Mujadara: Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions

5 from 10 votes
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This authentic mujadara recipe combines rice, lentils, and crispy sauteed onions for a simple, inexpensive, yet hearty and flavorful 5-ingredient, meat-free, protein-dense meal!

Mujadara Lentils and Rice topped with cripsy onions

If you’re coming across my blog for the first time, here are a couple of things you should know. First, I’m Lebanese and proud. Second, I’ve loved sharing lots of my favorite Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes like sfiha meat pies, fatteh, and hindbeh (sauteed dandelion greens with onions).

Even better, I spent months last year researching, traveling, and learning from the best in Lebanon and brought out a Lebanese cookbook. It’s jam-packed with real, authentic Lebanese dishes – one of them being Mujadara (Lebanese lentils and rice with sautéed onions).

What Is Mujadara

Mujadara, also called moujadara, mujaddara, mjadra/mejadra, mjadarah/mjadrah, mdardara, majadra, and mudardara/moudardara (meaning “pockmarked” and referring to how the lentils look amongst the rice), is a classic Lebanese/Arab recipe made by combining cooked lentils with rice (or sometimes bulgur wheat), topped off with sauteed onions (sometimes caramelized) and often yogurt.

The secret to the best mujadara recipe is the oil used for cooking the onions. First, the onions are sauteed until caramelized and crispy. Then the cooking oil is poured back into the rice and lentils for tons of flavor depth (and zero waste) and the onions are served over the dish. It’s bold, comforting, and delicious.

Lentils and rice cooked in a pot

Is Mujadara Healthy

Traditionally, this Middle Eastern lentils and rice dish was initially known as a “poor man’s food.” It combines simple and inexpensive ingredients to create a frugal meal that is still hearty and flavorful with a very short ingredients list.

With the combination of ingredients, mujaddara is a pretty well-balanced meal. It offers plenty of fiber, several nutrients, and plant-based protein. You can increase the nutrients further by using brown rice, too. This dish is also diet-friendly, as it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.

Mujadara Ingredients

Rely on just 5 simple and super inexpensive ingredients for this Mediterranean mujadara recipe, with a couple of optional garnishes.

  • Lentils: I’ve used dried brown lentils, though green lentils should also work.
  • Rice: I prefer basmati rice (long-grain white rice), as that’s how I grew up eating it. However, other long-grain/short-grain white rice work, too. Check FAQs for substitutes.
  • Oil: Use a neutral cooking oil, like vegetable oil. Avocado oil or olive oil may also work.
  • Salt: To season the dish.
  • Water: While not traditional, for more flavor, use vegetable broth or chicken stock.
  • Red onions: I prefer to use red onions. Though you can use a mixture of red and yellow onions, too, or shallots – in a pinch. This secret ingredient packs in heaps of flavor, so don’t omit it!
  • Garnish: You can optionally add fresh herbs, like finely chopped green onions, parsley or cilantro, and/or Greek yogurt, to garnish the rice with lentils.
Ingredients for Mujadara

Which Lentils Are Best to Use in Mujadara

Brown and green dried lentils cook fairly similarly. Plus, they hold their shape once cooked, meaning either will work for this Lebanese mujadara recipe. Avoid red lentils, though, which will just become soft and mushy.

How to Make Mujadara

In a large, heavy-based saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, water, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until lentils are “al dente.”

How Should Onions Be Cooked for Mujadara

Meanwhile, thinly slice the red onion and heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

To save time, slice the onions with a mandoline or food processor slicing disk.

Once hot, add the onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the onions brown, caramelize, and become crispy. Then, remove the caramelized onions from the oil, setting them aside and reserving the oil.

When the lentils are al dente, pour in the oil from the fried onions. Stir everything well. Then add a lid and cook over low heat to simmer for 10 more minutes. Or until the rice and lentils are tender.

Steps for preparing lentils and rice

Finally, serve the mujadara rice and lentils warm with the fried onions over the top, and enjoy!

Top Tips for Cooking Mujadara

  • Make sure to partially cook the rice/lentils uncovered: This ensures the lentils plump up without the skins splitting or them becoming mushy.
  • Don’t discard the onion cooking oil. This is the secret ingredient for authentic mujaddara flavor, adding the deep oniony flavor throughout the lentil and rice pilaf.
  • Cook until al dente frist, as you will continue cooking the rice and lentils together with the oil from the onions.
  • De-glaze the onion pan. Add just a splash of water or broth at the end and scrape up any brown bits from the pan to get all that flavor into the onions.
A serving plate with lentils and rice

How to Store Leftover Mujadara

Allow the mujaddara to cool, then store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To freeze, I like to portion it into freezer-safe containers or bags. Store them in the freezer for 3-4 months. Allow a portion to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating it.

What to Serve with Mujadara

Thanks to the protein-dense lentils, moujadra is hearty enough to enjoy alone. However, make more of a meal with the addition of:

Mujadara Lentils and Rice topped with cripsy onions

FAQs

Can I cook mujadara in an instant pot?

Technically yes, though I worry the lentils will become overly mushy. If you want me to test and/or share my version for Instant Pot Mujadara, let me know in the comments.

Can I cook lentils al dente first, then add rice?

Technically yes, though the results are very similar, in my opinion, so you might as well cook them together.

Is mujadara served hot or cold?

You can enjoy this dish either at room temperature or hot.

Can I use brown rice for mujadara/mudadara recipes?

Brown basmati rice takes a lot longer to cook than white rice. So it’s possible, but you’ll have to cook the brown rice for 15 minutes before adding the lentils.
Likewise, you could substitute the rice for bulgur wheat and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Can I use canned lentils?

I imagine you can use canned lentils in this lentil rice recipe. They first need to be drained and rinsed. Then only add them to the rice in the last few minutes (just enough to heat them up).

More Rice Recipes

If you try this mujadara lentils and rice recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Mujadara: Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions

5 from 10 votes
By: Samira
This authentic mujadara recipe combines rice, lentils, and crispy sauteed onions for a simple, inexpensive, yet hearty and flavorful 5-ingredient, meat-free, protein-dense meal!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup brown lentils or green lentils – dried; rinsed and any small stones discarded
  • ½ cup Basmati or other white long-grain rice – washed well and drained
  • 3 ½ cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8.5 oz red onions or white; 2 medium, thinly sliced

Instructions 

  • In a large, heavy-based saucepan, combine the lentils, rice, water, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until lentils are "al dente".
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice the red onion and heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
    To save time, slice the onions with a mandoline or food processor slicing disk.
  • Once hot, add the onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the onions brown, caramelize, and become crispy. Then, remove the caramelized onions from the oil, setting them aside and reserving the oil.
  • When the lentils are al dente, pour in the oil from the fried onions, stir everything well, then add a lid and cook over low heat to simmer for 10 more minutes or until the rice and lentils are tender.
  • Finally, serve the mujadara rice and lentils warm (or at room temperature) with the fried onions over the top, and enjoy!

Storing Instructions

  • Store: Allow the mujaddara to cool, then store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
    Freeze: I like to portion mine into freezer-safe containers or bags and store them for 3-4 months. Allow a portion to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
    Reheat: To reheat from frozen. Add a splash of water (or stock) to the rice and microwave it until heated. From chilled, follow the same method or reheat it (with a splash of liquid) on the stovetop over low-medium until warmed through.

Notes

  • Make sure to partially cook the rice/lentils uncovered: This ensures the lentils plump up without the skins splitting or them becoming mushy.
  • Don’t discard the onion cooking oil: This is the secret ingredient for authentic mujaddara flavor, adding the deep oniony flavor throughout the lentils and rice.
  • Cooking time may vary slightly: Based on the pan size and exact heat you’re using. Just note the lentils should be al dente when adding the oil, then cooked until tender.
  • For a more nutty, toasty flavor: Gently toast the rice in the pan until fragrant before cooking it.
  • Adjust the onion consistency: For softer onions, reduce the heat to medium-low after the initial 10 mins. For crispier onions, leave the heat high and only stir occasionally. Make them even crispier with a sprinkle of flour, too.
  • Be liberal with the onions: I’ve made enough to add over the rice and lentils. However, you can optionally sauté extra diced onions in the large pan before adding the rice and lentils to cook. There’s no such thing as too many onions with mujadara!
  • De-glaze the onion pan: Add just a splash of water or broth at the end and scrape up any brown bits from the pan to get all that flavor into the onions.
What else could I add?
  • Bay leaves: Add 1-2 bay leaves to the pot while cooking the rice and lentils.
  • Salt & Black pepper: To season to taste.
  • Garlic: Sauté some sliced garlic until translucent before adding the remaining ingredients to the pot. This will add a subtle garlic depth throughout the dish.
  • Lemon: Either add lemon zest (or orange zest) directly into the lentils with rice or serve the dish with lemon wedges for a fresh, bright depth.
  • Spices: Ground cumin, cinnamon, or chili are popular additions. Add to taste.
  • Spinach: Stir a big handful or two into the rice at the end, stirring well and adding the lid just enough to wilt.
 
Check the blog post for serving recommendations and answers to top FAQs!
Course: Main, Side
Cuisine: Arab, Lebanese, Middle Eastern
Freezer friendly: 3-4 Months
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 526kcal, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 607mg, Potassium: 580mg, Fiber: 16g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 20IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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