Mujadara – Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
Mujadara is a super simple yet crazy comforting Lebanese dish made with lentils and rice which are slowly simmered with caramelized onions, then tossed with fresh cilantro and served topped with even more caramelized onions! Stunning on its own, or as a side!
Up until about a month and a half ago, I’d never even heard of Mujadara. Now? I can’t get enough of it! In fact, since I discovered this yummy Lebanese dish, I’ve been making it every single week without fail; I think I’m addicted!
Now I’m not saying that my recipe is the real deal, as in super authentic and all. In fact, it’s probably not even close to that. To come up with my own version of the dish, I’ve analyzed (and tried) several recipes. As is the case with many classic dishes, there’s a myriad different versions out there, but all have the same 3 ingredients in common: rice, lentils and caramelized onions. While most recipes call for white rice, I much prefer to use brown rice. I find that it has more texture, a more robust flavor and goes super good with the lentils. Also, the ratio of rice to lentils seems to vary a lot. I find that 1:1 works perfectly well!
As for the caramelized onions, some prefer to add very little, while others, like me, go all out. Some cook the onions, rice and lentils separately. Yikes! You know me, right? I’m all for keeping things stupid simple, saving time and using less dishes. I did everything in one pan.
Seriously, while it might not look like much, this Mujadara thing is dangerously tasty! You should totally give it a try! Granted, this is the kind of dish that takes quite a bit of time to make, but most of this time is completely non-demanding of your attention. It’s a dish that practically takes care of itself.
5 minutes prep time to slice the onions, 2 minutes to blow your nose and wipe your teary eyes…
The rest, you can take care of the rest while the onions are cooking.
First, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan with fitting lid set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and sprinkle somewhat generously with salt.
Those onions are gonna have to cook for a fairly long time, about 30 minutes, until they are a beautiful golden brown and nicely caramelized. Be sure to stir often, as onions tend to attach to the pan as they caramelize. Use a wooden spoon and scrape the bottom of the pan nice and good as you stir. Be sure to keep the heat fairly low too, as you wouldn’t want your onions to burn…
While the onions are cooking, take a few minutes to rinse your rice and lentils thoroughly under cold running water and then let them drain. Since they both have to be rinsed and drain, you might as well kill 2 birds with one stones and throw them together in the same sieve!
Once your onions have reached a nice, golden caramel color, remove about half of them from the pan and transfer them to a bowl. You’ll use them later to garnish your finished dish!
Now, to the pan that still contains half the caramelized onions, add the rice and lentils and stir to combine well with the onions.
Next, throw in the vegetable stock, water and spices, stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer slowly until the rice and lentils are fully cooked and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
When cooked, remove the pan from the heat and allow the dish to sit for about 5 minutes.
Finally, stir in a generous amount of freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice; you might also want to give your dish a little taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.
Serve your Mujadara topped with some of the reserved caramelized onions, as well as a little bit more lemon and cilantro, if desired.
- 2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 lbs yellow onion, 3-4 large, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- generous sprinkle of salt
- 1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained well
- 1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained well
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan with fitting lid set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Once the onions have reached a nice caramel color, remove about half of them from the pan and reserve them in a plate or bowl.
- To the pan, add the rice and lentils and stir to combine with the onions; throw in the vegetable stock, water and spices, stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer slowly until the rice and lentils are fully cooked and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice, adjust seasoning as needed.
- Serve immediately, topped with some of the reserved caramelized onions and additional lemon and cilantro.