recipe: mujaddara (lentils & rice)

Mujaddara is a simple Levantine rice and lentil pilaf that is considered to be a “poor man’s dish”. It is also a dish that is very near and dear to my heart. Let’s rewind back to May 2008. I was 22, just a couple weeks shy of turning 23 and I was studying in Egypt for the third time. Living on my own for about a year and a half, I still struggled with feeding myself. I loved street food, but I wanted to cook for myself. At the time, my cooking skills hadn’t really evolved since the days my parents allowed me to stay home alone without a babysitter (macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, etc). There I was, living thousands of miles away from home and I still lacked the ability to feed myself. Cooking, I realized, was a basic life skill and it was something I was sorely lacking. I refused to believe that humans made it this far so we could subsist on Hot Pockets and Cocoa Puffs. I needed to change.

 



I went to my favorite bookstore and bought a cookbook with Egyptian and Levantine recipes. After skimming through the book, I settled on something that looked easy: mujaddara. So off I went to a nearby supermarket to purchase the ingredients. When I arrived home, I cut an onion for the first time in my life. Yes, at the age of 22. My first attempt at making mujaddara was merely OK, but that didn’t deter me. I made it constantly for the rest of the summer until I had perfected my own version. Now, I usually prefer to make more complex dishes but I still love to return to the simplicity of mujdaara. What sets it apart from just being lentils and rice are the caramelized onions. They’re so tangy and sweet. They should be a part of every cook’s repertoire. Even if you don’t have much of an interest in making mujaddara, caramelize some onions and eat them with some toast and butter.

Ingredients:

4 onions, sliced (watch out for onion tears)
3/4 cup lentils
3/4 cup rice
about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Heal oil and a dash of salt in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. When hot, add the onions. Stir the onions 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. When the lentils and rice are ready, pour them into a colander to get the water out.

Mix together the lentils and rice in a big pot. Add salt, pepper, a couple glugs of olive oil, and most of the caramelized onions. 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.

Originally posted in March 2010

Share your thoughts. Don't be a weenie.
  1. Cherine says:

    One of my favorite dishes!

    Reply
  2. What happened to your blog? Are many of the recipes removed?

    You have been a real inspiration to me on cooking! I hope everything is OK.

    Reply
    • rose says:

      Everything is OK, thank you! Sadly, my blog was hacked last May and had to start over from scratch. I don’t think that this is a very good excuse, but working full-time leaves both little time for making everything from scratch and blogging about it. I do hope to get back into blogging again soon, though. I’m really happy to hear that my blog has been an inspiration for your cooking. I have a lot of old recipes saved, so please let me know if there’s something you remember and would like the recipe.

      Reply
  3. Christian says:

    This is such a great dish. There are so many different ways to make it, but your recipe was the first one I tried. You keep it simple, and have a good onion:lentils:rice balance. Thank you so much for re-posting this!

    Reply