Mujadara (mujaddara) is a signature Middle Eastern dish of lentils and rice garnished with crispy onions. I am especially excited to share the Lebanese version of this dish from Maureen Abood’s new book, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. In case, you missed it, be sure to read my quick book review.
Today, I decided to abandon my work projects, the nagging laundry, and the suitcases waiting to be stuffed with our belongings for our upcoming move. Instead, I retreated to my cushy corner chair accompanied by my copy of Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. Maureen’s cookbook had become a familiar friend; I had already thumbed through it many times, folding page corners and marking a few must-try recipes. This time, I paused at the mujadara recipe.
An immediate craving for a hearty bowl of lentils and rice loaded with onions, quickly rose. I got up and grabbed the three ingredients needed and some canola oil, and began to cook. Soon the smell of fried onions filled the kitchen; instantly, I was comforted.
Clearly, lentils and rice do not make for a fancy meal. In fact, in the Middle East, mujadara is known more as “poor man’s food,” or peasant food. And because it is a hearty vegan option, Egypt’s Copts (Christians) often serve lentils and rice during the Great Holy Fast in the spring, when “fasters” are required to eat a mainly vegan diet for 55 days.
This mujadara is very simply spiced with salt and pepper. The main flavor maker here is onions, fried to the point of dark golden brown. This is what gives the rice the beautiful depth, both in color and taste.
Where to find the right lentils for this recipe?
The kind of lentils that is best for mujadara is small dark brown lentils. If you can not find them in your grocery store’s bulk or international food sections, they are available at health food store and places like Whole Foods. Also, Amazon offers brown lentils such as Jansal Valley brown lentils or these brown lentils by OliveNation.
What to serve with mujadara?
Here is the step by step for Mujadara: Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions
Scroll down for the ingrdient list and print-friendly recipe
Place the lentils in a small saucepan with 2 cups of the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered until the lentils are par-boiled (10-12 minutes). Remove from the heat, drain the lentils and set them aside.
In a large saute pan with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and cook until the onions are dark golden brown, darker than typical caramelized onions (about 40 minutes), Sprinkle the onions with a teaspoon of salt as they cook.
Carefully pour the remaining 2 cups of water, bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir the rice and par-cooked lentils into the onion mixture. Cover and bring back to a boil. Stir in a healthy pinch of salt and the black pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are both cooked through (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you choose to add the fried onions garnish, heat the oil over medium-high heat (to 375 degrees F) in a small saucepan. When a small piece of onion bubbles vigorously, the oil is ready. Fry the onions in batches until they are golden brown. Transfer the onions to a paper towel-lined plate or try, and then arrange them on top of the Mjuadara.
Serve the mujadara hot, warm or at room temperature. Enjoy with a side of crisp salad such as fattoush.
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