Makes about 6 servings
Prep Time: About 90 minutes
Mujadara is soul food for me. Made from green lentils, rice and spices, in Arabic, the literal translation of Mujadara is “pockmarked” as the cooked lentils look like pockmarks.
My Situ and Gidu (Arabic for Grandmother and Grandfather) immigrated to the US from Lebanon when they were young. They knew each other “back in the old country” (as my Gidu used to say) as children. But it wasn’t until they found one another in America that they got together and married.
I grew up enjoying from scratch Lebanese cooking. And loving spending time with my grandparents in Brooklyn. They would take me to Coney Island on the subway and I learned about cooking from my Situ. Situ was an incredible cook and could turn an unannounced visit into a feast in minutes.
Consuming a Mediterranean diet kept my grandparents alive and healthy to ripe old ages. My grandmother lived to be 102 years old and my grandfather survived to just before his 96 birthday.
Mujadara was always a staple for my grandparents. Growing up poor in Lebanon made lentils popular because they were easy to get, inexpensive and packed with protein. This article outlines the enormous benefit you get from consuming lentils. They were a cost effective meat alternative. That makes them great for plant-based eaters!
When I order Mujadara in Lebanese restaurants, they are very different from how Situ used to make. My Situ’s lentils were heavy on the lentils, light on the rice. In my experience, restaurants have recipes that differ. They are heavier on the rice and lighter on the lentils. Plus, Situ’s were always more of a thick consistency that you spoon out of the bowl and could eat with a fork.
Often, the lentils I find in restaurants are a bit more soupy. So, I don’t know if my Situ’s recipe reflects more on the region in which she grew up or if she simply had her own version. But, they were always delicious and always a family favorite.
It took me years to perfect my own lentil cooking prowess. And, so many of the other delicious foods my Situ would make. I remember so clearly attempting to make a dish she had mastered and it just wouldn’t come out like hers. I would call her and explain my process and ask what I was doing wrong. She would say, “did you add __?” To which my reply would be, “well, no, you didn’t mention that I should add that!” Her response was always, “yeah, yeah, yeah, you need to add that.” I would try again and still not like hers, my next call would elicit the same question, and I would answer that I didn’t add that ingredient because she hadn’t instructed me to.
Mujadara was no different. With any cooking attempt I tried, the cycle would sometimes prompt 3 or 4 calls to her until I got it right. It was a cycle of learning what I could from her. I cherish those memories today and so often wish I could pick up the phone (or these days, FaceTime) and ask her questions about recipes and so many other things. Situ just had everything in her head and never followed a “recipe.” It was a handful of this or a little bit of that. I made it easier for you with my recipe by measuring it out! My handful might be very different than yours. It can get confusing.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. I dedicate it to my Situ and Gidu. There are not many days that go by when I don’t think about them. They were very special to me. I miss them greatly.
Ingredients Needed to Make Lebanese Mujadara
2 cups green lentils – soaked overnight
Two yellow onions – diced
1 TBS coconut oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 TBS dried mint
2-3 vegetable bouillon cubes
8 cups of water (or could use 8 cups vegetable broth instead of bouillon cubes and water)
¼ cup brown rice
How to Prepare Lebanese Mujadara
Drain and rinse lentils after soaking
Add coconut oil to a large pot and add onion to it once it has melted
Sauté the onions in the pot until they soften
If you find that you need more liquid in the pot, add ¼ cup of water at a time to avoid needing to use more oil
Once the onions are soft, add the lentils to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often. My Situ used to say that this “softened the lentils”
Add the spices to the pot and mix them into the lentils and onions until well combined
Add the 8 cups of water with bouillon add vegetable broth
Add the brown rice
Mix everything until well combined
Cover the pot and simmer for about 90 minutes
Stir the cooking lentils every so often to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot
The further along in the cooking process, the lentils will begin to stick
When the water has absorbed, taste the lentils, if they are soft, they are finished
If they are not yet soft enough, add more water, ¼ cup at a time until they are soft and thick but not too mushy
Remove from heat once fully cooked
Serve with salad or other vegetables of choice or other Lebanese foods!
For more delicious vegan, gluten free recipes, check out the recipes page on HealthTastesGood.com