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Kalyn's Kitchen

Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)

Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)Mujadarra (pronounced moo-jha-druh and also spelled Mujadara, Mujaddara, Mujadarah, and Mujadarrah) is a humble middle eastern dish of lentils, rice, and caramelized onions. This is a recipe where the flavor becomes much more than you’d expect from the simple ingredients used. Years ago I started ordering Mujadarra at a now-closed Salt Lake restaurant which served it with Middle Eastern Tomato Salad around the the plate, the perfect way to eat it if you have tomatoes and fresh herbs on hand. Then that restaurant closed, and I never found another place in Utah where I liked it as much. Recently I decided to get serious about making Mujadarra myself, starting with a recipe from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, in which she cautions not to reduce the amount of olive oil because “the dish will lack a certain richness.” That sounded like a good start to me, but after a few tries, I couldn’t manage to cook the lentils and rice together without one or the other getting overcooked. What worked for me was to cook the rice separately and mix it into the cooked lentils and caramelized onions. After waiting years to re-create a version of this dish I was happy with, I loved how this turned out, and I’m sure it’s something I’m going to be making over and over again.

Rinse lentils, then add water and cook at a low simmer 20-30 minutes, until lentils are soft. Cover the cooked lentils and let sit so they absorb most of the water.

 

Start cooking 3/4 cup long grain rice, either following the directions on the package or using a rice cooker like I did. I used Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice, which is a low-glycemic type of white rice, but Basmati rice would also be good. (Keep the rice warm until you need it.)

 

Peel onions, then cut into quarter-slices to make 3 cups sliced onions. (I increased the amount of onion; next time I might increase the onion even more.)

 

Heat olive oil in large heavy pan, then add onions and start to brown over medium-low heat, stirring every few minutes. (Don’t rush the browning step; you want the onions to slowly get golden brown.)

Here are my onions after ten minutes, just starting to get brown.

I cooked the onions about 15 minutes more, until they were mostly browned like this, for a total of 25 minutes browning time.

 

Remove about half the onions to a paper towel, and let them drain and crisp while you finish the dish. These crispy onions bits are served on top of the cooked lentils and rice.

Add cumin to the rest of the cooked onions and saute 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the cooked lentils to the pan with the onions, leaving behind any liquid that hasn’t been absorbed. Season lentils with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook 2-3 minutes.

 

Then gently mix the cooked rice into the lentils and onions, heating for a minute or two if needed. Serve hot or warm, with some of the crisp onions topping each serving.

Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)
(Makes 4 generous servings, recipe adapted from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup long-grain white rice (I used Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
3 cups yellow onions, cut into quarter slices (or more)
1/3 cup olive oil (use high-quality olive oil with good flavor for this dish)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cook rice in water following package directions, or cook in a rice cooker. When rice is done, cover and keep warm until you add it to the lentils.

Rinse lentils, then place in heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, add 1 quart water, and let lentils simmer over very low heat uncovered until they are soft (about 20-30 minutes, but cooking time will depend on how fresh the lentils are so keep checking until they are soft but still have a slight bite to them.) When lentils are cooked, cover and let water them absorb any leftover water.

While lentils cook, chop onions. Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan, then add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and start to brown onions, stirring every few minutes. Continue to cook onions, stirring often, until they are deeply browned and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes. Don’t rush this step; the onions will be bitter if they’re cooked at high heat.

When onions are browned, remove half the onions to drain on a paper towel to crisp. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp cumin into the rest of the onions in the pan and saute 1-2 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked lentils to the pan with the onions, leaving behind any water that’s not absorbed. Season the cooked lentils and onions with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook 1-2 minutes to blend flavors.

Gently mix cooked rice into the lentils and caramelized onions, heating for a minute or two if the rice is not hot. Put Mujadarra on a serving dish, top with crispy caramelized onions, and serve hot or warm.

This is great served with Middle Eastern Tomato Salad on the side. It would make a great side dish with Baked Falafel Patties with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce, or you could also serve the sauce with the Mujadarra.

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South Beach Suggestions:

Made with a low-glycemic type of white rice such as Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice, this dish would be approved for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet.

Other Food Bloggers Make Mujadarra (also spelled Mujadara, Mujadarrah, Mujadarah, or Mujaddara)

Mujadara from Desert Candy

Mujaddara from Habeus Brulee

Mujadara from Herbivoracious

Mujadara from Orangette

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    57 Comments on “Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions)”

  1. This is my idea of heaven Kalyn. I am definitely making this one. Thank you for the recipe. I think I will go crazy with the onions 🙂

  2. This looks wonderful! Kalyn, are you referring to the now closed Robert's Deli in your article? I was heartbroken years (and years!) ago when I learned it closed since I loved how they made this dish. It was incredible! If this resembles theirs, then I'm thrilled to have a recipe that compares. Thanks!

  3. I love the idea of caramelizing onions in a crockpot. I think I'm going to have to try that!

  4. I make this with bulgur instead of rice and TONS of carmelized onions. In fact, I carmelize the onions – a whole bag at a time – in a crockpot and we eat them on everything! Just discovered that carmelized onions in turkey burgers are great! You have me craving Middle Eastern food right now!

  5. Now this dish might be a way to get Mr. GFE to eat lentils! He loves rice and caramelized onions. I've never heard of this dish, but really want to make it. It really does look like terrific comfort food. Thanks, Kalyn!

    Shirley

  6. I'm happy to be introducing some people to this dish for the first time. It's definitely one of those combinations where it ends up being so much more than you'd imagined it will be.

  7. This looks great, love the onions on top! I think lentils are one of those ingredients we tend to forget about and just don't use enough. I've never heard of this dish, so thanks for sharing it!

  8. Umm, I don't think I can wait for dinner. How about this for breakfast. Lentils!
    Super good Kalyn.

  9. I have made a version of this by Geoff Smith, where the method is a little different, but the flavors are much the same. The carmelize onions give the dish such a sweet and rich flavor.

  10. I've heard a lot about this dish and know that I would absolutely love it! Thanks so much for posting this…it is exactly my kind of meal.

  11. OhMyGosh does this look deeeeelish! Those dark caramelized onions on top have me drooling!

    Donna

  12. Right on, my girlfriend!

  13. i have heard so much about this dish but somehow never managed to cook or eat it outside. So glad that you posted this recipe! I think my half finished packet of zatar would love to be a part of this dish too 🙂

  14. How fun to hear that so many other people have a history with this dish. It's definitely a comforting and inexpensive thing to make when the weather is a bit cool.

  15. This looks excellent! I have everything here to make it, I should put this on the menu for this week. Thanks!!

  16. I look at your picture and I think I want to eat it right now.

  17. Wow, is this EVER my bag! I may have to change my dinner plans. :O)

  18. Lovely photo, Kalyn! I learned to make Mujaddarah in Saudi Arabia, where I got hooked on Middle Eastern food. I crave this dish when I'm under the weather, it's so good.

  19. I first learned this dish from a Lebanese woman who owns a small grocery store in North Providence. She taught me to cook the lentils and rice together, after caramelizing the onions in the pan. But I love the idea of cooking the ingredients separately and combining them to retain the texture of each of the ingredients. This is truly comfort food!

  20. I might have to make this today. Looks like a comforting dish for the cool weather we are having.