mujadara in large serving bowl

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 55 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
194 Calories
12g Fat
18g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 194
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 707mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 3mg 14%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 205mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Mujadara (pronounced moo-ZHUD-duh-duh) is a lentil-rice pilaf that originated in the Middle East and is made today as it has been since ancient times. The broad popularity of mujadara is no surprise, given that this fabulous dish delivers on every level: deeply savory flavor that is healthy, satisfying, and economical.

What Does Mujadara Mean in English?

Mujadara is Arabic for “pockmarked,” likely referring to the pebbled look of the finished lentil pilaf.

Whenever my mother did not have a plan for dinner for her family of seven, she opened the pantry to find her ever-ready lentils, rice, and onion to make mujadara. These simple basics are transformed by the deep caramelization of the onion, the proper cooking of lentils and rice, and flavorful earthy spices. With a quick salad, labneh, olives and pita bread, Mom put a mujadara dinner on the table in less than an hour.

Simple, Affordable Ingredients; Big Flavors

Many cultures have their essential recipes like mujadara, focusing on beans and rice, and with such good reason. These ingredients pair to offer a satisfying meal that easily feeds a happy crowd without breaking the bank. While mujadara may have its origins as a sensible peasant food, that history is also about how our forebears used their culinary ingenuity to make the ingredients they could afford taste wonderful while providing wholesome goodness in a meal for their large circles of eaters.

Recipe Tips

Many a mujadara has yielded mushy results for the cook’s efforts, this I know from firsthand experience! I have worked the mujadara-making process over, and over again, to find the pain points that take us down. I now know the simple fixes that guarantee the results we’re after: a deep golden brown pilaf with tender, yet never mushy, bites. Read on to find out how to make a perfectly fluffy, flavorful mujadara every time.

  • Here’s what to look for in your finished mujadara: the lentils and rice granules should be separate and distinct rather than mushy. The mush-factor is avoided by using small dark brown lentils, ideally Spanish Pardina, rather than flatter, standard light brown/green lentils. Don’t substitute any old lentil here–red lentils will turn to mush as well.
  • The goal in the finished mujadara pilaf is a dark brown, toasted nut color. While we start with brown lentils, the deep caramelization of the onions is the flavor- and color-maker in this dish. So get comfortable by the stove while the onions cook to a deep, dark brown! Stir nearly constantly to keep them moving and to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning. Know, though, that some of the onions will take on char, and this bit of burnt is a good thing. The onions will not be evenly browned when finished; some will be darker, some lighter, but overall the color is brown.
  • Note that the quantity of diced onion is rather flexible in this recipe. If you have a huge yellow onion or just a medium-sized, either will work. But I learned long ago from my Aunt Rita, who made perfect mujadara, that the more onion, the better. So I always look for and use the largest yellow onions available and keep one or two on hand for when I want to make mujadara on a whim. If using small yellow onions, dice up four of those.
  • While not traditional, you can reserve some of the browned onions for garnish, if desired.
  • Take care to simmer the mujadara, once brought to a boil with all of the liquids, at a very low temperature with the lid on the pot. The low cooking temperature prevents the pilaf from sticking to the bottom of the pan, which occurs when the bottom of the pilaf cooks faster than the rest of the pot if the heat is too high.

“Mujadara is a savory and satisfying Middle Eastern pilaf of lentils and rice flavored with deeply caramelized onions. Spanish Pardina lentils are a perfect choice here since they will hold their shape throughout cooking. Ground cumin or, even better, the seven spice blend Baharat, add a warm, complex flavor to the dish.” —Joan Velush

A pile of cooked rice and lentils on a white plate with a side of whole wheat pita
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or safflower

  • 2 large yellow onions, diced (4-6 cups diced onion)

  • 2 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt or fine salt, divided

  • 1 cup small brown lentils, such as Spanish Pardina, sorted to remove any debris

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice

  • A few grinds black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin or 7 spice (Baharat)

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make mujadara

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the oil for a couple of minutes, until shimmery. Add the diced onion and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt.

    Stir frequently until the onions are deeply caramelized and slightly charred. This process can take 20 to 25 minutes. A splatter shield is helpful. An open window doesn’t hurt either, as the aroma of the cooking onions can seem to permeate even the walls! Take care not to burn the onions; they turn quickly once they start to get dark after 15 to 20 minutes of cooking.

    A pot of deeply caramelized onions

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. While the onions cook, parcook the lentils. In a small saucepan, combine the lentils with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. These will be added to the onions shortly.

    Lentils cooking in a pot of water

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Just as the onions finish browning, remove the pan from the heat and add 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. This will extract flavor and color from the onions into the cooking liquid.

    A pot of caramelized onions and water

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. Add the rice and the par cooked lentils with their cooking liquid to the onion-water mixture. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the cumin or 7 spice. Stir and taste the broth. Adjust the seasonings if needed.

    Rice, lentils, salt, and cumin added to the onion-water mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. Cover the pan and bring to just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

    A covered pot of rice-lentil mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Fluff the lentils and rice with a large fork or spoon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil before serving.

    A fork fluffing the lentil rice mixture, with a small bowl of olive oil

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

How to Store

Store mujadara in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer. To serve from frozen, thaw the mujadara in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat in the microwave or on the stove top with a tablespoon or two of water to refresh the pilaf.

Recipe Variations

  • Mujadara With Bulgur: Mujadara is always made with lentils, but the rice can be varied with coarse bulgur. Bulgur is a par cooked wheat granule commonly used in Lebanese and other Middle Eastern recipes. Bulgur is typically available in three “grinds” or granule sizes, which are numbered #1 fine bulgur, #2 medium coarse bulgur, #3 coarse bulgur. For pilafs, #3 coarse bulgur is best. The substitution of bulgur for rice is as simple as an even exchange. Quantities, cooking times, and method are exactly the same. The result is a fluffy pilaf very similar to mujadara made with rice.


  • Onion Alternative: Yellow onion imparts the right flavor for mujadara; sweet onion is, well, too sweet! White onion is an alternative that works.


  • Make it a Main: Mujadara is so versatile in how it can be served. As a main dish, serve mujadara with a salad and top with a dollop of labneh.


  • Mujadara Platter: A mujadara platter is a beautiful way to serve mujadara, heaping the pilaf in the center of a platter atop an arugula salad with tomato, onion, and avocado.


  • Breakfast Mujadara: For breakfast, or anytime, try a fried or poached egg atop a bed of mujadara.


  • Mujadara Bowls: Make fabulous bowls with mujadara as the foundation. Layer on top sautéed spinach and onions, chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, broccoli or brussels sprouts, and a fresh salsa of tomato and onion with mint. Finish with labneh and toasted pine nuts. A dusting of spice such as cumin, 7 Spice, black pepper, or sesame seeds makes a beautiful finish.

Prep Ahead

To prep for mujadara in advance, dice your onion and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.