Split-fava bean casserole (Bessara)

December 19, 2012  •  Category:



I am taking advantage of my stay in Beirut to find out as much as possible about different dishes by asking great cooks around me; I also read cookbooks published in the Arabic language searching for recipes I have never seen before. This one, bessara, was interesting, and nobody around me had heard of it. Then I was chatting with an Egyptian fellow and found out it was from his native Egypt.

Upon reading the list of ingredients, it sounded exactly like a recipe for falafel, except the dough was cooked, not fried; the presentation, with crispy fried onions, was similar to any mujaddara (lentil and rice or bulgur porridge). 

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Khadija Saad Basej’ Atayeb Sit Al-Habayeb

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

2 cups of split fava bean (yellow, peeled fava)

1 bunch of fresh italian parsley, chopped

4 sprigs of mint (or 2 tbsp of dry mint, crumbled to a powder)

5 green onions, chopped fine

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

5 garlic cloves, mashed in a mortar with a dash of salt

1 tsp of cumin; 1 tsp of black pepper; salt, to taste

1/2 lemon, juiced (2 tbsp lemon juice)

2 onions (yellow or white), sliced into rings

1/2 cup of olive oil or veg oil


  1. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water (about 4 cups or more to cover with room for more water). Bring to a simmer and remove the froth if it appears on the surface. After simmering for 25 minutes, add the herbs and onion and garlic and let the bean simmer some more until they are completely soft (another 30 minutes or so). 
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the onion rings until browned (over medium-low heat). Remove and drain over paper towels. Transfer the beans to the bowl of a food processor and purée; place back in the pot and add the spices, salt, lemon juice, and a few tablespoons of the oil (left after frying the onions). Heat and stir from time to time until the beans look thick; transfer to a serving platter; garnish the surface with the fried onions and serve at room temperature with radishes and extra green onions or pickles.
NOTE: Split fava beans are sold in any Middle-eastern grocery store or in health-food stores; it would be fine to substitute split yellow peas for this recipe.



16 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Belinda @zomppa says:

    That’s a great name – makes me think it should be on the new year’s menu!

  2. Mo.Kamel says:

    This is called in Egypt Bisara ,the name has nothing to do with fortune telling ,but still this a very tasty and not expensive dish, to serve it the Egyptian way,cook until thick like pudding but not dry ,and pour into small deep plates and garnish with fried onion when cold or with few drops olive oil and dry mint, the Arabic word is بصاره

    • Joumana says:

      @Mo.Kamel: Gee, thanks! I was hoping someone knew about this dish! Thanks for the extra pointers! I was thinking of the Lebanese word (dialect) but figured the dish was not Lebanese since nobody around me had heard of it before. Now I am going to talk to my Egyptian friends here about it!

  3. Jamie says:

    I love this! I love beans and I really love fava beans but never cook them! This sounds so good and what a great lunch. Yes, those crispy fried onions perfectly finish the dish.

  4. jason argon says:


  5. Susan says:

    I enjoy every kind of bean dish imaginable so I know I would love this! How delicious it looks with the fried onion garnish! Needless to say, I love onions too 🙂

  6. Joan Nova says:

    That looks like a wonderful recipe and it’s beautifully staged.

    Best wishes for the new year!

  7. Nadji says:

    Un plat que je découvre pour la 1ère fois. Ça doit être délicieux.
    Joyeux Noël et à bientôt

  8. Banana Wonder says:

    This looks absolutely delicious! I hope you bring this recipe back as a main staple.

  9. Oui, Chef says:

    This sounds just gorgeous, love ALL the flavors here. I even have some split favas to use in this.

  10. domi says:

    Et bien ma ” cocotte ” on peut imaginer d’ici la goûteuse saveur qui s’échappait de ce plat…

  11. Anthony says:

    I’m in Morocco and they eat Bessara here as well. It’s more like a thick soup, rife with garlic and cumin and topped with olive oil. Served with fresh bread to dip. I’m quite curious of the origin now.

    • Joumana says:

      @Anthony: I am pretty sure now it is Egyptian. I talked to an Egyptian farmer about it and saw it mentioned in several books as Egyptian.

  12. hsa says:


    I’m about ten years late to this party it seems!

    I want to make this but wanted to ask for some clarification. It says to add the herbs, onion and garlic and simmer. Is that the green onions? And all of the onion rings are being saved to fry and garnish.

    Just need to buy some coriander (cilantro) tomorrow and will have a go.. cannot wait!

    Thank you Joumana

    • Joumana says:

      @hsa Yes, the other onions are saved to be fried and used for a garnish on top. It is a very forgiving recipe, so you can use the yellow onions to be added to the beans, and save the green ones for garnish, (saving also on frying). Anything goes, if you like beans, its like the Mexican refried beans plate just Egyptian version with the added cilantro (kuzbara) which an Egyptian farmer I know told me is “blessed” in the Egyptian kitchen! Hope you like it!

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