Mujadara is a simple but elegant dish that is popular in most of the Arab, Jewish, and Middle Eastern world kitchens. The first recordings of this dish date back to 1226, transcribed in an Iraqi cookbook... But, it is also said that this dish dates back much further than that. Mujadara has many different variations of spelling based on country of origin, and is prepared with slight differences depending upon cultural preferences.
Mujadara is comprised of rice or bulgur, lentils (typically brown or green), caramelized, fried, or sautéed onions, and most commonly seasoned with coriander and/or cumin. It can be accompanied with yogurt, herbs, meat, and vegetables.
In Arabic, "Mujadara" translates to "pockmarked" because of the way the lentils mark the rice.
I have been eyeing this dish for months now. The complexity of the flavors, textures, and its rich historical relevance for many cultures intrigued me from the start.
In my version of Mujadara, I seasoned heavily with homemade Za'atar and added pomegranate seeds as garnish. For those unfamiliar, za'atar is a spice blend typically made of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt. As with most ancient recipes, there are many variations depending upon family traditions, as well as cultural and religious preferences. Spice blends are wonderfully unique and carry with them history of ancient times.
For my ingredients, I used green lentils, enriched long grain rice (I couldn't find basmati rice which would have been my preference), toasted pepitas, sliced almonds, fists full of chopped parsley, and garnished with pomegranate seeds.
This dish can stretch a long way and yields a large portion which is perfect for sharing. Cost-wise, it is a fairly inexpensive dish, but I recommend spending the extra money on high quality spices (if you don't already own them), and high quality olive oil. It will make a big difference in the finished product.
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1 large yellow onion- thinly sliced
Pomegranate seeds- 1/2 a cup
Sliced almonds- 1/4 a cup
Parsely- 1 cup chopped
Baking and Spices:
Olive oil- 2 cups
Za'atar- 3-4 tablespoons
Brown sugar- 2 tablespoons
2 cups of rice
1 cup of green lentils
4 cups of water
To begin, in a large pot or rice cooker bring 4 cups of water to boil, to 2 cups of rice.
Once boiling, lower the heat, cover the pot of water and rice, and let cook for 25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked and fluffy. When the rice is finished cooking set it aside to cool down and season with 1-2 teaspoons of salt.
Next cook 1 cup of green lentils. When the lentils have finished cooking, set them aside as well.
For those who have never cooked lentils before, Kitchnn Blog has a wonderful "how-to" article I will link below:
In a large sauce pan or skillet begin to sweat 1 onion thinly sliced in 1/2 a cup of olive oil on medium high heat.
Generously season the onions with Za'atar (1-2 tablespoons), 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. It is important to move the onions around in the pan frequently to avoid burning. When the onions have begun to turn translucent, lower the heat to medium low and let the onions begin to caramelize in the oil and sugar.
When the onions have started to turn a rich golden brown bring the heat back to medium and add the almonds and pepitas.
*I like to toast the nuts and seeds for a few minutes before adding the rice and lentils back into the pan.
With the heat on medium, add the rice and lentils to the onions and mix well to combine.
Add 1 cup of chopped parsley and drizzle another 1/2 a cup of olive oil into the rice to crisp up the edges and add moisture.
Add 1 more tablespoon of Za'atar and taste for salt.
When all ingredients have been been combined, remove the rice from the heat and top with pomegranate seeds and more sliced almonds.
Mujadara looks beautiful presented in a large bowl with its accompanying dishes surrounding it.
*This was a real crowd pleaser at my Passover seder...
This is wonderful recipe for sharing, perfect as a side dish, and works well as an addition to a salad bowl.
I hope it brings some joy to your home and your beliies!