Ottolenghi’s Mejadra Recipe

Mejadra from Jerusalemn

Ottolenghi’s Mejadra recipe is serious comfort food, Middle Eastern style. Mejadra, (or Mujaddara) is a hearty vegan and gluten free basmati rice and lentil dish that’s sustained Muslims, Christians, and Jews for centuries.

MEJADRA (FROM JERUSALEM) in a wooden bowl with fried onions rings

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.

This gorgeous lentil and rice pilaf can be a hearty appetizer, or a stow stopping vegan meal.

MEJADRA (FROM JERUSALEM) being tossed with spoons

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, Currants, and Herbs. 

Ottolenghi  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

Tip: Toast your spices before you add them to your recipes, it brings out the essential oils and allows their flavor to bloom.

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

This dish isn’t complete without those glorious 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.

MEJADRA (FROM JERUSALEM) in a wooden bowl

Enjoy! (I know you will!)

MEJADRA (FROM JERUSALEM) in a wooden bowl with a spoon

Other Middle Eastern recipes to try ~

Persian Jeweled Rice

Shirazi Salad

How to Make Tzatziki Dip

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus

MEJADRA (FROM JERUSALEM) in a wooden bowl
3.44 from 58 votes


Mejadra (from Jerusalem) is serious comfort food, Middle Eastern style.  Mejadra, (or Mujaddara) is a hearty vegan and gluten free basmati rice and lentil dish that's sustained Muslims, Christians, and Jews for centuries.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Yield 6 -8 servings
Author Sue Moran


fried onions

  • 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 or 250g, green lentils
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cup or 200g, basmati rice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • tsp ground allspice
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups or 350ml, water


  • chopped parsley


  • Separate the onion slices into rings, and toss with the flour and salt.
  • 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.
  • Drain the onions on paper towels and set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Cook's notes

slightly adapted from Jerusalem
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Mejadra pin


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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2020 at 6:31 am

    5 stars
    I have recently begun trying dal recipes, and this one is my favorite. The spices are perfect and the onions give it a fantastic burst of crunch and flavor. If you don’t have the time to make the onions from scratch, they can be purchased at the supermarket. Just buy a quality brand. Fantastic recipe – thank you!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2020 at 6:50 pm

      You can’t beat Ottolenghi 🙂

  • Reply
    March 13, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Did you find that 1.5 cups of water was enough? My rice was still so undercooked and I had to double the water…

    • Reply
      March 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      All I can think is that rice varies greatly, and we may have used two very different types of basmati.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2016 at 6:59 am

    What is a good yogurt sauce recipe for this?

    • Reply
      July 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

      I like to mix yogurt with lemon juice, or lemon juice and tahini, Wendy.

  • Reply
    February 1, 2016 at 8:04 am

    This is one I’ll certainly try.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      December 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Millie | Add A Little
    May 15, 2015 at 11:51 pm

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

    • Reply
      May 16, 2015 at 7:57 am

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

  • Reply
    Couscous & Consciousness
    August 27, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      August 28, 2014 at 7:49 am

      It wouldn’t be as good, for sure, but there must be something you could sub in…does your partner like shallots? (I’m guessing not) Maybe something like finely julienned fried carrots would work, they would add the salty sweetness. Or how about roasted nuts, like pistachios. Or, going out on a limb here…frizzled Brussels sprouts, they are so good, I made them for the top of a soup once, ( Good luck —

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Helen @ Scrummy Lane
    August 22, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 5:02 am

    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!)

  • Reply
    August 22, 2014 at 1:55 am

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

  • Reply
    Jamie | My Baking Addiciton
    August 21, 2014 at 7:38 pm

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

  • Reply
    August 21, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    This looks so amazing!!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2014 at 10:50 am

    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.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2014 at 7:32 am

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

    • Reply
      August 21, 2014 at 9:59 am

      The book is a real masterpiece Caitlin, I highly recommend it!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2014 at 5:49 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    August 21, 2014 at 2:46 am

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

    • Reply
      August 21, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Me too! I really think he’s going to go down in history as one of the great culinary movers and shakers.

  • Reply
    [email protected] Riffs
    August 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

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

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 9:56 am

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

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 9:56 am

    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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