Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mujadarah, our favorite adopted lentil dish

In June of 2001, my husband and I went to Paris to visit his cousin Arsene Dirkelessian.

Before we arrived, Arsene warned us that he and his wife Odile were vegetarians, and wanted to be sure we'd be OK with that. We thought this would be a good chance to shed a few pounds while visiting a city so rich in pastries.

We assured Arsene this would not be a problem - and it wasn't. Not only did Arsene and Odile go above and beyond their duty as hosts, Odile turned out to be a phenomenal cook!

She prepared one knock-out recipe after another. The one that stands out is mujadarah, a hearty mix of lentils and rice flavored by caramelized onions.

I was floored, not only by the taste but by the discovery. How is it I'd never heard of this fabulous dish before then?Mujadarah isn't Armenian, but all of the ingredients certainly are -- and it's popular with Armenians from Syria (like Arsene) and elsewhere in the Middle East.

So, we hereby declare it adopted!

Serves 4-5

1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed, small stones or debris removed
4 cups water, or stock (chicken, lamb or beef for non-vegetarians) - divided
5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup rice, uncooked
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions for cooking Lentils:
1. In a saucepan, add the lentils, 2 cups of water or stock, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; cook about 1 minute.
2. Reduce heat, cover the saucepan, and cook about 15 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
3. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

While lentils cook, begin the rice preparation:
1. In a second saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the rice and saute about 2 minutes.
2. Add the remaining water or stock, bringing it to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan, and cook about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
4. Set aside.

While the rice is cooking, begin the onion preparation:
1. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil using a medium heat setting.
2. Saute the onions for about 8-10 minutes, or until the onions have softened and turned a golden brown.

To Assemble:
1. In a mixing bowl, gently combine the lentils and rice. Arrange on a serving platter.
2. Spread the onions on top, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

OK, I know some of you are saying - TOO MUCH WORK. Well here's a short-cut version.

Short-cut mujadarah
Serves 4-5

1-15 oz can lentils, rinsed & drained
2 cups leftover, plain cooked rice - or instant rice
1 to 2 onions ( depends on how much onion you like), sliced and sauteed in olive oil until golden brown.
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley, chopped

Directions: 1. Combine the lentils and cooked rice,thoroughly heating them. Place on serving platter.
2. Top with sauteed onions.
3. Sprinkle with parsley.


  1. This is one I really want to try :)

  2. After the previous posting, the Lessson On Lentils, I was waiting for a recipe....thank you. I like this one. I hardly think this is too much work. Make rice. Make lentils. Saute onions. Snap.

  3. it'slebanese not bloody syrian!

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    I did not say the recipe was Syrian. I said that Arsene, who introduced us to this wonderful dish, originally came from Syria.

  5. I make this a lot but I don't use rice I use bulger wheat #2 much better for you and it's the authentic way of doing this dish.

  6. That sounds delicious, Ani. We'll give it a try, too. Thanks!

  7. There are two ways my mom would cook it, with short-grain rice or with bulgur. Either way, she would use 1/2 measure of grain for 1 measure of lentil. When she made it with rice, she would add more water and cook it for a long time (or in the pressure cooker) so the rice would "melt" and the whole thing came out like a porridge. If she made it with bulgur, then it would be dry, like a pilav. Otherwise, the recipe is the same as the ones you posted. My mom called the rice version "mujaddarah" and said that was the Lebanese version. She would call the wheat version "muderdereh" and said that was the Armenian version.

  8. this is a classic Levantine dish..that is from the Levant..Syria,Lebanon,Jordan and Palestine..

  9. ps.. this is traditionally paired on the side with a chopped tomato,cucumber salad dressed in lemon/olive oil mint parsley .the combo is sublime yet earthy

  10. Mujadarah is not "Levantine," it is Lebanese --and, more specifically, a Lebanese Christian dish that was originally eaten during Lent. And it's true that is was originally made using burghul instead of rice, but the Lebanese have used rice instead of burghul for ages, and it's just as authentic. Lastly, if you are using one cup of lentils, you should use no more than 1/8 to 1/4 cup rice at the very most. This is primarily a lentil dish, and if you use too much rice, then it becomes mudardarah, not mujadara. It should be served at room temperature in very shallow plates, and you use Arabic bread to eat it, just as you would eat hummus bi tahineh.

  11. sorry to burst ur bubble Noura,Lebanon , Syria, Palestine , Jordan was up till till the early 1900s .an area without borders known as Bilad Sham..or greater syria..or the Levant..this dish is/was cooked long in the whole region long before Lebanon was created..therefore it is Levantine dish..Lebanese need to stop fooling themselves and usurping all the Levantine dishes..

  12. this is historically Levantine!!!..to claim it as Lebanese is nothing more than a nationalistic concept of grabbing something that was always there in the whole area for ages and selling it as "Lebanese", something they sadly do very well..shame on them..

  13. OMG really? I mean REALLY? Who or what country wants to claim the egg? Just enjoy the recipes. Robin said it is "popular with Armenians from Syria like Arsene AND elswhere in the Middle East".