Recipe: Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)
Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

Mujadara (also spelled Mujadarah, Megadarra or several other variations) is delicious, inexpensive, simple to make, and one of my wife’s favorite foods. Since she got us this beautiful new serving platter I felt a batch was overdue. It is simply a mixture of rice and perfectly cooked lentils, spiked with a big dose of caramelized onions and a bit of cumin and cinnamon. It makes a hearty vegetarian one dish meal served with just some Greek yogurt and maybe a cucumber salad, or it can be part of a larger Middle Eastern feast.

Although this dish is very simple, unless you have a lot of leftover caramelized onions on hand, it does take a good bit of time. If you are following the recipe below you might want to double the onions and make extra to freeze or refrigerate, since they make a flavorful addition to many meals.

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Recipe: Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Recipe: Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)

  • 3 pounds white onions, sliced moderately thin
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils (not red lentils or french lentils!)
  • 2 cups long grain white or brown rice (I prefer the brown for a bit more character)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flat leaf parsley for serving
  1. Melt the butter along with the oil and 1 t. salt in your largest skillet, and add the onions. Set heat on medium-low and stir occasionally until very soft, about 45 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and keep cooking and stirring often until deeply browned and sweet, another 20 minutes or more. Deglaze pan with white wine or vermouth (or water) and stir into the onions to get more flavor. See “caramelized onions” in Joy of Cooking for a more thorough description of the process. If pressed for time you can do a higher heat version, yielding onions with a caramelized exterior and crunchy interior, which is also delicious.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the rice and the lentils separately according to your usual method. The lentils need to be watched carefully. You don’t want them still crunchy , but you definitely want to retain their shape. We aren’t making lentil soup here. Some folks cook the rice and lentils together but I don’t think that gives you enough control over the texture.
  3. When everything is cooked, fold the rice, lentils, spices, half of the onions, and more salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. To serve, form a large mound, top with the remaining caramelized onions and chopped parsley, a grind of pepper and a few grains of sea salt. Pass a bowl of thick Greek yogurt to mix in as desired. It is really good at room temperature, and just gets better after a day in the refrigerator.
http://herbivoracious.com/2007/10/recipe-mujadara.html

Mujadarah (Rice, Lentil, and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)
Serves 4 as a one dish meal
Vegetarian, vegan (if you use oil or margarine instead of butter), and gluten free
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

  • 3 pounds white onions, sliced moderately thin
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth (optional)
  • 1.5 c brown or green lentils (not red lentils or french lentils!)
  • 2 c. long grain white or brown rice (I prefer the brown for a bit more character)
  • 1/4 t. ground cinammon
  • 1/4 t. ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • flat leaf parsley for serving
  1. Melt the butter along with the oil and 1 t. salt in your largest skillet, and add the onions. Set heat on medium-low and stir occasionally until very soft, about 45 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and keep cooking and stirring often until deeply browned and sweet, another 20 minutes or more. Deglaze pan with white wine or vermouth (or water) and stir into the onions to get more flavor. See “caramelized onions” in Joy of Cooking for a more thorough description of the process. If pressed for time you can do a higher heat version of this but the results won’t be as tasty.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the rice and the lentils separately according to your usual method. The lentils need to be watched carefully. You don’t want them still crunchy , but you definitely want to retain their shape. We aren’t making lentil soup here. Some folks cook the rice and lentils together but I don’t think that gives you enough control over the texture.
  3. When everything is cooked, fold the rice, lentils, spices, half of the onions, and more salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. To serve, form a large mound, top with the remaining caramelized onions and chopped parsley, a grind of pepper and a few grains of sea salt. Pass a bowl of thick Greek yogurt to mix in as desired. It is really good at room temperature, and just gets better after a day in the refrigerator.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 in Favorites, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

79 Responses to “Recipe: Mujadara (Rice, Lentils and Caramelized Onion Pilaf)”

  1. October 7, 2007 at 11:06 pm #

    That looks really amazing, and right up my alley! I am saving this recipe, and plan on trying it later this week!

  2. October 7, 2007 at 11:49 pm #

    I used to make this all the time in college to save money. But I had no idea it was an actual, legitimate, named dish. I forgot how much I liked it.

  3. October 8, 2007 at 2:23 am #

    Hmmmm it looks utterly delicious Michael.
    xxx

  4. Gayla
    October 8, 2007 at 7:29 am #

    This looks yummy. I am going to have to make this … I need to dig up Heidi’s instructions on making greek yogurt since its not widely available here. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. October 8, 2007 at 3:53 pm #

    This is an amazing post! So delicious!

  6. Michael Natkin
    October 11, 2007 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks everyone! If you make it, please comment again and let us know how it turned out.

  7. Michael Natkin
    October 29, 2007 at 7:36 pm #

    See also this soup recipe for a way to use up the leftovers.

  8. Jirair Khatcheressian
    November 19, 2007 at 9:39 am #

    I have tried to find the recipie that my Aunt uses, but could not find it anywhere. I swear she makes the best Mujaddara. Here is the secret. Cook plenty of onions in olive oil until deep brown color, (you don’t want to burn the onion), then add enough water to cook the rice and lentil with) and boil the water. This becomes your broth. DO cook the lentils separately first, but not all the way, and then combine the rice, semi cooked lentils with enough of this prepared “onion broth”, as if cooking pilaf. Of course add salt and pepper to taste. I top the musaddara with Laban.

  9. molahs4
    December 3, 2007 at 11:31 am #

    I’ve made this in the past, but using your recipe as a guideline it was the best ever. Cooking the rice and lentils separately made it easier to use the right ratio (I’m bad at judging how much dry beans/lentils will turn into when cooked). I mixed the caramelized onions in with the rice/lentils to make it more kid friendly, and removed the cinnamon completely. I served mine with prepared tahini (mixed with cumin, lemon juice, water, salt, za’atar) and steamed beets with their greens. Mmmmmmm.

    Too bad the leftovers got eaten too- now I can’t make the soup.

  10. Michael Natkin
    December 3, 2007 at 4:14 pm #

    Glad it worked out well. The tahini sauce is popular at our house as well!

  11. shelly
    June 19, 2008 at 7:10 pm #

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I had mujadara at a middle-eastern restaurant and wanted to try making it myself. Your version is easy and delicious! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  12. Alyson
    July 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm #

    Thank you for a delicious recipe. I found your blog after deciding to try to cut meat out of my diet. With recipes like yours, so far, it has been easy to eat vegetarian! I put in about a tablespoon each of cinnamon and cumin for stronger flavor. It was so good – I’ve actually made it twice in a week, and served it to non-vegetarian friends who asked for second helpings.

  13. er
    July 26, 2008 at 7:41 am #

    Thanks so much for this yummy recipe. Good friends gathered and had a Middle Eastern themed potluck. It was my first try to cook a Middle Eastern dish. I want to explore more!

  14. Joy
    March 27, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    This dish has saved my vegan butt at several church potlucks. No one enjoys a cranky, sugar crashed priest–and everyone loves the dish!

  15. Michael Natkin
    March 27, 2009 at 8:51 pm #

    HI Joy – I’m so glad you like it, thanks for letting me know. It is handy to
    have a repertoire of good potluck dishes isn’t it? Here is another one you
    might like: link to herbivoracious.com

  16. Lali
    April 5, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    I noticed the very exact same recipe on Sparkpeople, word for word, including (see “carmalized onions” in Joy of Cooking…) wondering. I loved it regardless who should get the credit for the dish!!

  17. Michael Natkin
    April 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Could you send me the link? It is my original recipe, someone is apparently
    stealing my content (which is common, unfortunately). Thanks for letting me
    know.

    I noticed the very exact same recipe on Sparkpeople, word for word,

  18. June 23, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    Mmmmm…this sounds like a delicious dish an it looks awesome. Thanks for the recipe. I think i’ll add some chilli to spice it a bit.

  19. Eric
    July 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm #

    This is a great recipe! I love mujadara, and this recipe is very close to what I get at a local Middle Eastern restaurant.

    I found that I had to really hit the cumin and cinnamon hard: I probably put 1.5 tsp each. Also, if you have time to caramelize the onions, do it! This really makes the dish. The second time I made it, I didn’t feel like baby sitting onions for an hour or two, so I just browned them. Still very good.

  20. August 2, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    found your recipe searching for a Mujadara that wouldn’t be as oily as a packaged an Israeli friend gave us. Yours worked wonderfully — we made a minor modification, as vegans, deleting the butter, and not including yoghurt. Delicious results –and having found the soup variation, will try that next!

    Thanks–

  21. Michael Natkin
    August 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    Thanks Alan and Ann! I'm glad you liked it and I appreciate you letting me know.

  22. Ashley R.
    August 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    I just made this and it was fantastic! I had to add a bit more cumin for my taste and used coriander in place of the cinnamon! YUM! I have enough to feed a small army though!

  23. Kathleen
    November 20, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    has anyone tried this with canned lentils, already cooked?

  24. Zack B
    January 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I have to disagree on the slow caramelization of the onions. Cooking them over a higher heat gives you a caramelized exterior and a contrasting pungent inside that I like better. Also I agree with the cinnamon & cumin suggestion.

  25. January 15, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Just now found this site through stumbleupon. This recipe is DEFINITELY up my alley! I think tomorrow I’ll get the ingredients and cook this – I’d love for my boyfriend to try it, too. I hope to get him hooked on some crazy delicious vegan meals :)

  26. January 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    I agree about the onions – they really do this! Btw, (in response to Kathleen’s question) I did use a can of precooked lentils, and it did taste great.
    Om nom

  27. Michael Natkin
    January 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
    @Rachel – I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for the update on the lentils and onions!

  28. Arathi
    January 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I recently stumbled upon your website,(I was actually looking for a mujadara recipe, and I landed right here!)..I tried your recipe today, and it turned out wonderful!My husband and I simply loved it…The light cinnamon flavor was such a nice touch..I will definitely be trying more from your blog! Keep up the good work!

  29. Elisabeth
    March 30, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    I made this tonight for my parents, and it was a success. As a vegan your blog is just what I’ve been looking for(asian food!). I was so happy when I found there was vegetarian and even vegan recipes. The chana masala was delicious, and I can’t wait to try out the urad dal patties.

  30. Michael Natkin
    April 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Hey Elisabeth – I'm so glad you liked those dishes! Thanks for emailing to let me know, that makes my day.

  31. Karen
    April 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    I must say I was skeptical about the cumin and particularly the cinnamon. I decided to season a small portion rather than ‘ruin’ the whole dish. The two spices make the dish! Especially the cinnamon! Loved it. I used just the 1/4t of each and what a difference. I served it with a wedge of lemon on the side to squeeze on top. Too bad my husband is not a fan of this dish. We will have it again, but not too often for my husband’s sake.

  32. Michael Natkin
    April 10, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    @Karen – That was really smart of you to try a test sample with the spices to see if you liked it that way… and I'm glad you did like it!

  33. Jay
    May 31, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    This recipe lists butter as one of the ingredients. Butter isn’t vegan. You might want to change your description to simply “vegetarian and gluten free”.

  34. Michael Natkin
    May 31, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Good catch, Jay. I've updated it to say "vegan (if you use oil or margarine instead of butter)".  (My vegan and gluten-free notes are always "assuming you make obvious substitutions", but sometimes I forget to note the details for readers).

    Thanks,
    Michael

  35. June 14, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Had bookmarked this sometime back and made it with a few changes. Was very good. Thanks.
    My post is at link to mydiversekitchen.com

  36. Michael Natkin
    June 15, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Hey Aparna – I like your Indian twist on the mujadara, that sounds delicious!

  37. July 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    You might want to change your description to simply “vegetarian and gluten free”.

  38. rony
    August 6, 2010 at 4:02 am #

    loll

  39. Rachelle
    August 13, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    Great recipe! I love Lebanese staples like hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, tzaziki, etc. and I’m thrilled to branch out a bit. Like other commenters, I added more more cumin and cinnamon. And more caramelized onions.

    I’m curious about your suggestion not to use French lentils. That’s what I used and it turned out great. Are you talking about the dark brown Puy lentils? They hold their shape really well . . .

  40. Mahmoud Mirza
    November 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    this is my favorite arabic dish! it look realllyyyyy goooddd ! :)

  41. andrea
    January 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    I have a hard time believing I need all of these onions! but, I am using the wait for them to cook as a meditation….can’t wait! Your recipe (and the photo) look most like the dish I grew to love in DC…have had lots of poor imitations—so I can’t wait! (40 more minutes!)

  42. andrea
    January 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I’m not the cook, but I tried this once with French lentils and while it was good, it is much, much better with the brown lentils…French lentils have a different taste and texture, and don’t taste like mujardara is supposed to taste…imho.

  43. Carrie Ann
    January 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Delicious! Served with a bit of greek yogurt. Planning on having this for lunch all week. Thanks for sharing!

  44. Barbara
    January 24, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Love this dish and your version is excellent..Have made it many times and making it tonight…Thanks

  45. Linda
    April 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi Michael! My husband brought home a carry out of this dish from a lebanese place and I fell in love! He said he could make it and I was so doubtful..but he found your recipe and gave it a try and Boy! It was almost as good as that take out and cost tremendously less to make at home. Excellent recipe that we will make again and again! Thanks for sharing. I will never be a doubter again! And he can keep trying new recipes on me!:) He is making a second batch since he saw he could do it!

  46. Michael Natkin
    April 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    Nice :) It makes me happy to hear that you have mastered it at home.

  47. Lehua PIschke
    June 25, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I’m making it for a second time–for my German, Irish, Scottish, Filipino, Chinese son to take for lunch! He loves it! Found your recipe searching for lentil recipes. I used Le Puy instead of brown lentils, but since I’d never had it before, I didn’t know the difference. . .I’ll have to try it another time with what you actually SPECIFY. Thanks for such a simple dish! It’ll be good for my daughter’s vegetarian roommate, too (and my daughter!).

  48. whoyouthink
    September 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    looks awesome, would be amazing with some fancy mushrooms thrown in at the second stage of the onion carmelization.

  49. Wendy M.
    September 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Worked great for me! I drained and rinced my canned lentils before adding it to the cooked rice. Delicious dish! I think this will be my newest favourite rice dish!

  50. Wendy M.
    September 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    This rice dish is amazing! I followed recipe to the letter except I used a large can of brown lentils that I drained and rinced and found it absolutely delicious. I will be making this again and again!

  51. rweb
    October 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks – this dish was amazing! We loved the combination of flavors, and the ratio of rice to lentils was really nice. This one is definitely going in my recipe book.

  52. Michael Natkin
    October 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Good deal! Isn't it nice to find pleasure in such simple ingredients?

    Thanks,
    Michael

  53. Michael Natkin
    October 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    p.s. I like your resource tweets; try to do an occasional one that is just a thought without a link, and maybe mix in the occasional vaguely personal one. otherwise your stream reads like a pure business "push account" which people don't really get excited about. just be you – you don't have to tweet constantly, even 3 times a week will help.

    Michael Natkin

    Find me:

    The latest from my blog, Herbivoracious: Thick and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies - Recipe

    On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 9:48 PM, Michael Natkin <michaelnatkin@gmail.com> wrote:
    Good deal! Isn't it nice to find pleasure in such simple ingredients?

    Thanks,
    Michael

  54. Jamie
    November 13, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    This was yummy. I used 1.5 tsps of cinnamon and cumin. This recipe makes a lot more than 4 servings though!

  55. January 18, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Made this today, and it was just great-great dinner. I did adjust some of the ingredients: 1.Used black “Beluga” lentils. 2. Didn’t have white wine or vermouth, so used combination of red wine 1/3 cup and half of the orange. 3. Used 1/2 teaspoon cumin to 1/4 cinnamon. Was a little intimidated to use cinnamon, but it came out just perfect. Thanks for the recipe, it was very easy to follow. I posted picture of what I made.

  56. Sarah
    January 27, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Looks delicious but unfortunately, mine tastes more like carmelized onion rice pudding! 1/4 tsp cinnamon is WAYYY too much cinnamon! Try a few dashes instead, please!

  57. Natalie
    April 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I just found this recipe and adapted it to a baked version for dinner tonight. It was wonderful! Thank you so much.

    Here is a link to how I baked it, if you are interested:

    link to myfoodfiles.blogspot.com

  58. Alice
    May 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    This recipe has been a staple in my repetoire since I found it here a few years ago. Though I have to comment regarding the responses about the quantities it makes/ serves. We use it as the main dish for two – me and hubbie – and usually only have enough left for two small lunch servings!
    Absolutely delicious, even when you forget the spices! I probably shouldn’t try to cook things from memory… but the onions and the yoghurt keep it tasty. Thanks Michael!

    • May 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      I’m so glad you like it, and thanks for the comment about the serving size!!

  59. Sheri
    June 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Hello Michael,

    I listened to you today on WPR, and am so glad I did! Iove your blog and all of the recipes look amazing. Tried this one tonight and it is to die for! Really fantastic… I have never carmalized onions before, and it was definately worth the time. So yummy!

    I look forward to trying many more recipes. And your book is on the top of my b-day wish list. : )

    Sheri

    • June 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Oh good, glad to have a new reader, and delighted to hear you enjoyed the mujadara. Now that you’ve got the method for caramelizing onions, you can use them for everything from sandwiches to pastas.

  60. August 5, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    The recipe looked great. It smelled fantastic as it cooked. I made sure to not overcook the rice and lentils (separately). I was disappointed with the outcome, but will definitely try again with more spices and perhaps some raisins and toasted almond slivers. It was bland for our taste and it has so much promise.

    • August 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

      Hey Laurel – I appreciate the feedback. Mujadara is not meant to be a brightly flavored dish. It is more subtle, mainly just about the balance between the earthy lentils, comforting rice, and sweet/savory onions. As long as you really thoroughly caramelized the onions and used the full amount of them, you made it right so it just might not be a dish that you enjoy.

  61. Lowen Gartner
    August 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Fantastic dish.

    1) Authentic is not caramelized onions, but faster cooked charred onions. I like to do a combination. (I was raised in Lebanon)

    2) Instead of the cinnamon/cumin as suggested, look for Lebanese 7-spice blend or Baharet spice (essentially the same) from North Africa.

    3) substitute quinoa for rice.

    Cheers – thanks for this post.

  62. August 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    I tried this tonight, with a few modifications! It was really good, thanks for the idea!

    Check out my additions below…I added mushrooms, kale, and raisins and it turned out pretty good :)
    link to freetoeatandbe.blogspot.com

  63. Heather
    September 27, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    You MUST eat this with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce!

  64. Diego
    November 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Just made this with the zucchini fritters and a simple roasted cauliflower. I doubled the spices and cooked the lentils and rice together (added the lentils in the last 25 minutes). I liked it quite a bit, but there was still something missing for me.

  65. January 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I just made this– delicious! I think I overcooked the lentils, but it still tastes okay. I added some sliced manzanilla olives and a can of garbanzo beans and the olives add a nice little kick.

  66. Jbird
    February 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    are the amounts for lentils and rice the dry amounts or is that how much cooked lentils/rice i should use? can’t wait to make this!

    • February 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Those are the dry amounts.

      • jbird
        March 29, 2013 at 6:02 am #

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly with that clarification, I made this in February and it was delicious, especially with a bit of garlic chili paste added for some heat. I’m making it again for a party next week, any suggestions for side dishes that would compliment this? (you had mentioned cucumber salad) Thank you for this tasty, easy, low cost recipe!

  67. Rom
    March 18, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    You can also substitute split mung beans (with skins removed, available in all Indian grocery stores) for lentils for variety and different taste. It is still very nutritious and healthy.

  68. March 19, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Thank you for this excellent recipe; however, it would be nice to aknowledge that this is a Lebanese dish or at least a Mediterranean dish and in this type of cuisine we hardly use butter.
    You could sudstitute rice with cracked wheat (bulgur) and serve this dish with a cabbage salad ( tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage, lemon juice and olive oil).

  69. nick
    June 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Just finished with recipe, can’t wait for the onions to camelize. Thx Michael for your recipe. My lentils are about 25 ys.old but cooked up just fine haha.

    • June 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

      I’ve found a few bags of lentils like that over the years :)

  70. June 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    love it. we always has this dish on Fridays during Lent…My mother used clarified butter (no oil) and no cumin, but Lebanese 7 spices instead. Always served it with Cucumber/Laban/garlic (yogurt) cold salad and hot baked Pita bread. Sooooooooooo good. Left overs reheated is great also.

  71. Myong
    December 25, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    I made this dish today, it’s absolutely delicious!! I used thinly sliced scallions on top instead of parsley. Thank you for posting this recipe! I can’t wait to try your other recipes.

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