Authentic Lebanese Mujadara
Learn how to make authentic Lebanese Mujadara (lentil and rice pilaf with caramelized onions) with my step-by-step instructions for success!
Mujadara is, in a word, our Lebanese favorite. 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 makes a fantastic base for bowl-style meals or a pita wrap. Load up on flavor-makers like labneh (Lebanese thickened yogurt), pink turnip pickles, fresh mint, cucumbers, tomatoes … you name it!
What is Authentic Mujadara?
Lebanese Mujadara is a pilaf made with lentils, caramelized onions, and rice (or coarse bulgur, which has a great nutty and somewhat sweet flavor). 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 beloved dish that is comforting and delicious.
Ingredients to make 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.
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.
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.
Rice or coarse bulgur.
We have a divide in our family on this! Mom made mujadara with rice. Dad’s family, with coarse bulgur. Both are fabulous. Rice makes mujadara gluten-free. 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 making our wonderful lentil and rice pilaf:
- First, par-cook the lentils.
The little brown lentils that hold their shape are also harder than standard lentils so cook them for a few minutes before adding them 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, about 7 minutes.
- Caramelize the onions.
Do this 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 on them, stirring frequently to avoid burning.hough 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
Mujadara is delicious topped with labneh (Greek yogurt), a fried or poached egg, wrapped in pita bread or with an arugula fattoush, or green salad of any kind.
I love to serve mujadara on a platter over an arugula, avocado, and tomato salad. This is a gorgeous and colorful way to serve mujadara.
Tips for Making 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 brown lentil or red lentils. Don’t use these, as they will lose their shape and may 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 great coarse bulgur here.
How to Store Lebanese 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.
More Recipes Like This to Try
This is story about Mujadara-love, or lack thereof!
Mujadara Platter with Arugula Avocado Salad
Lentil Bulgur Soup with Mint Olive Oil
Authentic Lebanese Mujadara
- 1 cup small, whole brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, such as expeller-pressed canola, safflower, or avocado
- 4 – 6 cups diced yellow onion (1/2-inch dice)
- 1 cup long grain rice OR coarse buglur wheat (#3 grade)
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- 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.
I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Leave a Comment