Mujadarah: Vegetarian Comfort Food From the Middle East

Mujadarrah is an easy to make Middle Eastern comfort food made from rice and lentils. As I'm sure my readers have come to expect with all the recipes here at Casual Kitchen, it's both laughably cheap and laughably easy, and it offers plenty of modification opportunities--particularly with the spices, which can easily be modified to match your personal preferences.

There's just nothing better than a meal of simple, inexpensive comfort food, especially when you can make it in under 30 minutes. Enjoy!

olive oil
2 onions, sliced into rings
1 cup red lentils
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups hot vegetable broth or water, in all

1) In a large non stick skillet, add ~1 Tablespoon olive oil and the sliced onion rings and saute on medium/medium-low heat until very well browned and soft, about 10-15 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in another large non-stick skillet, heat ~2-3 Tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Add rice, lentils and spices, and stir well for 1-2 minutes until coated with oil.

3) Then, add 3 cups of the hot broth or water (reserving 1 cup for later). Raise heat until water boils, then reduce heat back to medium/medium-low and gently simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining reserved cup of water at about the 10 minute mark. Note: if the rice/lentil mixture seems to be drying out or sticking too much toward the end of the full 20 minutes, add slightly more water.

4) Top the rice/lentil mixture with browned onions and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe Notes:
1) Readers are likely to do a double-take when they read the instructions to brown the onions for 10-15 minutes. That's not a misprint! That extra cooking time helps give the onions a sweet and complex flavor, and it adds immeasurably to the taste and quality of this recipe. Note that this step doesn't actually take up any incremental time, because you can cook the onions at the same time the lentils are cooking.

2) There are lots of variations you can consider for spices, and I always like to encourage my readers to try their own ideas for modifications. Here are a few possibilities to consider:

Spicy seasoning version:
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Garden seasoning version (Inspired by The Kitchen Mouse):
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Garlic lover's special:
1 teaspoon black pepper
4-5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Readers: what additional variations or modifications would you suggest?

3) Note that most mujadarrah recipes call for regular lentils, which take an additional 20-25 minutes to cook. I use red lentils in this version for speed and convenience.

4) A few words about cost: today's recipe costs about $2.00 in total, or a preposterously cheap cost of about 50c per serving. Oddly enough, I still have readers who regularly try to convince me that eating healthy is too expensive. I just don't understand why anyone would hold such a limiting belief about food when there are so many recipes like this one out there to try!

Related Posts:
Fattoush! A Middle Eastern Salad Recipe
Shrimp in Tomato Sauce: Middle Eastern Cuisine
Quite Possibly the Easiest Lentil Soup Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere
How to Modify a Recipe: The Six Rules

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Diana said...

I learned how to make this from my Lebanese aunt who runs a super successful Lebanese restaurant in West Virginia (yes, you read that right). She also cooks chopped up onions into the rice-lentil mix and often will over cook the whole thing until it becomes sort of mushy/porridge-like. It's GREAT with pita bread.

And sometimes I add curry powder for an alternate spice. But I add curry powder to everything--like mac n cheese.

MCM Voices said...

I had red lentils and rice last night!! I like to add cumin seeds and mustard seeds (about a tablespoon of each).

Laughably cheap is a beautiful thing.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Sort of like a Middle Eastern risotto, huh? It sounds so delicious and comforting, Dan. Love that swirly rice picture too!

Diane said...

I make this fairly often and find it takes well longer than 10-15 minutes to brown the onions. Mine typically take 20-25 minutes, but worth it.

I also make kitcheree a lot, which is similar - mung dal, rice, spices, ghee.

Anonymous said...

I love Middle Eastern food! Thanks for the recipe.

Joanne said...

Have I mentioned that all I really EVER want to eat is Middle Eastern food? This looks delicious.

Daniel said...

Diana: I'm loving your spicing ideas, thanks for sharing!

MCM: thanks for the variation. And you--along with most of my other long-time readers--know how I feel about laughably cheap food. I keep seeking out as many examples as I can find for my readers.

Diva: Middle-eastern risotto is a great way to think about this dish! Although I'd argue that this recipes is easier than risotto. Thanks for your comment!

Diane: Agreed, you can spend longer on the "browning the onions" step if you like. I typically use a slightly higher heat level so that they can get thoroughly browned (even blackened) in more like 10-15 minutes. Consider it a compromise between great food and great convenience. But yes, you can spend longer browning the onions if you wish to.

Jersey Mom: Happy to oblige! If you decide to try out the recipe, let me know how it comes out.

Hi Joanne! Thanks for the feedback. Try this dish out--once you see how easy it is you'll make it regularly in your kitchen too. :)


Anonymous said...

I just made this after you posted it on a retro Sunday. And yum! I used brown rice and added a little crushed red pepper for some heat. It took longer to cook because of the brown rice, but was delicious. I'm pretty sure this will make it in to my recipe rotation. By the way, the recipe doesn't show up in your recipe index, and it totally should. Sadly, leftovers weren't quite as yummy (except for the onions - they remained as good as the first day).

Daniel said...

Jennifer, thank you for sharing your feedback. And regarding leftovers, I agree with you--this dish doesn't improve much with age, unlike many of the other recipes here at CK. I'm open to any ideas on how to improve this aspect of the recipe!