March 13, 2011

A Family Recipe: Rice and Lentils with Caramelized Onions, "Mujedrah"

This simple, delicious dish is a staple in Syrian-Jewish cooking and when I was growing up it was a regular part of our non-meat meals. I have to admit that I like it a lot more now than when I was a child. It's a comforting meal on a winter night, and refreshing in summer when served with yogurt with cucumbers and mint. And it's very healthy too: the combination of rice and lentils is an excellent source of protein. Lots of caramelized onions add a wonderful flavor. My mother makes Mujedrah with white rice, but I like to use brown; when using white rice you have to cook the lentils alone for 25 minutes and then add the rice.

4 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
1 teas salt
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 medium onions, 1 lb, sliced

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the rice and lentils and salt. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the oil, butter and onions in a wide skillet and cook on low heat, stirring often, until the onions have cooked down into a rich golden brown.
  3. When the rice and lentils are done, mix most of the onions into them, reserving some for a garnish.
  4. Serve with yogurt.
These amounts are all flexible; you may want to have more rice in proportion, or more onions. My mother adds some butter to the finished dish, but I don't find it necessary because I fry the onions in some butter. When eating Mujedrah I like to thoroughly blend the yogurt into it, which adds a tangy flavor to the sweetness of the onions and the nuttiness of the brown rice and lentils.


  1. I love mujadarra, but have never tried to make it. That will change now--thanks for your post!

  2. printing this out. will try to get my husband the cook to make it for me. :)

  3. Mouth watering...have printed out the recipe and will make it soon!

  4. I'm glad you all like the looks of this recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

  5. Altoon, this looks like a delicious dish for the turning of winter into spring. Rich with the flavor of onions, (that great spring crop) it hints of the vegetables yet to come. What do you think about cooking the rice and lentils in a rice cooker? I might give that a try...

  6. Hannah, I've never used a rice cooker, but I assume that it would work for lentils if it works for rice. Good luck!

  7. I had lentil soup today. Not like you fixed it. My Mom was a farmers daughter. We didn't use rice it seems. Yummy all the same. I will try it your way next time. It sounds yummy.

  8. Thank you for sharing this recipe- One of my first thoughts was it would be a great meal when out cruising on our sailboat for extended periods of time.

  9. Lisa, this is not a soup, though I also love lentil soup.
    and Sue, this would be a good recipe because all the ingredients keep well, except for butter and yogurt.

  10. I've really been enjoying your posts, Altoon--from philosophy to food to dust plagues on wet paintings, and back again! My Syrian (Christian) grandmother made a variation of this delicious recipe, using coarse bulgur wheat instead of rice. Lentils and carmelized onions were as here. I haven't made it in years, and will soon, since you reminded me. Thank you!

  11. You're very welcome, Susan. I checked my Claudia Roden Middle Eastern cookbook and she has a lentil and bulgar recipe that she says is a Lenten specialty of the Orthodox Christian communities of Syria and Lebanon. It has some tomato paste in it.

  12. ONce I had majaderrah in my head , I had to make it - it came out great. the only change I made was adding about 2 teaspoons of cumin to the cooking water. It kicked it up a bit. Thanks.

  13. The cumin sounds like a wonderful addition, Heddy. I think I'll try it next time.