Jan 10, 2023, Updated Apr 11, 2023
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Lebanese Mujadara is a traditional pilaf of lentils with rice or bulgur and caramelized onions. Learn how to make authentic mujadara with my step-by-step instructions for success! Just a few basic ingredients will get you there. Read my original story about Mmmm-mmm-mujadara here!
Mujadara is one of the most beloved Lebanese dishes. The flavor of this classic pilaf is mouthwatering, and so satisfying too. Every ingredient in mujadara has a high nutritional value: lentils are a great source of fiber, and together with rice or bulgur the combination makes a “perfect protein.”
While mujadara is found in most every Lebanese cookbook as a vegetarian specialty for seasons like Lent and Ramadan, the dish is so delicious that it’s a staple throughout the year. Here, I find myself making mujadara almost every single week! It keeps so well and is just as delicious warm from the pot the day it’s made as it is as a leftover, eaten at cold, room temperature, or rewarmed.
“Mujadara” comes from the Arabic word meaning “pockmarked,” likely a reference to the pebbly look of this dish with the round lentils and bulgur or rice. This pilaf has been on tables for more than 800 years! That is because mujadara is nutritious, satisfying, and of course, so delicious. The caramelized onions that flavor this dish do all of the work to transform lentils and rice or bulgur into an earthy, complex meal.
Table of Contents
- What is Mujadara?
- Why you’ll love my authentic Mujadara recipe.
- Ingredients to make Lebanese Mujadara
- How to make Lebanese Mujadara
- How to serve Mujadara.
- Tips for making the best Mujadara.
- How to store Mujadara.
- Substitutions and Tips.
- Frequently Asked Questions.
- More Lebanese Recipes to try:
- Lebanese Mujadara Recipe Recipe
What is Mujadara?
Lebanese Mujadara is a pilaf made with lentils, caramelized onions, and rice or bulgur. Mujadara made with bulgur (my favorite!) is Mujadara Hamra. This dish is essentially peasant food, food that developed out of need. But in the hands of the Lebanese women who throughout history have known instinctively how to make all food taste good, the ingredients were transformed into a favorite dish that is comforting and delicious.
Why you’ll love my authentic Mujadara recipe.
There is a reason this recipe is a fan favorite from my cookbook and from very early days of this web site to now! I painstakingly developed my recipe to achieve the following:
- Excellent texture: one of the pitfalls of mujadara-making is getting mushy results. Make mujadara following my recipe and your mujadara will have lentils that hold their shape.
- Beautiful deep brown color. My recipe calls for caramelizing the onions so deeply, and then deglazing the pan with water for a few minutes to get all of that color and flavor.
- So economical! Mujadara is known to be one of the most economical dish, because its ingredients of lentils, rice or bulgur, and onion are so basic.
- Easily feeds a crowd. This recipe makes enough for eight people as a main dish, or double that as a side dish. Mujadara makes a great lunch on-the-go because it is delicious at room temperature and keeps so well for several days.
Ingredients to make Lebanese Mujadara
Lentils. Not just any will do! Here we need small, hard brown lentils that will hold their shape. I like Spanish Pardena lentils for mujadara.
Neutral oil. Why neutral? The onions for mujadara are cooked at a high temperature to a very deep golden brown. Neutral oil has a high smoke point. As a result, neutral oil cooks at a higher temperature and for a longer period of time. Though we love our evoo, we use it here as a finisher. Cook the onions with a neutral oil such as expeller-pressed canola, safflower or avocado oil.
Yellow onion. LOTS of it! Those jumbo yellow onions some grocery stores carry are perfect here. Or several medium or large onions. Anywhere from 4 to 6 cups will do. Avoid sweet onion for mujadara; the flavor of yellow onion is better here.
Rice or coarse bulgur. We have a divide in our family on this! Mom made mujadara with rice. Dad’s family, mujadara without rice, using coarse bulgur. Both are fabulous. Rice makes mujadara gluten-free. Mujadara without rice, replaced with bulgur, lends extra protein and fiber. Take your pick. The recipe is the same either way.
Salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil for finishing. Try flavorful, unfiltered extra virgin olive oils from Lebanon in my shop here.
How to make Lebanese Mujadara
Here’s a step-by-step guide to make mujadara:
- First, par-cook the lentils.The little brown lentils that hold their shape are also harder than standard lentils. Cook them for a few minutes to soften them before adding to the mujadara. In a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt, bring the lentils to a boil, then simmer until the lentils are par-cooked (“partially cooked”), about 7 minutes.
- Caramelize the onions. Get ready to go dark with your onions! Cook the onions in a large, heavy sauté or sauce pan (with a lid) and cook until the onions deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Once the onions start to brown, stay close by, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Some charring will occur in order to get them all browned, which is a good thing! Sprinkle with a pinch of salt as the onions cook.
- Add the water to the onions.Add 2 cups of water to the onions, off heat to avoid splattering, and cook that for about 5 minutes. The liquid takes on the deep golden color of the onions and the onions will continue to soften.
- Add the rice or bulgur and par-cooked lentils.The rice or bulgur are added dry, but the lentils go in with their cooking liquid to the onion mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and any other spices (cumin or 7 Spice are delicious here). Be sure to taste the cooking liquid and adjust the seasonings if needed.
- Cover and cook.Reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked through, about 20 minutes. The finished texture of the rice or bulgur and lentils is somewhat al dente, with separate granules. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve and eat! Serve mujadara hot, warm, or room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil. A dollop of labneh (thickened Lebanese yogurt) is traditional here. A salad is also a perfect mujadara side dish.
How to serve Mujadara.
I love to serve mujadara on a platter over an arugula, avocado, and tomato salad (see this). This is a gorgeous and colorful way to serve mujadara.
Tips for making the best Mujadara.
Deeply caramelize the onions for the richest flavor. Some of the onions will burn a little, and that’s okay.
Most grocery stores carry a flat greenish lentils, red or yellow lentils. Don’t use these, as they will lose their shape and easily become mushy. For the best results, look for small brown lentils, such as Spanish Pardena. Find the right lentils in the shop here.
If using bulgur, use coarse bulgur, which is known as #3. Find a good coarse bulgur here.
How to store Mujadara.
After the mujadara cools, store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Lebanese Mujadara makes a delicious leftover served at room temperature or reheated.
To freeze mujadara, simply store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Substitutions and Tips.
- Make mujadara with long grain white rice, such as Mahatma brand, or converted white rice, such as Ben’s.
- When using bulgur to make mujadara without rice, be sure the bulgur is coarse. Coarse bulgur is a heftier granule, known as “#3.” Fine bulgur does not work for mujadara. Save the fine bulgur for tabbouleh and kibbeh recipes.
- Serve mujadara with a dollop of cool, thick labneh (thickened yogurt, like Greek yogurt). This pairing is classic!
- In my cookbook, my mujadara gets a little fancier topped with fried onion strings. A delicious option!
Frequently Asked Questions.
This is a keeper! Mujadara will stay fresh for at least five days in the refrigerator, in an airtight container. To reheat, simply spritz with a little water and warm in the microwave, on the stove top, or covered in the oven.
Considering that mujadara is made with protein- and fiber-packed lentils as its base, this is a very healthy legume dish. Plant-based protein, defined! Mujadara with rice is healthy because the rice is paired with the lentils. Mujadara without rice, using bulgur instead, results in even higher nutritional value. That’s because bulgur is high in protein and fiber (unlike white rice).
Mujadara is one of my favorite recipes for make-ahead meals. Make mujadara up to five days ahead of serving! Reheat mujadara on the stove with a little olive oil and water to moisten the pilaf, over low heat, stirring until warmed through. Or reheat in the microwave, with a napkin or paper towel over the top to avoid splattering.
The Arabic word mujadara means “pockmarked,” referring to the pebble-like look of the lentils and rice or bulgur.
Mujadara originates in the Middle East. Mujadara is a staple recipe in Lebanese cooking.
The first syllable is very short and barely uttered. Pronounce mujadara like this: mm-JHUD-duh-duh.
More Lebanese Recipes to try:
Lebanese Mujadara Recipe
- First, par-cook the lentils. Place the lentils in a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are par-cooked, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- In a large, heavy sauté or sauce pan (with a lid), heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, though some charring will occur in order to get them all browned. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt as the onions cook.
- Take the onions off the heat and add 2 cups of water. Place back on the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. The liquid will take on the deep golden color of the onions and the onions will continue to soften.
- Add the rice or bulgur and par-cooked lentils and their cooking liquid to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste the cooking liquid and add more salt and pepper if needed. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are cooked through, about 20 minutes. The texture of the rice or bulgur and lentils is somewhat al dente. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature drizzled with olive oil.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.