Mujadara is a Middle Eastern side dish or can be a meal with salad or meat. A combination of amazing flavors coming from the stock, olive oil, and caramelized onion. I'm sharing a vegan and gluten-free Mujadara recipe, but you can use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock; the taste will amaze you. Perfectly seasoned and fluffy rice garnished with crispy onion slices adds a wonderful texture to this dish! Watch the video for the tutorial.
What is Mujadara?
Mujadara is a Lebanese side dish, and it is cooked slightly differently in different Middle Eastern countries. In some recipes, you will find the addition of cumin; in another recipe, it is cinnamon. Mujadara is a poor man's food or a poor man's lunch. You can find it written on the internet as mujaddara, mejadara, and mojadara!
You will spend a minimum amount of money imagined making this dish compared to the mind-blowing delicious flavor. Mujadara consists of rice, lentils, oil, salt, onion, and stock.
In the recipe card below, I explain how to cook this dish on high pressure using a pressure cooker and an instant pot.
6 Ingredients to Make Mujadara
This vegan side dish is quick to prepare; the only lengthy process is caramelizing the onion, which can take up to 8 minutes. After caramelizing the onion, all you need is 20 minutes to cook the rest of the ingredients and serve the dinner in a short time. Mujadara is perfect for those who live in dorms and for camping. It is a very light dinner and full of nutrients.
To make the Mujadara you will need:
Green lentils - You will find small and large size green lentils, use the small ones since it cooks faster; otherwise, the large ones are fine. You can use brown lentils in this recipe and follow the same cooking method. I have to mention that aged lentils despite their size, take a long time to cook.
Onions - Use red or yellow onions. Although the yellow onions are sweeter, you can cut the sweetness by increasing the amount of the salt a little. You can use store-bought caramelized onion, but don't use caramelized onion paste!
Olive oil - The caramelized onions enhance the flavor, but it tastes much better when fried in olive oil. The oil can be used in cooking but shouldn't reach a smoking point. A tip to help you save some of the oil and cook safely is, adding another cooking oil like canola or sunflower oil.
Rice - Long grain basmati rice is the best for this recipe, but you can use short grain rice and brown rice. What you have to keep in mind is cooking time. Parboiled rice and brown rice take a longer time to cook.
Vegetable stock - Use your favorite vegetable stock or use vegetable bouillon instead. Low sodium stock is better, so you control the Mujadara seasoning.
Some recipes call for black pepper, coriander, and ground cumin. I feel that these spices take away the flavors from caramelized onion and broth, so I didn't add them, and not many recipes have them.
How to Cook Mujadara
In the recipe card below, you will find two ways of making Mujadara: one stovetop using a pan/pot, and the other is by using a pressure cooker or instant pot.
In short, the process of making Mujadara is:
- Caramelizing the onion. Fry the thinly sliced onion until brown.
- Wash and rinse the lentils, then soak them in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the lentils and cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes in boiling water. Drain and keep the lentils aside.
- Add water to a pot, and when it comes to a boil, add all the ingredients. Including the washed and previously soaked white rice, be it white basmati rice or short-grain rice, to the pot.
- Cover the pan and let ingredients simmer on low heat for 15 to 17 minutes.
How to serve Mujadara
Serve the mujadara with Mediterranean salads like Fattoush or tabbouleh. You can serve it with steak, baked chicken, fried fish, or you can make another popular Egyptian dish called Koshari using it. More on what to serve with it in the recipe card.
Mujadara Lentils with Rice
- 1 cup long-grain rice wash and then soak for 15 minutes. Check note #2
- ½ cup green or brown lentils wash and then soak for 15 minutes.
- 1 cube chicken bouillon or vegetable bouillon check note #3
- 2 ½ cup water
- Salt to taste
- 2 medium onions red or yellow, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil. Check note #1
COOKING IN A REGULAR PAN
- In a pan, boil 3 cups of water. Add the lentils and cook for 8 to 11 minutes. Strain the lentils and set them aside. The lentils should have a bite to them.
- In a different pan, add the olive oil, and when hot, add the sliced onion and fry until brown. If the pan is small, then fry the onion in batches, reducing the frying time. Place quarter from fried onion on paper towel to absorb the extra oil. We will use it to garnish the mujadara.
- In a medium pan, add 2 ½ cups water and let it come to a boil. Add the previously cooked lentils, salt, and the vegetable or chicken bouillon, stir for one minute. If you want to use vegetable stock or chicken stock, add 2 ½ cups of it to the pan and omit the vegetable or chicken bouillon.
- Add the rice and ¾ of the previously fried onions, let it boil for 20 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to the lowest, cover the pan properly, and let the rice cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and gently fluff the rice using a fork or thin spatula. Turn off the heat and cover the pan for 15 minutes before serving.
- When serving the mujadara, garnish with the remaining fried onion.
USING A PRESSURE COOKER
- Fry the onion just like when cooking in a regular pan, place a quarter of fried onion on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil, we will use it to garnish the mujadara.
- Add the soaked and drained rice and lentils to the pressure cooker (do not cook the lentils). Add to it 2 ¼ cup water. If you are using stock, use 2 ¼ cups instead of water and omit the bouillon in the coming step.
- Add the chicken or vegetable bouillon, salt, and ¾ of the fried onion.
- Close the pressure cooker and place it on the stove. Keep the heat on high. After the first whistle, turn off the heat and allow the pressure cooker to release the steam on its own. The steam might take up to 20 minutes to release naturally.
- Do not open the pressure cooker immediately after turning off the heat. Allow the pressure cooker to release all the steam.
- To ensure that the pressure cooker is not holding any steam, gently pull up the whistle without pulling it off the lid, do this using a spatula and not your hand!
- If you see steam coming out, give the pressure cooker more time to release the steam. Follow these steps when cooking in an instant pot.
- Serve the mujadara with Mediterranean salads like Fattoush or tabbouleh and garnish with fresh herbs like fresh parsley or coriander or serve with a quick cucumber salad made of grated cucumber (make sure to squeeze the cucumber after grating it.). Mix it with yogurt, a small number of minced garlic, and lemon juice—season with herb, like dry mint powder.
- When frying the onion in olive oil, make sure not to use high heat, or the olive oil will reach a smoking point.
- If you are using brown rice, which takes a long time in cooking, then boil the lentils for 5 minutes instead of 11 minutes.
- If you have chicken or vegetable broth, omit the bouillon and the 2 ½ cups of water from the recipe and use 2 ½ cups of stock instead.
- Pay attention when frying the onions; they can turn from caramelized to burnt quickly.