Mujadara is a classic Middle Eastern one-pot dish of cumin-scented brown rice and lentils with fried onions and garlicky yogurt.
If the idea of filling your home with the scent of cumin, toasted rice, and sweet caramelized onions – all while making a perfectly nutritionally-balanced meal – appeals to you, meet mujadara.
Mujadara is a classic Middle Eastern dish popular in Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, among others (the first version is thought to appear in an Iraqi cookbook hundreds of years ago). In essence, it’s a pot of cumin-scented brown rice and lentils, cooked together, topped with browned onions, and served with garlicky yogurt. It’s honestly hard to believe something as humble as rice, lentils, and onions could result in something so mind-blowingly delicious.
How Do You Make Mujadara
All mujadara is essentially made the same way but there are slight variations based on who’s cooking. (I got my recipe from a Palestinian friend, fyi). Some recipes call for cooking the onions in the pot with the rice and lentils, while others (like mine) call for adding the onions on top. Some people are adamant about parcooking the lentils before adding them to the rice, while I find they’re perfectly fine cooked at the same time.
Lastly, some recipes suggest toasting the rice in oil before adding the cooking liquid, while others skip it. I think this step is crucial: toasting the rice brings out its nuttiness and adds another layer of flavor to the dish; it also helps the grains stay fluffy, not mushy, while cooking.
Ingredient Notes + Substitutions
- Brown Rice: I use brown rice instead of white whenever possible, as it contains all the grains’ original fiber, protein, and minerals. Brown basmati rice gives mujadara the loveliest floral flavor (I get it at Trader Joe’s). If you can’t find any, use regular long grain brown rice.
- Green/Brown Lentils: Basic supermarket lentils will do. Do not sub with red lentils – they get too mushy.
- Cumin Seeds: Cumin is the signature flavor of mujadara. Don’t have seeds? Ground cumin will do.
- Onion: Use 1 softball-sized onion or 2 medium.
- Yogurt: Dairy or vegan. My favorite vegan options are Cocojune and So Delicious.
- Garlic: Raw garlic gives the yogurt sauce its spicy personality. For the purest flavor and to avoid biting down on whole garlic chunks, grate it on a microplane or pass it through a garlic press. (Or mince very finely.)
- Herbs: You can use cilantro, dill, mint, and/or parsley.
Step 1: Start the rice.
Place the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse it under running water to get rid of excess starch. Transfer it to a large skillet* and toast for a few minutes until the rice is totally dry. Then stir in the oil and spices, and cook until the rice smells nutty, about 1 minute more.
*I like to cook mujadara in a flat skillet instead of a pot. The bigger surface area helps the rice and lentils cook more evenly.
Step 2: Add the lentils and water.
Stir in rinsed lentils, then add boiling water (stand back – it may sputter). Reduce the heat to low, cover tightly with a lid, and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. The mixture should be simmering very gently. DO NOT stir the mixture during cooking to prevent mushy grains and broken lentils.
Step 3: Cook the onions.
Sauté the onions in a separate skillet over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Note that you’re looking for dark brown onions that are crispy in places – not soft and pasty caramelized ones. Stir often to prevent burning.
Step 4: Make the yogurt sauce.
In a bowl, stir together yogurt, crushed garlic, lemon juice, chopped herbs, and a pinch of salt.
Step 5: Finish the mujadara.
When all the water is absorbed, turn the heat off and let the pan stand covered to steam for an extra 10 minutes (still not stirring). After that, taste the rice and lentils; if for some reason they’re not yet fully cooked, add a splash of water, and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. To serve, transfer the mixture to a serving platter and top with the onions.
How to Serve Mujadara
Serve the rice and lentils with the yogurt sauce on the side. If you’re in the mood for a fancier sauce, try my cilantro tahini dressing or dairy-free tzatziki. You can have this by itself or add a cabbage slaw, sautéed greens, or roasted carrots. This dish reheats well, so you can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days.
More Recipes with Legumes
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
Mujadara is a classic Middle Eastern dish of cumin-scented brown rice and lentils with caramelized onions and garlicky yogurt.
For the Mujadara
- 1 cup brown basmati rice* (see note below)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds*
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
- 1/2 cup green lentils
- 1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
For the Yogurt Sauce
- 2 cups unsweetened yogurt (vegan or dairy)
- 2 small garlic cloves, crushed, grated, or very finely minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh herbs (like cilantro, dill, mint, and/or parsley)
- Pinch of salt
- Start by putting the kettle on to boil water; you’ll need 2 3/4 cups.
- Place the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse under running water.
- Transfer the rice to a large skillet over medium heat. Toast until completely dry, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Then add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to combine and toast until the rice smells nutty, 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Place the lentils in the mesh strainer and rinse under running water. Stir the lentils into the rice.
- Add 2 3/4 cups boiling water (careful, it may sputter). Cover tightly with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer very gently until all the water is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes. (DO NOT STIR during simmering or it will turn out mushy.)
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a separate large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re browned and crispy in places, 15 to 20 minutes.
- When all the water is absorbed by the rice and lentils, turn the heat off and leave the pan covered to steam for 10 minutes more (still not stirring).
- Lastly, make the sauce by stirring together all the ingredients.
- To serve, transfer the rice and lentils to a platter and top with the onions. Serve with the yogurt sauce on the side.
- Don’t have brown basmati rice? Use regular long grain brown rice, or white basmati rice.
- You can sub cumin seeds with ground cumin.
- A pinch of cinnamon works well with the sweetness of the onions. If you don’t have any, just skip it.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe (without sauce)
- Calories: 330
- Sodium: 237 mg
- Fat: 12.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 48.9 g
- Fiber: 10.1 g
- Protein: 9.6 g
Keywords: middle eastern, brown rice, lentils, caramelized onions, mujadara