Brown rice mujadara tastes amazing – as long as you remember to add plenty of onions and don’t skimp on the oil.
Mujadara, pronounced “moo-judd-ruh” with the emphasis on the middle syllable, is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of rice and lentils cooked together and flavored with fried onions. It’s a simple, nutritious, and surprisingly delicious dish, perfect as a meatless entree.
As a young kid growing up in Israel, I ate a lot of mujadara. But being from an Ashkenazi Jewish family of European descent, the mujadara I ate as a kid was by no means authentic. Rather, it came from a box. The box contained parboiled white rice, parboiled lentils, a small mound of crispy onions, and a small packet with a mysterious blend of spices.
Nonetheless, the boxed mujadara was delicious, at least to a child’s palate. But it lacked the most important parts of authentic mujadara – lots of fried onions, and lots of oil. The instructions, attempting to keep the dish low fat, were to add a ridiculous amount of oil – a tablespoon or two.
The thing about mujadara: it’s a very simple recipe. It’s basically the middle eastern version of the Mexican rice and beans or the Indian chana masala (when served on rice). I suppose many cultures have these dishes, based heavily on grains, meant to fill the belly with cheap starches and add legumes for affordable protein.
Despite it being such a basic and simple dish, mujadara is amazing – as long as you absolutely do not skimp on the oil and on the onions.
So what to serve it with? Mujadara can be a vegetarian meal all by itself. But you can also serve it as a side dish to any meat. It’s really good with these broiled beef kabobs. If you serve it as a side dish, this recipe makes 10-12 servings.
- 1 cup dry long-grain brown rice
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided (don't use table salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/4 cups dry lentils, rinsed and sorted
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 very large (10 oz each) onions, sliced into thin rounds
- Place the rice, water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cumin in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, stir, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the lentils. Increase the heat and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook over low heat for 30-45 more minutes, depending on your stove and the size/heaviness of your pot, until water has been absorbed and lentils are tender but not mushy. If water has been absorbed after 30 minutes (check the bottom of the pan) and lentils are still too firm, add 1/2 cup water, stir, cover and keep cooking.
- While lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until well-browned, 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- When lentils are done, remove from the heat. Fluff with a fork. Stir in half the onion/olive oil mixture. Spoon the mujadara onto plates and garnish it with the remaining onions. Make sure you use every last bit of oil - use a spatula if you need to - this very simple dish is elevated into a delicacy thanks to the fried onions and olive oil.