Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rice and Lentils with Caramelized Onions (Mujadarah)

Made from cheap and humble ingredients, this dish is so much more than the sum of its parts. The basmati rice smells wonderful while cooking, the caramelized onions are simply magical, and the red lentils cook down to blend with the rice. All in all this dish is the best in healthy vegan comfort food.

I was first introduced to this middle eastern dish when I saw it in Isa Chandra's Veganomicon cookbook. I tried it, loved it, and have made several different versions since then. I like to make this dish with soaked rice. I start the rice in a saucepan and add the lentils towards the end of the cooking time. In the meantime, the onions are caramelizing, and when it all comes together it is so satisfying.

Rice and Lentils with Caramelized Onions (Mujadarah)


2/3 cup brown basmati rice, soaked
1 1/3 cup water

1 cinnamon stick (or a dash of cinnamon)
pinch of cayenne
pinch of allspice
pinch of coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried parsley

2/3 cup red lentils
1 cup of boiling water

2 medium-large onions
1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper


Cover the rice with water and add a splash of lemon juice. Leave the rice to soak overnight in the fridge.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Drain and rinse the rice and put it in a saucepan. Add the 1 1/3 cups of water and all the spices (cinnamon stick, cayenne, allspice, coriander, cumin, and parsley) and give it a gentle stir. Let the rice come to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and let it do it's thing for 30 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, add the red lentils and the additional cup of boiling water to the rice. Give it a quick stir, cover and let simmer for another 20 minutes.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, prepare your onions. Cut off both ends of each onion and then slice them down the center. Place the onion cut side down on your cutting board and thinly slice the onions into half moons. Put the onions in a rectangle baking dish and toss with the olive oil to evenly coat. Bake for about 40-60 minutes, stirring every 15-20. They are done when they are golden brown, and even starting to blacken a bit on some of the ends. I find they do better when on the bottom rack of my oven, and when I start to stir them more frequently towards the end (about every 10 minutes). Babysitting these onions is worth the effort, because they totally transform and get a wonderful depth of flavor that stands out and makes the dish. When the onions are done, sprinkle 1/2 of the salt (1/2) tsp over them as well as the black pepper and stir, let the onions rest in a warm oven, until the rice and lentils are done.

When the rice is done, remove the cinnamon stick and add the other 1/2 tsp of salt. Toss gently and pour into a serving dish. Pour the onions over the rice, sprinkle with more parsley and dig in!

For 6 servings. Nutritional information from

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 185 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 1%Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 3%Iron 12%
Nutrition Grade B
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

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