Mujaddara

$3.45 recipe / $0.58 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.36 from 82 votes
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I discovered Mujaddara probably about ten years ago at this little Lebanese lunch spot in Baton Rouge, called Serop’s Express. I didn’t know what the brown mixture was, but I ordered on a whim and I was instantly in love. The soft grain-like mixture was earthy, flavorful, and had an intoxicating blend of seasoning. I immediately googled the recipe, determined to make it myself. 

Top view of a dish of cooked Mujaddara, wooden spoon on the side

(I added chopped cilantro for garnish and to add color to the photo. Cilantro is not needed for the recipe.)

What is Mujaddara?

Mujaddara is a simple, filling, and flavorful Arabic dish made with rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. There are many ways to make it, with each region and family having their own spin, but the common thread among them all is rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. However it’s made, though, it’s usually extremely delicious, filling, and very inexpensive. So, in other words, it’s definitely a budget byte!

My Interpretation

Despite trying several times over the past ten years, I’ve never been able to replicate Serop’s magic recipe. I’ve even had friends question members of the restaurant’s family about what’s in the dish, only to get the answer “rice and lentils”. *sigh*  I’ve had mujaddara at other Lebanese restaurants, but none of them compare to what Serop’s serves up. I don’t know what kind of magic they put in there, but it’s way more delicious and intoxicating than just rice and lentils.

The version I finally settled on is as close to Serop’s as I can get. It has plenty of caramelized onions to give it a deep, rich flavor, vegetable broth to make the flavor a little more complex, and a healthy dose of aromatic spices to keep things interesting. This recipe makes a big batch of about 6 cups, but this recipe will freeze very well, so any leftovers can be saved for later.

What to Serve with Mujaddara

I’ve been eating mine plain in a bowl, but it goes great with sautéed greens, roasted vegetables, or even topped with a fried egg. It’s kind of one of those all-purpose dishes that can be eaten at almost every meal. No wonder it’s been around so long!

Try the Authentic Version

As you can see, I’ve played around with the basic mujaddara concept quite a bit here, so you may want to try an authentic recipe first. Plus, you’ll probably get to learn a lot about this dish’s rich culture and history while you’re at it. Here are some great authentic mujaddara recipes to try:

Side view of a dish of Mujaddara sitting on a grey and white stripped napkin, wooden spoon on the side

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Mujaddara

4.36 from 82 votes
Mujaddara is a simple but flavorful rice and lentil pilaf, topped with sweet caramelized onions. Serve alone or as the base of just about any meal. 
Servings 6 (1 cup each)
Prep 10 mins
Cook 1 hr 40 mins
Total 1 hr 50 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 4 yellow onions ($1.59)
  • 1 tsp cumin ($0.10)
  • 1 tsp allspice ($0.10)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves ($0.03)
  • 2.5 cups vegetable broth ($0.30)
  • 1 cup long grain white rice (or jasmine) ($0.33)
  • 1 cup brown lentils ($0.68)

Instructions 

  • Thinly slice the onions and add them to a large pot with the olive oil. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently for one hour, or until they are deeply golden brown, sticky, and caramelized. Remove half of the onions and set them aside to top the pilaf after cooking
  • Add the cumin, allspice, and cloves to the pot with the remaining onions. Sauté for about one minute to lightly toast the spices. Add the vegetable broth and stir the pot well to dissolve any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the rice and lentils to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat up to high. Allow the contents to come up to a boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes without removing the lid. Finally, remove the lid, fluff with a spoon or fork, then top with the reserved caramelized onions. Serve warm.

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Notes

If your vegetable broth is low sodium or sodium free, you'll likely need to add some salt when cooking the rice and lentils. Taste the broth before setting the pot to boil and add salt as needed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1CupCalories: 304.63kcalCarbohydrates: 54.48gProtein: 11.08gFat: 5.25gSodium: 341.73mgFiber: 5.37g
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How to Make Mujaddara – Step by Step Photos

Sliced Onions in pot on stove top

This recipe starts with caramelized onions, which lend a lot of flavor to the final pilaf. They take a long time to make, but are well worth it. Begin by thinly slicing four yellow onions and adding them to a large pot with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Cook the onions over low heat, stirring frequently for one hour. You can stir less frequently at first, but will need to keep a closer eye towards the end. I did chores around the house during the first part, remembering to walk back into the kitchen every few minutes to stir.

Caramelized Onions in pot, stirred with wooden spoon

After an hour or so, they should be deep golden brown, sticky, and caramelized. If you don’t like the stringy texture of caramelized onions, you can dice them instead. They will probably cook a little faster when diced and will blend into the pilaf a little better.

Spices added tot pot with onions

Remove half of the onions and set them aside to top the pilaf later. Add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp allspice, and 1/4 tsp ground cloves to the pot. Sauté the spices with the remaining onions for about a minute. This toasts the spices slightly, which enhances their flavor.

vegetable broth added to pot with seasoned onions

Add 2.5 cups of vegetable broth to the pot and stir to dissolve any browned bits off the bottom. All that browned onion sugar will help give a lot of flavor to the Mujaddara.

Once cup of Lentils and one cup of Rice

Add one cup of long grain white rice and one cup of brown lentils to the pot. I used jasmine rice because it’s my favorite, but you can use plain white rice, if desired. You’ll want to use brown lentils and not French or “green” lentils, because those take twice as long to cook as brown lentils. If unsure, check the packaging to see the recommended cooking time. It should be 20-30 minutes.

Cooked Mujaddara in pot on stove top

Add the rice and lentils to the pot, place a lid on top, then turn the heat up to high. Let the pot come to a full boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to low heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest with the lid in place for 10 more minutes. After the ten minute rest, you’ll have this (see photo above). 

Fluffed Mujaddara in pot on stove top

Fluff it up with a spoon or fork (looks more appetizing now, for sure). The rice and lentils should have absorbed all the broth and be soft and tender all the way through.

Top view of a dish of Mujaddara, wooden spoon on the side

Top the Mujaddara with the reserved caramelized onions and serve! YUM.

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  1. I love this recipe, but it needs at least 2 more cups of liquid and salt to taste. I’m also going to caramelize 2 more onions next time just because I love them :)

  2. Very tasty, but I needed to add ~2 cups more water as it cooked (covered). It was just starting to brown and stick to the bottom after 10 min and it was obvious that the rice and lentils needed more liquid.

  3. I remember having this at a restaurant many years ago.  It was so delish I was willing to commit to the onions.  I followed the recipie except more oil for the onions.  I used my Dutch oven and made sure it was just simmering.  It came out perfect.  Thank you.

  4. That had very little flavor and my family actually thinks it tasted like cardboard. I didn’t measure anything wrong. What could I have done wrong?

    1. It’s possible that your broth had less salt than mine and salt actually helps our tongue to distinguish flavors, so a little bit of salt can go a long way toward making something flavorful (not just salty). Another possibility is that your spices were old? Spices lose potency as they age.

  5. Should you immediately freeze what’s left over after serving (so before it’s naturally cold)? I get a bit paranoid over rice and the easy possibility for it to give you food poisoning you see! Just want to make sure I store my leftovers safely

    1. The best way to keep leftovers of rice dishes safe is to divide it into smaller portions and refrigerate right away. This helps it cool down to below 40F quickly and get out of the temperature “danger zone.” Then transfer it to the freezer once chilled. :)

  6. Yummy! Once more I did not add enough salt… seems like it’s a me problem!!! This was REALLY good with the yogurt marinated chicken and some roasted summer vegetables. Also, I did not choose a wide enough pot for my 4 onions, so caramelizing them took aaaaages. Make sure that all your onions are in a single layer to get them caramelized evenly instead of half sweated and half caramelized like mine.

  7. Mine turned out mushy :( I put the lentils in boiling water, turned it off for 30minutes first. Was I not supposed to do that with the rice?

  8. So I halved this recipe and also added 3 cloves of garlic when I added in the spices and it came out delicious!! I do agree that the recipe needs more water but I chocked it up to me experimenting with halving it and even so the lentils were only a little under done. I also added chopped Serrano pepper(don’t know if this is traditional but we’re a spice kinda family), green onion, and cilantro as garnish and it was perfect!! Absolutely going to make this a staple in our dinner rotation!

  9. I cooked this recipe exactly as written and it is delicious, my husband just requested a side dish next time of meat✌🤷‍♀️

  10. I have made this recipe many a time with no problem I plan ahead for lunch I started around 11 AM and it’s usually done by 1:30 at the latest. As we do not eat it too early of a lunch. It is tasty and the house smells amazing. It’s my dish 

  11. Hey,this recipe is also called a traditional one , in Romania( hope u heard of it :)))) never mind:), the point is that i donno why all the traditional recipies in my country at base may be really healthy ,but the people in here like to cook everything with lot s of butter and oil and ,Yuuuck :)) even if i live here i just don t like this kind of cooking, buuut thanks to u i can enojy them in a much pleasent way, and cheapter :)) thanks! 🥰

    1. I would love to make this, but the lentils I have are already cooked? Would that be okay, or should I wait until I get more dry?

      1. You can probably just fold them in at the end. Just reduce the broth to 1.5 cups and cook the rice without the lentils. :)

  12. This is NOT an easy dish to make. It requires time and hard work. So, as a Lebanese cook, first, you have to cook the lentils, take them to a boil, turn off the heat ant let them cool in the pan. Later, you will add, altogether, lentils and the liquid, to color the rice. In other pan,add 1/2 pound of sliced onions, vegetable oil and let them fried slowly, till caramelized. How much oil? About 1/2 cup of oil. Make the same with another 1/2 pound of onions in a separate pan and add some butter too. In the first pan, add the rice and the half cooked lentils and Lebanese butter or ghee or butter, as well. About 2 tbsp. Let the rice cook, let it cool down and in the serving plate, add the remaining fried onions. Butter and oil, not olive oil, is the secret of this recipe. 

    1. You can use the saute function to brown the onions in the instapot, following the directions above. When it gets to be time to add the rice/beans, do as stated (minus about 1/2c of broth) and utilize the “manual” setting and set it to pressure cook for 10 minutes.

  13. Thank you for this heads up. It didn’t even occur to me about the water to rice/lentil ratio until I read this and you are 100% correct. I am also writing this as I wait for the lentils to finish cooking because there wasn’t enough liquid in the beginning. Threw in some salt while it finished cooking too since it is on the bland side by the time you add enough water to it.

  14. This recipe needs more broth, the lentils alone take like 3 cups to cook all the way. By the time I finished I had to periodically add more broth through the whole process, and the lentils came out undercooked while the rice was very overcooked. The flavor was also pretty bland, I had to toss in cinnamon and cayenne and a lot of extra salt to make this taste like anything other than… not much.

    1. You have to cook before the lentils. Let them boil and later, lentils and it’s liquid will be added to the rice. 

      1. Is there a typo for amount of broth? Like others said I made this as written and there was nowhere near as much broth as needed. Is it supposed to be 5cups?

    2. I agree with Rowan king. This recipe needs more broth. I followed the instructions as written. The rice cooked, but not the lentals.