Wholesome and hearty red lentils and rice, this dish is known as mujadara safra. This is a traditional flavorsome vegan Lebanese dish made without oil. Made from simmered red lentils, rice, and onions with a hint of spices.
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What is Mujadara Safra?
Mujadara Safra is a traditional Lebanese dish made with red lentils, rice, and caramelized onions.
Originally a poor-mans dish, that can be served warm or at room temperature.
"Mujadara" is the Arabic word for "pockmarked" referring to the scattered lentils and rice.
The word "safra" means "yellow" in Arabic, which refers to the color of the dish.
The dish typically uses olive oil or butter. However, this is a healthier low-fat oil-free version.
Having personally grown up on all types of Mujadara, the flavors are heavenly and comforting.
It's really amazing how so few ingredients can be big flavored.
Why You'll Love this Recipe
- It's a wholesome and hearty meal that's perfect for a variety of special diets, including vegetarian, vegan, soy-free, corn-free, and gluten-free.
- The combination of lentils, rice, and caramelized onions creates a delicious and satisfying texture that's both filling and nutritious.
- Inexpensive whole foods are used. Nothing else.
- This recipe is easy to make, just requires soaking and some stirring.
🧅Ingredients You'll Need
Notes on some of the ingredients, the full list of ingredients and their measurements can be found in the recipe card below.
Red lentils are super easy to cook with. They will need to be rinsed and soaked prior to cooking. They are high in protein and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to your diet.
Medium-grain rice or short-grain rice can be used, which are ideal for absorbing the flavors of the lentils and spices in this dish.
The rice will also need to be rinsed and soaked prior to cooking. I combine the lentils and rice together to soak.
Red onion will be caramelized without oil which is a key element in Mujadara Safra. They add sweetness and depth of flavor.
The red coloring of the onion will help with the "yellow" color of the overall dish.
Ground cumin and Lebanese 7 spice will be used in small amounts to boost the flavors, especially as we are cooking this recipe without oil (caramelizing the onion with oil generally yields a tasty sweetness that isn't as strong without oil).
Salt is used to enhance the flavors of the lentils, rice, and onions. Add this to taste.
🍚How to Make Mujadara Safra
Step 1 - Rinse and soak the red lentils and rice in hot water for 20 minutes.
Step 2 - In a large non-stick pot, over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of water (traditionally olive oil is used) and sauté finely diced red onions until they are lightly golden.
You will need to consistently be stirring to ensure they do not stick.
Step 3 - Add the drained lentils and rice to the pot, along with the spices, and the water. Stir through ensuring everything is evenly mixed.
Cover with the lid and bring to a soft boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring vigorously occasionally.
You may need to leave the lid partially open.
Step 4 - Stir through the salt and give the mixture another vigorous stir. Simmer for another 10 minutes, with occasional vigorous stirring.
Turn off heat and serve warm or at room temperature. As the porridge cools, with will thicken making it easier to scoop.
Highly recommended Optional step - cut up a loaf of Lebanese pita bread (affiliate link) and place the pieces onto a lined baking sheet, bake in a preheated 180C (350F) oven until golden brown.
Use the oven-baked pita bread to scoop up the mujadara hamra to eat. Note that if you are gluten-free, use your preferred gluten-free pita bread, or check out this gluten-free pita chips recipe.
Tip: whilst the ingredients are cooked at the 15-minute mark, the texture isn’t quite there. Mujadara safra needs to be mushy.
The lentils and the rice shouldn't be fully intact, in fact, the red lentils should be completely disintegrated. Hence the vigorous stirring.
Lebanese red lentils and rice is typically served with oven-baked bite sized pieces of Lebanese pita bread and then used as a scoop.
It is always served with cut-up fresh vegetables either in salad form or as an assortment.
If you prefer just cutting up veggies, try it with fresh radish, cucumbers, tomato, onion wedges.
I personally love it with fresh basil leaves that I use as a scoop (N.B., this can be overpowering in flavor for some)
Add some pickles on the side for a tangy contrast.
Or read this round-up of what to serve with mujadara.
This is another dish called Mujadara Makhbousa, aka Lebanese lentil porridge. It is thicker but very similar in texture to this version and equally delicious.
Allow it to cool down to room temperature completely, then transfer it to an air-tight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat portions as required.
Or similar in flavor to this dish is my popular Lebanese lentil soup.
Mujadara Safra (Red Lentils and Rice)
- Rinse and then soak the red lentils and rice in hot water (they should be fully submerged) for 15-20 minutes. (chop up the onions whilst waiting)2 cups Red lentils, ½ cup Medium grain rice, 4 cups Hot water
- In a large non-stick pot, over high heat, add 2 tablespoons of water and sauté thinly sliced red onions until they are lightly golden. You will need to consistently be stirring to ensure they do not stick. This will take a few minutes.1 large Red onion, 2 tablespoons Water
- Drain the lentils and rice and then add them to the pot, along with the spices, and the water. Stir through ensuring everything is evenly mixed. Cover with the lid and bring to a soft boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally stir vigorously (see note 1). You may need to leave the lid partially open. Skim the top of the water if there is any foam.4 cups Water, ⅛ teaspoon Ground cumin, ⅛ teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice
- Stir through the salt and give the mixture another vigorous stir. Simmer for another 10 minutes, with occasional vigorous stirring. Turn off the heat and serve warm or at room temperature. As the porridge cools, with will thicken making it easier to scoop. (See note 2 for serving suggestion)2 teaspoons Salt
N.B., nutrition info is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. This will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.