What Is Mujaddara?

Angie Bates

Found in many restaurants in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, mujaddara is a Middle Eastern rice dish made with lentils. Popular with the lower class, mujaddara is an inexpensive dish that combines caramelized onions with rice and beans for a unique flavor. Depending on the region, mujaddara is also called mejadra, moujadara, or mudardara.

Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern rice dish made with lentils.
Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern rice dish made with lentils.

The basic ingredients of mujaddara are lentils, rice, and onions. Olive or vegetable oil for cooking and salt and pepper for taste are also included. Additional seasonings include those popular in the middle east, such as cumin and cardamom, as well as cinnamon. In Greek versions, fennel seeds and shallots are popular additions.

Fennel seeds are popular in Greek mujaddara.
Fennel seeds are popular in Greek mujaddara.

To make mujaddara, the onions are cut into strips or thin rings. Then, they are heated in oil with salt until they caramelize. This can take as little as ten minutes or as long as half an hour depending on the amount of heat used. The more slowly onions are caramelized, generally the better they will taste. Caramelized onions will be brown and sweeter than onions that are simply cooked, because the sugars present in the onions begin to cook, creating a thin caramel coating to the vegetable.

The lentil and rice usually simmer in water until they soak up the liquid. Generally, packaging will have cooking directions, and both rice and lentils are simply cooked according to the packaging. Though they can be cooked together, they usually have slightly different cooking times, so combining can result in overcooked lentils.

Long-grain rice, preferably basmati or jasmine, is generally used for this dish. Either brown or green lentils are the common legume included. Lentils are generally soaked prior to cooking.

Once the lentils and rice are cooked, some of the onions may be mixed in. Spices are also added during this time. The rest of the onions are included as topping for the completed dish.

In Greek versions of mujaddara, shallots are added directly after the onions are caramelized. Then the rice is cooked with the seasonings in the pan with the onions and shallots. The lentils are cooked separately and added to the rice mixture after both are complete. Lemon juice and zest is stirred in before serving. Parsley or cilantro is generally used as garnish.

Mujaddara is sometimes accompanied by a yogurt sauce. This sauce usually consists of Greek yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and mint. It also can have a variety of spices, such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and spicy paprika. To make the sauce, the ingredients are simply blended together.

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