Mujadara (mujaddara) is a signature Middle Eastern dish of lentils, rice, and deeply caramelized onions. A bold and comforting dish that's typically served with a topping of crispy onion rings and a side of plain yogurt with a fresh Mediterranean salad such as cucumber and tomato salad, fattoush salad, or shirazi salad.
Mujadara or Mujaddara!
Literally means "pockmarked" in Arabic, Mujadara is a signature Middle Eastern dish made of three key ingredients: lentils, rice, and loads of onions! The seasoning is often very simple-a dash of kosher salt, pepper, and cumin. Sometimes, coarse bulgur wheat is used instead of white rice, an equally delicious variation.
This simple vegan lentils and rice dish is known throughout the Middle East, and particularly the Levant including, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, as a "poor man's" meal. But take one bite, and you'll be surprised by how comforting and flavorful mujadara is!
When I need something meatless but hearty, mujadara is one of my go-to meals, thanks to satisfying, protein and fiber-packed black lentils. In fact, 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!
The secret to authentic mujadara!
The secret to an authentic mujadara recipe is in the onions! This dish starts and ends with onions. First, deeply caramelized chopped onions are cooked with the rice and lentils, imparting flavor and the deep, golden hue this dish is known for. And to finish your mujdara, you'll top the cooked rice and lentils with thinly sliced, crispy onion ring! Comforting and bold in the best way.
What kind of lentils to use for mujadara?
I use these all-natural black lentils for mujadara. These petite lentils cook fairly quickly, and they have a wonderful earthy flavor and good texture that they don't lose their shape when cooked with the rice. Brown lentils will also work, but I prefer black lentils here. Browse all our all-natural lentils.
You can use long grain or short grain white rice to make mujadara. It's important to rinse the rice well until the water runs clear, then soak it for about 20 minutes or so in cold water until you are able to easily break one grain of rice. This will ensure that the rice cooks quickly and evenly, and it will help avoid mushy rice. If you want to use brown rice instead, you'll extend the cooking time a bit.
As mentioned earlier, coarse bulgur is also another option for mujadara. If you want to use it instead, the cooking process is similar. Just give the grains a good rinse and allow them to soak for a few minutes before cooking until the bulgur is somewhat tender.
How to make mujadara
Here is the step-by-step tutorial for how to make authentic mujadara (the print-friendly recipe with ingredient measurements):
- Par-cook the lentils. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of rinsed black lentils with 2 cups of water and a dash of salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer, covered until the lentils are par-boiled (10 minutes). Remove from the heat, drain the lentils and set them aside.
- Caramelize the chopped onions. In a large, deep sauté pan with a lid, heat about ¼ cup of extra virgin oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and a dash of kosher salt and cook until the onions are caramelized and deeply golden brown (but not burned). This will give the rice a comforting flavor and a beautiful golden brown hue.
- Cook the lentils and rice. Carefully pour the remaining 2 cups of water in the large pan with the caramelized onions. Stir the rice and par-cooked lentils into the onion mixture and bring to a boil. Add a dash of kosher salt, black pepper, and about ½ to 1 teaspoon cumin. 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).
- Make the crispy onion rings. Add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to a large pan and cook over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. To test the oil, add one thinly sliced onion ring and see if the oil vigorously bubbles, if it does, the oil is ready. Add the remaining onion slices and cook over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until the onions are crispy and deeply colored. If you need to, do this step in batches to make sure your onion rings are properly cooked (you don't want them soggy).
- Let the Mujadara rest then serve. When the rice and lentils are fully cooked, let them sit for about 10 minutes undisturbed, then garnish with parsley and serve with a bit of the crispy onion rings on top.
What to serve with mujadara?
To serve mujadara lentils and rice the traditional way, you'll dish it in bowls and add the crispy onion on top. For sides, we typically add some plain yogurt and a big fresh Mediterranean salad such as cucumber and tomato salad, fattoush salad, balela salad, or shirazi salad.
More lentil recipes to try
Mujadara: Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions
- 1 cup black lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 4 cups water, divided
- ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil, more for later
- 2 large yellow onions, diced (4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- 1 cup long-grain white rice, soaked in water for 10-15 minutes and then drained
- black pepper
- ½ to 1 teaspoon cumin
- Parsley, for garnish
For the fried crispy onion garnish (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion cut in very thin rings
- 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, cover 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. Add a good dash of kosher salt, black pepper, and the cumin.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are both cooked through (about 15 to 20 minutes).
- If you are adding the the fried onions, work on them while the rice and lentils are cooking. In a large skillet, heat about 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. When a small piece of onion bubbles vigorously, the oil is ready. Fry the onions in batches until they are crispy and deeply golden brown. Transfer the crispy onion rings to a paper towel-lined plate to get rid of excess oil.
- Let the rice and lentils rest covered for about 10 minutes undisturbed, then garnish with parsley and transfer to serving bowls. Top each bowl with the crispy onion rings.
- Black lentils are the best option for mujadara, but brown lentils will work as well
- Rinse the rice well and soak it in water for 15 minutes or until you are able to break a rice grain easily. This will help it cook quickly and evenly
- If you choose to add the crispy onion garnish (highly recommended), to save time, you can start this while the rice and lentils cook (as I do in the video).
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