Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash

32 reader reviews / 4.54 stars average

In this Traditional Lebanese dish, kousa is stuffed with a savory meat and rice mixture and simmered in a flavorful tomato broth until tender. Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash is a true family favorite!

Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash

Recently I learned that the average bag of carrots found in your local grocery store has been in storage for up to 6 months. Awesome. Fortunately, it’s August, and there is no need to purchase 6-month-old produce. Late Summer is one of my favorite times of the year for that very simple reason: the Farmer’s Market is finally overflowing with juicy, ripe produce from every color of the rainbow. It is a short season here in Michigan so you better believe I try to make the most of it.

Kousa Squash

Of course, I am a bit partial to the heirloom tomatoes and precious hand-picked berries, but there are several other hidden gems that are a lot more budget-friendly. Today I’m going to introduce you to the world of kousa.

What is Kousa?

Kousa is an Arabic word for zucchini. It’s also known as Lebanese squash and is a type of summer squash that you will find in the market next to the more traditional yellow summer squash and zucchini.

Cored Kousa

Kousa squash is light green and a bit more plump than the others. I love slicing it thin and grilling it with a little olive oil and lemon (go figure.) It also tastes great in soups and stir-fries.

Kousa at Farmers Market

The season is only a few weeks long, so give it a shot because before you know it, you’ll be back to eating zucchini the rest of the year. I’ll spare you the speech about where your zucchini comes from in the middle of January.

Kousa Mixture for Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash

Speaking of Winter, today’s comforting dish of stuffed kousa is a family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation. Since kousa is only available for a short period of time, my Aunt Paula will cook up a huge batch of it in the summer and freeze it to be enjoyed during the holidays and other winter months.

If I’m lucky enough, right around January/February her freezer will be too full and she’ll throw an impromptu kousa party. Happy day, happy day.

Farmers Market Kousa

Preparing the Squash

While this meal might not come together in 30 minutes, trust me, it’s worth the extra time! The process is fairly simple. You start out by coring the kousa, stuffing them with the meat and rice mixture, and simmering them in the tomato broth until they’re perfectly tender. I love to serve them in a bowl with plain yogurt on the side. Once you try my Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash, you’ll understand why it’s a family favorite!

If you love this dish, I highly recommend you try some of my other Lebanese cuisine:

Frequently asked questions:

How do you freeze and reheat kousa?

This recipe is freezer friendly, but before freezing you need to fully cook the kousa. The kousa should last for up to three months in the freezer in an air-tight container. To reheat, simply place them in the refrigerator for 24 hours to thaw and then warm them in a pan.

Where do you find kousa squash?

It’s usually available at your local farmers market. I normally find it next to yellow squash and zucchini.

Is there a vegetarian option for Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash?

For a vegetarian version of kousa, try stuffing with a combination of chickpeas (partially mashed), bulger and shredded carrots.

Can I substitute zucchini in lieu of kousa squash?

I wouldn’t recommend substituting zucchini for this dish as it’s going to fall apart before the rice is fully cooked. Yellow summer squash is closer to kousa than zucchini. You could use that as an alternative.

Is there a low carb option for Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash?

Yes! You could use riced cauliflower in lieu of the rice. Since the cauliflower won’t expand, you can stuff the kousa closer to the top.

Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash

Your fork is waiting.

Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Recipe

Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash

32 reader reviews / 4.54 stars average
In this Traditional Lebanese dish, kousa is stuffed with a savory meat and rice mixture and simmered in a flavorful tomato broth until tender.
PREP: 15 mins
COOK: 35 mins
TOTAL: 50 mins
Servings: 4


  • 8 kousas (small/medium sized)
  • 20 ounces tomato juice (or tomato paste mixed with water)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½ cup uncooked long grain white rice (rinsed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic (grated)
  • 2 tablespoon dried mint
  • 2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Plain yogurt to serve


  • To hollow out the kousa, trim off the top and use a zucchini core to slowly remove the inside of the squash. Be careful not to poke through the bottom or the sides. Once the squash is hallowed out, set aside.
    Cored Kusa - The Lemon Bowl
  • In a medium bowl, combine beef, rinsed uncooked rice, salt, and pepper. Add half of the garlic (3 grated cloves) and half of the mint (1 tablespoon) to the meat mixture and combine.
    Kusa Mixture - The Lemon Bowl
  • Before you start stuffing the squash, place the tomato juice or tomato paste/water mixture in a large pot, and heat on medium high until boiling.
  • While the tomato juice is heating up, begin stuffing the kousa. Be careful to leave about 1 1/2 inch at the top which allows room for them to expand. If you have leftover meat mixture, simply roll them into little meatballs, and add to the tomato broth.
  • When the tomato juice has come to a boil, add the remaining mint (1 tablespoon) and garlic (3 grated cloves) as well as the lemon juice. 
  • If you used tomato paste/water, add salt and pepper to the broth to taste.
  • Gently add in the stuffed kousa. Bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer for 35 minutes. The meatballs are the perfect way to see if the rice is fully cooked.
  • Serve in a bowl with plain yogurt on the side. 



Serving: 1squashCalories: 429kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 29gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 706mgPotassium: 1742mgFiber: 5gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 1506IUVitamin C: 98mgCalcium: 120mgIron: 5mg
DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE? Mention @thelemonbowl or tag #thelemonbowl! I would LOVE to see!

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79 thoughts on “Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash”

  1. Your koosa recipe is almost exactly what we use except we also add pine nuts. I still use long grain rice, however, as my mother got older, she used Uncle Bens rice to ensure the rice was cooked all the way through. Also, if I had meat left over, I rolled them like meatballs and added them right in my koosa pan, placing them on top. This also helps when checking to see if the rice is cooked. We called these – porcupines. The only things would really like more details on how to freeze koosa. Please do you have a recipe?

    1. Oh my goodness I love the idea of adding pinenuts! And yes we do the meatballs also. :) For the same reason. I’ll add in a note on how to freeze but you cook it as instructed in the recipe provided then freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months!

      1. Hi
        I am 100% Lebanese and make koosa and rolled grapeleaves at least twice a month all year round. The koosa squash here in CA is known as Mexican squash. Couple of comments about your recipe. My recipe comes from all my aunts, grandmother, mother etc. None of them include garlic or mint and all of them include all spice as a seasoning. Also. you mention using one cup of rice to one pound of meat in your written recipe, but you say one half cup of rice in your video. Also I prefer canned diced tomatoes to mixing water and tomato paste. Nice to have the tomato chunks in there when enjoying the dish. I think some of your recipes are good. but I prefer Maureen Abood’s for authenticity.

        1. Hi MK! Great to connect with you – thanks for your thoughts. My family is from Damascus, Syria. That might explain the difference in how we prepare! Just to let you know, my recipe comes from my family as well. It’s authentic to my family and my heritage which is why I’m sharing it on my blog. :) With that said, I love that you add tomato and love hearing how you make it in your family. That’s what’s so wonderful about cooking – we can learn about other people and their cultures without leaving our kitchen. Have a great weekend!

        2. Same! I’m lebanese too and was very confused by this recipe. I saw that it was syrian, I guess the title was a little misleading haha

        3. Liz you are lucky that I live in Florida, or else I ‘d be joining your family for dinner! The Lebanese Stuffed grape leaves are my ultimate favorite. Of course, I would bring dessert! Tonight I’m grilling assortment of vegetables and stuffing in a pita with feta and leftover Lebanese salad..yummy!

        4. this was my favorite meal growing up in a Lebanese family. thanks for printing this. i haven’t had any kousa for years. planning on making this this week.

        5. This brings back wonderful memories of my grandmother and aunts making these every summer! Thank you for posting this! I always used to buy kousa when I could find it at the farmers market. Most of the time I slice them up and saute them with olive oil and garlic, but this will be a welcome treat. Traditionally my family made it with lamb, but this time I will use beef…I’m sure it will be awesome!! Unfortunately I moved to FL and now the trick will be to find the kousa locally. Thank you for sharing all of your family recipes!!

          1. I love it with lamb also!! Either works!!! Have you checked a Mexican grocery store for kousa? I usually find it there all year round! You must try to make it – it’s just the best, isnt it?

        6. This is a perfect recipe! I planted a Lebanese squash plant because a local nursery had it, it was unique, and I thought “why not”… and, of course, it grew like wildfire. I am pleased to report that this recipe works just as well with larger sized squash (because that’s what happens if you leave your squash unattended for a few days); I just used more tomato juice and adjusted the cooking time accordingly.

          Definitely do not skip the Greek yogurt. I served it with warm, locally-baked flatbread for mopping up the tomato sauce, and my boyfriend all but proposed on the spot. I’m making it again this week!

        7. That’s a great idea. I’ll just dry some before I gather ingredients.

          Thank you for all the lovely recipes and replies. Keep up the good work !


            1. I would recommend trying the mint if you haven’t already. I was skeptical at first too, but it is not overpowering and adds an amazing layer of complexity to the dish.

          1. Both my parents were Lebanese and we grew up eating majjadara (sp), tabouleh, kibbee, stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage, fortiya (sp) spinach or meat pies, koosa and other dishes. I didn’t know there was a koosa squash as we always used the yellow summer squash. Sometime as an extra, we would add zucchini squash, but zucchini cooks faster than the yellow squash. I always cook koosa in tomato juice and sometime add a few tablespoons to the meat mixture.

                1. I threw the extra squash innards into a batch of veggie chili. They also go great in curry, ratatouille, pasta primavera, or any dish where you’re using a lot of mixed veggies.

                2. I just grew some this year for the first time ever!! I am stuffing them along with zucchini and summer squash for dinner tonight!!!
                  We found the plants at an armenian nursery in Massachusettes

                  1. You can make a nice salad/Dip.
                    Boil the insides for about 10 minutes.
                    Strain and squeeze out the water.

                    In a seperate bowl, mortar two pieces of garlic
                    Squeeze 2 lemons on top
                    Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil
                    Salt to taste
                    Eat with Lebanese bread or spoon

                    1. Hi Liz, I made this on Friday night and, being me, I followed your recipe to the letter, but hated wasting the inner flesh, so I chopped it up fine and added it to the meat mixture along with 2 tablespoons of tomato juice. It turned out as I remembered my Lebanese uncle making when I was little. Made a Greek salad to accompany it and some toasted pita bread. FYI, I used the rest of the inner flesh scrambled in eggs with feta and a smidge of tomato paste, and today using the rest of the flesh, grilled and putting into a Lebanese Fattoush salad. Thanks for wonderful tasting recipes and reliving childhood memories…absolutely precious❣

                      1. oh my goodness GREAT idea Connie!!! My mom grew up eating the flesh sauteed with eggs for breakfast as well!!! Sounds so good with feta. We are having stuffed grape leaves and cabbage rolls tonight. :)

                    2. Tom Abbott (Shalhoup]

                      Koosa squash is easy to grow..and seeds are available online… for vegetarian version try stuffing wuth combo of chickpeas..partially mashed, bulger and shredded carrots.
                      Lamb is my favorite with rice and garlic..the way mom and Sittoo made it…and dont over cook..simmer on ver low for an hour or more..

                    3. Hi Liz, my dad talks about his grandmother making stuffed Kusa and how much he loved them. I found your recipe and tried it using zucchini (closest to Kusa that I could find) while making cabbage rolls. It may have cooked closer to an hour and I’m wondering if the squash was overcooked because mine fell apart when removing from pan. The cabbage rolls that were cooked along with the squash still have a good texture/consistency. Can you tell me if that sounds overlooked or maybe give me an idea of how yours turn out AND if the meat balls made with extra meat filling should stay together? Mine did not , even with a plate over the top while cooking. Also, do you make the meat pies called fiteyeh (not sure that’s even close to correct spelling)? They’re ah-ma-zing!!

                      1. Hi Trish, I wouldn’t recommend zucchini for this dish as it’s going to fall apart before the rice is fully cooked. Do you have a place near you that sells kousa? You can often find it year round in Mexican or International grocery stores. Otherwise in Michigan it’s at the farmers markets in the summer. Sadly kousa is more of a summer recipe for that reason. Have you looked through my other Lebanese recipes? I also have a cookbook of my family’s recipes.

                        Yes we call the meat pies “sfeehas”!! So good:! https://thelemonbowl.com/lebanese-meat-pies-sfeehas/

                        1. I love your recipes. That I was just wondering if you can substitute fresh mint for dried mint? Is the flavor much different. The reason is I grow my own herbs and would rather use my own.

                          1. I actually used fresh mint because that’s what I had on hand, and it came out great! Not overpoweringly minty, but it still added a lot of nuanced flavor.

                          2. Hi, I am making this for my Bible study group! I know they’ll love it. I need to freeze and reheat them! Help! How do I do that? Please help me as I am making them Oct 2,2018 and need to reheat them on October 8, 2018.

                            Thank you very much!

                            By the way, I have heard vegetarian style stuffing it with tabouleh salad before.

                            1. I have them in my freezer as well! To reheat simply place in the refrigerator 24 hours before you wish to eat them so they can thaw slowly. Alternatively, leave on counter and they should thaw in 4 hours or so. To reheat, place in a pan and warm. :)

                          3. Liz, if I am unable to find the Kusa squash here in Georgia. How much
                            will a plain old Zucchini squash take away from the taste? And thanks
                            BTW this sounds scrumptious.

                                  1. What place are you going to in Oklahoma?? I’m in oklahoma as well and looking for koosa. I’m over here in Tulsa. I heard Middle East market carries them sometimes on sundays but I haven’t had luck yet

                                    1. My mother in law,always mar a dish using the inside of the moods she scooped out and put onions, tomatoes and stirfriedtjose. I believe she broke eggs over top and let those cook. Do you know thus,recipe?

                                      1. Always had koosa insides with eggs and onions gor breakfadt the dsy after making stuffed koosa.

                                        Simmer aquash..yellow is a better sub

                                        1. Will definitely try this recipe. I spent my summers in Lebanon growing up and my grandmother would make this dish. I’ve always wanted to make it myself but have never been able to find the correct variety of squash, even at our famous State Farmers Market here in Raleigh, NC. However if anyone else is having this problem too, I found the following seeds and will be growing them in our garden: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7670-magda.aspx

                                          1. Do you know the vegetarian version of this dish? I used to eat this is a Lebanese restaurant (which is now closed) and they stuffed their squash with a meatless bulgur filling which was quite delicious! They will serve the stuffed squashes with a tomato sauce and the tomato sauce was spiced with cinnamon and other spices. It was very good and I crave for this.

                                            1. Hi There – I’m afraid I’ve never eaten the vegetarian version but it sounds delicious. I tried googling to find an option for you but there are a million varieties and I’m not sure which one has the flavors you’re seeking. I would definitely search online though – looks like tons of options!!

                                              1. Oh, thank you for trying to find the vegetarian version for me. That is very nice. At least I know how the squash is hollowed out and stuffed. Thank you again!

                                                1. Another idea off the top of my head is to sauté eggplant with cooked bulgur wheat, tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt, pepper. Clarified butter (ghee) doesn’t hurt either. Enjoy!

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