- Food: Mujadara
- Writer: Nicolas Wilson
- Content-Type: Food Blog
Do you know what mujadara is? It’s a lovely dish, with lentils and rice on the bottom, caramelized onions on top (the more the better), and preferably a few creamy or spicy sauces on the side.
It’s one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant dishes, and this recipe tastes exactly like it.
Mujadara is served in many forms and goes by different names depending on where you are in the Middle East. Mujadarra, mujadarah, majadra, mejadra, moujadara, mudardara, and megadarra are some of the spelling variations.
Mujadara is a low-cost vegetarian dish that will wow your guests at your next get-together.
It’s also ideal for specific diets, as it’s gluten-free and readily vegan/dairy-free (simply serve hummus or tahini sauce on the side instead of yogurt).
Finally, mujadara is a lot of fun to create! Do you want to know how to do it?
For a long time, I’ve wanted to master this dish. It looked like a sign when the March-April edition of Milk Street arrived in my mailbox with mujaddara on the cover. When I saw their recipe cooks both the rice and the lentils in the same pot, I was ecstatic.
For my version, I started with Milk Street’s recipe and tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes and make it a little more nutritional. I swapped brown rice for white rice, which was simple after the cooking times were altered.
This mujadara recipe is made even more substantial and savory with brown rice.
I also used extra-virgin olive oil instead of peanut oil to cook my onions, and it worked perfectly. Finally, I tossed in some fresh herbs to brighten up the dish.
Mujadara Cooking Instructions
Here’s what you need to know before you begin:
This mujaddara recipe is fantastic since the rice and lentils may both be cooked in the same pot! Allow around 10 minutes for the rice to simmer before adding the lentils. This simple cooking technique is a game-changer, and you’ll see it again soon.
You’ll start caramelizing the onions while the lentils and rice are simmering. Your mujaddara will turn out fantastic whether you prefer soft caramelized onions (as seen in the photographs) or more crispy caramelized onions (as is more customary).
Reduce the heat to medium-low after 10 minutes on medium-high for softer onions. Leave the heat on medium-high the entire time for more crisp onions, and stir only once every few minutes until the onions begin to brown.
Cook until the onions are deeply caramelized and flavorful, using either method. You can’t go wrong with this!
When all of your components are ready, arrange them on a big serving dish. On the side, serve with a bowl of yogurt. The pilaf and onions are brought together by their creamy, rich texture and acidic flavor.
I also like to serve my mujaddara with a fresh, spicy sauce like shatta (shown) or zhoug. Both of these dishes feature jalapenos and fresh herbs.
A store-bought chili-garlic sauce is also a wonderful choice. Try a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes for a more subtle flavor boost.
Important Reminders & Suggestions
This dish calls for certain, readily available rice and lentil kinds.
You’ll need to change the cooking times and manner if you choose a different kind. The simplest remedy is to cook the lentils and rice separately until soft, then combine them.
This dish calls for brown basmati rice rather than white or quick-cooking rice. Brown basmati rice is the most traditional, but any sort of regular-cooking brown rice will theoretically work. You’ll find instructions in the recipe notes if you wish to use white basmati rice. If not, you’ll need to prepare your favorite rice kind separately.
It’s also made for uncooked brown or green lentils (not canned or red/yellow/black beluga/French green lentils). Do you want to use canned lentils instead? You can use two cans of lentils, rinsed and drained, and stirred into the cooked rice.
Do you want to use a different lentil variety? It’s preferable to cook it separately and then mix it in with the cooked rice. Here’s how to cook lentils according to my method.
What should you serve with your mujaddara?
I’ve got you taken care of:
- Crispy Baked Falafel
- Mediterranean Tomato & Feta Dip
- Fattoush Salad, or a simple green salad
- Fresh Mint Dressing
- Ultra Creamy Hummus
- Baba Ganoush
- Tahini Sauce
Mujadara (Lentils with Rice with Caramelized Onions)
|Time to Prepare: 25 minutes
Time to cook: 35 minutes
1-hour total time
Mujadara is an Arabic dish that combines cooked lentils and rice with caramelized onions, spices, and yogurt. It’s a tasty vegetarian main course! Brown rice is used instead of white rice in this dish (if you want to use white, see recipe notes). This recipe serves 4 people generously.
- 4 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup brown* basmati rice (regular, not quick-cooking), rinsed and drained
- 1 cup regular brown or green lentils**, picked over for debris, rinsed, and drained
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium-to-large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- ½ cup thinly sliced green onions (from 1 bunch), divided
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, divided
- Plain whole milk or Greek yogurt, for serving
- Spicy sauce, for serving (optional): shatta or zhoug or store-bought chili-garlic sauce or even sriracha
- Combine the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, 12 tablespoons salt, and about 20 twists of freshly ground black pepper in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat with the water.
- Once the water has to a boil, add the rice and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a regulated simmer.
- Return the mixture to a simmer after adding the lentils. Cover again, decrease the heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 to 23 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked.
- Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the remaining onions when it’s hot enough for a slice of onion to sizzle on contact. To blend, stir everything together.
- First, stir only every 3 minutes or so, then more frequently after the onions at the pan’s edges begin to brown. Reduce the heat if the onions are browning before they have softened to give them extra time. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the onions are deeply caramelized and beginning to crisp around the edges. Line a large plate or chopping board with paper towels as you wait.
- Transfer the onions to the prepared plate with a slotted spoon or a fish spatula and spread them out evenly. Over the onions, sprinkle the remaining 14 tsp salt. As they cool, they’ll crisp up.
- Drain any excess water (if there is any) and return the lentils and rice to the pot, off the heat. To absorb steam, place a kitchen towel across the top of the pot, then cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Remove the cover, toss out the bay leaves, and use a fork to smash the garlic cloves against the pan’s side. 34 of the green onions and cilantro should be added, with the rest reserved for garnish. With a fork, gently toss and fluff the rice. If necessary, season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill a large serving dish or bowl halfway with the rice and lentil mixture. Top with the remaining green onions and cilantro, as well as the caramelized onions. Serve with yogurt and spicy sauce (optional) on the side, hot, warm, or at room temperature.
NOTES ON BROWN RICE: This recipe is for traditional brown rice, not quick-cooking brown rice. Any standard brown rice kind could potentially work, although basmati is the most convenient option.
Brown basmati rice (Lundberg brand) can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores, or it can be purchased at Trader Joe’s (they sell both regular and quick-cooking brown basmati, so be sure to buy the regular).
INSTEAD OF BLACK BASMATI RICE, MAKE THIS RECIPE WITH WHITE BASMATI RICE: Cook the lentils for about 10 minutes in boiling water (until slightly softened on the exterior but still firm in the center), then add the rice and cook for another 25 minutes, or until both lentils and rice are tender.
LENTIL NOTES: Use uncooked brown or green lentils rather than red or yellow lentils, fancy French green or black beluga lentils, or canned lentils. Those all have different cooking times, therefore these instructions won’t work.
If you wish to make this recipe with a different type of lentil, cook it separately from the rice and then combine them before serving (canned lentils would simply need to be rinsed and drained before using).
TO MAKE IT DAIRY-FREE/VEGAN: This is simple! Replace the yogurt with something comparable to hummus or tahini sauce, which is both creamy and sour.