Mujaddara is an ancient dish that has been traced back to a cookbook from 1226 in Iraq. The dish is made with lentils and rice and was considered a dish eaten by the poor. It’s a hearty dish, filling and satisfying. The lentils and rice are seasoned with cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice so it’s packed with warm flavors. The fried onions get mixed into the dish as well as tossed on top so you get fried, crunchy goodness throughout. The yogurt-lemon sauce adds a tangy, cool element against the spiciness. If this is considered peasant food, the rich can keep their meals and give me more mujaddara!
Mujaddara [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
For the Lemon-Yogurt Sauce:
- 1 cup plain, non-dairy yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Crispy Onions:
- 3 large onions, sliced into half-moons
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- Vegetable oil for frying
For the Rice and Lentils:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 cups brown rice
- 2 cups brown lentils
- 1 cup green peas
- 3 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
- For the yogurt sauce: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Mix well. Taste for any seasoning adjustments. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- For the crispy onions: Place the onion slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit about 10 minutes while they release water. Rinse the onions with cold water and pat them dry with a towel until they are completely dry. Toss the onions in the arrowroot powder.
- Heat an inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the onions to the skillet and fry them until they are browned and crisp. Use 2 forks to pull them apart if they start to stick. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the second half of the onions. Try not to munch on too many because you really want these in the dish. Reserve the oil for cooking the rice.
- To make the rice and lentils: Heat 2 Tbs. of the reserved onion oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves, 1 tsp. each cumin and coriander, ½ tsp. each cinnamon and allspice, ¼ tsp. black pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix the spices into the oil. Add the rice and toss to coat in the oil and spices. Cook for 2 minutes and then add 3 ½ cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, stir the rice, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook the rice for 30 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Shut the heat and let the rice sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
- Rinse the lentils in a colander and pick out any pebbles or debris. Add the lentils to a large saucepan. Mix in 1 tsp. each kosher salt, cumin and coriander, ½ tsp. each cinnamon and allspice, ¼ tsp. black pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper. Add 4 ½ cups of water to the pot, stir the lentils and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and let the lentils simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until they are tender but not mushy. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot of brown rice.
- Stir together the lentils and the brown rice in one pot over medium heat. Add in the peas and ½ of the crispy onions. Cook just until the peas have heated through and then shut the heat. Stir in some of the cilantro or parsley and reserve some for garnish.
- Serve the rice and lentil mixture in bowls. Top with more crispy onions and garnish with the remaining cilantro or parsley. Drizzle the lemon-yogurt sauce on top.
Because I use brown rice, which takes 45 minutes to cook and lentils only take 20 minutes, I made them separately and then combined them later. If you use white rice which takes about the same time as lentils to cook, you can make them together in one pot and there is no need to divide up the spices.