Mujaddara (Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice Recipe)

Mujaddara is a rustic and very humble looking vegan rice and lentil dish that is enjoyed throughout the Middle East.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Mujadarra, Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice, topped with caramelised onions, on and irregular shapped white dish
Mujaddara

Origin of Mujaddara

The roots of Mujaddara can be traced back hundreds of years, with its origin believed to be in the Levant region, encompassing modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. Mujaddara may have started life as food for the poor, given its most humble ingredients. But it has long been a dish celebrated across classes and means.

Its first mention, like many Middle Eastern recipes, was in Kitab al Tabikh, a 13th century cookbook that’s been mentioned so many times here on LinsFood. You can get a modern translation of it on Amazon, just click here.

The dish’s name is derived from the Arabic word “mujaddara,” which means “pockmarked” or “speckled.” This name aptly describes the appearance of the dish, with the lentils and rice creating a speckled effect once cooked together.

Pronunciation and Spelling

Because we like that here on LinsFood. Watch the video to hear how I prounce it.

Mu – jad – de – ra

Mu (like in put) – jad (a like in far) – duh (u as in fur) – ra (a as in far)

Mujaddara is often spelt in English with a single d. However, if you look at its Arabic spelling,  مجدّرة, there should be an emphasis on the d sound, as indicated by the squiggly shaddah sign above دّ.

Mujaddara Recipe

How to make mujadara? It’s such an easy recipe! The only somewhat time consuming part of it is the caramelisation of the onions.

I get the onions started, then get the rice and lentils going. This is what we’ll be doing:

  1. Start on the onions.
  2. Get the lentils and rice cooking with cumin and salt.
  3. Stir 3/4 of the caramelised onions in the cooked lentils and rice.
  4. Finish flavouring the mujaddara with some lemon juice and olive oil
  5. Dish up, topped with the rest of the onions.

That’s it. Easy right? How to serve mujadara is covered below, but let’s take a quick look at the ingredients first.

Mujadarra, Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice, topped with caramelised onions, with yoghurt and cucumber and tomato salad
you don’t need much, just yoghurt and salad

Ingredients

To make mujaddara, you only need some basic ingredients. The most common combination is lentils and rice. But in many parts of the Middle East, that combination can also be lentils and bulgur wheat, lentils and freekeh or even, but not commonly, lentils and couscous.

Lentils

Lentils and rice make up the body of mujaddara. The standard amount would be half of each, but this is a matter of preference. Some people prefer mujadara that’s heavy on lentils, while others prefer a rice forward recipe. Like me.

Brown or green lentils are what we use to make mujaddara. It’s usual one or the other, but as you’ll see from our recipe below, I use both. Because, why not?

Rice

You can use any regular, not overly starchy rice for this. Depending on where you live, this could be a short grain version like Egyptian rice (sold as Calrose) or the more commonly found white Basmati rice. Any long grain rice will work but not Jasmine rice which is too starchy.

Can you use brown rice to make mujaddara? Sure you can. Be sure to cook the rice for 20 minutes before adding the lentils in, as brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice.

Onions

This signature Middle Eastern dish is one I hardly ever make with visiting family from Singapore and Malaysia. For the simple reason that at least half a dozen of them have an onion phobia!

Because there is no getting away from the fact that we need a whole lot of onions for this dish.

Flavourings

Our mujadara recipe requires only minimal flavourings. I only stick to ground cumin. Sometimes I’ll add a touch of ground turmeric, which I’ve left out in the recipe below, because an authentic mujadara recipe doesn’t have too spices.

Its beauty is in its simplicity, heightened by the caramelised onions. So I suggest restraint!

Some people will also add coriander, cinnamon and perhaps even all spice. But these are all unnecessary. It might start tasting like the South Asian khichdi!

Besides that we have some lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to finish.

How to Serve Mujaddara

Middle Eastern rice dishes, unlike their Asian counterparts, are almost always served simply. Whether they’re vegan ones like today’s mujaddara or meat filled like maqluba, they wasnt the simplest of accompaniments.

Mujaddara may be rustic in appearance but it can take pride of place at any celebration table. It need not be a weekday meal, served as a side dish.

So all you need to serve Mujaddara is:

  • yoghurt, seasoned with salt, black pepper some chopped mint and a little grated cucumber (I really need to do this recipe!) Za’atar yoghurt will work well too. See recipe examples below.
  • a side salad of little chopped up vegetables, see below.
  • and if you wanted, some sort of meat dish to go with it. It could be kibbeh, kebabs, see below.

One of my favourite ways to serve Mujadara is with this salad/salsafrom Gaza, Dagga Gazawiyyah. I have so many Palestinian and no Palestinian friends who’ve never had it and are now huge fans.

persian roast lamb on a bed of rice
This Persian Roast Lamb is perfect with Mujadara, if you want a more extravagan affair

Recipe Ideas for Mujaddara

Salads and Salsa

Dagga Gazawiyyah (Hot Tomato and Dill Salsa from Gaza)
Dagga Gazawiyyah is a tangy, herby and citrusy hot tomato and dill salsa from the heart of Gaza in Palestine.
Get the Recipe!
dagga gazawiyyah, hot tomato and dill salad from gaza in a small white bowl with Khubz (flatbread), with fresh dill and swedge of lemon
Salad Shirazi | Persian Cucumber, Tomato and Red Onion Salad
Salad Shirazi is a simple Persian salad of cucumber, tomato and red onions that will shake your tastebuds alive with every tingling mouthful.
Get the Recipe!
Close up shot of Salad Shirazi, simple persian salad

Yoghurt for Mujaddara

Mast-o-Khiar Recipe (Persian Yoghurt and Cucumber Dip)
Mast-o-Khiar (Persian Yoghurt with Cucumber) is a traditional Persian recipe that is commonly eaten as an accompaniment at mealtimes.
Get the Recipe!
Persian Yoghurt with Cucumber, mast-o-khiar
Borani Laboo (Persian Yoghurt and Beetroot Dip)
Borani Laboo is a dreamy, creamy Persian recipe of beetroot in yoghurt. It can be eaten as a dip or a condiment in a meal, much like raita.
Get the Recipe!
pink yoghurt with beetroot in white bowl with blue paisley tablecloth

Meat Accompaniments

Kabab Halla Recipe (Egyptian Braised Beef and Onions)
Kabab halla recipe, a traditional Egyptian braised beef and onion dish that means kabab in a pot. Perfect with rice, pasta, bread or potatoes.
Get the Recipe!
Egyptian kabab halla in a pale blue bowl, with chopped parsley and pita bread
Persian Roast Lamb Recipe and Video
Persian Roast Lamb recipe. Super easy and extremely delicious with pomegranate molasses. Perfect for Nowruz, Easter and Christmas!
Last Updated April 2023.
Get the Recipe!

Leftover Mujadara

Any leftover mujadara can be kept in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 3 days. You can also store it in the freezer for up to a month.

To serve, just reheat either in the microwave oven or on the stove.

Don’t forget to drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice on your reheated mujaddara before serving.

If you enjoy the recipe, drop me a comment and let me know. And if you are feeling like a star, don’t forget that 5-star rating!😉

If you make this recipe, post it on Instagram and tag me @azlinbloor.

Lin xx

Mujadarra, Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice, topped with caramelised onions, on and irregular shapped white dish

Mujadarra (Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice Recipe)

Mujaddara is a rustic and very humble looking vegan rice and lentil dish that is enjoyed throughout the Middle East.
5 from 3 votes
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Course: Side dish/Main Course
Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Palestinian
Keyword: caramelised onions, lentils, rice
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Author: Azlin Bloor

Ingredients

Caramelised Onions

  • 2 large onions
  • 125 ml vegetable oil or any neutral oil
  • tsp salt

Lentil and Rice

  • 100 g brown lentils
  • 100 g green lentils
  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 1 tsp salt omit if using stock
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 750 ml water vegetable or chicken stock can also be used

Garnish

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
  • lemon wedges

Instructions

Let's start with the Onions

  • Peel, halve, then thinly slice the onions.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat and add the sliced onions and ⅛ tsp of salt or a generous sprinkling.
  • After 10 minutes, redeuce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 45 – 60 minutes until the onions are a a medium to dark brown colour.
    In the meantime, we'll get the lentil and rice going.

Lentils and Rice

  • Place the lentils and rice in a large saucepan, along with the water, salt and cumin.
  • Bring it to a boil on medium heat. Skim off any scum that floats to the top.
    Keep cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed and you see little steam vents on the surface (see video).
    Don't forget to keep stirring the onions.
  • Cover and cook on the lowest heat for 20 minutes.
    When done, take it off the hot hob and wait for the onions to get done.

Time to Dish Up

  • When the onions are done, reserve ¼ of them.
    Then, tip the rest onto the rice, along with all the flavoured oil in the pan.
  • Drizzle the olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice all over.
  • Using a fork, fluff up the rice and stir the onions, oil and juice through the mujaddara.
    Serve as suggested above.

Video

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4 thoughts on “Mujaddara (Middle Eastern Lentil and Rice Recipe)”

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe. I made it for dinner yesterday as I had some green lentils in the pantry. It was so good! Had it with yoghurt and salad as you suggested. Amazing! And so easy!

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