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Brown rice mejadra

Sat, 28 January, 2023

Mejadra, Palestinian classic of rice and lentils, streamlined by using shop-bought crispy onions. None the less delicious for it!

brown rice mejadra

Esau’s bowl of soup

So the story tells that the biblical ginger Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils (a ‘mess of potage’), thus letting his younger brother Jacob become a legal heir.

There is apparently some substance to the conjecture that the ‘mess of potage’ could have been mejadra: the Levantine classic of lentils cooked with onions and grains of some kind: rice, freekeh or bulgur.

And if that was the case, even though poor Esau is still the original dunce, at least he can be partly excused: mejadra is incredibly good.

mejadra with brown rice

Where does mejadra come from?

It can be spelt variously in English: majadra, mejadra, moujadara, mudardara, and megadarra. It means ‘spotty’ or ‘pockmarked’ for the dark lentils amongst the pale-coloured rice or bulgur.

The nicest thing about traditional, even ancient Middle Eastern dishes like this is that they unite all the forever warring peoples there.

My recipe comes from Falastin, Sami Tamimi’s Palestinian cookbook but Jewish communities love it too, calling it ‘Esau’s favourite’.

It is popular in Lebanon, in Egypt and Iran, and Cypriots have their own version as well. How come they fight people who love and eat the same food?

rice lentils and onions

My mejadra tip

Mejadra is a poor man’s dish so it’s simple and filling. Lentils are cooked with rice or bulgur, with fried onions added at the end.

To save time and curb frying smells, I suggest using crispy fried onions from a tub, like French’s or supermarkets’ own brands, or the fried shallots available from Asian supermarkets in enormous containers (I go through them rather easily).

How much to use? Two medium onions fried till crisp yield about 60g or 1 cup of finished product. That’s also the amount used in this recipe, to serve two people generously.

You can take the shortcut even further by using ready-cooked lentils. Thus the whole meal will take barely half an hour to prepare, but of course it will be more expensive.

Should you decide to go for it, an amount of dry lentils equals about twice as much in weight when cooked, so a pouch or a tin of 200-250g of cooked lentils, drained, will be what you need.


How to make mejadra with brown rice?

You can make it with basmati rice of course, in which case shorten the cooking time to 15 minutes and use a little less water, 200ml or so. I simply love brown rice, so that’s my ingredient of choice for this wonderful dish.

Lentils should be brown or green (puy), the type that holds their shape.

You can soak them for half an hour before cooking if time allows, then bring to the boil in the soaking water and simmer until tender but with a bite, about 15 minutes.

soaking lentils

For the rice, the cumin and coriander seeds should be toasted first in a dry pan: the fragrance will be amazing. I like to crush them lightly beforehand, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Then the rice and the rest of the spices go into the pan with olive oil and toast a little too. Drained lentils join in with a cup of boiling water.

When it all comes to the boil, we should cover the pan tightly with a lid, turn the heat right down and leave it to simmer for 40 minutes.

After that time all the liquid should be absorbed but peek in to check in case there’s still some moisture at the bottom. In which case keep cooking for 5 more minutes before you take the pan off the heat and cover with a towel-wrapped lid to de-steam the dish.

Ten minutes later you can stir half the fried onions into the pan, pile mejadra into bowls and top with more onions.

Serve and enjoy it with green salad – but probably best if you hold on to your birth certificate!

how to cook mejadra

More lentil recipes

Lentils and chorizo stew, with ripe fresh tomatoes. This recipe for lentils with chorizo is a cross between Spanish tapas and a Mexican chilli, with chunky chorizo and puy lentils cooked al dente. A one pot dish, hearty and spicy.

Spicy, cheesy lentil bake, a superior vegetarian dish put together in 15 minutes. Baked cheesy lentils inspired by NY Times Cooking.

Lentil and mushroom bake with red peppers and a little spinach for a vibrant colour. Lentils are cooked from scratch but no soaking required for this recipe.

More Middle Eastern recipes

Lavash, Middle Eastern flatbread often served with dips or kebabs, is easy to make and cooked on the hob in a frying pan with a little ghee.

Radish, cucumber and herb salad, the healthiest plate imaginable. This is a super easy recipe for a herb salad based on sabzi khordan, Persian fresh herb platter.

Muhammara, roasted red pepper and walnut dip, flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper flakes. This should be a firm fixture in your next meze!

palestinian rice and lentils

Brown rice mejadra

Servings: 2Time: 1 hour


  • 100g (½ cup) green lentils
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 100g (½ cup) brown rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
  • 60g (¾ cup) crispy fried onions


1. Place the lentils in a pan and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.

2. Bring the lentils in the soaking water to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until tender, but still with a bite. Drain and set aside.

3. Lightly crush the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Place them in another pan, one with a tightly fitting lid, and set over medium heat, to toast for a minute or two and turn fragrant.

4. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper to the pan and stir to coat.

5. Add the cooked lentils and boiling water. Bring to a boil, cover with the lid and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 40 minutes. If using basmati rice, cook for 20 minutes only.

6. Take the pan off the heat, wrap the lid in a clean tea towel and quickly place back on the pan. Leave for 10 minutes.

7. Fluff mejadra up with a fork and stir in half the fried onions. Divide between serving bowls and top with the remaining onions.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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