Lebanese spiced lentils and basmati rice are tossed with caramelized onions and fresh cilantro to make this flavor-packed mujadara. Delicious as a main dish or a show-stopping side!
Mujadara is an amazingly delicious rice pilaf that’s known for being made with pantry staples. And that’s why I like to keep this recipe in my back pocket for when I’m not sure what to make. I have almost all of the ingredients on hand at all times!
What You’ll Need
- Dried lentils. You can use brown or green for this recipe. I don’t recommend using red lentils.
- Olive oil. Another high-heat oil will technically work, but olive oil will give this dish the best flavor.
- Onions. You’ll need yellow onions, and LOTS of them — a pounds and a half!
- Spices. We’re using cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
- Basmati rice. I recommend sticking with the recipe for this ingredient. If you absolutely must sub another variety, you’ll need to adjust the amount of liquid and cook time — refer to your rice’s package instructions.
- Salt & pepper.
- Lemon juice.
- Fresh cilantro. Cilantro really makes the dish, unless you’re a person who hates cilantro, in which case I’d recommend subbing parsley.
How to Make Mujadara
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll past it if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!
Caramelize the Onions
- Add sliced onions and olive oil to a pot and place it over medium low heat. Give it a stir to evenly coat the onions with oil.
- Slowly cook the onions, giving them a stir every so often. Be patient and keep the heat low! Caramelizing onions takes a while, but the good news is that it’s a mostly hands-off process. In the meantime, you can cook your lentils while the onions caramelize.
- The onions are done caramelizing when they’re amber colored and super soft.
- Remove about half of the onions from the pot before proceeding with the recipe — these will be used to top your dish.
Make the Rice Pilaf
- Turn up the heat to medium, then add minced garlic and spices to the pot. Cook everything for about a minute, until it becomes very fragrant.
- Stir in the broth and rice.
- Bring the liquid to a boil.
- Lower the heat, cover the pot, and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
Assemble the Dish
- Let the pot sit for 5 minutes before uncovering it.
- Stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro.
Serve your mujadara with the caramelized onions that you reserved earlier.
Mujadara Tips & FAQ
- Is this dish gluten-free? It is!
- Shelf-life & storage: Store any leftover mujadara in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Most of the cook time is devoted to caramelizing your onions. If you want to cut down on that, cook them ahead of time (make a big batch so you can use them for multiple dishes!). Refrigerate them for 3-4 days, or freeze them.
- Can you make mujadara with red lentils? I don’t recommend it. Red lentils cook up super soft — you might end up with mujadara mush!
- Can you use a different variety of rice? Yes, but the flavor and texture of basmati is perfect in this dish. I highly recommend using it if you can. You might also need to adjust the amount of vegetable broth and cook time if you switch things up — refer to the cooking instructions for your rice.
- What if I hate cilantro? Try subbing parsley!
More Middle Eastern Recipes
- Lentil Shawarma Pitas
- Easy Baked Falafel
- Lebanese Green Bean Stew
- Eggplant Gyros
- Herbed Split Pea & Basmati Rice Soup with Caramelized Onions
- 1 cup dried brown or green lentils
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ pounds yellow onion (about 3 medium onions), thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1 ¾ cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Place the oil and onions into a medium saucepan. Toss a few times to coat the onions and place the pot over medium low heat.
- Allow the onions to cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until they’re caramelized and slightly browned.
- While the onions cook, place the lentils in medium saucepan. Cover them with water and place the pot over high heat.
- Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and allow it to simmer for until the lentils are tender (about 20 minutes for brown lentils, 40 for green).
- Remove the pot from heat and drain the lentils into a colander. Set them aside.
- When the onions have finished caramelizing, remove half of them from the pot and transfer them to a plate.
- Raise the heat beneath the onions to medium, add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, and cook 1 minute more, until very fragrant.
- Stir in the broth and rice.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed, 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the pot from heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Stir the lentils, lemon juice and cilantro into the pot with the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also add extra lemon juice if you’d like.
- Divide the mujadara onto plates and top with the reserved caramelized onions.