Mujadara Recipe - Little Sunny Kitchen (2024)

Mujadara is a Middle Eastern lentil rice dish served with flavorful caramelized onions that were fried in olive oil. This simple dish is naturally vegan, made with just pantry ingredients so it’s incredibly frugal, and it’s ready in just 30 minutes!

Mujadara Recipe - Little Sunny Kitchen (1)

What is Mujadara

Mujadara or Mujaddara, also known as Mudardara – is a Middle Eastern rice and lentil dish. There are a few variations of this dish, but the most popular one is made with rice and lentils.

The lentils are cooked with ground cumin until they’re half cooked, then the rice is added and everything is cooked together. Caramelized onions are mixed in with the rice and lentils and also used as a topping (the more the better!).

It is known as a poor man’s food as it’s a plant-based and really frugal meal. But it’s a great option that is served on a meat-free day that all families cook at least once a fortnight.

As I grew up in the Middle East, I ate and still eat lots of Mujadara. As well as other vegan hearty dishes that you probably already heard of like baba ganoush, mutabbal, falafel, foul mudammes, fasolia bi zeit. It’s a simple and filling meal that everyone knows and loves in Jordan.

There are many versions of this dish, and the way it’s made can be different from one family to another. My version here is the most authentic Middle Eastern version, simplest, healthiest, and the most delicious. It requires just a few ingredients and less than 30 minutes.

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The Ingredients

You will only need 8 pantry staples to make this simple Middle Eastern dish:

  • Lentils – you can either use brown or green lentils to make mujadara. Red lentils do not work.
  • Rice – the most popular rice for this dish is Calrose or basmati (my Mother uses Calrose), but brown rice can also work.
  • Olive oil – the Arabs say that it’s all in the olive oil when it comes to this dish, and trust me, high-quality olive oil can take this dish to the next level.
  • Seasonings: ground cumin, bay leaves, black pepper, and salt.
  • Yellow onions – you will need at least 3 onions. There’s no such thing as too many onions when it comes to Mujadara.
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How to Make Mujadara?

  • First, you will need to soak the rice and wash the lentils. It’s a crucial step to ensure that the lentils are clean, and so is the rice. It will also help the rice become fluffy rather than clumpy.
  • Add the lentils to a pot, cover with water (for 1 cup of lentils, add 3 cups of water). Season with ground cumin and baharat if using, and throw in a couple of bay leaves. Cover the pot with the lid, bring to boil and simmer for 5-15 minutes. The time varies depending on what kind of lentils you’re using, so you have to keep checking every 5 minutes until the lentils are almost cooked but still firm as they will cook longer with the rice.
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  • When the lentils are looking fine (see image above), add the rinsed and drained rice, and add more water just to cover the rice (I can’t give you the exact measurement as it depends on how much of the water evaporated as you cooked the lentils, so use your best judgment). Season with salt, and pepper. Cover with the lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible and cook for 10-12 minutes undisturbed without removing the lid. In the meantime, caramelize the onions (see instructions below).
  • Remove the lid, and check if all of the water has evaporated, and that the rice is cooked. If it needs to cook further, add a splash of water, and cook for longer.
  • When the mujadara is done, remove the lid, give the lentils and rice a quick stir then stir in half of the caramelized onions. Keep the rest of the onions for serving.
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How to Caramelize Onions?

Now, the most existing part, caramelizing the onions! This step is usually done after the rice is added to the lentils, and is being cooked.

Peel and slice the onions into half-moons, the thickness of the slices should be around 1/5 inches. Try to slice the onions into even slices as much as possible to ensure that they cook evenly.

To a skillet or a non-stick pan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat it on medium heat, then add the onions. Fry them for 10-15 minutes or until the onions have lost their structure, got a caramel color, and started crisping up slightly.

You have to be super patient, and not step away from the stove. Keep stirring regularly so that the onion slices are cooked evenly.

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Some people use other oils such as corn, vegetable, or sunflower oil and sort of deep fry the onions to get them super crispy. I personally prefer shallow frying the onions in olive oil, it tastes better in my opinion and it is much healthier.

For crispy onions (also popular in the Middle East for Mujadara), as you fry the onions just add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Keep frying and you’ll end up with golden crispy onions!

Video Tutorial

While this recipe is so easy to make, it always helps to watch a quick video! So give it a watch below!

Instant Pot Mujadara

If you’re a fan of the Instant Pot, you can cook this dish in your pressure cooker. It’s quicker than the stovetop version, and you dump all of your ingredients in the Instant Pot at once.

But keep in mind, you will still have to caramelize the onions separately in a pan over the stove. And you do NOT want to skip this step as 50% of the flavor in this dish comes from the caramelized onions and the olive oil.

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  • Rinse the lentils, and add them to the Instant Pot stainless steel insert with 2 cups of water, season with ground cumin and baharat if using, and throw in a couple of bay leaves. Secure the lid and set the vent to SEALING. Select the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL setting and set the cooking time for 2 minutes at high pressure, when cooking time ends quickly release the steam.
  • Remove the lid and add the rinsed and drained rice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add water just to cover the rice and lentils (not more!).
  • Secure the lid and set the vent to SEALING. Select the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL setting and set the cooking time for 4 minutes at high pressure. The Instant Pot will take around 6-7 minutes to come to pressure and start cooking.
  • When the cooking program ends, allow the steam to be naturally released for 15 minutes, then release the rest of the steam manually. Carefully remove the lid, fluff the lentils and rice with a fork, and mix in the caramelized onions.
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How to Serve Mujadara?

Mujadara is usually served as a main dish, unlike vermicelli rice where the rice is just a side dish.

As for the presentation, it’s either served right from the pot straight to the plates. Or served in a large serving plate with lots of caramelized onions on top, and perhaps a few green leaves (I use mint).

On the side, serve mujadara with plain natural yogurt or a cucumber yogurt sauce (Khyar bi Laban), and/or a Shirazi salad. The salad of choice is often the Arabic peasant’s salad which consists of cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow onion, fresh parsley leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. The salad is chopped either roughly or finely. For the recipe, check out my Shirazi salad.

You can also serve a few slices of fresh radishes, and some pickles on the side.

Variations

  • The major difference between mujadara that different families make is the ratio of lentils to rice. We usually do 1:1 and it’s the best ratio in my opinion.
  • Another popular version is made with bulgur and lentils instead of rice and lentils. Coarse light bulgur is used and cooked the same way as the rice version.
  • A healthier version can be made using brown rice instead of white rice but will need to be cooked for longer.

Storing Tips

Store the leftovers in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave, or in a pot over the stovetop on medium heat until heated through.

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  • Pot.Make sure that the size of the pot or pan used is suitable depending on the portion that you’re making.
  • Sharp knife.This is the knife that I use all the time, a sharp knife is so important and if you want to invest in a new knife then a high-quality chef knife is what I recommend. This one is also currently on sale and well worth the money.
  • Heat resistant spatula. This is the spatula that I use for cooking.

I hope that you love this authentic Mujadara recipe as much as I do! If you try it, please share your thoughts in the comments box below. I love hearing from you!

Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Recipe

Mujadara Recipe - Little Sunny Kitchen (10)

4.90 from 57 votes(Click stars to rate!)

Mujadara

Prep Time: 5 minutes mins

Cook Time: 25 minutes mins

Total Time: 30 minutes mins

Author: Diana

Print Rate Recipe

Mujadara is a Middle Eastern lentil rice dish served with flavorful caramelized onions that were fried in olive oil. This simple dish is naturally vegan, made with just pantry ingredients so it's incredibly frugal, and it's ready in just 30 minutes!

4 servings

Mujadara is a Middle Eastern lentil rice dish served with flavorful caramelized onions that were fried in olive oil. This simple dish is naturally vegan, made with just pantry ingredients so it's incredibly frugal, and it's ready in just 30 minutes!

Recipe Video

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 grams) brown or green lentils dried
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baharat optional
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 and ½ cups water
  • 1 cup (175 grams) long or short grain rice I use basmati
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon ground black pepper

For the caramelized onions

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions sliced into half-moons 1/5 inch thickness

Instructions

  • Soak the rice in water, and wash the lentils.

  • Add the lentils to a pot, cover with water (for 1 cup of lentils, add 3 cups of water). Season with ground cumin and baharat if using, and throw in a couple of bay leaves.

  • Cover the pot with a lid, bring to boil and simmer for 5-15 minutes. The time varies depending on what kind of lentils you're using, so you have to keep checking every 5 minutes until the lentils are almost cooked but still firm.

  • When the lentils are looking fine, add the rinsed and drained rice, and add more water just to cover the rice (I can't give you the exact measurement as it depends on how much of the water evaporated as you cooked the lentils, so use your best judgment – I needed to add just ½ cup of water).

  • Season with salt, and pepper. Cover with the lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible and cook for 10-12 minutes.

  • In the meantime, caramelize the onions (see instructions below).

  • Remove the lid, and check if all of the water has evaporated, and that the rice is cooked. If it needs to cook further, add a splash of water and cook for longer.

  • When the mujadara is done, remove the lid, give it a quick stir then stir in half of the caramelized onions. Keep the rest of the onions for serving.

To caramelize the onions

  • To a skillet or a non-stick pan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat it on medium heat, then add the onions. Fry them for 10-15 minutes or until the onions have lost their structure, got a caramel color, and started crisping up slightly.

  • You have to be super patient, and not step away from the stove. Keep stirring regularly so that the onion slices are cooked evenly.

Instant Pot method

  • Rinse the lentils, and add them to the Instant Pot stainless steel insert with 2 cups of water, season with ground cumin and baharat if using, and throw in a couple of bay leaves. Secure the lid and set the vent to SEALING. Select the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL setting and set the cooking time for 2 minutes at high pressure, when cooking time ends quickly release the steam.

  • Remove the lid and add the rinsed and drained rice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add water just to cover the rice and lentils (not more!).

  • Secure the lid and set the vent to SEALING. Select the PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL setting and set the cooking time for 4 minutes at high pressure. The Instant Pot will take around 6-7 minutes to come to pressure and start cooking.

  • When the cooking program ends, allow the steam to be naturally released for 15 minutes, then release the rest of the steam manually. Carefully remove the lid, fluff with a fork and mix in the caramelized onions.

Notes:

  • Use dried brown or green lentils to make mujadara. Puy or red lentils do not work in this dish.
  • You can use coarse bulgur instead of rice, and it is cooked the same way.
  • You can add toasted vermicelli to the rice if desired.
  • Use high-quality olive oil in this recipe. It will give you an authentic taste of mujadara.
  • Make sure not to overcook the lentils before adding the rice to the pot as they will become mushy.
  • Taste the mujadara at the end and adjust the salt level if desired.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 465kcal, Carbohydrates: 72g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 601mg, Potassium: 612mg, Fiber: 16g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 18IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 68mg, Iron: 4mg

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.

© Little Sunny Kitchen

This recipe first appeared on Little Sunny Kitchen on December 15th, 2013. It was updated with new images and more information on April 11th, 2020. The recipe remained the same.

Mujadara Recipe - Little Sunny Kitchen (2024)

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