A "healthier" version of Kousa mahshi aka Lebanese Stuffed Zucchini. This recipe is my Lebanese family’s recipe. Each zucchini (squash) is filled with spiced vegetables, toasted pine nuts and rice cooked in a delicious tomato broth. This is a vegan Lebanese recipe.
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Kousa mahshi is one of the recipes that I can taste instantly upon hearing about it, it was a meal my family enjoyed a lot when I was younger and I still adore it.
Of course, it was made with meat back then.
This Lebanese stuffed zucchini recipe is ideal for vegans/vegetarians, it is in a tomato base and the filling is made of rice, vegetables and toasted pine nuts.
😋Why you’ll love this recipe
- Super delicious and wholesome
- Family friendly - kids and adults love it
- Dietary friendly - vegan, gluten free, soy free, corn free, oil free - Suitable for a WFPB No Oil diet.
- A true comfort and filling meal
🥘Ingredients You’ll Need
Notes on some of the ingredients, the full list of ingredients and quantities can be found in the recipe card below.
Zucchini depending on your location this is called gray squash, Mexican squash, Calabacita, Lebanese Zucchini, white courgette (there may be a few other names).
Choose good quality squash, free from punctures, cuts and blemishes.
The ideal squash is not curved and has a wide mouth to make it easier when coring and stuffing.
Tomato paste should be plain with no added herbs or oils. I like to use an organic, reduced salt version.
Rice is the main component in the filling. Medium or long-grain is ideal. Whilst not traditional sometimes I like to use basmati.
Tomato is used in the filling, it needs to be diced finely. Again choose quality.
Brown onion will be used in the filling and is to be diced finely.
Fresh parsley and mint will be finely chopped and added to the filling to build up flavor.
Pine nuts add a good source of plant protein. These are dry roasted to enhance the nutty flavor. The pine nuts are part of the filling.
Spices and seasoning - you will need Lebanese 7 spice, which you can easily make your own blend (click on the link), salt and black pepper.
OPTIONAL - Olive oil & vegan butter can be used to brown the pine nuts if you prefer not to dry toast them. If doing this, you will need 50/50 ratio, about a tablespoon. (I personally have been leaving oils out to suit my current diet)
Water is used to submerge the Lebanese stuffed zucchini. Which will help to cook the rice and vegetables. You will need between 6-8 cups.
🔪 How to Make Kousa Mahshi
Coring zucchini with an electric corer
Step 1 - Wash and dry zucchini as normal. Using a paring knife, slice off the ends (take off as little as possible) Use a corer (this can be done manually or with electric tool (affiliate link)) to hollow out each squash. Set aside.
Click here to view a quick 30sec video on how to core a zucchini manually or watch the full Youtube video for how to core them with an electric corer.
Preparing the Stuffing
Step 2 - In a nonstick fry pan/skillet, (optional - add olive oil/vegan butter) toast pine nuts until golden, and set aside. Be sure to remove the pine nuts from the pan immediately as they will continue to brown from the heat which can cause them to burn. This happens very quickly.
Step 3 - In a large mixing bowl add rice, tomato, onion, fresh parsley, fresh mint, pine nuts, Lebanese 7 spice, salt, and black pepper. Mix well together.
Step 4 - Using your hands, scoop little amounts of the stuffing and place it inside each cavity. Tap the bottom of each squash to help the filling to fall into the cavity.
Leave approximately ½” (1.5cm) from the opening to allow the rice to expand whilst cooking.
Do not compact the rice, otherwise, it won't cook evenly. Wipe down each zucchini to ensure there is no filling on the outside.
Step 5 - Dissolve the tomato paste into the water, add salt & pepper. Place the stuffed zucchini into the pot and submerge with the water & tomato paste mixture. Place a plate onto and cover.
Bring to the boil over med/high heat and then simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes. Kousa Mahshi should be tender once done. Serve warm.
If you’ve never cored Lebanese zucchini before, allow more time to make this kousa mahshi recipe.
Do not pierce skins as the squash will burst whilst cooking as the rice will expand through the piercing.
To flesh out each squash, I used to use a tool called a 'Manakra' (affiliate link) which is a corer. It's a unique tool specifically for the task of coring zucchini; it looks like a long spade.
I now use an electric corer (affiliate link) which helps me core vegetables in a fraction of the time. I highly recommend this tool!
Optional - combining vegan butter with olive oil in a pan stops burning and allows an even browning of the pine nuts.
🔪Leftover Zucchini Stuffing
Use any leftover rice stuffing to stuff tomatoes. Simply core out the tomato flesh, place the tomato flesh into the filling and stuff each tomato with the filling. Cook the tomatoes in the same pot.
Do not toss out the insides (flesh), keep the flesh for this recipe: Zucchini Flesh Recipe (Lib El Kousa)
Pine nuts can be swapped out for almonds slivers.
If you can’t find the type of squash needed in this recipe, use the slimmer, longer green variety.
Kousa Mahshi, which literally translates to “zucchini stuffed” is a classic Middle Eastern meal of zucchinies filled with a rice filling. Either rice and meat or rice and vegetables. There are a couple of broth options also, in yogurt or in a tomato broth.
'Kousa' - pronounced 'koo-sa' translates to "zucchini" or "squash". It is also spelled cusa, cousa, or kusa. Zucchini is also known as squash or courgette, depending on the region.
Kousa mahshi is great as leftovers, so don't be afraid to make a large batch and keep in the fridge for a few days. You could even freeze them in a snap-lock container or bag for up to 3 months.
Kousa is normally found at your local grocer. If you are in Australia ask for 'Lebanese Zucchini or White Zucchini' if you are in America ask for 'Gray Squash’ or “Mexican Squash” and if you’re in the UK ask for “White Courgette” or “Lebanese Courgette”.
If you can't find this variety try using Yellow or Green Squash/Zucchini, these are good alternatives.
- Warak enab is stuffed Lebanese grape leaves - so good!
- Stuffed silverbeet leaves (chard leaves) in a lemony broth
- A simple dish with buttery blacked eyed beans and lemony greens - Lebanese Black Eyed Beans Recipe Vegan
- An easy tangy light pastry called Purslane Pockets Lebanese Bakleh
- My family's favorite rice, I can never get enough of this - Lebanese Rice Vegan
- If you like to cook fresh beans, try my Foul Akhdar Bi Zeit, which is green broad beans in olive oil.
- For a sweet treat that's light, Lebanese rice pudding Riz Bi Haleeb is a wonderful floral citrusy flavor.
- A big on flavor side salad (or as I like it, for brekky on toast) a fresh oregano salad is perfect.
- Lebanese brined lupini beans make an amazing snack packed with protein
- The best Lebanese warm chickpeas called balila
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Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Zucchini)
Lebanese Stuffed Zucchini Recipe
Zucchini Stuffing Ingredients
- 1¼ cups Long-grain rice
- 1 medium Tomato finely diced
- 1 medium Onion finely diced
- ¼ cup Parsley finely chopped
- ¼ cup Mint finely chopped
- ½ cup Pine nuts
- ¾ tablespoon Lebanese 7 Spice substitute All Spice
- 2 teaspoons Salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon Cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Dairy free butter optional
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil optional
- Wash and dry zucchinis as normal. Using a paring knife, slice off the ends (take off as little as possible) Use a corer (this can be done manually or with an electric tool) to hollow out each zucchini. Set aside.12 medium Lebanese zucchini
- In a non-stick frypan/skillet, (optional - add olive oil/dairy-free butter) toast pine nuts until golden and set aside. Be sure to remove the pine nuts from the pan immediately as they will continue to brown from the heat which can cause them to burn. This happens very quickly.½ cup Pine nuts
- In a large mixing bowl add rice, tomato, onion, fresh parsley, fresh mint, pine nuts, Lebanese 7 spice, salt, and black pepper. Mix well together.¾ tablespoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Cracked black pepper, 1¼ cups Long-grain rice, 1 medium Tomato, 1 medium Onion, ¼ cup Parsley, ¼ cup Mint, ½ cup Pine nuts
- Using your hands, scoop little amounts of the stuffing and place it inside each zucchini. Tap the bottom of each to help the filling to fall into the cavity. Leave approximately ½” (1.5cm) from the opening to allow the rice to expand whilst cooking. Do not compact the rice otherwise, it won't cook evenly. Wipe down each zucchini to ensure there is no filling on the outside.
- Dissolve the tomato paste into water, add salt & pepper. Place the stuffed squashes into a large pot and submerge with the water & tomato paste broth. Place a plate on top and cover. Bring to the boil over med/high heat and then simmer over low heat for about 35-40 minutes. Kousa Mahshi should be tender once done. Serve warm.¾ cup Tomato paste, 7 cups Water, 2 teaspoons Salt, ½ teaspoon Cracked black pepper
N.B., nutrition info is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. This will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.