Mejadra from Jerusalem

Are you ready for some serious comfort food, Middle Eastern style?  Mejadra, (or Mujaddara) is a hearty basmati rice and lentil dish that’s sustained  Muslims, Christians, and Jews for centuries. Now we all can get in on the action thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi, who included a recipe for it in his now famous cookbook, Jerusalem.  I flip through the book whenever I’ve had a frustrating day in the kitchen, and I always come away with a gem.

Mejadra, Rice and Lentils

I’ve made quite a few of Ottolenghi’s recipes over the last couple of years and what continues to amaze me is how each one offers a slightly new flavor experience,  This highly spiced rice is very different even from the other rice based dishes I’ve made from Jerusalem, like CARAMELIZED ONION AND CARDAMOM RICE, or the BASMATI AND WILD RICE WITH CHICKPEAS, CURRENTS AND HERBS He somehow manages this fabulous variety without lots of hard to find or exotic ingredients.  I made this dish straight from the pantry, which may be part of the reason it’s been so popular with so many cultures  for so long.

Toasting spices for Mejadra

The smokey aroma of toasting cumin and coriander seeds gives you a hint of what’s in store.  A heavy but nuanced blend of more spices follows them into the pan, along with the basmati rice and par-cooked lentils.  Then it’s just about 15 minutes of slow cooking, and a few more minutes of sitting by the side of the stove.

Preparing Majadra

I will say the dish wouldn’t be complete without the fried onions.  They add a salty, sweet, crisp element that pretty much defines comfort.  You can make these ahead if you want, and leave them out, uncovered, until dinner time.  I love the way the dish calls for half of them to be tossed in with the rice and the rest to be piled on top.

fried onions

This dish makes such a pretty presentation that I think it would be great on a holiday table, and as an added bonus it provides a gluten free and vegetarian option for your guests.

Gluten Free, Vegetarian Mejadra




    fried onions
  • at least 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced in 1/8 inch thick slices
  • 3 Tbsp flour (omit for gluten free)
  • pinch of salt
  • for the main dish
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) green lentils
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1½ Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cup (200g) basmati rice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) water
  • garnish
  • chopped parsley


  1. Separate the onion slices into rings, and toss with the flour and salt.
  2. Heat the oil in a pot and fry the onions, in batches, in the hot oil for about 5 minutes until they are browned and crisp. Test the oil by dropping an onion in, it should sizzle on contact. If the onions fry too quickly, reduce the heat. I found that 300F worked well, if you have a thermometer.
  3. Drain the onions on paper towels and set aside.
  4. Rinse the lentils well, put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for about 12 minutes, until the lentils have begun to soften, but still have some bite to them. Drain and set aside.
  5. In a large pan heat the coriander and cumin seeds for a few minutes until you begin to smell their aromas. Add the rice, oil, spices, sugar, salt and pepper and stir to combine everything. Add the water and the cooked lentils. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and cook on low for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, lift the cover and lay a fresh tea towel over the pan, replace the cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn the rice into a large bowl, and toss with half the fried onions. Place the rest of the onions on top of the rice, and serve, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley.


slightly adapted from Jerusalem

Mejadra, a Middle Eastern comfort food made with rice, lentils and fried onions

Enjoy!   (I know you will!)


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25 Responses to Mejadra (from Jerusalem)

  1. Wendy says:

    What is a good yogurt sauce recipe for this?

  2. Barbara says:

    This is one I’ll certainly try.

  3. Ellyn says:

    Hi! I’m new to your blog — what a lovely site you’ve created! I just wanted to ask: in the Mejadra recipe above, it says, “!for the fried onions”. I’m assuming something got deleted accidentally. Could you possibly post what that deleted something is? I’d love to try this recipe with your tweaks!

    Wishing you a lovely and sparkly holiday season!

    • Sue says:

      That was just the heading for the ingredients for the fried onions, Ellyn. I’m so glad you found me, if you like this recipe I’ve got lots of other great Ottolenghi dishes!

  4. I’ve never come across this dish but it looks amazing!

    • Sue says:

      I would never have either, if not for the book. We all really liked it, and those crispy onions add the perfect touch!

  5. I love all of Ottolenghi’s books, and Jerusalem is hands down my favourite – like you I just find his food so inspiring.

    I’ve actually had this dish bookmarked for ages – only thing that’s stopped me making it is that my partner hates onions, and I’m just not sure if this dish would really stack up without them. I’d love your thoughts on that.

  6. Kate says:

    Just saw this amazing post, Sue.
    Photos make it impossible not to cook it up asap. Are the green lentils the everyday lentils in grocery stores or are they the costly French green lentils? Would it make a difference using any lentil? I have a pound of brown in the pantry and was wondering what are your recommendations.
    Thank you!

  7. Jerusalem is my very favourite cook book at the moment. I love that he covers the basic as well as some more unusual recipes, but they never seem too tricky.
    You’ve inspired me to get my copy out and start cooking!

  8. Barbara says:

    Sue, I love that cookbook! I’ve got many pages marked to try. This is a lovely dish, healthy and full of flavor. Beautifully photographed, as usual. (Didn’t know there was a new book coming out!)

  9. Lee says:

    I’ve made this before, it is reeeally good.

  10. This does look incredible. Toasting the spices brings so much flavor to the dish.

  11. Amanda says:

    This looks so amazing!!

  12. Dom says:

    oh YES, I adore this kind of middle eastern cooking and look at those glorious onions… I also really like this book, Ottolenghi is such an inspiration.

  13. Caitlin says:

    Wow this looks amazing. I’ve heard a lot about this cookbook and I must give some of the recipes a try!

  14. Susan says:

    Wow, does that ever look spectacular! I have to say that your fried onions are perfect too. I dare say I would love to dig into that lovely dish.

  15. He has the best recipes doesn’t he? I’ve liked everything that I’ve made of his!

  16. Spectacular recipe! But I think every recipe in that book is wonderful. You did a great job with it, and I love the photos. Thanks.

  17. Eileen says:

    Hooray, mujaddara! Why have I never made this before? I have definitely eaten plenty of it! :)

  18. SallyBR says:

    Oh, my gosh…. a new POST. A New POST…. (sorry, fast fingers, slow eyes)

  19. SallyBR says:

    One amazing cookbook indeed. Did you know you can already pre-order Plenty More? I did, and I am anxiously waiting for its release

    this dish you picked is spectacular – we would have to omit the onions due to my beloved partner’s sensitivity to them, but other than that: a winner, I am sure!

    Hope you are having a great week….always a pleasure to see a new pot from you!

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