Instant Pot mujaddara (or mujadara) is the best way to enjoy this classic Middle Eastern lentil rice pilaf. The instant pot makes easy work of cooking lentils and brown rice, two things that can take a long time and be easy to get wrong. The whole dish comes together in a flavorsome and perfectly textured bowl of deliciousness.
SO healthy too!
What is mujaddara?
Mujaddara is a delicious classic dish in Middle Eastern cuisine. It consists of rice and lentils that are heavily spiced with cumin, and served with plenty of caramelized onions. Traditionally, this is considered a peasant dish because it’s made with budget grains and without any meat, but it tastes anything but. Mujaddara is full of flavor and texture and is utterly comforting!
Why should I make this Instant Pot mujaddara?
Mujaddara is such a healthy, fuss free meal. It’s vegan, and works great when you feel like going meat free, or need a meal to make with just pantry ingredients.
Mujaddara is rich in complimentary proteins. This is a fancy way of saying the rice and lentils compliment each other to give you essential amino acids that you’d be missing if you just consumed one without the other.
It requires just a handful of ingredients, most of which are staples, and a few simple steps to follow.
Using an Instant Pot makes this even easier, and although you can make this on the stove top with great results, I love the ease that comes with cooking the entire meal in the same pot. The instant pot cooks the lentils and brown rice perfectly in a fraction of the time.
Mujaddara ingredients and substitutions:
Rice: I used brown basmati rice, and I think brown rice is perfect in this. The nuttiness of the brown rice works so well with the lentils.
You can use white basmati rice instead, just reduce the cooking time to 11 minutes and the water to 2.5 cups.
Lentils: Brown lentils. They get a quick soak in hot water while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Onions: Probably my favorite part of mujaddara. This is why I use three onions when a lot of recipes will just call for one. I usually use red onions, but I’ll use whatever is on hand. The idea is to deeply caramelize the onions until golden brown and sweet. Half of the caramelized onions are mixed into the mujaddara and the rest are reserved for topping.
Garlic: Another thing I can’t cook without. The recipe calls for some minced garlic, but my favorite part is the whole garlic cloves. I got the idea from an Instagram food account I follow and love, Wicked Wifey. Basically, you add peeled whole garlic cloves scattered in the pot before cooking, then they soften and became a little sweet and mushy, the perfect surprise in a mouthful of rice. My husband and I hunt down these garlic cloves like gold!
Spices and Seasoning: The star of the spices is definitely the cumin. Not only does the flavor wonderfully enhance the lentils, but it’s said cumin helps with digestion, so Middle Eastern cuisine its commonly added to pulses and beans and things that are harder to digest. Lots of cumin is added to this, don’t be scared by the amount, it’ll come out wonderfully. We also add a little seven spices (or mixed spices or all spice), cinnamon, and salt and pepper.
Steps in making Instant Pot Mujaddara:
Prepare all your ingredients. Thinly slice the onions, mince the garlic cloves. Soak the brown rice for 20-30 minutes, then drain and rinse until clear. At the same time, soak the lentils in hot water until it comes time to use them in the recipe.
Sauté the onions and garlic: With your instant pot set to sauté, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Keep cooking, stirring frequently, until the onion turn a deep golden brown and soften. This will probably take around 6-8 minutes.
After the onions have caramelized, set aside half of them onto a paper towel lined plate (to soak up some of the extra oil). add the minced garlic and cook for another one to two minutes until fragrant.
Add the spices: Add the spices, stir, and cook for 30 seconds or so, then add the drained lentils, drained rice and the water. Stir to combine, then set instant pot to High pressure for 11 minutes (make sure the valve is set to seal not vent).
Once the cooking time is finish, let the pressure naturally release for 10-15 minutes, then vent any remaining pressure and open the lid.
Fluff gently with a fork, and serve warm, topping with additional onions.
What to serve with mujaddara:
Mujaddara is best served with yogurt, either plain or with some minced garlic and cucumber slices mixed in.
I like to serve it with both yogurt AND a simple green salad. There’s nothing like a bite that has all three components in it. Delicious!
It has such a hearty flavor, that pairing it with something like olives or pickles gives such a great acidity and tang to the dish.
How to make mujaddara without an instant pot:
You can definitely make this in a regular saucepan! What you need to do is:
Boil the lentils in enough water to cover them for 15-20 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain the lentils and set aside.
While the lentils are boiling, caramelize the onions in another saucepan. Remove half and set aside, then to the caramelized onions still in the pan, add the crushed garlic for 1-2 min, then add the lentils, rice, water and all the spices, along with the whole garlic cloves. The water should cover the ingredients by an inch or so. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer tightly covered 20 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice and lentils are cooked through.
How to store leftover mujaddara:
Leftover mujaddara can be stored covered tightly for 4-5 days in the fridge, and be frozen for up to three months.
Leftovers taste great, both hot (my preference) or cold (my husbands).
Instant Pot Mujaddara
- Instant Pot
- 1 cup brown lentils
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 3 onions, sliced thinly
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp seven spices or all spice
- 1 tsp salt, plus an extra pinch for sprinkling on onions
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup brown basmati riced, soaked and drained
- 6-8 whole garlic cloves optional but they cook into these sweet mushy pockets that are delicious!
- Place the lentils in a bowl, and cover with hot water. Allow the lentils to soak until it's time to use them in the recipe.
- Set Instant Pot to sauté. Add the olive oil, then the sliced onions. Season with a sprinkle of salt, and cook for a good 6-8 minutes until caramelized and deep golden brown.
- Remove half of the onions to a small plate to reserve for topping. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the cumin powder, cinnamon powder, seven spices, salt and pepper, plus the water.
- Drain the lentils, and add them to the instant pot along with the drained rice. Add the whole garlic cloves scattered into the mixture. Stir.
- Set instant pot to normal pressure on high for 11 minutes. Make sure the valve sealed. Once the cooking time is over, naturally release the pressure for 10-15 minutes, then vent any remaining pressure before opening.
- Gently fluff the mujaddara with a fork, being very careful because it's soft and might get too mushy if overmixed. Serve garnished with the caramelized onion you set aside, preferably with yogurt or a side salad.
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