Mujadara is a comforting and delicious lentil and rice dish from the Middle East. It features boiled lentils and rice flavored with warm spices, caramelized onions, and fresh herbs.

You’ll love our Mujaddara recipe because it’s easy to make with simple ingredients; it’s also packed with flavor, nourishing, and satisfying.

It’s excellent for a weeknight dinner and meal prep, as leftovers keep well in the fridge for days.

lentil mujaddara in a white platter

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet. It’s low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

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What is Mujadara?

Mujadara with caramelized onions and lemon wedges

Mujadara – also spelled Mujaddaram, mudardara, mejadra, majadra and megadarra – is a lentils and rice recipe cherished in most Levantine and Middle Eastern countries.

Like other recipes from the region – think of falafel, hummus, fatteh, and spinach stew – mujadara relies on legumes such as lentils for nutritious plant protein and spices such as cumin and coriander for a beautiful fragrant flavor.

The taste and ingredient combination of mujadara will remind you of other Mediterranean recipes like Moroccan lentil soup, Harira soup, stuffed bell peppers, and stuffed tomatoes.

Its warm flavor and texture pair perfectly with cold, creamy dressings like tahini sauce, yogurt tahini sauce, and tzatziki sauce.

Mujadara served on a spread of labneh on a plate with a fork

For our mujadara version, we took inspiration from a Lebanese variant called mudardara.

The cooked lentils and rice are tossed with spices (traditionally, a Lebanese seven-spice mix called Bahārāt is used) and pan-fried onions.

And while our recipe might not be the original you would find on the streets of Beirut or Baghdad, it’s a delicious interpretation you’ll love because it’s colorful, tasty, and easy to make.

This lentil mujaddara will become one of your favorite dishes because:

  1. You can make it with simple pantry staples, and it keeps well for days.
  2. It packs incredible flavor thanks to the spices, onions, and yogurt on top.
  3. It’s healthy, wholesome, and nourishing, packed with protein, fiber, and healthy carbs.

Ingredients & Substitutions for Mujadara

Mujadara ingredients

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Rice

We use white basmati rice for Mujadara. It cooks fast, and it tastes delicious with lentils.

Substitute any other type of white or brown rice, such as long grain rice, short grain rice, or Jasmine rice, for basmati, but you’ll have to adjust the cooking time accordingly to what’s written on the rice package.

It’s easiest to cook the rice and lentils in separate pots to prevent them from overcooking. You can cook rice and lentils in the same pot if you are an expert cook.

Lentils

Make mujadara with dried black, green, or brown lentils. Dry lentils are uncooked, so you’ll need to boil them until tender; they cook in about 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the variety. Soaking is not required for lentils.

You can use canned lentils if you must. They don’t need to be cooked. Drain and rinse them before adding them to the skillet with the spices.

Avoid split red lentils as they won’t keep their shape in mujadara.

Caramelized onions

Caramelized onions are a crucial ingredient in this recipe. We make them with white onions, olive oil, sugar, salt, water, and vinegar.

You’ll need to slow-cook the onions for about 30 to 40 minutes to get them soft and tasty, so we recommend starting with them or making them a day in advance.

The timing works well because the onions can cook while the lentils and rice boil.

Substitute store-bought crispy fried onions with caramelized onions; this is not authentic, but it’s a quick alternative to add that onion flavor.

Flavor base

We make a quick flavor base with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and spring onions, gently fried together and then mixed with spices, lentils, and rice.

Substitute white onions for spring onions.

Spices

Our go-to mujadara spices are cinnamon, coriander, ground cumin or seeds, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt, and black pepper.

We also like to add turmeric (although it is not traditional) to give the dish a beautiful golden color.

Feel free to add or remove spices based on your preference, and if you have them in your pantry, substitute the Lebanese seven-spice mix (Bahārāt) for our spices.

Fresh herbs

Try to use a mix of fresh flat-leaf parsley and fresh coriander or cilantro. You can also add fresh mint.

Topping

Mujaddara is traditionally topped with caramelized onions, lemon juice, and parsley. We also add green onion tops, thinly sliced, and a pinch of paprika.

We recommend serving mujadara with plain Greek yogurt, yogurt tahini sauce, tahini sauce, or tzatziki. As a side, you can have a refreshing salad like Shirazi, fattoush, or a quick cucumber tomato salad.

Mujadara with caramelized onions and lemon wedges

How to Make Mujadara

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Note: you can cook the onions, lentils, and rice (steps 1 to 3) up to 3 days in advance and store them in airtight containers in the fridge.

1. Start with the caramelized onions

Peel and cut the onions into ⅕ inch or ½ cm slices and sauté them with olive oil, salt, and sugar in a large skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir often.

onions with sugar

Add the water, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is completely gone and the sliced onions are soft, shiny, and sticky. Stir occasionally.

Set the stove to medium-high heat and add the vinegar. Stir for 3 minutes, then turn the heat off and set the onions aside.

Tip: the onions cook mostly on their own, so you can proceed to the next steps as they simmer.

caramelized onions in a skillet after 45 minutes

2. Cook the lentils

Rinse the dried lentils and add them to a pot with plenty of lightly salted water.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 to 45 minutes or until tender with a slight bite.

Cooking time varies depending on the lentil type and is often written on the package. If not, taste them at the 15-minute mark and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Tip: For 1 cup of dried lentils, add 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt.

cooking the brown lentils in water

Drain the lentils and set them aside.

Cooked and rinsed lentils in a sift

3. Cook the rice

Rinse the basmati rice, then add it to a pot with lightly salted boiling water. For 1/2 cup of rice, you’ll need 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Boil gently on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked but with a bite.

basmati rice cooking in a pot with water

Drain the rice and set it aside.

drained basmati rice in a sift

4. Mix all ingredients

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.

Add finely chopped green onions (only the white and light-green parts; save the tops for garnishing) and sauté for 2 minutes.

fry vegetables in a big pot

Add pressed garlic, red pepper flakes, ground cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, paprika, and turmeric powder and sauté for 1 more minute.

fried spices

Toss in lentils and rice, 1/2 of the caramelized onions, chopped parsley and coriander, salt, and black pepper.

Stir and fry in the pan for a few minutes until everything is warm and well combined.

Taste and adjust for salt and spices.

lentils, rice and onions in a pot

Serving Suggestions

Mujadara is a gorgeous centerpiece meal.

Transfer it onto a serving platter and top with the remaining caramelized onions, the green top of the scallions, some chopped parsley, and a pinch of paprika.

Mujaddara lentil and rice on a platter

Give your guests lemon wedges to squeeze on before eating and a bowl with Greek-style yogurt, yogurt tahini sauce, or tahini sauce to add to their plate.

Mujadara with yogurt and a wedge of lemon

Because it’s so nutritious and fulfilling, you can serve mujaddara as a main dish, sided with a simple side salad or a spread. We recommend:

Or serve it with a variety of dips and sauces to add on top, and let your guests choose their favorite:

Tips

Prep ahead

To save time in the kitchen, you can cook the lentils, rice, and caramelized onions ahead of time (they keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge) before making mujaddara.

This way, all you have to do is mix them with the spices, and your mujaddara is ready for a delicious everyday dinner in less than 10 minutes.

Vary the spice mix

The three traditional mujadara spices are cinnamon, coriander, and cumin.

However, feel free to customize the dish based on your preferences. For us, turmeric is an excellent addition because it makes this lentils and rice dish look gorgeous.

If there’s a spice you don’t like, keep it out. If there’s one you like a lot, double it!

Questions

What does Mujaddara mean in English?

Mujaddara is an Arabic word that can be translated in English as “pockmarked” because the lentils mixed with rice vaguely look like pockmarks.

How do you pronounce Mujadara?

Mujadara is pronounced /muˈdʒɑdəɹə/.

What country does Mujadara come from?

Lentils and rice are staple foods throughout the Middle East and the Arab world.

The first written recipe for Mujaddara was found in an Iraqi cookbook called Kitab al-Tabikh and written in 1226.

However, it is believed that the recipe was already popular during the Middle Ages across Arab countries.

Storage & Make Ahead

Make Ahead: You can cook lentils, rice, and caramelized onions up to 3 days in advance and store them in an airtight container in the fridge ready to use. Also, you can make mujadara for meal prep because it keeps wonderfully in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes or in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.

Freezer: Let the mujaddara cool down completely, transfer it into a freezer-friendly container, and freeze it for up to 3 months.

Thaw & Reheat: defrost over several hours in the refrigerator. Warm it in the microwave for a few minutes or on a pan with olive oil.

More Lentil Recipes

mujaddara rice and lentils

Mujadara (Lentils and Rice)

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 36 votes
Mujadara is a comforting and delicious lentil and rice dish from the Middle East. It features boiled lentils and rice flavored with warm spices, caramelized onions, and fresh herbs.
You’ll love our Mujaddara recipe because it’s easy to make with simple ingredients; it’s also packed with flavor, nourishing, and satisfying.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Middle-Eastern

Ingredients

Caramelized Onions

  • 4 large onions white or yellow
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar apple cider, or balsamic

Other Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry lentils green or brown + 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt.
  • ½ cup basmati rice + 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt.
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 scallions finely chopped (set green tops aside for garnish)
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander ground
  • ½ teaspoon cumin ground
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder optional, not traditional
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt add more to taste
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped, optional

Serving Suggestions

Instructions 

  • Note: you can cook the onions, lentils, and rice (steps 2 to 7) up to 3 days in advance and store them in airtight containers in the fridge.

COOK THE ONIONS

  • Peel and cut 4 large onions into ⅕ inch or ½ cm slices and sauté them with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¾ teaspoon salt in a large skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes.
    onions with sugar
  • Add ¾ cup water, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is gone and the onions are soft and browned. Stir occasionally.
    Set the stove to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon vinegar and cook for 3 more minutes while stirring.
    Tip: while the onions cook, proceed to the next step.
    caramelized onions in a skillet after 45 minutes

COOK THE LENTILS

  • Rinse 1 cup dry lentils and add them to a pot with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt.
    cooking the brown lentils in water
  • Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 to 45 minutes or until tender.
    Drain and set aside.
    Cooking time varies depending on the lentil type and is often written on the package. If not, taste them at the 15-minute mark and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
    Cooked and rinsed lentils in a sift

COOK THE RICE

  • Rinse ½ cup basmati rice, then add it to a pot with 3 cups of boiling water and ½ teaspoon salt.
    basmati rice cooking in a pot with water
  • Boil gently on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked but with a bite.
    Drain and set aside.
    drained basmati rice in a sift

MIX WITH THE SPICES

  • Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add 4 scallions (finely chopped – only white and light-green part) and sauté for 2 minutes.
    Add 2 cloves garlic (pressed), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper and sauté 1 more minute or until fragrant.
    fried spices
  • Add lentils, rice, ½ of the caramelized onions, 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, and 2 tablespoons cilantro.
    Stir and cook in the pan for a few minutes until everything is warm and well combined.
    Taste and adjust for salt and spices.
    lentils, rice and onions in a pot

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • Transfer the mujadara onto a serving platter and top with the remaining caramelized onions, the green top of the scallions, more chopped parsley, and a pinch of paprika.
    Mujaddara lentil dish on a platter
  • Serve with lemon wedges, and yogurt tahini sauce or plain greek yogurt.
    Mujadara served on a spread of labneh on a plate with a fork

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of mujadara out of 4 servings without yogurt tahini sauce.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make Ahead: You can cook lentils, rice, and caramelized onions up to 3 days in advance and store them in an airtight container in the fridge ready to use. Also, you can make mujadara for meal prep because it keeps wonderfully in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes or in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
Freezer: Let the mujaddara cool down completely, transfer it into a freezer-friendly container, and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Thaw & Reheat: defrost over several hours in the refrigerator. Warm it in the microwave for a few minutes or on a pan with olive oil.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcal, Carbohydrates: 68g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 803mg, Dietary Fiber: 19g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 595IU, Vitamin B6: 1mg, Vitamin C: 20mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 67µg, Calcium: 93mg, Folate: 281µg, Iron: 5mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 89mg, Zinc: 3mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

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24 Comments

  1. This recipe is perfection! I’ve been looking for a recipe for this in this worked really well. I went heavy-handed on the spices and I would cook the rice and lentils a little bit less, especially the rice. I added extra fried onions on top and I probably put more caramelized onions than it required but it was amazing

    1. Hi Kate,

      Fried onions in combination with caramelized onions sound glorious!

      Thanks so much for your feedback, also about the rice. We will adjust the recipe accordingly.

      Kindest, Louise