When people think of Jewish food, they don’t tend to think of Indian cuisine, but there actually have been several small Jewish communities in India. Rather than one mass migration, Jewish groups have settled in India at different times throughout the centuries. Today, most Indian Jews have immigrated or “made Aliyah” to Israel, but a few do continue to live in India. Like other Jewish communities around the globe, Indian Jews have adapted their adopted country’s cuisine to make it kosher. This makes for some really interesting, really flavorful recipes. To learn more about the Jewish community in India, click here.

We are close friends with a Sephardic Jewish family from India. The Ashtamker family moved to Israel not long after it became a nation, then made their way to America about 20 years ago. They have shared many special meals with us over the years. I love their family recipes, but most of them require a trip to the local Indian or Jewish market—the spices and ingredients can’t always be found in a regular grocery store. Exploring those tiny markets can be fun, but when I share a recipe with you I try to keep things simple, using ingredients that can be found at your local supermarket.

Of all the dishes the Ashtamker family has taught us, the one I make most often is called mujadara. This dish is not only consumed in India; it is popular throughout the Middle East and Arab world. It is frequently eaten by Jewish families because it’s kosher, pareve, and very inexpensive to prepare. The ingredients should all be easy to find at your local market. Mujadara is vegetarian, gluten free, and very healthy. I often eat this as an entrée when I’m in the mood for a filling vegetarian meal. Be sure to follow the directions as written, it will make your mujadara nice and fluffy. As you cook you may feel like you’re adding too much salt, but don’t worry… much of the salt is rinsed away with the soaking and cooking liquid. The end result will be moderately salted.

If you are eating this as an entrée and you don’t mind making it a dairy meal, try topping it with some Greek yogurt along with the caramelized onions—it is simple and delicious!

One final note— you might notice that I’ve added a “Gluten Free” category to my blog. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going through the archives and re-categorizing all my gluten free dishes. I hope this is helpful to those of you who are avoiding gluten! If it is, leave me a comment and let me know.  :)

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  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 strips lemon peel, about 2 inches long each
  • 2 large onions
  • Salt and pepper
Prep Time: 2 Hours
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 3 Hours
Servings: 8
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Rinse and sort the rice, removing any small stones or impurities, then cover it with cold water and 2 tsp of salt. Let it soak at room temperature for 2 hours.
  • Rinse and sort the lentils, removing any small stones or impurities.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 tsp salt to the boiling water, then add the lentils. Reduce heat to medium and simmer the lentils till they are tender, but not soft or mushy (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and drain, then rinse in a colander with cold water.
  • Drain and rinse the soaked rice.
  • Rinse out the saucepan where you cooked the lentils and pour in 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. While water is heating, in a large pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil till hot enough for frying. Add the lentils to the pot along with the cumin, 1/2 tsp salt (if you are watching your sodium intake, use 1/4 tsp salt), and 1/4 tsp pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the drained rice to the pot and stir.
  • When the water in the small saucepan boils, pour it over the lentils and rice. Stir. Add bay leaves and lemon peel to the pot and bring water to a boil. Cover the pot. Reduce heat and let the rice steam at a low simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
  • Turn off the rice, uncover the pot, fluff the rice with a fork, cover the pot again and let it sit for another 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat up 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Peel the onion and cut into thin slices. Fry the onion slices over medium heat until they are soft and nicely caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Fluff the mujadra with a fork again. Serve topped with the caramelized onions. If you like the flavor of butter, you can substitute melted butter for olive oil. If you do this, please keep in mind that the dish becomes dairy rather than pareve.

Comments (36)Post a Comment

  1. I love your posts! Not only am I a big fan of Indian cuisine but I have Celiac Disease which demands a vigilant gluten free diet. Generally speaking Indian food is very gluten free friendly with the exception of Asafoetida (hing). I appreciate any effort to identify, label or categorize gluten free! I am very grateful to my Jewish friends who are particularly willing and capable of serving gluten free meals so that I can join in on holidays and Shabbot.

  2. I am so glad I found your blog! This recipe is a winner for me and I am SURE I’ll be trying it very soon. I love easy vegetarian recipes and Indian cuisine is a favourite!

  3. found u on facebook, going to try ur recipe for mjuadra! last time I tried to make it turned out mushy, will the try ur method next guessing it will be better!

  4. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Looks yummy! I’m not a big fan of onions but I’m guessing I can just leave those out. Imagining it with Greek yogurt on top mmmmm

  5. Thank you for “lightening” up the recipe this week, my sister is vegetarian and she’s coming to visit over the weekend so this is perfect timing! =)

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Thank you for the re-categorizing of the gluten-free recipes! My husband is being tested shortly for Celliac’s Disease and in case he has it, I have been compiling a list of delicious gluten-free dishes to make for us. It’ll be easier for everyone involved if we’re both gluten-free.. even if I do love my gluten. :)

    So thank you for the gluten-free recipes, and thank you for all your recipes. You’re a warm soul and I love reading your updates and recipes.

  7. This looks like another winner. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks. I’m a big fan of your blog and eagerly await publication of your cookbook.

  8. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Iv’e alwaysdone this with chick peas a sweet onion like vidalia and a 1/2clove of elephant garlic. Tried it this way last night it was great. a great Batya

  9. I am also married to an Israeli. Do you have a good recipe for any fillings for borekas, other than cheese? I am very good at the cheese, but we haven’t lived there in over 25 years and I simply don’t remember all the fillings. I am also sick of cheese borekas. Help! By the way, I have just discovered and fallen in love with your website/blog. It’s great. Keep it going.

  10. I’ve been looking for a mujadara recipe forever! I had it at the “yemenite diner” on Emek Refaim, but then found out that they put gluteny soup mix in it! I’ve wanted to make it myself but wasn’t able to.


  11. I just saw this and am marking your method for a try. I do something similar but cheat. It all goes in the rice cooker. Rice, lentils, onions, bay leaves, cumin, ginger, and lemons. I stir in toasted cashews and top with crispy onions.

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I made this over the weekend and loved it!! Rice and lentils came out perfectly, and the onions added a nice sweetness to it. Will be making this a lot in my household. Thank you!

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My friend is a complete health nut, exercises daily, thinks he is fat even though he has been featured in muscle magainzes because of his 6 pack. he has no fat to be found, and only eats healthy. THIS is what i caught him eating plenty of time, he loves it! its delicious and healthy! its good for meal plans of low cholesterol and low blood pressure!

    1. Haha, I’m not surprised Sophia! I eat variations on this recipe for lunch several times a month. It really is healthy and it tastes great! I sometimes scramble the leftovers with eggs the next morning for a savory breakfast with protein.

  14. Bueno, estas son las lentejas con arroz sefardíes de toda la vida sólo que cocemos primero las lentejas con el comino, el laurel y un par de clavos de especia. Cuando está a punto de terminar de cocer se añade el arroz hasta que esté en su punto.

    1. I’ve never tested the recipe with brown rice, but I know it can be done that way. I will try to test it over the weekend. I assume the cooking time will need to be slightly longer. I’ll let you know when I’ve had a chance to try it.

  15. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is what’s for dinner tonite. Please don’t anyone skip the onions! Use sweet onions & carmelizing them makes them all the better

  16. Is it possible to make this with red lentils although they’re softer? Brown lentils aren’t very easy to come by in my part of the world!

  17. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Looking forward to making this! LOVE your gluten free recipes—please keep them coming. I chose to avoid gluten due to painfully inflamed knees & ankles. Now that I eat zero gluten, my knees feel back to normal. I can jump rope in my work-out gain! I found you through Patti Londre & the wonderful Thanksgiving meal that the food bloggers made.

    1. Actually, mujadara is made all throughout the Arab world. In fact, the first recorded recipe can be found in a cookbook from Iraq that was published in 1226– though the origins of the dish stretch back much further than that.

  18. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I am trying out a GF diet for the new year and this will be one of the first things I make! I’m hoping to find recipes that my whole family can enjoy, even though I will be doing the GF thing on my own. It looks fantastic, thanks!

  19. Thank you so much for starting a GF tab. I am celiac, and while I enjoy reading through recipes, sometimes I just need to find something – QUICK!!!!! This sounds delicious – I plan to make a pot this week and can’t wait to enjoy it.

  20. I haven’t made your recipe yet, but look forward to trying it. My mother used to make this ( her parents were born on Syria) and it was my favourite. She was a great cook, but couldn’t give me the details of how to make it…thanks for the specific because when I’ve made it the rice came out a bit too soft.

  21. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I’miss glad to have found your site. I made Mujadara tonight using your recipe, it turned out really well! Thank you for sharing.

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