Rice, lentils and caramelized onions… together. What’s not to love? I can never pass up mujaddara when I go to a Middle Eastern restaurant and it’s on the menu. Now, I’ve taken to making it at home so I don’t even have to venture out to get it. Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern dish that, according to Wikipedia, dates as far back as the 13th century. Mujaddara was originally considered poor people’s food but it’s now a popular dish throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It’s eaten by people of all social classes.
How to Make Mujaddara
To make mujaddara, you will need 1 cup of brown lentils (green lentils are fine, if that’s what you have on hand), 1½ cups of basmati rice, 4 yellow onions, salt (to taste), 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus more for drizzling), 4 cups of water, and cilantro for garnish (the cilantro is optional but if adding, use as much as you’d like).
Soak the basmati rice in lukewarm water for 30 minutes. While doing this, parboil the lentils with 4 cups of water in a pot over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove the skin from the onions, then slice the onions into thin rings using a mandoline. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat (about 1 minute). Add the onions to the oil, season with salt (to taste) and cook for 30 minutes or until the onions are a caramelized, dark golden brown. Blackened onions are also really good for this dish.
When the lentils are ready, strain off the water and set the lentils aside. I like to save and use the water that the lentils were cooked in to cook the mujaddara. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium pot (you can use the same pot that you cooked the lentils in).
Transfer half of the caramelized onions to the pot. Add salt (to taste; I used 1 teaspoon of salt), paprika and cumin to the onions in the pot and cook for about 3 minutes to release the fragrance of the spices. Add and stir the rice, lentils and 3 cups of the lentil water to the onions in the pot. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes over low heat.
Serve the mujaddara garnished with the remaining caramelized onions and cilantro. Mujaddara is often eaten with yogurt and a few drizzles of olive oil. It can also be eaten with hummus. Enjoy!
I hand-painted the plate in the above picture. Isn’t it cute? 🙂
Other Delicious Lentil Dishes
Mujaddara (Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice Pilaf)
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1½ cups basmati rice
- 4 yellow onions (sliced into thin rings)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt (to taste)
- 4 cups water
- Cilantro (chopped; for garnish; optional)
- Soak the basmati rice in water for 30 minutes.
- Cook the lentils with 4 cups of water over medium heat until the lentils are parboiled (about 15 minutes).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the onions to the oil and cook the onions for 30 minutes or until they’re a caramelized, dark golden brown.
- Strain the lentils of the water and set aside. Save the lentil water for cooking the mujaddara.
- In a medium pot (you can use the same pot as the one you used to parboil the lentils), heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add half of the caramelized onions to the pot.
- Add paprika, salt and cumin to the onions in the pot and cook for 3 minutes to release the fragrance of the spices.
- Add the rice, lentils, and 3 cups of the lentil water to the pot. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over low-medium heat.
- Once the mujaddara is done, garnish it with the remaining caramelized onions and some chopped cilantro. Serve with yogurt and a few drizzles of olive oil, if you'd like. You can also serve it with hummus.