Mujadara is another typical Egyptian dish that has made its way around the Arab world with slight variations.
I really do love this dish.
It’s easy, straightforward, and so satisfying.
Its simplicity is one of the things I like about it; it’s one of those meals I could eat everyday.
Lentils and rice with yogurt served on the side gives you a complete protein, and makes this a super nutritious combination.
Personally I feel the fried onions on top is what really takes the prize for an amazingly tasty addition to any meal.
All in all a very satisfying dish.
It’s also very good for you, and a great way to supe up any plain rice dish.
It can also be cooked in under 40 minutes!
What is Mujadara?
Mujadara is a delicious warming dish of lentils, rice and crispy onions popular in the Middle East.
It is the kind of dish that can be prepared in a relatively short time.
It’s perfect for someone who has less time, and yet wants to rely on homemade and nutritious food.
Mujadara originated in Mesopotamia, in what is modern day Iraq.
With the oldest known recipe showing up in the Kitab Al-Tabikh (which literally translates as the ‘book of cooking’) in 1226.
A very old recipe indeed.
For those of us who relish texture in our food this dish is fantastic in covering all the bases.
The soft rice, with the solid but cooked lentils, the creaminess of the yogurt, the crunchiness of a salad and the crispiness of the fried onions.
What is there not to like about that?!
A Palestinian version of Mujadara is made using bulgur wheat which is a wonderful substitute for the rice.
How to Make Mujadara
Medium, short grain regular or basmati rice will do.
It tends to be my go-to recipe when we’re short of ingredients in the house.
The main ingredients you need are white rice, lentils and onions.
The lentils you want to use are the green variety as red lentils will turn to mush.
Start by putting the lentils in a small pot and cover them with water.
Cook the lentils until they are soft but still a little al dente.
They will cook again with the rice so you don’t want them to be fully cooked.
While the lentils are cooking, thinly slice the onions into half moon shapes.
Put these aside as they will be cooked last.
Lentils are friendly – the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.
— Laurie Colwin
Add 4½ cups of water and place the pot over a medium high heat to bring to a boil.
Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook stirring for a minute or two.
Partially cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until all the water is gone, and the rice and lentils are tender.
Once the rice and lentil mixture is cooking, fry the onions.
Place some oil in a pan and heat to medium.
Fry until you caramelize the onions.
You want nice and crispy onions.
Focus on the cooking times here so you bring both elements together at the right time.
Leave about 15 minutes to cook the onions as you may need to do them in batches.
To serve, place a couple of large spoonfuls of the rice and lentil mixture onto a plate.
Top that with the crispy onions and serve with salad and Greek yogurt.
Mujadara has in it classic Middle Eastern spices.
Like many dishes from this region, I like to use my special blend of seven spices.
I could list each individual spice in each recipe.
But I prefer to use my seven spice mix and then add any additional individual spices that are needed.
For this Mujadara recipe, I’ve added a little extra cumin.
I’ve seen other recipes for this dish using very few spices.
Sometimes with just salt.
However, the key to this dish is the spices in my view.
Otherwise, it can taste quite bland and boring.
It is essentially just rice and lentils, which is great, but does need some spices to give it that boost!
Which Lentils To Use
Lentils may appear to be all the same except for their colors.
But there is a big difference when it comes to adding taste and texture to dishes.
For this dish, I recommend using brown or green lentils.
These lentils will retain their shape when cooking them.
This will add to the composition and sturdiness of the dish.
Red or yellow lentils tend to be split or hulled.
This means that when you cook, they will lose their shape and will usually disintegrate.
Perfect for soups but not for this dish.
It would just give the whole dish a mushy consistency, which is not what we’re going for!
What to Serve It With
There’s a large variety of side dishes that will go with this meal.
Most often Mujadara is served with yogurt and a simple shepard salad to go along with the fried onions.
However, you can chop and change the salad how you like.
Whatever salad you choose, I recommend a citrus vinaigrette to really compliment the flavors in the Mujadara.
Vegetables are a great pairing for this dish as well.
You really have your choice of vegetable on the side if you feel like including one.
Tips for Making
- Don’t overcook the lentils before adding them to the rice, and don’t undercook either!
- Soak your rice for twenty minutes or so before you cook it.
- Cook your onions until just golden brown and remove from the oil immediately in order not to overcook.
- Allow the rice to become dry and fluffy, you don’t want it to be heavy and on the wet side.
- Put lentils in a small pot and cover with water, boil until lentils are soft but still a little al dente. Add more water while cooking if necessary. Drain.
- While lentils are cooking, slice onions in half moon shapes.
- In another pot mix cooked lentils with the rice, salt, seven spices, and cumin.
- Add the water and bring to the boil. Once it boils turn down to a simmer and cook with the cover a quarter off the pot, until all the water is gone and rice is cooked through.
- Top the rice and lentils with the crunchy onions. Also top with yogurt, and Palestinian salad.