Ready for a Lebanese mujadara recipe with lemon-herb vinaigrette? Caramelized onions? We're using quick-cooking red lentils and bulgur and aromatic spices for a speedy and tasty plant-based.
When everyone’s hungry, and you announce you're cooking a Lebanese recipe, chances are, someone (maybe even you) will roll their eyes. No worries. This flavor-packed recipe is super easy and doesn’t require searching for ingredients. You probably have them in the pantry right now.
Mujadara is a traditional Middle Eastern dish that defines simplicity. While all mujadara recipes feature lentils, often, you’ll find recipes that use rice as the second grain.
My preference for mujadara is bulgur. Admittedly, I am a bit addicted to bulgur. And I love how it cooks at precisely the same time as split red lentils. And that's about 15 minutes, friends.
What is bulgur?
Take a minute and treat yourself to developing a friendship with bulgur. It could well be one of those lasting ones. Bulgur or bulgur wheat (wheat berries) is a whole grain that is first cracked and then par-boiled, milled, and dried. This means that it comes partially cooked and saves you oodles of cooking time.
As a whole food grain, bulgur delivers a healthy dose of nutrition by anyone’s standards. With just 150 calories in a cup that is high in protein, fat, and cholesterol-free, and a good source of iron, magnesium, and manganese. If that isn’t enough, bulgur is high on the fiber scale. High fiber ensures that you’ll leave the table satisfied. Your gut will thank you for that.
Beyond all this healthy talk, bulgur is one of my favorite substitutes for ground meat. Seriously, it makes a meaty 5-alarm chili, and with mushrooms, a flavorful stuffed butternut squash. It’s so easy to cook that you can just toss it right in the pot. It’s mild, nutty flavor pairs well with just about anything from Middle Eastern vegetables to quick Mexican bulgur bowls.
My version of Lebanese mujadara involves onions. A lot of onions. Now, let’s not get frightened off by 4 onions. I go even further and ramp that up to 6 sometimes. We'll start by caramelizing all of them, then use half for the mujadara pot and the rest as a flavorful garnish.
How to caramelize onions without oil
One of the principles of healthy, plant-based eating involved eliminating, as much as possible, all added oil. There are numerous solutions for making oil-free recipes from salad dressings to Greek baked beans or hummus, sans added oil. However, sautéing onions can sometimes present the biggest challenge. Or so we think.
My point is that you can get stuck believing that there isn’t another way to do something. When it comes to caramelizing onions. Nope, there is indeed a healthier way. Here are my 3 favorite tips.
1. Heat the pan before you add the onions. If you add onions to a cold pan, they will simply melt and disintegrate as the pan heat up. That’s a recipe for sticking to the bottom.
2. Keep the onions moving. It takes a few minutes to stand before the pan, wooden spoon in hand, while you gently move the onions along. This ensures even cooking and helps to prevent sticking.
3. Add liquid. Once the onions have released their natural moisture, if you add ½ a cup of vegetable broth or water, your onions will soak that up and start to get dark. You won’t get the crispiness that might happen with oil, but you’re saving fat and calories that you’ll never miss.
4. This is a bonus. For darker onions (not burned) that are a bit crispier, after you saute them in the pan, place them in a hot oven (about 4250 F) for a few minutes.
Let's make mujadara!
My best preparation advice is to be sure you have everything ready before you start sauteing the onions. I always use the same pot for the onions that I’m going to make my mujadara in. I just use tongs to remove about half the onions and then add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and paprika. You only need 30 seconds. Enough time to mix everything is all you need.
If you decide you want to keep your extra onions warm, use the oven trick. Likewise, if you place them on a warm plate toward the back of the stove, they should stay warm enough for a garnish.
Once you have the spices going, just add the broth. Take a moment to grab that wooden spoon and let the broth pick up all the yummy onions from the bottom of the pan. After that, add the bulgur and red lentils. Bring the pot to a gentle boil, cover it, and lower the heat a smidge. You don't want the pot to boil over.
It takes about 15 minutes for the lentils and bulgur to cook. Check the pot after 10 minutes and give it all a stir. You may need to add another ½ cup of broth if the liquid is running low. Lentils and bulgur are very forgiving, so if you add too much, just simmer it for a few minutes longer.
In the meantime
Congratulations, you’ve got the mujadara cooking. Now what? Here's an idea. Take that 10 minutes and make a lemon-herb vinaigrette. Believe me, you don’t want to miss out on this one. You’ll need precisely 4 ingredients:
2/3 of a cup of lemon juice
1 clove of pressed garlic
1/3 of a cup of fresh mint, chopped
1/3 of a cup of fresh parsley, chopped.
I like to use flat-leaf (Italian) parsley because I find the flavor mellower, but you could use curly parsley as well. You could also add or substitute chopped cilantro for the parsley. Keep the fresh mint if possible. The flavor highlights the zesty lemon juice and compliments the mujadara spices.
Mujadara plated up with those extra onions and topped off with a zesty vinaigrette is close to food nirvana as far as I’m concerned. With all the goodness of the lentils and bulgur, it’s a satisfying meal. It's so good that even though you're filled to the brim, you still want to keep eating it. Not to worry, you can heat up any leftovers in a pan on the stove. Just add a bit of broth or water to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If I’ve learned anything from cooking exclusively plant-based meals, it’s that ‘exotic’ doesn’t mean extra work (or ingredients). I’ve also discovered that nothing, not even no-oil caramelized onions, interferes with my diet aspirations.
It’s all about discovering new practices, trying them, and making adjustments if you need to. That’s not just about plant-based cooking. That’s cooking (and life) in general. Try to anticipate the next move, catch the curveball, and be determined to keep playing the game. Peace.Print
Ready for a quick Lebanese mujadara recipe with lemon-herb vinaigrette? This mouthwatering plant-based meal includes caramelized onions, aromatic spices, and a combination of red lentils and bulgur.
- 4 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
- 4 ½ cups vegetable broth (use ½ a cup for the onions)
- 1 cup of red lentils, rinsed
- 1 cup bulgur, rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic pressed
- 1/3 cup chopped mint
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Heat a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir them constantly until they start to brown.
- Stir in ½ a cup of vegetable broth and continue cooking until the broth evaporates.
- Transfer half of the onions to a plate and cover them to keep them warm. Alternatively, you can transfer them to a baking tray and keep them warm in the oven at 4250 F (2200 C).
- Once you have removed the onions, add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and paprika to the cooking pot. Stir to mix them in.
- Add the vegetable broth and use a spoon to pick up any pieces of onion or spices that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Mix in the lentils and bulgur and bring the pot to a medium simmer (low boil). Cover the pot and lower the heat slightly so that it doesn’t boil over.
- Check after 10 minutes and give the contents of the pot a stir. Add another ½ cup of broth or water if the liquid is mostly absorbed already.
- Cover the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes until the lentils and bulgur are tender. At this point, most or all of the broth has dissipated.
- To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, garlic, mint, and parsley.
- Garnish individual servings of mujadara with the remaining onions and lemon-herb vinaigrette.
- Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To reheat on the stove or microwave, add water. This keeps it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Split red lentils work best for this recipe as they need the same time to cook at the bulgur. If you use whole red lentils, follow the recipe as written. It will take about 10 minutes longer. You may need to add a bit more broth.
- Be mindful that you have all your ingredients ready to cook. Once the onions are cooked, add the rest of the ingredients quickly to avoid scorching.
- I can’t recommend bulgur highly enough; however, you could substitute rice if you want a gluten-free option. The cooking time will be longer if you start with dry rice, so be mindful of preparation times.
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Lebanese
Keywords: Lebanese mujadara recipe