Healthy, Main courses

Recipe: Mujadara Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice

Mujadara Middle Eastern lentils and rice

Mujadara, or lentils and rice, was always appreciated as a homey, satisfying lunch by my children. Packed with flavor, and easy to make, it was a favorite of mine as well. We often ladled the lentils over mashed potatoes, instead of mixing them into rice, as is traditional. Then we’d top the whole with a dollop of sour cream.

The secret to this dish is simple: deeply-browned caramelized onions for fullest flavor. So start the onions early, and stir them often. You’ll be happy you took the time to do things right. (And so will your family.)

Mujadara Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice

Yield: 4 servings (may be doubled or even tripled)


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½  teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Boiling water
  • (3 cups cooked rice or mashed potatoes)
  • Sour cream (for serving)


  1. Fry the chopped onion in the oil in a wide skillet, stirring often, until onion has softened. Lower heat and cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are deep brown, but not burnt. You will need to watch carefully and stir more often toward the end of the cooking time. It can take 45 minutes to an hour to caramelize the onions.
  2. Add the lentils, bay leaf, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir, mixing well.
  3. Add boiling water to just cover the lentils, then cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the lentils, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Repeat step three, leaving some liquid to serve as “gravy.” The lentils should be soft but still hold their shape. If the lentils are not yet soft, add a bit more boiling water and continue to cook the lentils until soft, checking every five minutes for doneness.
  5. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
  6. To serve: Ladle some lentils and gravy over a bowl of the cooked rice or mashed potatoes, and top with a dollop of sour cream.