Are you Looking for a vegan, fragrant, and burst-with-flavors dip to serve to your family and guests on a super bowl day, cocktail party or as a side dish?! Then, give this exotic, economic and vegan Egyptian Bosara, Bissara (or Bessarah) a try.
What is Bissara (AKA Bossara, Bessarah, or Bessara)
Bissara is an ancient Egyptian heritage dish that is steeped in over 7000 of history.
The glory of that dish lies in its simple ingredients: Split fava beans, onions, garlic, fresh aromatic herbs and spices. All ingredients are slowly cooked and then blended together to yield a creamy and fragrant dip or side dish.
Food historians believe that the name Bissara originates from the Hieroglyphic world “Bisourou” or cooked beans.
Unlike some Egyptian dishes that are common with other Arab countries, Bissara is unique to Egypt, with the exception of Morocco, which has a Bissara soup that bears the same name and calls for the same ingredients, yet possesses the consistency of a soup and not a dip.
Bissara & Coptic Fasting
Bissara is a heritage vegan dish that abundantly surface when Copts (Christian Egyptians) observe their fasting.
Eventually, copts fast for over 250 days a year, during which they abstain from dairy products, poultry and all types of red and white meat.
The longest season of coptic fasting is lent, which starts this year on Feb 28th and lasts until Easter on April 24th.
Bissara is Nostalgic
This post is an ode to my late father who was a huge fond of that heritage dish, Bissara.
He was an intrepid foodie and staunch fan of my food journey. In his eighties, he had an IG account to follow my daily feed!
He repeatedly urged me to niche down and laser focus on Egyptian cuisine on my blog.
“No cuisine could be more diverse than one steeped in +7000 years of history. If there is one predisposed advocate for such richness, YOU should be the one.” Said my father.
These were his last words to me before my sister texted me 48 hours later to inform me that he was gone!
In my heart, I know that he has been watching me happily over the last year, bringing his favorite Egyptian Cuisine to the limelight, and putting his priceless advice into action.
How Easy Is To Make Bissara?
Well, if you can crack an egg, you probably can make Egyptian Bissara.
Bissara is a one pot wonder. You start by soaking the Split Fava Beans in cold water overnight. The second day, you rinse it with tap water and you combine it with the rest of ingredients in one pot to slowly cook it.
We bring the pot to a gentle simmer over low heat for almost 30-40 minutes, until the Split Fava Beans are too soft and the herbs are totally wilted.
As an alternative to stove top, you can either use a slow cooker/crock pot or an instant pot to cook the beans along with the rest of the ingredients. While it is cooking, fry the shallots or yellow onions to make the crispy fried onion.
Please note that this is a zero food waste recipe, so don’t discard the oil as you will use it to cook the rest of the ingredients.
When the beans are thoroughly cooked along with the rest of the ingredients, Let it cool slightly and then transfer it to the container of a food processor and puree it, while drizzling the onion infused oil, one spoonful at a time, until a creamy paste forms.
At this point, we return the Bissara or Bessarah to the pot to reheat, taste and adjust the seasonings.
To serve, drizzle some of the onion-infused oil on the surface, to garnish the Bissara before serving.
A dash of sweet paprika always add a glamor and edge to this economic yet delicious appetizer.
Bissara Health Benefits
Vegan and gluten free dip, Egyptian Bessara is a humble vegan dish, that carries a high nutrition value, as the Split Fava Beans are immune boosters and loaded with nutrients.
Eating these beans regularly may have benefits for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, help prevent birth defects, boost immunity, aid weight loss and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
In addition to the fava beans benefits, the fresh aromatic herbs in this dish round up its multiple heath benefits with the vitamins and antioxidants they offer.
Bissara is a vegan, green, gluten free dish that is filling, nutritious and economic that contributes to a healthy diet.
Zero Food Waste & Freezer Friendly recipe
Bissara is your best ally if you have wilted aromatic herbs lying in your fridge, begging to be used. Given, that the herbs are cooked anyway, so it is ok to use the wilted ones, but it is not ok if they have funny flavor or texture.
Possibly, you can make a large pot of Bissara, let it cool down and then store it in small quart storage ziplocks that you can keep in the freezer for up to three 3 months.
Also, the oil that is used to fry the onions, become loaded with flavors and can be used to flavor an array of dishes such as Koshari (Kushari).
Success Secrets of Bissara
Eventually, layering distinctive flavors in this Split Fava Bean dish is what makes all the difference in the taste, so here are my success tips:
Split Fava Beans
The canola oil I use to fry the onions, becomes loaded with flavors after the onions are fried.
It becomes a powerful cooking asset that I use in flavoring this Bissara dish, as well as other Egyptian dishes such as Koshari.
So don’t discard the oil after frying. Let it cook down completely, run it though a fine mesh sieve and store it in a cool, dry place.
To make the perfect crispy and crunchy onions:
- Avoid using red onions as they take forever to crunch up and has excessive amount of sugar. Your best bet is either shallots or yellow onions.
- Slice the onions thinly as you can, then spread them in one layer over absorbent paper for 10 minute to get rid of the excess liquid.
- Don’t let the oil getting too hot. Add the onions to the oil when it is warming up.
- Sprinkle a spoonful of salt to flavor the onions, once you add them to the oil.
- Keep stirring the onions in the hot oil to evenly fry them.
- Fry the onions until they are golden brown, don’t over fry so they don’t get bitter.
- Avoid olive oil for frying, instead use unflavored oil such as canola oil.
Green Pepper Chili
Don’t shy away from heat! One green pepper chili will lend the Bissara a pleasant kick, without being too spicy or unbearably hot.
More Split Fava Beans Recipes
Use Split Fava Beans in other Egyptian recipes such as Ta’amia (Egyptian Falafel).
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Egyptian Bissara (Vegan Split Fava Bean Dip)
Serves 4- 6 people
- 250 grams of dry, split fava beans, soaked and rinsed
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 cup total of mixed fresh leaves parsley, dill, cilantro, mint, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dry mint
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 green chili pepper, seeded and diced, or ½ cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube, diluted in 2 ½-3 cups of water
- 1 -2 tablespoons onion-infused oil (recipe follows)
Onion-Infused Oil & Fried Onions
- 1 1/2 cup frying oil, such as canola
- 2-3 yellow onions or 10 shallots, thinly sliced
- Soak the split fava beans: In a big bowl, add the spit fava beans and enough water to cover and let it sit overnight. The second day, rinse the fava beans with fresh tap water over a fine mesh sieve.
- Cook the split fava beans: Add the fava beans, quartered onions, whole garlic cloves, spices and vegetable bouillon diluted in water to a heavy bottom pot and let everything gently simmer, over low heat, for 25-30 minutes or until the split fava beans become soft and easy to crush with a fork. Make sure to stir the Bissara every 5 minutes so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. (See notes). When it is cooked throughout, let it cool slightly. Alternatively, cook the Bissara in a crock pot or a slow cooker.
- Fry the onions: In a frying pan, heat one cup or more of unflavored oil (preferably canola). Once hot, add the sliced shallots or yellow onions and fry until it’s golden and crunchy.
- Puree the Bosara: Transfer the pot contents to a food processor, drizzle some of the onion-infused oil, one table spoon at a time, and blitz until a soft paste forms.
- Reheat the Bosara: Transfer the fava dip back to the pot to reheat. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and add water or broth if the Bosara is too dry or thick.
- Garnish the bosara with paprika and fried onions.
- Serve the Bosara hot or at room temperature with toasted bread wedges and fresh chopped veggies.
- The consistency of Bosara should be more or less like a hummus dip, not too thick but not too liquidy either.
- In some countries, garlic could be pungent, therefore I recommend using roasted garlic instead, if needed.
- Ideally, use a heat diffuser to make sure the Bosara doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan while it simmers.