This lentils and rice recipe makes a fragrant Middle Eastern comfort food. Make this aromatic dish for a flavorful side or meatless meal.
Mejadra is another name for this dish and it is well known in Middle Eastern cuisine. This versatile recipe can be served as a side, or it can be eaten as a main course.
Once you taste all of the incredible flavors, it’s bound to be a new favorite. Not only is it delicious, but it’s packed with nutrients too. Each helping packs a punch of fiber, folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, and more.
Lentils and Rice Recipe Ingredients
To view the entire list of ingredients and amounts needed, please see the printable recipe card located at the bottom of this post.
- Lentils - I recommend using the green variety, because they have a beautiful peppery flavor that really goes well with the other ingredients. Additionally, they have a fantastic texture and hold up well during the cooking process.
- Onions - White or yellow will both work great in this Mejadra recipe.
- Flour - The secret ingredient for that extra crispiness is flour! It gives you the ultimate fried onion and keeps you going back for more.
- Vegetable Oil - I prefer vegetable oil more than any other kind of oil when preparing this recipe.
- Spices - We use a combination of cumin seeds, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, salt & pepper to give you a lovely spiced dish.
- Basmati rice - It’s naturally gluten-free and fills you up while providing you with valuable nutrients.
- Sugar - Adding a little bit of sugar will give the dish a slight sweetness that pairs well with the other ingredients.
How To Make Mejadra
1. Prepare the lentils.
Start by cleaning and discarding any debris in the legumes. Put them into a pan and cover with water. Cook them until they have softened slightly but have a little bit of firmness, which usually takes around 12-15 minutes. Drain off the water and set it aside.
2. Cook the onions.
Slice them thin because they will get crispier than thicker cuts will. Coat in flour and salt using your hands.
Fry them until they are golden brown, making sure to stir on occasion. Place them on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat the process until all of them have been cooked.
3. Add the spices.
Toast the cumin and coriander in the skillet with a little bit of oil. This is where the Mejadra gets its bold flavor, so it’s important not to skip it.
Mix in the turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, salt, pepper, and rice. Stir well to ensure the basmati is coated with oil, then mix in the legumes.
Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and cover with a tea towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
5. Add the onions.
Mix half of the fried onions into the rice mixture and gently fluff using a fork. Then add the mixture to a serving dish and top with the rest of the onions. Enjoy!
Troubleshooting and Tips
- Onions take too long to cook. If you find that they are taking too long to cook and get crispy, work in smaller batches. Overcrowding the pan will not make the process faster; instead, it takes longer for them to cook.
- Lentils are too crunchy. When they are too crunchy, it merely means they weren’t cooked long enough, to begin with. When cooking them, do a taste test to ensure they have softened but have a little bit of bite in them.
- Toasting the spices. If you run into a lack of flavor, it could be because you skipped toasting the cumin and coriander. So much of the bold taste comes from this step. Be sure not to skip or rush it, so you get the best results every time.
While this lentils and rice recipe is delicious enough to eat alone, you can also make a complete meal by adding some other recipes with it. Jordanian Roasted Chicken is a tasty option to serve with it.
Or you could make some Roasted Red Pepper Dip, Chopped Veggie Salad, or Chickpea Patties go with it. They are all so delicious; I can’t even tell you which one is my favorite! It also goes well with lavash, warm pita bread with a dab of butter.
Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice (Mejadra)
- 1 ¼ cups green lentils
- 4 medium onions (1 ½ lb before peeling)
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup basmati rice
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Clean and pick through lentils, removing any debris. Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.
- Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large platter, sprinkle with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss to mix well with your hands.
- Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed skillet placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add a quarter of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature so the onion doesn’t fry too quickly and burn). Use tongs to transfer the onion to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Repeat with the other three batches of onion.
- Discard oil, leaving 2 tablespoons in skillet (See Note 1). Place over medium heat and toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.
- I like to use the oil after frying the onions for added flavor, but you could discard and use 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.