Mujadara is a Middle eastern rice and lentil recipe that is flavored with caramelized onions and spices. Simple, yet extremely delicious.
The first time I saw the word ‘Mujadara’ was in a Middle-eastern restaurant. Obviously, I ordered it immediately, but the order was messed up and by the time they sorted it out, they were all out of Mujadara and I went home with complimentary apology falafels and a twinge of disappointment. This was about 2 years ago.
Since then I’ve hunted down for the recipe, watched countless videos on it’s making, earmarked several pages in recipe books, but the one thing I haven’t done is actually make the recipe. Until last month.
Since then, I’ve made it several, several times because it is simply and utterly blissful to chomp down spoonfuls after spoonfuls of this comforting meal. Did I mention ‘simple’? So few ingredients, yet so delectably flavorful, thanks to the magic of deep-fried onions and creamy lentils.
I’m not one for cooking lentils without a pressure cooker, but for this particular recipe, I highly recommend taking the slow route because as this dish cooks, you can use the time to prepare a simple kachumber/shirazi salad and maybe another side of vegetables stir-fried in harissa, just to round out the bowl.
But fuss is exactly what you won’t need to make for this dish. It is classically a minimal dish – just Mujadara and Shirazi salad is usually how it’s served. And that’s pretty much all you need.
Lentils, or more specifically Brown lentils are indubitably the star of this recipe. And when it comes to lentils, I cannot help but reinforce the importance of cooking them properly.
I’m positively appalled by the number of times I’ve come across recipes that do not call for a pre-soak, rather mention that lentils can be cooked directly to save time. That is highly incorrect. Yes, you can actually cook the lentils directly without soaking them first, but it would negate all of the goodness you’d get from consuming the lentils in the first place. I’ve written an extensive post detailing the reasons behind soaking your lentils. So, please, soak your lentils first.
And be sure to discard the soaking water too. And then rinse and then rinse again some more to get rid of all the phytic acid that’s leached into the water.
While the lentils are soaking, fry the onions until crisp. Thanks to my grandmother and her Burmese upbringing, my heart (and pantry) will always have a very special place for the magic that is fried onions. From flavoring Burmese recipes to making everything else a touch more exciting, it’s what I call ‘poor man’s saffron’. Save just a few spoons of the fried onions for garnishing later – the crunchy bits will offer a dramatic contrast to your Mujadara.
There are different versions of this recipe, but this is my preferred ratio of lentil to rice. If you’d much rather have more lentils than rice, simply swap the quantity and adjust water accordingly.
Add this to your weekly meal plan and eat through the week in rice bowls – combine them with a variety of salads on the side, protein of choice and enjoy the richness of this simple meal of rice and lentils!
- The lentils used here are ‘brown lentils’, which is the un-husked version of toor dal. If you cannot find brown lentils near you, feel free to substitute with any other lentil of choice, but note that cooking times and water needed will vary. Hence adjust accordingly.
- If you are using a husked version of lentil in your recipe, be sure to cook them al-dente to prevent it getting too mushy and blending into the rice.
- Fried onions can be made in advance and stored for upto a month in a closed container at room temperature, although it will loose it’s crispness.
- Lentils, as they grow older will become tougher to cook with.