Recipe: Qunioa Kushari

By | November 27, 2013


For a few weeks now I’ve been trying to incorporate the protein-rich superfood quinoa into my daily meals. It works well in salads and is an excellent replacement for rice in various dishes but you can get bored after a while. Then one day shopping at Sultan Center Sha’ab I come across this bag of gluten free quinoa pasta!


Surprisingly the moment I grabbed that bag I wasn’t thinking of different pasta dishes, rather I found myself craving one dish in particular: Kushari! Kushari, if you don’t know what it is already, is an Egyptian dish of rice, pasta, and lentils served with onions and tomato sauce. As simple as it sounds, its insanely delicious and quite addictive. It’s also chockfull of carbs therefore not exactly diet-friendly. With the qunioa pasta and with quinoa instead of rice, I could try and make a much healthier lower in carbs version of the popular street food that’s also diet-friendly.


I had all the ingredients, but there was one simple problem: I’ve never made Kushari before! I don’t know anyone who makes great Kushari either so I couldn’t ask around for a recipe and I didn’t see myself walking up to a Kushari seller and demanding a recipe. Therefore I flipped through the endless cookbooks I had in my possession until I found a decent-looking recipe for Kushari that actually makes sense. The original carb-y Kushari recipe I’ve based my recipe on is from Abeer Al-Rashid’s cookbook “The Gourmet 5″ with recipes in both English and Arabic languages.


I didn’t follow Abeer Al-Rashed’s recipe exactly, I made alterations of my own but what I cooked is indeed based on Abeer Al-Rashed’s Koshari recipe. The ingredients I’ve used which are taken from her ingredients are divided by three since her recipe is for 6 people and I was cooking for two. You will need:

The best way to prepare the Kushari is to first soak the lentils for about 30 minutes in filter water, cook the pasta as per the package directions, and prepare the quinoa (how to) and while waiting for all to be done you can start on the onions -or skip them entirely if you don’t like them on top, I don’t but my husband does- and the tomato sauce. Once you are done you can cook the ingredients together once and for all.


I started with slicing the half a red onion. They say if you chew gum while slicing the onions up you won’t cry btw.


Then in a tiny droplets of vegetable oil and some water I cooked the onions until they became translucent. I added a teaspoonful of sugar to the onions when halfway cooked so they’d caramelise nicely on a medium low heat and with a cup of water just in case the pan gets too dry.


Once you are satisfied with the state of the onions take them out and place them on a separate covered dish until serving time. Traditionally the onions are deep fried until browned to a crisp and not really caramelised but I find caramelising them yields a better taste -and less fat- but its up to you really, however you like them.


Now for the tomato sauce, it’s not your usual tomato “daqqos” like we use in Kuwait nor is it like an Italian spaghetti sauce. All you have to do is empty the crushed tomates in a pan -I use canned but you can crush your own using a grater- add the tomato paste, and add half a cup of boiled water. Stir and leave the tomato mix on medium low heat for about 15-20 minutes.


In the same pan you used to prepare the onions add the crushed garlic, half the cumin, the ground coriander seeds, and the paprika. Mix until you can smell the aroma of spices then add to the pan with the tomatoes.


Add some salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar then mix well for a minute or two. Then turn off the heat and cover the pan. Leave alone for fifteen minutes before using.


Now its time to prepare the kushari itself. First tend to the pasta which should be boiled already. Once the pasta is boiled make sure to take it out of the pan a minute before its entirely done.


The only quinoa pasta I found in Kuwait was the penne one which is too big for such dish so I cut each pasta into three pieces. If you happen to find macaroni or spaghetti you can use them in stead.


Measure one cup of your cooked quinoa and keep aside. Again if you don’t know how to prepare quinoa here is a video that shows you how.


I personally believe that flavour of Kushari varies from one household to another according to the kind of stock they use, whether vegetable or chicken. I can recall the flavour of Kushari from a well known diet place whose Kushari taste has strong hints of Maggi chicken stock. I used half a vegetable stock cube.


To start making the kushari, add a bit of cooking oil to a pan with one crushed garlic clove , the lentils, the vegetables stock, and the rest of the cumin and stir on a medium low heat.


Add enough boiling water over the mix to cover the lentils and let it bubble away, cooking the lentils. Keep an eye on it it only takes a few minutes to do so.


Now add some salt and pepper to taste, plus the quinoa and give it a mix.


Immediately add the quinoa pasta and give it another good mix.


Cover the entire mixture again with some boiling water and let the mixture boil, covered, over a medium heat until the water evaporates.


Once the water is almost but gone let it simmer on very low heat for about 40 minutes, covering the pan, until the Kushari is done. The 40 minutes will allow all the flavours to infuse together.


After 40 minutes, where you could clean up the entire kitchen and set the table, turn the heat off, take off the lid, and there you go!


Ta-Da! The entire kitchen smelled like Kushari which if you like it is a quite good smell :)


I have to say that I was astonished when I tasted my first forkful, it tastes exactly like a Kushari should taste and if I hadn’t known it I wouldn’t have detected the quinoa! This dish was the real deal!


Keep the tomato sauce and the onions in small dishes and add the amount you feel like according to your taste. I usually top my kushari dish with a 1/4 cup of boiled chickpeas and don’t touch the onions.


How good does that look? Pretty good! How does it taste? Awesome!


What do you think? Would you be trying this quinoa Kushari soon?

4 Responses to “Recipe: Qunioa Kushari”

  1. Tarabya says:

    wow – looks yummy!
    thank you for sharing :-)

  2. baglady says:

    Looks yummy. I am a vegetarian and have been eating and adding quinoa largely to my diet for source of protein, iron and other supplements , I love kushai, and thank you you for posting the recipe. I will definitely give it a try. So far, I’ve been eating it mixed with my salad (Greek salad, I add it to cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers, and avocado (oops, I forgot to mention the finely diced red onions which my husband loves). The dressing is a mixture of fig balsamic vinegar and olive oil

    • danderma says:

      Do please try it and I hope you like it. I never tried it before with greek salad but I will give it a try for sure :)