Edit a year after original publication: I’ve updated the photos and added a few comments to the text. I’ve made mujaddara several times since and it’s always delicious. Most often I’ll use leftover lentils and cook the rice separately while I’m caramelizing the onions. (I’ve left the original photo in the recipe box.)
The best thing about last night’s dinner was the fact I had plenty of rice leftover. Yes, we have unremarkable meals in Lydia’s Flexitarian Kitchen on occasion. Anyway, I remembered seeing a lentils and rice dish with caramelized onions that looked delicious and decided to give it a try. A web search turned up a Lebanese style lentils and rice dish called mujaddara (moo-djah-darra) from Meatless Monday. Mujaddara is a humble dish with ancient origins. Rumor has it that mujaddara (or one of its many variants) is the very dish that Jacob traded for Esau’s birthright. (Wikipedia). I don’t know if I’d give up my birthright, but mujaddara is delicious and satisfying. I got an “mmmmm” from my son which is always a good sign.
I used leftover rice and canned lentils for this. The recipes I came across all cooked the lentils and rice separately, and then combined them with the caramelized onions. That may be the traditional preparation but it seems so unnecessary. However, it wouldn’t be difficult to cook from scratch considering that– depending upon the type of rice you use– it takes about the same amount of time to cook each component. I really enjoyed this dish, but it strikes me as one I would plan to cook from leftovers, perhaps for lunch the next day.
Like many spice blends, the actual components can vary. I liked cumin, cinnamon and coriander, along with a little red pepper flake when cooking the onions. Likewise, I used cilantro for the fresh green topping, but parsley and mint or a combination would also be is very good.
Tonight I served it as the main meal, with a green salad and some bread. It could easily be a side dish, perhaps with some lamb or beef kabob.
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon coriander powder
- 2 large onions, sliced into petals (about 3 cups)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking the onions plus extra for drizzling over the mujaddara before serving
- 1 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- 2 - 3 cups cooked rice (I used leftover jasmine rice…use your fingers to break up any clumpy bits)
- 1 15 oz can lentils (about 2 cups cooked)
- Mix the cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper and coriander powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet large enough to hold the rice, onions and lentils (a Dutch oven would work well, too).
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook over high heat until they begin to change color a bit. Add half the spice mixture to the onions and stir well.
- At this point, reduce the heat to medium low and allow the onions to cook until they turn a beautiful golden brown color. Some of them will get really dark. It will take about 20 – 30 minutes, but they will be sweet and delicious. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
- While the onions are finishing up, drain and rinse the lentils. Also break up any clumps in the rice.
- Add the rice, lentils and the remaining spice mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the lentils and rice are heated through.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
- Before serving drizzle olive oil over the mujaddara.
This is easily one of my favorite meals. It can be prepared very quickly if you’re willing to use the microwave rice and canned lentils…or some combination of leftovers and microwaved prepared food. Try it in a wrap, too!