise them with something new when they visit, I know they will love this recipe. I’m going to try it this week.

    Merci encore pour une recette delicieuse – bien appetissant tout cela : )

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