Mujaddara is flavorful rice and lentils adorned with caramelized onions, served with vegan tzatziki, hummus, and naan bread. You will love the flavors in this savory Mujaddara recipe!
I love Middle Eastern food, and one dish I miss the most is Mujaddara. When I lived in Michigan, we ate Mujaddara at one of our favorite Mediterranean restaurants. Since moving, we haven't found a Meditteranean restaurant that makes a Mujaddara recipe like our favorite restaurant at home.
As usual, if I can't find what I want in a restaurant, I make my own. So, today, I decided to try making homemade Mujaddara!
Actually, Mujaddara is a simple dish with complex flavors. Basically, it is a combination of cooked lentils and rice with a district seasoning, topped with onions, and I add my vegan Tzatziki (Greek yogurt sauce) for added flavor.
One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is how inexpensive the filling of this Mujaddara recipe is. And, my Mujaddara recipe is oil-free, including caramelized onions.
- Basmati Rice: brown or white long-grain rice. Both gluten-free and low in fat, basmati rice contains all eight essential amino acids, including folic acid, are very low in sodium, and has no cholesterol.
- Brown Lentils: brown or white long-grain rice. Both gluten-free and low in fat contain all eight essential amino acids, including folic acid, are very low in sodium, and have no cholesterol.
- White Onion: These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They also tend to be more tender and have thinner, more papery skin.
- Garlic: I recommend always using fresh garlic over jarred or canned garlic for the best flavor.
Mujadara Ingredient Substitutions
- For this recipe, I chose brown lentils, but green lentils work as well. However, do not use red lentils for this recipe because they tend to be much softer and often mushier when cooked.
- Although dry lentils can be used for this recipe, I used Trader Joe's prepared brown steamed lentils for a quick and easy alternative.
- Even though I chose basmati rice, white or brown rice may be used as a substitute.
- Substitute yellow onions for white onions for a sweeter flavor.
How to Make Mujaddara without Oil
To make Mujaddara without any oil, there are some easy tips to follow without sacrificing flavor. Typically, Mujaddara is made with a large quantity of oil for cooking the rice and the onions.
Instead, opt for a cleaner and healthier version of a traditionally oily Mediterranean dish. First, saute the garlic and seasonings in a dry non-stick pan.
When it begins to stick slightly, add 2 Tablespoons of water or vegetable broth.
Then, add the rice to the dry, hot pan, moving it around with a wooden spoon to get it a little toastie before adding the water.
Next, add the dry or cooked lentils. Note, if using prepared cooked lentils, reduce the amount of the liquid by one-half.
While the Mujaddara cooks on a simmer, prepare the oil-free caramelized onions.
How to Carmelize Onions
Additionally, caramelizing onions without oil is possible with a few simple steps:
- Cut the onions in quarters and then into slivers.
- Place the onions in a measuring cup and add 2 Tablespoons of salt; stir (don't worry, the salt is removed afterward)
- Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 5 minutes
- Removed from the microwave and rinse onions in a colander with water to remove all the salt.
- Transfer the wet onions to some paper towels and spread them out to dry.
- Then, using a non-stick skillet, heat the skillet to medium-low and add the onions.
- They will immediately start sizzling and start to stick, turning the base of the skillet brown.
- Next, add a small amount of vegetable broth, and stir, releasing the moisture.
- The onions will caramelize as you slowly add broth to the browning bottom of the pan.
Once the onions are caramelized, begin assembling your plates. At this point, I suggest adding the garnishes.
- Green Onions: Green onions add a subtle onion flavor without overpowering your dish the way bulb onions could
- Vegan Tzatziki: I make my own Vegan Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce)
- Parsley: Adds a fresh and clean taste to the garnish.
- Hummus: hummus has a smooth texture that pairs easily with Mujadara and the other ingredients in the recipe.
- Mint: Offers another fresh herbal taste to the entire dish
What to Serve with Mujaddara
One of my favorite sauces to serve with Mujaddara is a vegan Greek yogurt sauce! It's tangy and creamy and balances the rice lentil mixture's savory flavor, deepening the flavors.
Vegan Tzatziki Ingredients
- Plain Almond Milk Yogurt: I used Kite Hill, plain, unsweetened yogurt, but any plant-based yogurt works well.
- Red Onion: sweet red onions provide a sweet and robust flavor to the yogurt sauce
- Cucumber: When making any sauce of dressing with cucumbers, I always remove the seeds, so the sauce doesn't become too watery.
- Red wine vinegar: the red wine vinegar proves a tangy taste to the sauce
- Fresh lemon juice: The acidity from the lemon juice and the citrus flavor works well with the vinegar to make this sauce fresh and delicious.
- Dill: Dill has a deliciously fresh, citrus-like taste, with a slightly grassy undertone that pairs perfectly with all the ingredients.
- Minced Garlic: I prefer fresh garlic over jarred.
- Garlic Powder: A ground, dried form of garlic brings a texture and deep flavor to a sauce.
- Onion Powder: The flavor is pungent with profiles of sweetness, sulfur, and a hint of garlic.
- Sea Salt: Less processed than table salt, sea salt is a general term for salt produced by evaporation of ocean water
- Fresh Ground Pepper: Freshly ground pepper is more flavorful than pepper sold already ground, enhancing the taste of any dish where pepper is used. Whole peppercorns are used, again making it a less processed version of pepper.
I also like to serve Mujaddara with hummus on the side for additional flavor.
Of course, Oil-Free Vegan Garlic Cilantro Naan is another great side dish to serve with Mujaddara.
There are several spices and herbs that go with the Mujaddara recipe. You can go with the classics like fresh parsley or you can also to exotic hints of lemongrass, cilantro, and ginger.
Aside from brown lentils, you may use other varieties of lentils. For instance, French green lentils are ideal for salads and side dishes while red lentils are better for soups.
They are high in fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins, while still being low in calories and super satisfying! Also, they are dirt cheap! They are a great way to reduce meat consumption and stretch both your stews and your grocery budget.
- As a shortcut buy prepared lentils, such as Trader Joe's steamed brown lentils.
- When making Vegan Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce) make sure to select a plant-based yogurt that is unsweetened and unflavored.
- When cooking with cayenne pepper, always use a small amount and add to get the desired spiciness.
- I recommend fresh garlic for a better flavor profile.
- Add the desired garnished and caramelized onions to the top of the Mujaddara and pour the Vegan Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce) on top of the dish.
- Reheat the Mujaddara in the microwave on the reheat setting for rice.
So, the next time you're craving a healthy, oil-free, and inexpensive meal, give this Mujaddara recipe a try!
Other Mediterranean Recipes to Try!
If you enjoy this vegan Mujaddra recipe, give us a 5-Star review and comment below. We would love to hear from you!
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup white onion diced (this is separate from the other onions used int eh recipe
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 5 cups of water (if using prepared lentils reduce fluid to 2 ½ cups water)
- 1 cup brown* basmati rice I used brown but white rice may be used as a substitute
- 1 cup regular brown or green lentils picked over for debris, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups prepared brown lentils)
- 2 medium yellow onions halved and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup vegetable broth
- In a large soup pot, heat the pan to medium heat before adding any of the ingredients.
- Add the garlic, ½ cup chopped onion, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Cook until the onions start to brown and then add ¼ cup of vegetable broth. Stir until onions are translucent. and the fluid dissipates.
- Add the rice and stir into the garlic, onion, and seasoning mixture. The rice will begin to brown.
- Now, add the water and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Note, if you are using prepared lentils use half the amount of water (2 ½ cups water)
- Once boiling, add the lentils, stir, cover and reduce the heat to simmer.
- Cook on simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid dissipates.
- Meanwhile, prepare the onions.
Preparing the Caramelized Onions
- Salt the onions generously and place them in a glass measuring cup and cover.
- Cook the onions in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.
- Remove the onions from the microwave and pour into a colander, running under cold water to remove all the salt.
- Now, place the rinsed onions on paper towels and spread them out, patting them with an additional paper towel to dry them. They don't have to be completely dry; get rid of the excess water.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions, They will immediately begin to sizzle and stick, even on a non-stick pan. This is what you want.
- Once the onions begin to brown add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable broth and stir. Wait a few minutes, allowing the onions to cook more, and then add 2 more Tablespoons of vegetable broth.
- Continue this process until the onions are caramelized.
- Remove the onions from the heat once you get your desired caramelization.
Serving the Mujaddara
- When the lentils and rice are done cooking, remove the pan from the heat, remove the cover and place a kitchen towel across the top of the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes. This allows the rice to absorb more moisture and fluff up.
- Remove the towel and fluff the rice lentil mixture with a fork.
- Garnish with green onions, parsley, cilantro, or mint. Or all of them!
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Don't have a microwave? Don't sweat it! Instead, use a steamer for the onions and steam for 5 minutes with the salt. Or, if you don't have a steamer, place a small amount of water in the bottom of a saucepan. Add the salted onions, and bring to a boil with the cover on the pan. Steam this way for 5 minutes. Then remove and continue as if you used the microwave.
- Prepared lentils are already cooked. I love Trader Joe's steamed brown lentils, or canned lentils are another option.
- If using prepared lentils, reduce the amount of water by one-half (2 ½ cups).
- After the lentil and rice mixture is cooked, remove from the heat and replace the cover on the pot with a kitchen towel. This helps the rice and lentil mixture finish cooking. Then fluff with a fork.
- I served it with Oil-Free Vegan Garlic Cilantro Naan Vegan Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce) and hummus.
- Mujaddara stores well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To reheat in the microwave, choose the reheat rice option so the rice does not cook again.
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂