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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!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 444kcal
Author Yumna Jawad


  • 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