This ancient recipe dates to an Iraqi cookbook from 1226. Often served at celebrations, cooked lentils are popular throughout the Middle East. Medjadra—also called mujaddara—is served with yogurt, vegetables, and other side dishes. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. There are over 10 million Middle Eastern Americans in the United States, sharing their traditional recipes. A large population lives in southeast Michigan, settling there in the late 19th century.
Recipe Servings: 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
+ 45 minutes resting
+ 45 minutes resting
Total Time 1 hour
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1 qt vegetable oil, for frying
- 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced into rings
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp plus 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- ¾ tsp cumin seeds
- ¾ cup basmati rice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1¼ tsp allspice
- 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¾ tsp coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1¾ cup water
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Place lentils in medium saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook 10–12 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While lentils cook, heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium high heat to 350°F.
- Place onions in a bowl, separating into individual rings. Toss with flour to coat.
- Carefully lower a quarter of onion rings into oil, frying 3–4 minutes until deep brown and crispy.
- Drain onions on paper towel and continue frying all onions, waiting for oil to return to high heat (350°F) between batches. Set aside.
- In a large pot, 4 quarts or bigger, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil and cumin seeds over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Stir in rice, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, coriander, and turmeric.
- Add 1¾ cup water and boiled lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer on lowest setting for 15 minutes.
- When lentils have simmered 15 minutes, turn off heat and wrap a towel securely over top of pot, steaming lentils 15–20 minutes until rice and lentils are cooked through.
- Stir half of fried onions into lentils and rice.
- Transfer mixture onto serving plate and top with remaining fried onions.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
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