Lentil and rice pilaf (Mdardara)

March 5, 2012  •  Category:

There are McDonald’s billboards everywhere in Beirut and the caption says: “YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT MUJADDARA EVERY DAY, DO YOU?”. The photo on the billboard is of a breaded (fried) shrimp sandwich. Call me contrarian, but that billboard immediately made me long for mujaddara or its sister, mudardara. Simpler to make, it is just a pilaf of lentils and rice, crowned with fried caramelized onion rings. A recommended side with this is simply a tomato salad or raw veggies and some yogurt.  INGREDIENTS: 6 servings 

  • 2 cups of lentils (preferably the large green ones)
  • 1 1/2 cups of long-grain rice (Uncle Ben’s or similar)
  • 4 large yellow onions
  • Salt, as needed
  • 2 1/2  tsp of seven-spice mix or 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice, 1 tsp of cumin, 1/4 tsp of white pepper
  • vegetable oil, as needed
  1. Slice the onions into rings, place in a bowl and sprinkle the onions with  2 tablespoons of salt, tossing them a bit to spread the salt evenly; set them aside for at least 20 minutes or longer. 
  2. Place the lentils in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring to a simmer; simmer the lentils for 20 minutes or so until they are cooked but still firm.
  3. Squeeze the onions and drain them well; heat 3 cups of oil in a skillet and fry the onions until golden-brown. Drain the onions and take half of the fried onions and add to the lentils. Add the rice and bring the mixture to a simmer, adding the spices. Cover and let the lentils and rice cook for another twenty minutes or so until the rice is cooked. You may need to add one cup or more of water before cooking the rice if the lentil mixture looks too dry. Keep in mind that there should be 3 cups of liquid to cook the rice in. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice separately and add it to the lentils, which can be drained of water).
  4. Serve the mdardara  warm with a garnish of the rest of the fried onions. 
  1.  Some people like to use Italian rice or Egyptian rice to cook the mdardara; personally I find that these rice with their high-starch content make the mdardara too heavy. I prefer long-grain like Uncle Ben’s or jasmine rice.
  2. Traditionally, half of the oil was added to the rice and lentil mixture; I find that two tablespoons of oil (which will be part of the fried onions) is plenty and delivers that smoothness characteristic of this dish.
  3. The reason I sprinkle the onions rings with salt is so that the salt drain them of their water and they become crispier when fried. 
  4. As mentioned by Samir (see comment), the lentil water does take on a bit of color and some people drain the lentils and add fresh water to cook the rice in;  it works either way.


47 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Miriam says:

    Why not eat this every day?? Much better than any fast food…

  2. meriem says:

    Oh yes, why not Mudjadara each day? It’s surely much better than a MacDonald and at least you know what you are eating. I like this recipe Joumana. Have a nice day.

  3. janet @ taste space says:

    Who wouldn’t want to eat Mujaddara every day. Nothing more wholesome than lentils and rice! I love your presentation with the onions circling the bottom. 🙂

  4. Angel of the North says:

    I have read a lot of different recipes for this (non- Lebanese and based in UK) but this version seems to be the clearest and mosy informative. Can also be scaled down.

  5. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Looks and sounds a lot healthier than the shrimp burger!

  6. Kinda says:

    My grandmother invented a new name for Mjadarra so that when my grandfather asked she could keep him guessing. She called it Couzalia! LOL! This is my favorite meal…just add some fatouch or pickled turnips and I’m in heaven!

  7. Mark Wisecarver says:

    Awesome. I make this, very similar, at least once a week, my 3 kids love it.
    Curious, my family being from Beirut, I’m often left surprised by some of the new menus.
    With the heritage, several main religious beliefs there, are things like Shrimp really getting that popular? Just curious. 😉

  8. Bouchra says:

    Je suis contente de dcouvrir ton blog ! La cuisine libanaise est une cuisine que j’adore ! Il me hâte de tester une de ces recettes alléchantes !

  9. Barbara says:

    I’ve made something similar for years, Joumana..but like your spices better. It’s a perfect meal.

  10. Caffettiera says:

    One of my biggest personal satisfactions, that makes me hope for the future of this planet, is that when McDo opened in style in my partner’s hometown in Southern Italy, it had to close quite quickly. There is only one left, and I don’t think it’s making any money: nobody goes there. The local street food (that would probably include durum wheat bread filled with tomatoes, calzoni – bread filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella and fried -, fried aubergines, fried rice croquettes, ice cream) is just so much better and cheaper.

  11. LinsFood says:

    So, in being blatant, that billboard seems to have delivered a subliminal message?
    I love this dish, amazingly simple yet ticks all the boxes! Love your pic, what’s that white thing with blue rings in the background?

  12. Sarah says:

    This sounds so good. I love finding new dishes to enjoy lentils and rice. Pinned and saved this to try very soon!

  13. Cherine says:

    I saw the billboard and believe me i prefer mdardra to the burger 😉

  14. Belinda @zomppa says:

    I agree – I far prefer this over what they got on that billboard – it’s healthy, fresh, and full of flavor!

  15. Mark Wisecarver says:

    Interesting you mention Sushi, I make a lot of Sushi Nori. 🙂
    btw, You’re the best. 😉

  16. Steve @ HPD says:

    There’s a reason we grow so much rice on this planet … so many things to do with it. Cheers!

  17. Susan says:

    I agree, I would much rather have this beautiful lentil and rice dish than a deep fried sandwich! I’m sure even the fish sandwich is swimming in fat and calories.

  18. samir says:

    an all time classic. earthy, fragrant, healthy,,simple and yet sublime, we make it with or without spices.., sometimes long grain/ sometime short,just depends on mood..,,,,.fast food cant compare, silly fools who think otherwise..

  19. Alaiyo Kiasi says:

    I would rather have the Mdardara too. A plate of this beautiful dish would be a welcome sight at the end of the day. Thanks for sharing the photo and narrative about the McDonald’s sign. It was perfect for this post.

  20. sophia says:

    ooooh….I would take your dish over that McD burger! Both, actually. I could gobble both with my hands. 🙂

  21. samir says:

    ps forgot to mention,regardless of grain used or spices,in our family and many others throughout the Levant we discard the lentil coooking water after they have cooked al dente and add fresh water to the lentil rice mixture..the lentil water has a heavy overpowering taste and murky coloring..by doing so you have much more refined easier to digest dish and the flavors meld better and yet remain distinct.if u insist on usuing the cooking water, save a bit( ladleful) and mix with fresh..

  22. sare says:

    What a beautiful dish!
    I prefer pilaf than burgers
    I also like your fried caramelized onion rings on top of some dishes.
    Yogurt is the best choice for side for me.

  23. Joanne says:

    Actually…yes I WOULD happily eat this every day! McDonalds and their ridiculous ads don’t know what they’re talking about.

  24. Nuts about food says:

    Interesting how McD’s caters to different cultures… a shrimp burger… I on the other hand like your suggestione much better of course. Those caramelized onion rings…

  25. Oui, Chef says:

    Oohh…this reminds me of the conical piles of fresh spices that loved in the markets of Marrakech when I visited a few years back….lovely.

  26. Gourmet Secrets says:

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    Gourmet Secrets

  27. 5 Star Foodie says:

    I could definitely eat this yummy dish everyday!

  28. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Ugh, stupid McDonald’s billboard. I’d rather eat either lentil dish instead ANY day.

    Your photos are lovely, as always. You’ve found a way to make a difficult-to-photograph food look great.

  29. Asmita says:

    This looks so flavorful. It has protein and carb , all in one bite. Love it!!!

  30. Ed Habib says:

    Let see , Mjadarra with rice, Mjadarra with wheat, lentil soup with noodles, lentil soup with batata or a processed mystery meat with maybe a little shrimp. I will go with any of these rather than the McDonalds option.

  31. Jamie says:

    What a thing to say on a billboard for McDos? Really? I think I would want to eat it everyday compared to the fried food at a chain. Wow! And it sounds like a stupendous dish – but I love lentils and I love pilaf and oooh the fried onions are great in this! Perfect. Next time I crave McDonalds I’ll make this 🙂 Love your recipes, Joumana!

  32. Anonymous says:

    1 teaspoon of cumin is a bit too much. Typically, cumin is not a main spice in this dish. I recommend cutting it down to 1/2 or 1/4 teaspoon.

  33. georgia says:

    I agree, I would rather eat this every day, it’s complete, easy and delicious. I do use different spices than you, but I always like to check your recipe, because it gives me a place to start, and I can make sure that I didn’t miss any steps. With the yougurt and fresh veggies on the side, this is a cool meal to serve in the summer. Thanks. G

  34. Irma Kobaissi says:

    I am making this for my boyfriend. He works at Mcdonalds and he just can’t eat there anymore lol 🙂 his dad is from Beirut, His mom mexican, I have cooked at least 10 recipes from this site. And I’ve become better and better at cooking Lebanese food. Thank You so Much!

  35. Bengü says:

    I made this last night, it was very filling and delicious, thanks for the recipe.

  36. Haya says:

    My friends loved it! I was worried that since they are from India and being used to their spices, the mdardara would not be flavourful enough. Luckily, I was wrong!

    Thanks for sharing your passion with the world!

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  38. Patricia says:

    I was reading this recipe… do you use 3 cups of oil to carmelize the onions, or is that an error in typing, and it’s really 3 Tablespoons of oil?
    I first saw this recipe on facebook, THE ART OF ARMENIAN & MIDDLE EASTERN COOKING https://www.facebook.com/armenianandmiddleeasterncooking/ and questioned the amount of oil, and they said it wasn’t their recipe… then I noticed the link on the bottom which took me to your instagram…and I saw a link for your blog. I checked it here and it also says 3 cups of oil.

    • Joumana Accad says:

      OOps! I would use less oil, say, about 1/3 cup or less; unless you want to use an oil bath (say use 3 cups), heat the oil to 375F and deep fry the onions; using this technique will cook them very fast and then they can be drained. So whatever you feel comfortable with.
      Sounds like using just a little oil and watching the onions and keeping them over low heat would be best. You can also add a teaspoon of sugar or molasses to help speed up the caramelization.

  39. Marlene says:

    I found myself home alone on a gloomy Sunday afternoon with a bag of brown lentils. Didn’t take long to get up and start browsing through your blog looking for lentil recipes . Went back to your oldest posts and one hours later I’m still reading and daydreaming. Mjaddara was one my mind but I have no rice on hand. It’s going to be some kind of warm lentil salad with roasted butternut , fennel and parsnip . Maybe walnuts and parsley for garnish. Not too bad I guess

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