Kushary: An Egyptian Comfort Food

When you think of typical Egyptian food, kushary may come to mind. Kushary is a classic Egyptian comfort food. It is a popular street food in Cairo and throughout Egypt. Kushary is a delicious combination of common pantry grains, chickpeas, crispy onions, garlic, and savory-tangy vinegar and tomato sauces!


If you are on a low carb diet, then look away. This is not a low calorie meal by any means, but it definitely has a lot of nutritional benefits and comes packed with great carb fueled energy. Lentils are rich in dietary fiber, magnesium, and these slow burning complex carbs are excellent for regulating blood sugar and boosting energy levels. Lentils are also high in iron and low in fat, making them the perfect inexpensive and healthy substitute for red meat! The dish is super easy to make; essentially simply cook rice, lentils, and macaroni and combine. This lovely trio is elevated in flavor from ordinary to surprising and lip-smacking with the  garlicky vinegar tomato sauce and crunchy fried onions atop. This dish is ideal for a large crowd, a picnic gathering, or a pot luck. The trick to a perfect kushary is cooking the rice, pasta, and lentils properly so that they are not too mushy and combine well without getting… smushy, for lack of a better word! Not too experienced cooking fluffy rice and lentils? Not to worry! Follow my guide for perfect lentils and rice in my recipe posts. 

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In my original post to this recipe, I suggested using store-bought french fried onions. You can still do this, BUT I have a very easy and quick way to get delicious crunchy onions at home. Since my posts are all about home-made recipes and clean eating from scratch, I am going to suggest you try this. You simply need to slice onions thinly and fry in pure olive oil or safflower oil as these oils have a high smoke point and will do well for frying. I made a convenient mistake once and did this in a pot with a small diameter, so the onions sat atop one another and released a lot of water. The onions started to simmer in its juices, instead of browning and crisping. I decided to toss in a sprinkling of corn starch to absorb the excess moisture and let me tell you- this trick worked like a charm! The onions started to blister and caramelize beautifully. Now, I always sprinkle in a tablespoon of corn starch to get nicely crisp onions. I do advise to still use a large, bottom heavy pot for the onions to fry in to get an even crisp result, but also because you can utilize the large pot to toss the cooked pasta in the leftover onion infused oil in later. 

Another important secret to a flavorful kushary, is to boil the pasta in a generously salted and garlicky water so that the noodles are infused with flavor as they cook. Typical Egyptian kushary street vendors will use a combination of half elbow pasta and half broken spaghetti noodles. I also include vermicelli noodles when I cook the rice for extra texture. It is essential to toss the pasta in some olive oil (use the leftover oil from frying the onions!) once it drains, before the pasta clumps together from the hot starches. 
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Serves 8
a warm delicious combination of pasta, rice and lentils served with onions and topped with a garlicky vinegar tomato sauce!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
For the Kushary
  1. 2 c lentils
  2. 2-3 c water
  3. 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  1. 2 c long grain
  2. 1/2 c vermicelli noodles (shareya in Arabic stores)
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 2 c water
  5. 1c chicken broth
  1. 1 lb elbow pasta
  2. 1/2 c spaghetti, broken into thirds
  3. water
  4. olive oil
  5. garlic powder
  6. salt
  1. 1 large onions, sliced thin and long
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 tbsp corn starch
  4. 1 cup dried chickpeas
For the tomato sauce
  1. 1 large tomato, diced
  2. 1 can of tomato paste
  3. 2 tbsp minced garlic
  4. 1 tbsp olive oil
  5. 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  6. 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional)
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  8. 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
For the vinegar garlic sauce (Daqqa)
  1. 3 garlic cloves, minced (1-2 tbsp)
  2. 1 tsp ground coriander
  3. 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  4. 3 tbsp of fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  5. 3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  6. 1-3 tbsp water
For the Kushary
  1. To prepare all three grains, begin by picking the lentils and dried chickpeas for any dirt or bad pieces and wash thoroughly.
  2. Throw the chickpeas into an Instantpot or other pressure cooker and cover completely with water. Cook for 45 minutes under high pressure, natural release. Rinse the rice and soak in cold water as you prepare the onions and lentils in the following steps.
  3. First sauté the sliced onions with the olive oil in a very large pot (this is the pot you will eventually mix everything in) over medium- high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until onions begin to turn yellow. Sprinkle on the corn starch and stir quickly to evenly coat all onions. Continue to stir the onions until they have turned golden brown and blistered or caramelized on some parts. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and lay over paper towel, reserving the leftover oil in the pot.
  4. Cook the lentils in a medium sized pot. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a pot over medium-high heat, and add the lentils and cumin- DO NOT ADD SALT. Cover the lentils completely with water, with no more than 1 cm of water over them. Allow to boil for 1 minute then turn down the hea to medium-low and simmer, covered. The lentils need to be "al dente", not too soft. Keep an eye on the lentils, and add 1/4 cup more water if the lentils are still too hard, being careful not to overcook. Remove from heat and pour into a glass or ceramic bowl as soon as they are done.
  5. Cook the rice in a a separate pot by tossing the vermicelli noodles rice in the olive oil until golden brown. Add the drained rice and salt, cover with water and broth, and turn down to low once it boils. As soon as the liquid appears to be all absorbed (about 10 minutes into cooking), remove the lid and gently stir and fluff the rice with a fork. Allow it to cook for 1-2 more minutes if there is any water on the bottom. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove the rice from heat and transfer to a bowl so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  6. In a large pot, boil water and add generous amounts of garlic powder, oil, and salt to the water so that the pasta absorbs these flavors. Cook the pasta according to directions for al dente pasta, plus 2 minutes. You want it to be cooked through, but again, not too soft. .
  7. Once all three grains are cooked, and the pasta has drained, toss the pasta in the remaining oil from the onions, plus an extra tablespoon of oil with salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Then add the rice and lentils. Do not over mix; just toss until combined.
  9. Serve with onions and chickpeas on top and the vinegar garlic daqqa and spicy tomato sauce on the side.
  10. Bil Hanna wil Shifaa!
For the vinegar garlic daqqa
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small pot.
  2. Add the minced garlic and sauté until yellow but not golden or brown. Quickly add the coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  3. Using a whisk, add the vinegar and then the lemon juice. Add water to thin out the concentrated sauce. Drizzle generously over the kushary when serving.
For the tomato sauce
  1. In a saucepan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat. As soon as the garlic turns golden, add the diced tomatoes, then the tomato sauce. Stir well and reduce heat to medium-low.
  2. Add the vinegar, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Add 1/2-1 cup of water to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low.
  1. Omit the cayenne pepper from tomato sauce if you do not desire a hot and spicy sauce.
  2. Use french fried onions found at the grocery store as a substitute to cooking the fried onions or just to add on along with it!
  3. If serving this for a smaller amount than 8-10 people, keep the grains separated and mix only when serving so that it doesn't get sticky and clumpy when you reheat.
  4. Only add the daqqa and tomato sauce when serving and enjoying.
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