Kousa (Stuffed Squash)

5 from 501 votes

This authentic Kousa recipe is a popular Middle Eastern dish made with a spiced beef & rice mixture stuffed in squash and cooked in a garlicky tomato broth!

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Kousa is a traditional Lebanese recipe that I grew up eating! It’s one of those labor of love meals that requires coring squash, making a stuffing, stuffing it in the squash and then cooking it all together. However, it only uses a handful of ingredients, and the result is a tender squash filled with delicious juicy meat and rice in a rich broth.

Kousa on a white plate
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What is kousa

Kousa is another name for squash or zucchini in Arabic. They’re often called Mexican Squash, Mexican Zucchini or Grey Zucchini. Their shape – short and wide – is ideal for stuffing. So this Lebanese Kousa recipe is essentially spiced ground beef with rice stuffed in the kousa and cooked in a garlicky tomato broth. 

four squash on a counter


How to make kousa

Core the squash

Cut off the stalks of the squash, then slice off the dried tips at the opposite end. You want to be careful not to remove too much of the squash while doing this. This is also a good time to wash the squash thoroughly and dry them.

four squash on a white background

To core the squash, I found the best technique is to use an apple corer. Once you remove the major core of the squash, you can clean out more of the sides with a knife or again with the apple corer. You can remove as much or as little as you want. Just be careful not to cut through the tender skin of the squash.

collage of hollowing out squash

Make the stuffing

The stuffing is a classic beef hashweh (Arabic word for stuffing) that we use in many dishes like stuffed grape leaves. Cook ground beef with olive oil, spices and onions (optional), then add uncooked rice and stir to combine. Some prefer not to cook the stuffing, but I prefer cooking it for best flavor. Don’t cook the rice though because it will cook in the broth afterwards.

process shots of filling being cooked

Stuff the squash

Now, it’s time to place the stuffing into the hallowed out kousa. Be sure not to overstuff them because the rice will expand as it’s cooked. While this is not necessary, I recommend adding a small tomato wedge to help seal the squash. It creates an edible barrier to keep the rice and beef mixture inside the kousa when it’s cooking.

hand holding hollowed out squash

Cook the kousa in tomato broth

After you’re done stuffing the rice and beef mixture into the kousa, it’s time to cook it in a tomato broth. There are many ways to create a tomato broth. I make mine with olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Make enough to just barely cover the stuffed squash in the pot. And make sure the consistency of broth is not too thick since it will thicken as it cooks.

Since I don’t have a pressure cooker, I use a small round plate to keep kousa intact in the 8-quart deep pot while it’s cooking. After about 45 minutes to an hour, the broth will reduce, the squash color will darken and the stuffing will become tender.

process shots of kousa cooking in a pot

Tips for making kousa

  1. Reserve the squash flesh for another purpose. That part is completely edible and tasty. You can use it to make an omelette, frittata or even babaganoush!
  2. Keep the kousa extra firm when cooking by washing it with salted water. You can fill a medium bowl with water and add about 1 teaspoon of salt and then scrub the squash with your hands.
  3. Seal the stuffed squash with small wedges of tomatoes. This is not necessary and many cooks don’t take the time to do this step. However, I found it’s really useful for keeping the stuffing inside the squash instead of spilling into the broth.
  4. Swap the rice for riced cauliflower for a lower carb version. I recently tried it with cauliflower rice and it works really well this way. If you’re using cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, you can stuff them all the way since the there won’t be any rice expansion.

Frequently asked questions

Where can I find kousa?

It’s usually available in the winter months in local markets in Michigan and it’s often called Mexican Squash so you can ask your local grocer about it where you live. If you can’t find kousa, try using yellow summer squash, which will be the closest to it.

What’s the best tool for coring kousa?

I found that an apple corer (Amazon Affiliate link) works really well to remove the flesh inside the squash for stuffing purposes. It works really well with one motion. But you may need to core a couple times depending on the thickness of the squash. To get it extra hallowed, you can also use an electric veggie corer drill (Amazon Affiliate link).

Can you freeze kousa?

You can freeze the hallowed out kousa if you buy it in bulk when it’s seasonal. It makes it really tender when cooked. You can also freeze the hashweh stuffing on its own. Or alternatively, you can freeze the cooked stuffed kousa after it’s been cooled. Whatever option you choose, enjoy it within 3 months of freezing for best results.

Can you make the stuffing vegetarian?

Yes, the vegetarian stuffing would be uncooked rice, parsley, tomatoes, green onions and green peppers. It’s basically the same stuffing that I use when I make my vegetarian stuffed grape leaves.

overhead shot of kousa on a dish

For more Mediterranean food:

Lebanese stuffed squash is one of those great recipes that I grew up having and I love sharing it with you. It’s one of those dishes that we cook on weekends when the whole family gathers together. It’s healthy, hearty and well-balanced while bursting with great Mediterranean flavor. I hope you try it and love it!

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Kousa recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

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Kousa (Stuffed Squash)

This authentic Kousa recipe is a popular Middle Eastern dish made with a spiced beef & rice mixture stuffed in squash and cooked in a garlicky tomato broth!
5 from 501 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Calories 444
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
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  • 16 Mexican squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon 7 Spice
  • 2 teaspoons salt divided
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
  • 1 large tomato cut into 16 chunks

Tomato Broth


  • Cut off the stalks of the Mexican squash, then slice off the dried tips at the opposite end without removing too much of the squash.
  • Using a knife or apple corer, carefully hallow out the squash and remove the flesh without puncturing the outside of the squash. You can reserve the flesh for another recipe.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat large. Add the onions and ground beef and season with 7 Spice, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is browned, about 7-10 minutes. Add the uncooked rice, the remaining salt and stir to combine the ingredients.
  • To make the tomato broth, heat the olive oil in a large deep pot over medium. Add the tomato paste and pressed garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, while stuffing the squash.
  • Using a small spoon or your hands, fill the hallowed out inside of each squash with the rice stuffing. Be sure to leave about ¼ inch of empty space at the top since the rice will expand when cooked. Then stuff a tomato chunk on top to seal the squash and prevent the stuffing from coming out when cooked. Repeat with the remaining squash. If you have any leftover stuffing, you can cook it with water.
  • Transfer the stuffed squash to the deep pot and bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook covered for 45 minutes. Uncover the pot, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the kousa is knife tender and the sauce thickens, 30-45 minutes.
  • Serve the stuffed squash warm with the sauce on top.


Recipe: There are so many variations of this kousa recipe depending on the region adapted from. There is no absolute one way to make this dish, but this was the recipe passed down from my Lebanese parents and it’s one that I’ve made and enjoyed for many many years.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. A commonly asked question is whether you can use brown rice, and I would recommend against it. If you use brown rice, you have to increase the cooking time by 30 minutes, but I have not tried it.
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge. 
Freezing Instructions: Freeze the hallowed out kousa and store in freezer safe containers. Freeze the hashweh without cooking the rice. Or alternatively, you can freeze the cooked stuffed kousa after it’s been cooled. Whatever option you choose, enjoy it within 3 months of freezing for best results. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Make Ahead Tips: You can make the hashweh stuffing up to 2 days in advance. You can also core the squash a few days in advance and store it in the fridge until ready to stuff.
Equipment: I use an apple corer (Amazon Affiliate link) to core the kousa. It works really well with one motion. But you may need to core a couple times depending on the thickness of the squash. To get it extra cored, you can also use an electric veggie corer drill (Amazon Affiliate link).


Calories: 444kcal, Carbohydrates: 50g, Protein: 20g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 2041mg, Potassium: 1782mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 1386IU, Vitamin C: 92mg, Calcium: 112mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Entree
5 from 501 votes (463 ratings without comment)

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  1. Hemalatha says:

    Love the recipes..
    The way it is encoded is so wholesome,just love it..😍.It just elevates the cooking experiences and enhances the sheer joy of cooking..
    Love your recipes and your channel

    1. Yumna says:

      Thanks so much!

  2. Nicholas says:

    Kouss mehshi is a distant memory from when I was a young kid growing up in Lebanon. Now a father of 4 teens, I wanted to treat my family to a traditional Lebanese dish and tried this recipe. I’ve never tried making this dish before so I was not expecting it to work out. Goes what? Everyone loved it. I’m so glad I came across your recipe.

    1. Yumna says:

      Aww I love this, so happy it was a big success!

  3. April says:

    Hi, this sounds delicious, my mother made something like this when I was a little girl… can this be cooked in an instant pot? Thanks so much!

    1. Yumna says:

      Hi there! I have not tried that yet myself, but I’m sure it could work, I just wouldn’t know the exact timing to tell you without retesting the recipe.

  4. Yas says:

    I’m going to attempt making this recipe this weekend! Which ground beef do you recommend (85/15, 93/7, etc.)?

    1. Yumna says:

      Either one works, but I would go for 93/7

  5. Susie says:

    Sounds delish & I’m gonna try it.
    How many does the single recipe serve? 16 zucchini sounds like a lot!

    1. Yumna says:

      Hi there! As written the recipe serves about 8. However, the squash is not zucchini, it’s Kousa, also sometimes called Mexican squash. They are smaller than zucchini, but if you can’t find it the best substitute would be summer squash.

      1. Susie says:

        Made it last week & it was a big hit!! I grew up on this (from our Lebanese friends when I was very young) but I had never made it myself.
        Thanks!!! I’m eyeing the next recipes to try from your site.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    This is a delicious recipe, it tasted just like my grandma’s stuffed squash. I’m vegetarian so I subbed cooked green lentils for the meat, but otherwise kept the recipe the same. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Love the idea of using green lentils instead of meat here. Thank you for making it!

  7. Olivia says:

    I’ve tried a few different Kousa recipes and this one is by far the best.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      So happy you tried this one and loved it!

  8. Kelly says:

    This might sound odd, but do you add the leftover mince mixture to the pot of broth or a separate saucepan of water?

    1. Yumna J. says:

      So if you have any stuffing which is made up of the uncooked rice and beef, you can put it in a pot and estimate double the amount of water for how much rice you have. Cook it for 15 minutes covered and then uncover and fluff the rice. Hope that helps!

  9. Fraser says:

    Grew kousa for the first time this year. Wasn’t really sure what to do with them, and those plants are prolific producers!
    Glad to have found this delicious recipe. Tonight is the third time in recent weeks we’re having it and it just gets better each time. Now that I have the coring down to a fine art, I can really get those squashes super stuffed.
    The kids absolutely love them too! Thanks for such a great recipe and allowing us to bring a touch of Lebanon into our lives.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      You’re so welcome, Fraser! So happy to hear that you and your family are enjoying the stuffed squash. Once you get the coring down, it’s really a quick, convent way to eat them!

  10. Nadia says:

    I’m so happy to have found this recipe! This is one of my favorite childhood dinners from my summers in Jordan and I wanted to learn more Middle Eastern dishes to have my husband try. He’s not a fan of zucchini, but he absolutely loved this! It definitely brought me back to a place of nostalgia and after not having this for almost 17 years it tastes exactly how I remember! Thank you so much for sharing!<3

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That’s amazing! I’m so glad to hear you both enjoyed the recipe. You’re so welcome!!

  11. Sana says:

    Yumna another beautiful recipe! I want to make grape leaves (your recipe) with in the same pot as the kusa what would be the measurements for the liquid to cook it all.
    Thank you again!!

  12. Dena says:

    Your kusa recipe was delicious ! Do you have a recipe for cooking kusa in a yogurt
    (Lebon) sauce ? Using either sour cream or Greek yogurt ? Thanks

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! I do not at the moment.

  13. Patty says:

    Making it now and smells delicious! Are you supposed to cover it when simmering on low? I put it on, but not sure. I cover the pot when I make grape leaves

    Thank you

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      I love that! Yes, you should cover it when it’s simmering. I just edited the recipe to reflect this. Thank you!

    2. Sarah says:

      Hello! So excited to make this! Quick question, due to dietary needs I need to use ground turkey…can this recipe be made with ground turkey?? Thank you for sharing your family recipe ☺️

      1. Yumna J. says:

        Absolutely, you can use ground turkey here. Let me know what you think when you make it!

  14. Dena Ali says:

    Can you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth ? Also is there a big difference in flavor cooking beef before stuffing or not cooking beef and having it cook inside squash. ? Thanks

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yes, you can use vegetable broth! I prefer cooking the beef for best flavor.

  15. Monique says:

    These were delicious! Took me back to being a kid when my Dad would cook. These are much easier to make than they look; great for a weeknight meal or for guests on the weekend. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you! So nostalgic. Glad you enjoyed!!

  16. Racelle says:

    Bringing my “Stuffed Kousa” to the next level. Thank you so much for sharing this mouthwatering recipe. I make Kousa a lot but decided to follow your recipe this time and turned out “So Good”!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      You’re so welcome! I love that!

  17. Duaa says:

    I’m so excited to fall onto a fellow Michiganders page and your making authentic Arab food!!! I would normally have to look these up in Arabic. Jazak illahu khaira for this! I’m not sure if you have ever experimented, but I’m curious to know, can I make this without the rice? I’m on a low carb diet right now.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Welcome to the page! You could also try this with cauliflower rice instead of rice.

  18. Jessica says:

    5 stars.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much!

  19. Kimberly Kremer says:

    Found the kousa in our local market the other week. Surprised I bought 6! Been a decade since I made them. I loved your recipe Yumna! I used wild rice, however, but it was so nostalgic. I have the same little tool as in your video that I bought in Damascus 30 years ago, but I do love the simplicity of the apple corer!!! Long live kousa maHsheh! Thank you.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! Love a good nostalgic meal. You’re so welcome!

  20. B says:

    I usually follow my grandma’s recipe but this time I’m going to follow your recipe. What a good side dish for kousas?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Excited for you to give it a try! You can eat Kousa on its own, but you can also pair it with recipes like my Lebanese Mujadara, Bulgur Pilaf, or Spinach Pies.

  21. Mazen says:

    Hi Yumna,
    Great u tube video on kussa mehshi !!! I loved it. What brand was the electric apple corer that Summer was using? Where can I find it ? I searched it on Amazon without success. Which apple corer brand works best???

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much! Is this the apple corer you are referring to? https://amzn.to/2TkyDDK

  22. Rachel Weisberger says:

    I used to eat kousa from New Yasmeen bakery when I lived in Michigan. Now, I live in Colorado and there are no Lebanese restaurants and bakeries that I’ve found. I have made this dish a few times, typically when I have a build of summer squash from my garden. The first time I used this recipe, I was thrilled by the familiar smell after adding the spices to the pan. It is absolutely delicious and takes me back to my childhood home. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That makes me so happy that you can now enjoy it at home and it’s nostalgic! You’re so welcome!!

  23. Carla says:

    Amazing! Just like I remember my moms tasted. Thank you so much for this recipe and for helping me relive one of my favorite childhood dishes!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That’s perfect! You’re welcome!! I’m so happy to hear it.

  24. Paula Berberick says:

    Oh my goodness…absolutely delicious! It was a lot of work and having had hand surgery 3 & 6 months ago, my hands were screaming by the time I was finished. But I am so happy with how this turned out! I used the vegetarian suggestion of the stuffed grape leaf filling, just changed it up a bit by adding the 7 spice powder. I won’t make this again anytime soon but look forward to it when I do.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you so much. So glad you enjoyed it!! Hope you rest up those hands!

  25. Elias says:

    Tasted great from 1st try!!
    Followed the recipe except that I recalculated the ingredients for 9 zucchinis… Cooked them in 30 min in a regular pot. One thing is that I had a lot of rice and beef mixture leftover, I think the zucchinis were not hollowed properly (bought them ready and tried to empty even more though). Overall it’s delicious.
    Thank you!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay! You can also cook or freeze the hashweh stuffing on its own.

  26. You don’t know me says:

    Forgot to leave star rating. Delish and easy to follow recipe. A reminder of my childhood.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Thank you for leaving a rating and a comment! I love a good nostalgic dish!

  27. You don’t know me says:

    This was just like the I remember my aunt and the ladies from the church made. So authentic. Easy to follow. Thanks am not a cook but I rocked this.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      That makes me so happy to hear! Easy and simple recipes are what I’m here to share!

  28. Lisa says:

    Really horribly disappointed. I bought cousa squash at their prime & googled a generous dozen recipes for stuffed Mediterranean/Lebanese squash & chose to follow this one. The rice did NOT cook according to recipe instructions… my entire Sunday meal was ruined plus time & ingredients were wasted. So bey9 d annoyed!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that. What happened with the rice?

  29. Layla says:

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! The most delicious kousa I have ever eaten!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      You’re so welcome! I’m so happy to hear that!

  30. Karen says:

    Can you tell me where I can get the recipe for your friend Summer’s keto version that I saw on YouTube from March 2020? In the meantime I’ll be making yours! Yum!!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Summer doesn’t have a blog, but she has her recipes on her Instagram highlights (@summers_homemade_meals), so it might be there!

  31. Susan Myers says:

    Easy recipe , Delicious !

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Thank you!

  32. sarah draper says:

    Hi, i’m making this for my friend and her family for eid. what would be the time change/temp. if i were to cook this in a pressure cooker?

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Since I don’t have a pressure cooker, I am not sure exactly, so you may need to experiment a little!

  33. Alex Garcia says:

    Hi! Awesome recipe, thank you! Is the nutritional information 444 cal for 1 Koussa?

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Thank you so much! It is 444 kcal for one serving, which is an eighth of the recipe, so that should be two squash.

  34. Francesca says:

    I just made your kousa recipe and it was so wonderful 😊 I am Lebanese too! I’m teaching myself about the culture. It has been very fun to learn to make the recipes through your website. Thought you should know that you’re helping me connect to my roots and it’s so much fun ! Amazing dish – I’m definitely going to make this again and again!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Thank you so much! I love that you are working to connect to your roots! Yay!!

  35. Fahed says:

    So good! Thank you Yumna 😃

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay! You’re so welcome!

  36. Fahed says:

    One of my favorite childhood dishes! Turned out amazing! Thank you Yumna 😃

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I love that! You’re welcome, Fahed!

  37. Neeta saini says:

    The recipe and details were really helpful though the stuffing was extra. I just used it to stuff a few small green peppers,that were from my garden. The capsicums were really tiny so they looked lovely with the kusa.The end result and flavour of the whole dish was amazing!!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I’m so glad you found it helpful and enjoyed the dish! I love what you chose to do with the extra stuffing!

  38. Beverlee says:

    A favorite in our house.
    Your recipe is amazing.

    Thank you

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I’m so happy to hear that! Thank you so much!!

  39. Sandra says:

    You don’t put any fresh herbs or dry mint?

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Just parsley for serving, but you can definitely add others!

  40. Blair Johnson says:

    Cook the insides of the squash in the pot with everything else. So yummy!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Good idea! Yum!

  41. Roberta says:

    My family from Lebanon
    Matches this recipe to a T!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Yay! Glad to hear that!!

  42. Louise says:

    I have made these for years, I have used both, a long handle iced tea spoon and a grapefruit spoon, with serrated edges to scoop out the squash, makes it really easy.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Great tip! Thank you!!

  43. Sarah says:

    Thank you for a great recipe. It was delicious. I made a zucchini bread for dessert with the insides of my zucchini’s.

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Oh great idea to use the insides to make bread! So glad you liked the kousa!

  44. VDub says:

    Unstuffed Kousa? Since it all ends up cut up into a pile on my plate anyway, can I just cook it together in a pot like stew with the squash cut up? Thanks!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Sure thing! That would work!

  45. Mayah says:

    I grew up eating this and I love it. Decided to try it with cauliflower rice and it’s just as good!!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      OH what a great idea to use the cauliflower rice like my friend did in the video. Glad you enjoyed it!

  46. Harvir B says:

    So amazing. I had a friend make this for me years ago and I still remember the amazing taste. I used your recipe to make it for myself and my husband for the first time and he loved it! Will be making again!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Aww I’m so happy to har that you were able to recreate it using my recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!

  47. Gayle says:

    Can I use quinoa in place of rice?

  48. Christelle Zaghrini says:

    As a Lebanese I highly recommend you try this recipe!! Soo good!!

    1. Yumna Jawad says:

      Aww thank you so much!!

  49. Amani says:

    I stuffed the Kousa a day earlier. Used rice cauliflower and took your tip to fill it all the way, since there won’t be any rice expansion.
    Kousa came out delicious. Super instructions .

  50. Vanessa Yassin says:

    Looks yummy. Can’t wait to try it. Do you have a Koosa with Laban recipe?