Kousa is stuffed with a savory meat and rice mixture and simmered in a flavorful tomato broth until tender in this flavorful Lebanse Stuffed Kousa Squash.
Late summer is one of my favorite times of the year for one very simple reason: the farmers market is finally overflowing with juicy, ripe produce from every color of the rainbow. One of my favorite things to buy is kousa, also known as Lebanese squash, which is a summer squash that you can find right by the zucchini. While I enjoy kousa (or koosa and cousa) many ways, today I’m sharing my Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash recipe which you’re sure to love.
- Kousa: Arabic for zucchini, it’s a summer squash with a light green rind that is mildly sweet and nutty in flavor.
- Tomato juice: Slightly sweet and tart flavor that both cooks the squash and creates a delicious sauce.
- Ground beef: I like to use sirloin, but you could also use ground chuck or even ground lamb.
- Long grain rice: Soaks up the juice and surrounding flavor as it cooks and adds texture to the filling.
- Garlic: A staple in my kitchen, it has a sweet, nutty, slightly buttery taste when cooked.
- Dried mint: Sweet and woodsy, it adds a different depth of flavor than fresh mint would.
- Lemon juice: Bright, acidic flavor that creates balance to the dish.
How to Make Lebanese stuffed Kousa Squash
Start your Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash by creating the stuffing by putting your ground beef in a large bowl.
Then add the uncooked rice, and freshly grate half of the garlic cloves with a microplane.
Finish with half of the dried mint and season with some salt and pepper.
The best way to combine the meat mixture is with your hands, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
To prepare your squash for stuffing, start by washing and drying them, then cutting off all the tops.
Then hollow out the insides by using a zucchini corer, being careful that you don’t puncture the bottom or sides.
Next take the meat and rice mixture and stuff into the squash, leaving about 1 & 1/2 inches of space at the top for the rice to cook and expand.
Then in a large pot, pour in the tomato juice.
Then grate in the rest of the garlic.
And add in the rest of the dried mint.
Once tomato juice is boiling, gently add in the stuffed kousa squash as well as the lemon juice.
You can also add any leftover meat stuffing to the pot as little meatballs. Once everything is added to the pot, bring back to a boil before reducing heat and simmering for about 35 minutes.
Once rice is fully cooked (the meatballs are a great way to test this), remove from the pot, garnish with fresh parsley, and enjoy!
Frequently asked questions:
How do you freeze 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. You can also find it at some grocery stores.
How do you core a squash without a corer?
You can try a small, thin knife, a grapefruit spoon, or a potato peeler (the long, scoop, skinny kind).
More LEbanese Recipes
- Lebanese Green Beans with Tomatoes
- Grilled Chicken Shawarma
- Lebanese Hindbeh
- Hummus with Ground Beef
- Authentic Lebanese Falafel
Did you try this recipe and like it? The next time you make it, snap a picture and share it to your socials! Tag @thelemonbowl and #thelemonbowl so we can admire and share your meal.
Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash has always been a favorite of mine, and once you give it a try, I hope it’ll become a favorite of yours as well.
Your fork is waiting.
Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash
- 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 (optional)
- 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 hollowed out, set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
Want more healthy recipes? Head over to Pinterest!
84 thoughts on “Lebanese Stuffed Kousa Squash”
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?
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!
Love stuffed squash usually use yellow and ad cinnamon.!Yummie!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it Karen!
Hi Judi – The freezer instructions are already in the recipe post. DId you read it?
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.
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!
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
Hi!! I’m Syrian. :) Hope you enjoy it!
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!
hahaha Thank you so much!
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.
I’m making it this weekend – isnt it just the best?
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!!
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?
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!
Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed this Rachel! I’m making it tomorrow for my family as well! I love that your man almost proposed hahah yay! Let me know if you try any other Lebanese recipes – sounds like he enjoys them. :) https://thelemonbowl.com/middle-eastern/
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 !
Here is the link of zucchini (koussa) exactly what you made…and the person who said hers fell apart, it’s because she over cooked them. Keep an eye on the koussa..every 10 minutes https://www.ricardocuisine.com/en/recipes/8298-stuffed-zucchini-kousa-mahshi
Thanks for sharing!
Can you substitute the mint in for another spice?
I wouldn’t recommend – maybe just skip it?
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.
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.
What a great idea!!! Thank you for sharing Jean!
Do you have a recipe for zucchini seeds/insides to not waste anything?
No I don’t but that’s a great idea! my mom said she grew up eating them scrambled with eggs!
Look it up on youtube..mix it with eggs,parsley and flour , salt and pepper.. then fry
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.
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
Oh how wonderful!!! Enjoy!
How do I freeze it and reheat it?
I freeze it in a Tupperware container and reheat it on the stove. Enjoy – just had it for lunch!
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
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❣
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. :)
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..
PS..yellow summer squash is closer to koosa than zucchini..try them if you cant get thevreal deal
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!!
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/
What are you talking about? Zucchini is what u just used for koussa!
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.
Fresh mint wouldnt work for this but you can always dry your fresh mint! Just put it in a low 200 degree oven until dried out. :)
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.
Oh good I’m so glad to hear it worked with fresh mint!!!
Hi, do you cover the pot when you’re simmering the tomato paste mixture with the zucchinis in the pot?
Yes I do! :)
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.
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. :)
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.
I’ve never used zucchini before but I don’t see why not! If you try it will you let me know how it turns out?
Simmer aquash..yellow is a better sub
Good to know!
Go to a Mexican market if you have one. That’s where I get mine in Oklahoma.
YES! Such a great idea and reminder!
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
I’ve never been to Oklahoma I’m afraid!
Yes zucchini is exactly what you use…look it up on youtube..they all call it zucchin
:) Thanks Momo!
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?
No I don’t but that sounds incredible!!!
Always had koosa insides with eggs and onions gor breakfadt the dsy after making stuffed koosa.
Simmer aquash..yellow is a better sub
Wow that sounds amazing!!!! My mom always talks about koosa with eggs too.
Do you cook the Coosa fully before freezing?
I typically do yes.
Where does the 2T of fresh lemon juice go? It’s in the ingredient list but not in the recipe directions. Thanks!
So sorry about that – it goes in the tomato juice mixture. I just edited the post!!
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
I hope you make it and love it Ray! It’s one of my all time favorite dishes!
We just subscribed to The Produce Box and they are now offering coos squash!!!!
What’s the best way to freeze them?
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.
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!!
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!
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!