Monday, January 28, 2013

Lentil Rice Pilaf, or Mujadara

Lentil rice pilaf, or mujjadara, is poor man's food in Palestine.  Affordable or otherwise, I find it delicious and homey.   A complete protein, and nutrient-dense with its powerful combinations of bone broth, rice, and lentils, it is a satisfying and nourishing meal all by itself,  served with a scoop of yogurt and a chopped cucumber and tomato salad.   A meatless dish, Arab Christians often eat this during Lent. 

My uncle, who grew up in poverty, ate this meal so often as a child that as an adult he banished it from his home.  But I love this meal so much that I once wept when my mother made it after I had dental surgery.   Like Esau, I would give anything for a bowl of lentils. 


Lentils are heavy-hitters when it comes to foods that build our bodies.  Rich in protein, essential amino acids, fiber, folate, and vitamin B, lentils have the potential to nourish, as long as they are soaked to remove their anti-nutrients   Though my Palestinian mother or grandmother would never have explained the mechanism of soaking, they always soaked grains and legumes before cooking them.  Now we understand this ancient practice, and continue it today in our home. 


3 large white onions, sliced thinly
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups rice, basmati preferred
1 1/2 cups lentils, French preferred
3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferable
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1.  The night before, pick through your lentils and then place them in a bowl of water overnight.  Soak your rice overnight.

2.  Sautee onions in olive oil over medium low heat until fragrant and deeply caramelized and slightly crispy.  This will take a while, about forty-five minutes.  Stir occasionally, and then spread the onions in a single layer in the pan, returning every five minutes to re-stir. Towards the end, add a little more olive oil and fry your onions until they are crispy.  Your patience will be rewarded!  The onions will taste like candy when you are finished. 

3.  Reserve half of the onions.  Puree the other half in a food processor or blender.  Add a few tablespoons of water to the puree, if necessary.

4.  Rinse rice well, until the water runs clear.  Drain.  Rinse and drain lentils. 

5.  Bring stock to a simmer, and add rice, lentils and pureed onions.  Add salt and pepper. 

6.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy.  Leave in the pot, tightly covered for at least another 15 minutes. 

Serve with plain yogurt and a little bread and salad. 

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  1. I just had this at a Red Tent themed baby shower the other day and I LOVED it. I was going to ask someone for the recipe, but never got around to it. And here it is! I think this will become a staple for our family. Thanks so much!

  2. I'm so glad that you found it! You are very welcome. I loved the Red Tent and am very intrigued by the idea of a Red Tent themed baby shower. That must have been amazing!

  3. So pleased to have discovered your wonderful blog- and I can't wait to try this recipe!

  4. This has become a nearly weekly staple at our house because of how cheap, easy, and delicious it is. My 2-year-old asks: "more rice please!"

    1. This makes me so happy! My little ones also love this meal, especially with the yogurt. So simple and nourishing. Sahtain!

  5. This is so exciting to find! I just pinned it to my pinterest recipes and plan to make it this week.
    My dear Palestinian friend made it for me the other night and I loved it so very much...the history and the flavor of it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think this is one of the best traditional Palestinians dishes - so delicious, so nourishing, so easy. I'm so glad you like it and happy to share it!

  6. Jessica, I just found your site, and I love it so much already. I am Egyptian, but I grew up in the US and Canada. My Arabic cooking is pretty limited, but my grandmother is known in the extended family as the best cook by far! I would like to add some of your recipes to my list that she has given me :) So, with this recipe can I use Fereek instead of the jasmine rice??

    1. Welcome! I am sure that you grandmother is an amazing cook and I hope that you have an opportunity to work with her in the kitchen. I am just about to post a recipe that my grandmother taught me. You can use freekeh - that is what we call roasted green wheat - instead of rice. I would recommend using a cracked variety because that will cook in about 15 minutes, the same amount of time as rice. If you use whole freekeh, it will take about 35 minutes, and your lentils will be overcooked.


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!