Syrian mujadara – brown basmati, lentils, caramelized onion pilaf


…scented with cinnamon and cumin, then topped or folded with fried or caramelized onions, this is one of the most simple, and flavorful vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes on my Syrian-inspired menu.

The key to this dish, as in most successful dishes, is applying the principle of less is more. A handful of ingredients, good quality, cooked properly, then combined with just the right and right amount of spices to create that palatable harmony.

Mujadara is gratifying simply on its own, or as a side to sautéed greens. It also pairs perfectly as a side dish to grilled, sautéed, blanched/shocked veggies, grilled meats, fish, and poultry. Well, you get the idea.


Serves 4 as a main dish; 8 as a side


2 tbsp vegetable oil + 2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, small dice

¼ tsp each cumin and cinnamon

Generous splash of dry sherry or vermouth (optional)


2 cups brown basmati

1-1/2 cups brown lentils


¼ cup vegetable oil

4 large onions, emincé

2 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Dash of sea salt



–          Cook basmati: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sea salt, add basmati, and cook until basmati is tender

–          Cook lentils: Cover lentils in cold water, bring to boil, bring to simmer until cooked tender

–          Sauté onions

–          Add cumin and cinnamon; sauté to release aroma

–          Deglaze with dry sherry or vermouth

–          Gently fold the basmati and lentils into the onion mixture.

–          Season to taste; set aside or keep warm.


Fried or caramelized onion topping

–          Heat vegetable oil

–          Add onions and cook, stirring often, until onions turn golden

–          Fold in the parsley



–          Transfer mujadara onto a serving platter

–          Top with fried or caramelized onions

–          Serve immediate or at room temperature

–          Mujadara keeps really well, and flavors infuse well with storage

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