Mujadara is a traditional Middle Eastern recipe that's made with three ingredients: lentils, rice and onions. It's inexpensive to make, delicious & nutritious
If there’s one meal that’s my fallback go-to dish in my kitchen, it’s this authentic mujadara recipe. For me, it’s one of those recipes where the dish is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s made with only three ingredients essentially, but it’s amazing how those ingredients come together so beautifully! And that’s all in how those three items are cooked! Mujadara is an inexpensive, delicious and nutritious recipe!
What is mujadara
Mujadara is an arabic word that means “pockmarked.” Basically it’s made up of lentils, rice (or bulgur) and onions. And they say lentils cooked with the rice look like pockmarks (pimples). That’s kind of a weird analogy for food. But nonetheless, the recipe is ancient and a very traditional Middle Eastern dish.
It’s often referred to as peasant food because of how inexpensive and simple it is to make. And there are countless variations of the recipe, but this is one I learned from my Lebanese parents. In some regions mujadara is referred to as the dish made with lentils and bulgur, while mudardara is the one with lentils and rice.
What ingredients do you need
It’s basically just lentils, rice and onions. You’ll also need some olive oil. But those are pretty much basic Middle Eastern pantry items that I always have around.
Traditionally, you’ll make the recipe with green or brown lentils. It should be pretty easy to find them at most grocery stores, especially health food stores, like Whole Foods or Sprouts. Make sure not to use red lentils though because they often get very soft and mushy when cooked. You want the lentils to stay in tact and whole in this mujadara (mudardara) recipe.
You can pretty much use any type of rice you want. If you’re using brown rice, you’ll need to extend the cooking time. I prefer to use white rice (long grain or short grain), because it’s how it’s traditionally made. You can also use bulgur or cracked wheat in place of rice.
The lentils and rice can be pretty bland on their own. So the onions is what really brings the dish together. You’ll need a lot of onions. I recommend using 6 whole onions. You’ll chop the majority of them, fry them and mix with the lentils and rice.
Then you’ll slice the last onion and caramelize it to serve on top of the mujadara/mudardara. If you think it’s too much onions, just think that some of my relatives actually double the onions!! More is more 🙂
How to make mujadara
The prep for making authentic mujadara recipe starts with washing the rice and lentils and doing a lot of chopping. Then you’ll cook the lentils with water until they’re tender. Finally, add the rice on top of the lentils, and cook them together with water.
While the lentils and rice are cooking together, fry the chopped onions until their golden brown and fry the sliced onions until they’re crispy and caramelized. Each will take about 10-15 minutes, so it’s definitely a labor of love! And when I’m in a hurry and just cooking for the kids, I leave out the caramelized onions toppings.
You want the chopped onions to get a deep golden brown color, and that’s where all the flavor comes in!
You want the sliced onions to get even darker and actually crispy. So keep the heat on medium, and when they get golden brown, turn up the heat to high to get a nice crisp on the onions. The crispy onions on top really take the dish to the next level! It’s a wonderful crunch that brings this comforting dish to life.
Finally, you’ll mix the chopped onions with the lentils and rice mixture, season with cumin and mix it all together. When you’re ready to eat, you can add as much of the crispy onions on top as you’d like.
What to serve with mujadara
The dish is comprised of only three ingredients, but it’s pretty much a well balanced meal with protein and fiber (lentils), grains (rice) and vegetables (onions). It’s a wonderful vegan dish and served on its own as an entree. Traditionally in Lebanon we serve it with some whole milk yogurt or Greek Yogurt.
Tips for making mujadara
- Use the right type of lentils. There are so many lentil varieties in the store. The recipe will work well with most green and brown lentils that I’ve tried. But do not use red/orange lentils. Their texture is softer and will lend themselves to a mushy consistency for the mujadara (mudardara) recipe.
- Pay attention to the cooking of the lentils. Like many beans, lentils may vary in cooking time depending on the type of lentils you use. Refer to the package instructions and cook them al dente first, because they will also continue cooking with the rice.
- Be patient when preparing the onions. Aside from cooking the lentils and rice, the onions is what takes the most time. There’s a lot of chopping involved and a lot of frying time. But, you can use a food processor or other chopping tools to make the prep easier, and you can have two pans going at the same time for frying the two types of onions.
- Watch the color of the onions as you fry them. The onions play such an important role in this dish, so if they are browning too quickly and not evenly, reduce your heat below medium. If you notice any getting stuck to the bottom of the pot, you can deglaze the pan with some drops of water and scrape up the bits. You want the onions to have a deep brown color but not be burnt.
This authentic mujadara recipe is one of my favorites that I learned from my parents. It uses basic pantry items, is ultra comforting and is a well-balanced nutritious meal! So if you’re trying to recreate this Lebanese recipe or looking for new vegan recipes, give this one a try!
More traditional Lebanese recipes
- Beef Kafta
- Falafel Recipe
- Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Lebanese Crushed Lentil Soup
- Lebanese Chicken Fatteh
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Lebanese Mujadara Recipe recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
- 2.5 cups green or brown lentils
- 1 cup rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 6 onions 5 chopped, and 1 sliced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Rinse lentils, strain and place in a large pot with 5 cups of water. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Rinse the rice, then transfer to the pot of lentils and season with salt. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
- In a separate large pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and fry the chopped onions until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer on top of the lentils and rice mixture, add cumin and toss to combine.
- In the same large pan used to cook the onions, heat the remaining olive oil on medium heat and fry the sliced onions until golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. In the last couple minutes of frying the onions, you can turn up the heat to high to get a crispy texture.
- Serve the caramelized onions on top of mujadara with yogurt and mint, if desired,
- Instead of green lentils, you can use brown lentils.
- Instead of white rice, you can use brown rice or bulgur/cracked wheat.