Mujadara

Mujadara is comfort food—filling, hearty, and utterly delicious. Rice and lentils are fortified with the warmth of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and garlic before being heaped with caramelized onions. It makes a satiating meal on its own but you can add a side of tahini or cucumber yogurt.

A silver bowl of mujadara -- cooked rice and lentils, topped with caramelized onions with a silver spoon on the side.

Adapted from Kirsten Kaminski | The Traveling Vegan Cookbook | Page Street Publishing, 2021

Mujadara is everything I love about home-cooked Middle Eastern food. This delicious signature dish is made of flavor-packed layers of rice and lentils with heaps of caramelized onions on top. It’s nutritious and delicious and the perfect hearty meal. It also goes very well with a big side of deliciously creamy tahini.–Kirsten Kaminski

Mujadara

A silver bowl of mujadara -- cooked rice and lentils, topped with caramelized onions with a silver spoon on the side.
Mujadara is comfort food—filling, hearty, and utterly delicious. Rice and lentils are fortified with the warmth of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and garlic before being heaped with caramelized onions. It makes a satiating meal on its own but you can add a side of tahini or cucumber yogurt.
Kirsten Kaminski

Prep 30 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 5 hrs
Entree
Middle Eastern
6 servings
378 kcal
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Ingredients 

For the mujadara

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large (9 oz) yellow onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 cup basmati rice rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup green lentils soaked in water 4 to 6 hours, then rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups water

For the caramelized onions

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large (24 oz) onions* sliced
  • Pinch of salt

Directions
 

Make the mujadara

  • In a medium pot over high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, 3 to 8 minutes.
  • Add all the garlic and sauté until fragrant and softened, about 1 minute. Stir in the salt, cumin, cinnamon and coriander, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

    TESTER TIP: If the garlic and spices are browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly.

  • Add the rice and lentils, sauté for 30 seconds, then pour in the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice and lentils are tender, 17 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Make the caramelized onions

  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring often, until they’re caramelized and golden brown, 18 to 30 minutes. Season with salt.
  • When the mujadara is cooked, either mix the onions into it or serve them on top.
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Notes

*What onions are best for caramelizing?

The difference between caramelized and sautéed, sorta-brown onions basically comes down to time and sugar. Caramelized onions notoriously take longer to cook but that's what makes them better than just sautéed ones. That and the sugar. Why did you think they're called caramelized, anyway? So, if you opt for sweet onions like Vidalias or Walla Wallas, that little bit of natural sugar will help to optimize browning. One final tip—don't overcrowd the pan. You'll just end up steaming your slices, rather than browning them. 

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 378kcal (19%)Carbohydrates: 55g (18%)Protein: 12g (24%)Fat: 13g (20%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Sodium: 404mg (18%)Potassium: 518mg (15%)Fiber: 12g (50%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 26IU (1%)Vitamin C: 10mg (12%)Calcium: 72mg (7%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

The rice & legume concoction is enjoyed in many cultures and I can see why—it is satisfying, healthful, and you can feed a crowd for a song. I’m happy I tried this tasty mujadara, a great example of the beloved combination. The heady aroma of garlic and spices was intoxicating (LOVED the cinnamon in this!), but the overall taste was surprisingly gentle with the flavors of the basmati and lentils well preserved. Not only did the caramelized onions add sweetness but also a nice juicy texture to the experience.

Thanks to pre-soaking, the lentils could be cooked with the rice in the same pot, and they cooked perfectly in 17 minutes (uncovered, stirring a few times). They weren't soggy, not dry, and there was no hint of scorching at the bottom of the pot. To counter the garlicky and tender mujadara, I served a cool and crunchy side dish: cucumber slices tossed with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and chopped mint leaves.

We will make this mujadara again—it's simple to make and a pleasure to eat. The warm spices make this dish feel so homey and the onions were an important component to the overall flavor. This mujadara made an excellent main meal for us, with a simple salad on the side. It was lovely to cook the lentils and rice in one pot for simplification.

Though the recipe doesn't suggest it, I suggest stirring the lentils and rice once or twice to help ensure even cooking. I also caramelized my onions in a big cast-iron skillet, as I think that the cast-iron helps heat the onions a bit more evenly—I also had to turn the heat down a bit on the onions as they got further along in the process to make sure that they didn't get overly browned. I advise cutting your onions fairly thin and separating the pieces to speed the process, and don't worry if you get a few darker browned bits—they're super delicious too and provide a nice textural contrast.

This easy recipe makes a supremely satisfying bowl of lentils and rice, delicious all by itself. The spices give a warm note and the caramelized onions (which I stirred in) add a blast of flavor. I made this for a quick lunch before work and it easily made 6 servings. That made work dinners for the rest of the week.

I soaked the lentils for 3 hours and 45 minutes. With two pans going side by side, it was only 35 minutes of cooking time for a bowl of perfect comfort food. The only change I will make next time is to reduce the amount of water by at least 1/4 cup; after cooking on low for 20 minutes the lentils and rice were perfectly done but there was some extra water so I let it simmer 2 more minutes with the lid off. This is a keeper!

Mujadara is comforting, nutritious, flavorful and easy to prepare and this recipe did not disappoint. Hummus would be a great topping or side to this dish as would a fattoush salad.

Mujadara has been one of my staples for the last year. The affordability of it, plus the easy accessibility of pantry ingredients and general deliciousness, made this a no-brainer to try out.

This recipe generally follows the same format of other varieties of the dish that I’ve seen before — sauté a large portion of onions and garlic, toast aromatic spices like cumin and cinnamon, rinse and cook the basmati rice and lentils together, brava! However, there were some interesting inclusions I took note of. Firstly, I’ve only eaten mujadara with a generous dollop of tangy yogurt on top to balance out the warm notes throughout. I also generally mix in cilantro right before serving for additional freshness, which I feel like this was lacking.

I also had some difficulty with the caramelized onions. This is more of a quick method of doing it, since true, proper caramelized onions require much more time than what’s given in this recipe. Also, I think the onions would’ve caramelized better over a low, slow heat. I got some charred bits throughout the rest of my caramelized onions when I sautéed over medium heat.

All of this said, this remains a hearty, easy dinner for when you don’t want to put any thought into cooking. I really can’t complain!

Mujadara is one of my favorite dishes to make when I'm craving something quick but still full of flavor and comfort. This particular recipe is close to what I usually make, with a few differences in measurements.

I found that there wasn't nearly enough caramelized onion in this recipe but that might be down to 2 factors—I only had 4 small onions (one of which went into the actual mujadara) and I'm a legitimate caramelized onion fanatic, especially in dishes like this. I also found that there was just a little too much rice. Or too little of everything else? I just found that the rice sorta damped down everything else. The spices were present but not as much as I would have liked.

That aside, the flavors were still delicious and the cooking times were perfect—the rice was fluffy and the lentils were tender but still toothsome. I also ate it cold the next day and it was just as good.

I'll definitely make this again but will likely increase the amount of spices and maybe add a few more lentils. And a LOT more caramelized onions. I served it with a cucumber dill yogurt and a healthy sprinkle of flaked salt.

I've always wanted to make this and this recipe was a great rendition to make at home. Soaking the lentils beforehand was a nice touch since it produced wonderfully tender lentils that were done in the same cooking time as the rice. The paired-down spices are great for people that may not have a fully stocked cabinet, but I would encourage swapping baharat or nine-spice in for the same volume of total spices for a more nuanced flavor if you have access to them. I like to eat this with tabbouleh, especially since they taste so good when mixed together in a single bite.

My only gripe is the timing given for the onions...properly darkened onions are such an iconic part of this dish and 10-15 minutes is nowhere near long enough to do them justice. I found it took me 27 minutes to reach the proper color...and it makes all the difference. I stirred a third into my rice at the end and served the remaining amount over the top. I dare people not to fight over them.

I must preface my review with the disclaimer that as a Palestinian American, I grew up eating and making mujadara. That being said, I very much enjoyed making and eating this version! When I make it again, I'll omit the sauteed diced onions because I find that the fried/caramelized onions are sufficient.

Speaking of the onions, the timing in the recipe is quite underestimated. It took 8 minutes to brown the diced onions, and 30 minutes to caramelize the fried onions. I also seasoned the caramelized onions with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt after they were cooked. My preference is to mix about 1/3 of the caramelized onions directly into the mujadara, and serving the remaining 2/3 on top.

I've never soaked lentils prior to cooking them before, but I appreciated that I didn't have to cook the rice and lentils separately—the soaked lentils cooked perfectly with the rice. Two small adjustments I would make the next time I make this would be replacing the spices with 2 to 3 teaspoons of Levantine 9 spice, and reducing the amount of garlic from 6 to 3 cloves. I found the garlic to be a bit overpowering.

I served the mujadara with tabouleh, a delicious bright herb salad which complemented the earthy and comforting mujadara perfectly. It also happens to be a completely vegan meal. Serves 6-8.

This is a great dish, it’s simple, the ingredients are pretty inexpensive and it makes great leftovers. The hands-on time is pretty high compared to the total time, but this is inflated because of the constant stirring and the onion chopping. The mujadara was tasty, but I felt like it was missing something, I’m not quite sure what and I couldn’t exactly figure out what to serve this with. I’ll be keeping this dish in my wheelhouse, and may add some slight adjustments if I make it again.


Originally purchased May 18, 2021

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Comments

    1. Thanks, Carol. Excellent point! To help us out, can you share how long does it take you to cook rice and lentils at that altitude?

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