Mejadra - A aromatic Middle Eastern Rice and Lentil Pilaf. A recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi.
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4.92 from 24 votes

Middle Eastern Rice (Mejadra)

Mejadra is a fragrant Middle Eastern rice pilaf with crunchy fried onion throughout it. This is slightly adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, from his wonderful cookbook Jerusalem. The main difference is that he uses dried lentils, I use canned. If you don't have time or don't want to deep fry, substitute the fried onions with Asian fried shallots, available from Asian stores and the Asian section of major supermarkets in Australia (Coles, Woolies). The taste is remarkably similar!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Pilaf, Rice
Cuisine: Arabic, Middle Eastern
Servings: 4
Author: Nagi


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds (or 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander)
  • 1 cup basmati or long grain rice , uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cup / 315 ml water (see notes)
  • 400g / 14 oz canned brown lentils, drained (1 can) , drained
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Black pepper

Crispy Fried Onions (Note 2)

  • 3 large or 4 small onions , very finely sliced
  • 1 cup / 250 ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Salt


Crispy Onions

  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add about 1/3 of the onions and cook for 5 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
  • Repeat with remaining onions, in two batches.


  • Put the olive oil, cumin seeds and coriander in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant.
  • Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and spices.
  • Add the water and lentils.
  • While it comes to boil, add all the other spices, salt and pepper.
  • When it comes to a boil, turn it down to medium-low, cover with lid and let cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until all the liquid has mostly been absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and let it rest for 10 minutes - during this time, any residual liquid will absorb.
  • Fluff rice with a from and adjust the seasoning with more salt if you wish.
  • Just prior to serving, stir through most of the onions and top with remainder. Sprinkle with chopped coriander if desired. Best served warm.


1. Different rices and brands require different ratios of rice to water. Typically for long grain and basmati rice it is 1 cup of rice to 1 1/2 cups of water, but you should check the package instructions. Whatever the water quantity is, reduce it by 1/4 cup. This is because this recipe uses canned lentils which, although you drain it, adds to the liquid while cooking. If you do not reduce the quantity of water, the rice turns out wetter than it should.
2. ALTERNATIVE: Use fried shallots / onions sold in jars in the Asian section of the supermarket. They are crunchy, salty and oily, so they serve the same purpose and taste the same. This is what I usually use. They are addictive!
3. WHOLE VS GROUND SPICES: The Yotam recipe uses cumin and coriander seeds which soften when cooked, but the coriander is still a little bit firm (but soft firm). This added texture is the way the recipe is intended to be BUT if you prefer not to have the seeds in it, feel free to use ground, I've provided the quantities in the recipe. :)