When I originally posted my mujaddara recipe 4 1/2 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised when it became one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Mujaddara is a rice and lentil pilaf and very near and dear to my heart. When I decided that once and for all I would learn how to cook at the age of 22 (!), it was the first thing I set out to make. All you need is an onion, rice, lentils, olive oil, and salt. How hard could it be? Not very, it turns out, but it took several attempts and fine tuning to get it just where I wanted. In the years since I posted the recipe, I usually don’t make it “as is” unless I’m serving it as a side dish.
On those nights when the pantry and fridge are looking scarce and I don’t know what to make, mujaddara is a reliable friend since I almost always have the ingredients handy. The base recipe remains the same, but I like to dress it up as much as possible with whatever I can scrounge up. You know those forlorn jars that live in the fridge door? That jar of red bell peppers? Sundried tomatoes? Hearts of palm? Old hot sauce? Harissa? That almost empty bag of frozen peas? The remaining bits of cashews shoved in to a corner of the cupboard? This is their time to shine, along with any other odds and ends in your fridge, freezer, and pantry that you may have forgotten about. Feel free to play around with spices, too. A little bit of coriander or pinch of cardamom work well here. It’s a truly everything but the kitchen sink kind of dish.
The recipe below includes my latest version of mujaddara deluxe as I call it, along with some ideas for other variations. While I prefer to caramelize one onion per serving when making mujaddara, I only had one here.
What’s your go-to pantry meal?
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup rice
3/4 cup lentils
salt and pepper, to taste
Dried or fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, mint
Spices: cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, sumac
Nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, walnuts
Vegetables: carrot, bell pepper, jalapeno, cucumber, zucchini, radish
Fragrant things: dash of rosewater or pomegranate molasses
Hot things: hot sauce, harissa, sambal
Canned things: artichokes, hearts of palm, beets, red peppers
Sauce: yogurt, tahini
Heal oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. When hot, add the onions. Add the onions and a few dashes of salt, stirring every few minutes, for 30 minutes. Turn the heat up a bit and continue cooking until the onions until they are a deep, golden brown, another 15-20 minutes or so. Set skillet aside.
In the meantime, prepare the lentils and rice according to their package directions. Some people prefer to cook the lentils and rice together in the same pot, but I find that this results in overcooked lentils, so I always cook them separately. About 30 seconds before the rice is ready, drop in the frozen peas. When the lentils and rice are ready, pour them into a colander to drain out the water.
Mix together the lentils and rice in a big pot. Add salt, pepper, a couple glugs of olive oil, most of the caramelized onion, parsley, pickled sweet peppers, sundried tomato, and almonds. Heat until the mujaddara is warm, add more salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in bowls and garnish with the remaining caramelized onions. Serve warm and gobble it up!