Middle Eastern Lentils & Rice w/ Crispy Onions

Middle Eastern Lentils & Rice W/ Crispy Onions

Details

This traditional Lebanese dish, also known as Mujadara, is made with lentils, rice and crispy golden onions. It's easy to make and full of flavor and nutrition.
  • Serves: 4 to 6
  • Active Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Views: 14,730
  • Success: 96%

Steps

Step 1: Step 1: Preparing Your Mise en Place

• 1 onion
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 1/2 cups brown lentils
• 1 cup long grain brown rice*
• 4 cups water**
• 2 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp ground allspice

Method

To prepare your mise en place, finely dice the onion and mince the garlic.

Next, wash and drain the lentils and rice (separately). *Note: Long grain white rice is generally used instead of brown rice. However, the brown rice adds a nice flavor and makes the dish more nutritious.

Lastly, gather the water (or stock) and all of the spices and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

**Note: Depending on the rice used, you may need more or less water. This recipe is based on using brown rice, but even then, many brands of brown rice will vary in the amount of liquid needed to cook that particular rice.

Step 2: Step 2: Cooking the Dish

• 2 tbsp coconut oil or grapeseed oil
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

To cook the dish, heat a large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and then add the oil. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften and brown slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes.

At that point, turn the heat to low and add the garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds. Then add the spices and cook for another 30 seconds, or so. Next, add the brown rice and stir to combine. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Then add the lentils, stir and return to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover and let cook for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, or until the rice and lentils are cooked through. If after after 30 minutes the rice and lentils are not quite cooked, but there is no liquid left, add a bit more liquid and continue to cook.

(*Note: if using white rice, add the lentils to the onions first and let cook for approximately 15 minutes before adding the rice, as you want them both to be done at the same time). The exact time, will depend on the type of rice used.

Meanwhile, you can go ahead and prepare the onions from Step 3.

Once all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are tender, turn of the heat and taste for seasoning. Season well with salt and pepper. Because salt was not added at the beginning (so the lentils cook properly), you will need to use more salt than just a final seasoning.

At this point, let rest for approximately 10 minutes, or so.

Step 3: Step 3: Preparing the Onions

• 5 onions
• 2 tbsp coconut oil or grapeseed oil

Method

To prepare the onions, cut in half and then cut each half in half width-wise — this just make for smaller slices. Next, slice the onions and then separate the slices with your hands, to break up the pieces. Place the onions onto a large baking tray that has been lined with parchment or aluminum foil.

If using coconut oil to coat the onions, you can either first melt the oil and pour over the onions, or you can simply smear the oil in your hands and toss the onions right on the tray. The heat from your hands will melt the oil enough so that it nicely coats the onions.

Place the onions into the hot oven and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing often. If necessary, continue to cook and toss until the onions are nice and golden with some blackened crispy bits. Note: the closer the onions get to be done, the more frequently they will need tossed.

Alternatively, the onions can be sautéed on the stovetop; however, this is not generally considered to be the “traditional” way of cooking them.

Step 4: Making the Lemon Vinaigrette (Optional)

• 1 sm clove garlic
• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 2 to 3 lemons)
• 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• sea salt, to taste
• 2 tbsp fresh mint*

Method

*Note: This vinaigrette makes 1 cup. You will likely won’t use all of it—any leftovers will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

To make the vinaigrette, first crush the garlic with a bit of salt. Add this to a small jar (or bowl). Next chop the mint and add to the jar.

*Note: Dried mint can be used instead of fresh mint. If using dried, use half the amount, or to taste.

Next, squeeze the lemons and add to the juice, along with the olive oil, to the jar. Add a pinch of salt and shake to combine.

Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, if needed.

Step 5: Step 4: Serving the Dish

• 1/2 to 1 cup fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, parsley)
• sea salt, to taste
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

To finish the dish, chop the herbs. You can add as much of each herb as you like, but equal parts cilantro, Italian parsley and mint is a nice combination. If you don’t have all three types, this dish is also nice with just one type of herb.

Lastly, add half of the onions to the lentil mixture and fold to combine.

To serve the dish, drizzle with some of the lemon-mint vinaigrette and top with a handful of the crispy onions. Note that this dish can be served on individual plates or family-style.

Additional Topping Ideas: While it may not be “traditional”, this dish is also very nice served with additional toppings such as diced tomatoes and avocados.

24 Comments

  • Barb H
    Barb H
    By the time my rice was cooked my lentils were mush...so the whole thing turned out kind of gloppy. The brown basmati took about twice as long as suggested. I did have to substitute green lentils for brown, not sure how much of a difference that had. Otherwise it tasted great.
  • Ralph S
    Ralph S
    It is great seeing this dish. We Lebanese eat this a lot during lent (no meat). We top it with our Lebanese salad which is a simple garlic, lemon, oil and dried mint vinaigrette. Make sure you have plenty of dressing!
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    That sounds like a delicious addition Ralph. I am making this tonight for dinner, so your timing if perfect. Is this recipe for lemon dressing like what you are referring to? If not, how do you make yours? Cheers!
  • Ralph S
    Ralph S
    Yes, that's it. Enjoy!
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Just to be sure, I cooked this recipe last night for dinner and again today for lunch. Each time I used a different brown rice — the results were different both times. The first time, the lentils and rice cooked at the same rate, but the second time — with the different brown rice — the lentils were also a bit mushy for me. Therefore, I have altered the recipe. Just to be on the safe side, I have said to start the brown rice first and then add the lentils. There are still instructions for white rice as well. As my experiment showed, the timing will still depend on the rice (and even on the lentils for that matter, whether they are older etc). Hope that helps Barbara and thanks for pointing that out. Sorry for any mushy lentils :-) And Ralph, as soon as I take some pictures of the lemon dressing, I will be adding it the recipe as everyone said it was REALLY good with the dish. Cheers!
  • Ralph S
    Ralph S
    I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have never tried the dish with brown rice, but I can imagine that the longer cooking time would alter the consistency of the lentil. The dressing is very versatile. I add feta and Kalamata olives sometimes, thinly shred cabbage to make a slaw, and of course, to marinate.
  • Harry L
    Harry L
    I loved the flavors of the dish but cooking the rice and lentils together just did not seem to work well. I see many variations for this base. I am thinking about cooking the rice and the lentils separately, and then combine them with what ever. Think Summer gatherings.
  • Jim R
    Jim R
    I find this recipe confusing to say the least, although it is an easy one to make. I am making it at this time with white rice, not brown rice. Two suggestions: 1. If we are to mise en place, why doesn't Rouxbe include ALL the ingredients. Example for this recipe: 1 onion Diced, 5 Onion Thinly sliced, 2 Tbs coconut oil, etc..... put everything under mise en place. 2. Water for this recipe is? It varies for Brown rice and Long Grain white rice. The lentils will absorb a lot of liquid also. 3. Using the white rice recipe, do I really want to stir fry the lentils with the onions do you? To do this meal I had to re-write the recipe as follows: Bake Sliced onions in oven, fry diced onions in oil until translucent and some golden brown, add spices for 30 sec, add garlic for 30 sec, add lentils AND 2 cups water, simmer 15 min, add white rice, cover and cook an additional 20 minutes, check if done - add water as needed to cook more (it just got done cooking and the lentils are not too tender and not too firm. Kind of in between. I think this recipe could be made easier to follow.
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    The reason the first step is the way it is, is because this is the mise en place for the main dish—you have to do all of that before you can start; however, the third step is separate is because this can be done while the main dish is cooking. And the sooner you get the main dish on, the sooner you can eat :-) As for "stir fry the lentils with the onions", I am not sure what you mean exactly. The recipe states this "(*Note: if using white rice, add the lentils to the onions first and let cook for approximately 15 minutes before adding the rice, as you want them both to be done at the same time). The exact time, will depend on the type of rice used." So basically, you are just to cook the lentils a bit before adding the rice. As for the other little details, everyone does tend to tweak recipes to suit their needs and their own personal ways that they work. Does that make sense? With that said, I will keep an eye out for things the next time I make this dish—which I do often. Hope that helps Jim. Cheers!
  • Jim R
    Jim R
    What I meant by "stir fry the onions with the lentils?" meant "do I add water at that point?" There is no mention of adding water at that point. I just assumed that water should have been added so I guessed at using 2 cups of water which came out just right for my wife, although I would prefer my lentils a little more done, so I will go with 2 1/4 cups water next time. I had no idea of how much water the Lentils would soak up so that I could have the proper amount of water to cook the rice in after the lentils cooked the 15 minutes. That point frustrated me. I guess I just found it very hard to follow this recipe by using white rice. I do not expect the same problem using the Brown rice as the recipe seems to be geared to using the brown rice. I have not yet tried it using Brown Rice, but plan to as it came out very well tonight. I made the carrot salad (Task 116) and the Basic Vinaigrette (Task 115), and cooked some chicken breast on the grill. You were correct in saying the Lemon Juice with olive oil would go well on the rice. I also finished my chicken with a drizzle of it. My wife absolutely loved everything! Now I am off to start baking the 5 loaves of Ciabatta Bread that I also made today. Try using white rice and follow the recipe next time you make this and see if you have problems following the recipe like I did or any other student. Even my wife had problems following it, therefore the only reason I said something. If it were just me, I would have accepted my ignorance. Keep up the great work.
  • Merna B
    Merna B
    It's was the first time I've cooked long grain brown rice, I had trouble timing the rice and lentils together. The dish was a bit gummy but really good especially with the lemon and garlic dressing. This morning I tried again, I used converted rice because I know exactly how much water and how long to cook it. I made other changes as well, curry paste instead of the Middle Eastern spices, used the rice steamer, cooking onions, garlic and lentils pilaf style and adding rice, dried fruit, coriander and cumin later. It's really really good with peach chutney on top. I'll go back to the original recipe next, using brown rice and the steamer. I think it would also be very good with south western or Mexican flavours.
  • Merna B
    Merna B
    I forgot to say that the onions are addictive and really wonderful. I'm going to make a big batch to add to everything from burgers to sandwiches as well as this dish.
  • Jason S
    Jason S
    Is there a particular reason to use grapeseed or coconut oil rather than olive oil in this recipe?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Depending on the olive oil, it is often used more as a finishing oil, rather then an oil to cook with. That being said, you could still use olive oil. Cheers!
  • Jason S
    Jason S
    Thanks for such a quick reply, Dawn. I think my confusion stems from olive oil being used to sautee/sweat onions for sauces and soups. I just assumed olive oil was preferred for lower temperature cooking due to its flavor. Is it more of a preferentially thing at low temperatures?
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    No worries Jason — perhaps this bit of information on olive oils will help to shed some light on cooking and choosing olive oil. Cheers!
  • Graham M
    Graham M
    I made this today, it is fabulous! I found the instructions to be straight forward and the individual steps kept me busy but not rushed. My wife loved it as well. G
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Yeah, that's so great to hear Graham — and thanks for the feedback. Hopefully there were some leftovers for you :) Cheers! Dawn
  • Sarah C
    Sarah C
    I was a bit disappointed at first because my onions took WAY longer than called for. That being said, I'm in Korea and use a large toaster oven so that could be it. In the end, it was DELICIOUS and tasted exactly like what I ate all the time in Canada at my favourite Lebanese take out. I'll definitely be making this regularly. The vinaigrette really makes the dish and I never would have thought to do this.
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    So glad to hear that you liked the dish Sarah. Seeing the dish again has inspired me to make it for dinner tonight (so thanks for the reminder). Great thing about this dish as well is that even the leftovers are good. Cheers Dawn.
  • Jonathan O
    Jonathan O
    Hello, I was thinking of substituting the brown rice for freekeh or Bulgur. How should I go about doing so? Thanks
  • Dawn T Rouxbe Staff
    Dawn T
    Depending on the grain used, you might just need to cook the dish for less time, or at least cook the grain part for less time and/or at the same time as the lentils. Alternatively the grains and the lentils can be cooked separately and combined at the end. Hope that helps. Cheers, Dawn
  • Nicole B
    Nicole B
    Will this dish reheat well? Wondering if I could make in advance for my husband and I to eat. Thanks!
  • Kirk B Rouxbe Staff
    Kirk B
    Hi Nicole - Thanks for your question. Indeed you can reheat this dish - on low heat or even in a double-boiler (one pot below directly on the heat and the ingredients in a second pot/heating via steam vs. direct heat). I would suggest re-doing the onions however as they will gain moisture while in the fridge and lose their crunchy consistency. I hope this helps! Thanks for learning with Rouxbe! Chef Kirk

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