In this classic Middle Eastern Mujaddara recipe, humble lentils and rice are seasoned with warm spices and fried onions for a tasty and satisfying dish!
I’m a bit picky about my Mujaddara.
This is one of my favorite comfort foods and, like most comfort foods, I’m particular about the way I like it.
I like it heavy on the lentils, heavy on the onions, and very richly spiced.
When I started talking with Frontier Coop about partnering on a post this month, I knew that it had to be Mujaddara. If there ever was a recipe that was completely dependent on the quality of spices, it’s Mujaddara!
Many cultures have their own version of rice and beans, and mujaddara rice (or majadra or m’jadra or mejadra or mujadara or mjadra) is common all across the Middle East. You can learn much more about the origins of mejadra and the variations in this Mujaddara article on Wikipedia.
Since I’m leaving in a few weeks to visit Israel and Jordan (along with Egypt, Portugal, and Hungary), I thought it was fitting to brush up on my Mujaddara skills.
Let me tell you: I spent a lot of time working on the right portions and ratios for this lentil rice recipe.
I wanted to be able to cook the mejadra in a regular-sized pot (about 5 quarts or larger) without having to dig the gigantic pasta cooking pot out of the back of my cabinet.
Also, I didn’t want to spend a solid hour deep frying onions while the mejadra got cold.
In the end, I found that working with a cup of lentils, three-quarters cup of rice, and three onions did the trick.
I can use a regular pot AND I can actually finish frying the onions by the time the mejadra is done!
Now, for the most important part: the spices!
What you see above is everything you need to make this dish.
Okay, I lied a little bit. You also need salt, pepper, sugar, a little bit of flour, and vegetable oil for frying.
But really, those are pantry staples so you likely already have them lying around.
If you’ve never fried your own onions, you’re in for a big treat. They come out crispy with a hint of smoky caramelized flavor.
I won’t judge you if you make extra just to snack on.
I spice my Mujaddara with a mixture of warm cinnamon, aromatic allspice, earthy turmeric, bright coriander, and fragrant cumin seeds.
I’ve said it many times before, but I’m incredibly picky about my spices — and for good reason!
Flavor is absolutely important, but so is sourcing. Take cinnamon, for example.
For this recipe I used ground Ceylon cinnamon that was co-op grown in Sri Lanka. Oh, and it’s Fair Trade, too.
This cinnamon is delicate, subtle, warm, sweet, and a bit spicy. It’s perfectly balanced so I can use it anytime I need cinnamon.
Now, I don’t have time to search around for high-quality, ethically sourced spices every time I make a recipe. Lucky for me, I’ve been partnering with Frontier since 2014, so I know all about their products and can spot them a mile away at the store.
It doesn’t hurt that their spice bottles are totally gorgeous, of course.
Mujaddara Recipe: Spiced Lentils, Rice and Fried Onions
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
- 3 medium yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 teaspoons olive oil - divided
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3/4 cup basmati rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons allspice
- 1 1/4 teaspoons Ground Ceylon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons Ground Coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- Place the lentils in a medium saucepan along with enough water to cover by two inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the lentils have softened slightly but still have some bite to them. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat to reach a consistent deep-fry temperature (375 degrees). Peel and slice the onions into thin rings. Place the onions in a large bowl and break the rings up with your hands (you should have about six cups). Toss the onions with the flour to evenly coat.
- In a 4 quart or larger pot, heat the two teaspoons of olive oil along with the cumin seeds over medium heat for 2 minutes to toast. Stir in the rice, remaining two tablespoons of oil, the allspice, cinnamon, sugar, coriander, and turmeric. Add 1 ¾ cups of water along with the boiled lentils. Allow the mixture to come to a light boil over medium heat, then immediately cover the pot and simmer on the lowest heat setting for 15 minutes.
- While the mejadra is cooking, work in batches to fry the onions. Carefully lower one quarter of the onion rings into the hot oil, a small handful at a time, and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until deeply brown and crispy. Strain from the oil with a metal utensil and place on a paper towel-lined sheet to drain. Allow the oil to return to deep fry temperature and repeat with remaining onions until all have been fried.
- Once the mejadra has simmered for 15 minutes, turn off the heat, quickly wrap the pot lid in a towel and place securely over the mouth of the pot. Allow to steam in the pot for 15 to 20 minutes, until rice and lentils are cooked through.
- Stir half of the fried onions into the mejadra mixture. Transfer to a serving plate and top with remaining fried onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.
My good friends over at Frontier Co-op compensated me for my time to create this recipe. As always, all content and opinions are my own!
Please note that this Mujaddara recipe also has these alternative spellings: Mujadara recipe, Mejadra recipe, Mujadarah recipe, Majadra recipe, Moujadara recipe, Mudardara recipe, and Megadarra recipe.
Can you explain step 5? I’m not seeing a mouth on my pot and don’t understand the towel. Thanks
This is to use a towel to absorb the excess steam to make the rice perfect and not too mushy or too dry.
So, you wrap the lid in a town and then set it on top of the pot so it is sealed.
You can see some photos on this link of how to cook perfect rice: https://thewanderlustkitchen.com/how-to-cook-perfect-rice/
My wife has a hard time with lentils (indigestion). Would chickpeas be a decent substitution?
I’ve never tried it that way, but I imagine it would be delicious! Just be aware that the cooking time for chickpeas is quite a bit longer than for lentils.
HI there, Can I also used pre-fried onions like “frenches” if I’m in a rush
I’ve never tried pre-fried onions, but if you do let us know how it turns out!