Mujaddara is almost a generic term in the similar way that chowder is generic. It will bring to mind something specific for each of us encompassing a pretty broad spectrum of dishes. In this case, we are leaning toward the Lebanese version, built on lentils and rice cooked with caramelized onions and served with crispy onions on top.
Variations can be anything from bulgur wheat in place of rice, to using specific colors on the spectrum of lentils grown all over the world, to a pureed dish more like a porridge. The lentils bring a lot of protein to this vegetable-based dish, because they are second only to soy beans in the legume family for the amount of protein they deliver.
More about these little guys, of which there are quite a few varieties. They are often classified by color, usually green, brown, red, yellow, or black. In an interesting pairing, Canada and India are the two largest producers of lentils, and they are grown on every continent. This, and their nutritional value, has led to their use in an immense variety of dishes.
Since they are in the legume family, and dried for preservation, they are an item that requires moist cooking to rehydrate and tenderize the end result. This also comes with a pretty mild flavor profile, which makes them an excellent canvas to be painted with regional flavors wherever they are eaten. Similar to this specific dish, you can find hundreds of ways to serve lentils, and we will walk you through one of their more traditional dishes with this recipe.
Rice vs. Lentils
For the rice on this dish, a basic long grain white rice is fine, brown rice will get you bigger flavors and a little more ‘chew’ in the texture. Basmati or jasmine rice do very well for this type of preparation. In general sticky rice, Cal-rose or such, will not be the best choice for making this meal.
The lentils will take longer to cook and fully rehydrate. The first step will be to par cook the lentils, getting them halfway to doneness. Then the ingredients will be combined with the rice and lentils to simmer until they have become fully cooked.
Another fun variable in this dish is ‘Seven’ spice seasoning. This is the middle eastern version of China’s five spice blend. An almost standardized mélange of specific spices blended together, you will usually find these four core ground spices; allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. Then it is a merry go round of choices that will include ground dry ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, cumin, ground coriander, white pepper and more.
We’re using allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, cumin, ground coriander, and white pepper. If you want to mix up a sachet blend to have for future dishes, use a full unit of cumin, coriander, black pepper and allspice. Use ½ unit of cinnamon, cloves and white pepper. For example, use ½ cup of each of the first four and ¼ cup of the last three, you’ll end up with a batch size of 2¾ cups seasoning for future dishes. You would use two teaspoons of seven spice for this recipe to replace the seasonings as written in here,
This dish is best served with a sweet onion because of how well they tend to brown up during the cooking. Yellow onions make a great second choice and will serve just fine getting the proper flavor profiles. Red or white onions tend to be sharper and don’t meld as well with the overall flavors. Since we are cooking them quite thoroughly, the colorful aspect those onions may offer is lost.
This makes a great looking plate with a crispy slice of onion set on top of your bowl of Mujaddara. What we do is to split the 3 onions, get a couple good slices from the center of each and coarsely dice the rest. Since there is some idle time during cooking steps it is very easy to get this meal to come together for a nice presentation.
Lentils and crispy onions, Mujaddara Recipe
- Lentils and rice
- 3 Large yellow onions
- ½ Cup Olive oil, divided
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons Minced garlic
- 1 Cup Lentils
- 1 Cup Long-grain white rice
- ½ Teaspoon Ground allspice
- ½ Teaspoon Black pepper
- ½ Teaspoon Cumin
- ½ Teaspoon Ground coriander
- ¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
- ¼ Teaspoon Ground cloves
- ¼ Teaspoon White pepper
- Crispy onions
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
- Chopped parsley or fresh mint for garnish
- Remove the outer layers of the onions
- Cut in half and cut 6 slices just under ¼ inch thick, set aside
- Dice remaining onions
- In a large skillet pan with a lid, heat the ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat
- Add the diced onions and kosher salt cook until the onions are dark golden brown and well caramelized, about 30-40 minutes
- In a bowl add rice, cover with warm water and let soak
- In a saucepan add lentils with 2 cups of water
- Bring to a boil over high heat
- Reduce the heat and simmer covered until the lentils are par-boiled, approximately 10 minutes
- Remove from the heat
- Add garlic to the cooked onions and cook additional 2 minutes
- Add 2 cups water to onions and bring to a light boil
- Drain the lentils in a strainer and add to onion mixture in the skillet
- Drain the rice add to the skillet along with the allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves, cumin, ground coriander, and white pepper
- Reduce the heat to low and cover while simmering
- Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are tender, about 15 – 20 minutes
- Remove form heat and let rest for 10 minutes
- Mix flour and cornstarch together
- Sprinkle over onion slices and brush with your fingers to coat
- Flip slices and repeat
- Over medium high heat in a flat-bottomed skillet, add ¼ cup olive oil
- When oil is shimmering add onion slices to oil, do not overcrowd the pan
- After 3-4 minutes, when golden brown and crispy, flip the slices and repeat
- Remove from the oil to a wire rack until ready to serve
- Serve mujaddara in a bowl topped with a crispy onion slice and parsley or mint garnish
- Add a dollop of yogurt if desired, enjoy