I was first introduced to Mejadra by my Israeli girlfriend, decades ago. This recipe is from the award winning cookbook Jerusalem, and is the real deal. Apparently the secret to great Mejadra is in the onions. They are indeed fried, tasting sweet and salted. I admit – I just couldn’t fry my onions in 1 cup of oil! So the only thing I changed in this recipe is that I cut the oil in half, and sauteed them very very well. You decide how you want to make them…I thinks it tastes great no matter what. To me, the great secrect to this recipe is the 10 minutes of covering the dish with a towel…creating a wonderful moist steam tent that renders the lentils perfectly succulent and chewy. 

Adapted from JerusalemA Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

Serves 6


  • 1 ¼ cups brown or green lentils
  • 4 medium onions (1 ½ lbs before peeling)
  • 3 TBS all-purpose flour
  • About 1/2  cup sunflower oil 
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 ½ TBS coriander seeds ( or 1 TBS ground coriander)
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with the flour and 1 tsp. of salt, and mix well with your hands. Heat about half of the sunflower oil in a medium cast iron saucepan placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add one-third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 -7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature so the onion doesn’t fry too quickly and burn). Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed.

Wipe the saucepan in which you fried the onion clean and put in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover the pan a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. 

Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Serve with Greek yogurt or Labneh.

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