Mujaddara is a delicious Middle-Eastern lentil and rice dish seasoned with spices and caramelized onions.
This recipe is easy to make, has a warm aromatic taste, and is wholesome and nourishing. It's excellent for dinner or to make ahead as it keeps well for days.
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Mujaddara is a favorite lentil and rice dish for many reasons. First, it's easy to make with boiled lentils and rice and keeps well in the fridge for days.
Second, it packs an incredible amount of flavor thanks to the spices, the caramelized onions, and the yogurt on top.
Third, it's a healthy, wholesome, and nourishing recipe, rich in macro and micronutrients, including plenty of plant protein, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates.
With this mujadara recipe, we wanted to stay close to the original Middle-Eastern recipe while making it everyday friendly, colorful, and packed with warm spices.
To do that, we simplified the cooking process and seasoned the dish with a simple but tasty spice mix inspired by the Lebanese seven-spice mix (Bahārāt).
The resulting recipe is not the original you would find on the streets of Baghdad, but it's a delicious interpretation your family will love.
We hope you get inspired by this recipe; it's one of our favorites! Please take it as a guide and add or remove spices based on your tastes and preferences. Enjoy!
We cook the rice and lentils in the same pot with lightly salted boiling water (you can also add two bay leaves for flavor).
We use white basmati rice for Mujaddara. It cooks fast, and it tastes delicious with lentils. You can substitute any other type of white rice for basmati.
If you use whole grain rice, you'll need to adjust cooking time as it takes at least twice as much time to cook as white rice.
You can make mujaddara with dry, uncooked, green, or brown lentils.
It's best to avoid canned lentils for this recipe because they turn out too mushy and won't keep their shape well. If you use canned lentils, add them to the rice without cooking them.
Also, avoid split red lentils as they won't keep their shape either.
Caramelized onions are a key ingredient in this recipe. We make them with white onions, olive oil, sugar, salt, water, and vinegar.
You'll need to slow-cook the onion for about 45 minutes to get it soft and tasty, so we recommend starting with them. You can also make them the day before and store them in the fridge.
Olive oil, garlic, and spring onions, gently fried together and then mixed with lentils and rice, add a ton of flavor to the dish.
Our go-to mujaddara 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.
Get some fresh flat-leaf parsley and lemon wedges to squeeze on top.
Optionally, try adding a dollop of greek yogurt (or any unsweetened dairy-free yogurt) mixed with coriander and paprika.
The fresh and tangy flavors of lemon, parsley, and yogurt perfectly balance the warm and spicy taste of mujaddara.
Step 1: make caramelized onions
Slice the onions (⅕ inch or ½ cm) and sauté them with olive oil, salt, and sugar in a large skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add water, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 40 minutes until the water is completely gone and the sliced onions are soft, shiny, and sticky. Stir occasionally.
Finally, set the stove to medium-high heat and add the vinegar. Stir for 3 minutes scraping the brown bits from the pan. Then, turn the heat off and set it aside.
Tip: while the onions cook, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: cook lentils and rice
Cook lentils and rice in the same pot with plenty of lightly salted boiling water.
To do that, check the cooking times on the package for lentils and rice.
For example, our green lentils cook in 25 minutes. Our basmati rice cooks in 15 minutes.
In our case, we boil the lentils for 10 minutes, then add the rice and cook them for another 15 minutes.
Note: Adjust cooking time based on the instructions on the package of your lentil and rice. Rinse both the lentils and the rice separately before cooking them.
Drain them in a colander and set them aside.
Tip: Make sure they are both al-dente, with a good bite, and not overcooked. Generally, rice cooks faster than lentils. However, if you use wholegrain rice, they might take the same time; in some cases, rice might take even longer than lentils.
Step 3: mix with spices
In a large skillet, gently fry the white and light-green parts of finely chopped scallions with olive oil for 2 minutes.
Add grated garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, and turmeric. Stir and toast the spices for 1 minute.
Toss in lentils and rice, ⅔ of the caramelized onions, ⅔ of the chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper.
Stir and fry in the pan for a couple of minutes until everything is warm and well combined.
Transfer onto a serving platter and top with the remaining caramelized onions, the green top of the scallions, and chopped parsley.
We recommend serving this lentil mujaddara topped with caramelized onions, fresh scallions (the green part), chopped parsley or mint, greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt) mixed with ground coriander and paprika, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Then if you want to add extra greens to Mujaddara, serve it with one of these refreshing vegetable side dishes:
- Shirazi salad with diced tomato, cucumber, and fresh mint.
- Braised red cabbage with apple and cinnamon
- Roasted cauliflower florets with garlic and 25 minutes of baking.
- Tomato salad with fresh herbs, juicy flavor, and vibrant colors.
- Easy cauliflower rice with squeezed lemon, a light complementary dish to rice.
Or serve with a variety of dips and sauces to add on top, and let your guests choose their favorite:
- Cucumber yogurt sauce: a refreshing 5-minute sauce perfect with rice, salads, and Middle-Eastern mains.
- Eggplant dip with tahini sauce and charred roasted eggplant.
- Zaalouk: warm eggplant and tomato salad but in a dip-worthy manner.
- Tahini sauce with just five ingredients and 5 minutes of prepping time.
- Creamy-dreamy chickpea hummus.
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.
Vary the spice mix
The three traditional mujaddara spices are cinnamon, coriander, and cumin; however, as you can see from our recipe, feel free to customize the dish following your preferences. For us, turmeric is a great addition.
If there's a spice you don't like, keep it out. If there's one you like a lot, double it!
Refrigerator: store leftover mujaddara in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes or in a pan with a dash of water or olive oil.
Freezer: let cool down completely, transfer into a freezer-friendly container, and freeze for up to 3 months. Then, thaw and reheat in the microwave.
Mujaddara is an Arabic word that can be translated in English as "pockmarked" because the lentils mixed with rice vaguely look like pockmarks.
Mujadara is pronounced /muˈdʒɑdəɹə/.
Lentils and rice are popular 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.
More lentil recipes
Love lentils? Here are some more delicious and wholesome lentil recipes!
- Easy red lentil soup
- Creamy lentil hummus with tahini
- Warm and cozy lentil curry
- Earthy lentil bolognese to serve with pasta
- Italian-inspired lentil pasta dish (Italian comfort food)
- Roasted cauliflower and lentil salad with delicious cumin dressing
- Mediterranean-inspired lentil sweet potato salad
- Earthy lentil soup with leafy greens
For many more dinner ideas, check out our mains category page.
- 6 medium onions white or yellow
- 1½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ tablespoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cup water
- 1½ tablespoon vinegar apple cider, or balsamic
- 2 cups lentils green or brown, uncooked
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 scallions
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon coriander ground
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds or ground
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional - not traditional)
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
- 4 wedges lemon
- 1 cup greek yogurt mixed with ¼ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt (or dairy-free yogurt)
STEP 1: MAKE CARAMELIZED ONIONS
- Slice the onions (⅕ inch or ½ cm) and sauté them with olive oil, salt, and sugar in a large skillet on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add water, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 40 minutes until the water is gone and the onions are soft, shiny, and sticky. Stir occasionally.Set the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar. Stir for 3 minutes scraping the brown bits from the pan. Turn the heat off and set aside.Tip: while the onions cook, proceed to the next step.
STEP 2: COOK LENTILS AND RICE
- Cook lentils and rice in the same pot with plenty of lightly salted boiling water.To do that, check the cooking times on the package for lentils and rice.For example, our green lentils cook in 25 minutes. Our basmati rice cooks in 15 minutes.In our case, we boil the lentils for 10 minutes, then add the rice and cook them for another 15 minutes. Rinse lentils and rice before boiling them.
- Drain them in a colander and set them aside.
STEP 3: MIX WITH SPICES
- In a large skillet, gently fry the white and light-green parts of finely chopped scallions with olive oil for 2 minutes.
- Add grated garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, coriander,cinnamon, paprika, and turmeric. Stir and toast the spices for 1 minute.
- Toss in lentils and rice, ⅔ of the caramelized onions, ⅔ of the chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper.Stir and fry in the pan for a couple of minutes until everything is warm and well combined.
- Transfer onto a serving platter and top with the remaining caramelized onions, the green top of the scallions, and remaining chopped parsley.
- We recommend serving this lentil mujaddara with greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt) mixed with ground coriander and paprika, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
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