4 ratings

Sweet Spiced Brown Rice and Gingered Lentils with Caramelized Onions

A filling Lebanese side of lentils and rice
Sweet spiced brown rice and gingered lentils
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune; Shannon Kinsella/food styling

Brown basmati rice replaces traditional white rice in this holiday take on a classic and hearty Lebanese side, mujadara. 

This recipe by JeanMarie Brownson appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Ready in
1 h 5 m
15 m
(prepare time)
50 m
(cook time)
Calories Per Serving


For the sweet spiced brown rice and gingered lentils

  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, crushed, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon sweet spice blend, see recipe below
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup green lentils
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tablespoon refrigerated ginger puree
  • 1/2 Cup caramelized onions, see recipe below
  • 1/4 Cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Cup french-fried onions, optional or more of the caramelized onions

For the sweet spice blend

  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 Teaspoons allspice
  • 3/4 Teaspoons cloves
  • 3/4 Teaspoons ginger
  • 3/4 Teaspoons nutmeg

For the caramelized onions

  • 2 Pounds medium yellow onions, peeled
  • 1/4 Cup grapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt


For the sweet spiced brown rice and gingered lentils

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium heat until hot.

Add rice and chopped onion; cook and stir until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Stir in 4 cloves of the garlic, the sweet spice blend and 1 teaspoon salt; cook and stir, 30 seconds.

Stir in 3 cups water.

Heat to a boil; reduce heat to very low.

Cover the pan with a piece of parchment paper and then the lid.

Cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, put lentils, cinnamon stick, ginger and remaining 2 cloves of the garlic in a medium saucepan.

Add 3 cups water and remaining ½ teaspoon salt.

Heat to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat to low.

Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, but not falling apart, 25 to 30 minutes.

Discard cinnamon stick; drain lentils in a colander.

Stir drained lentils into cooked rice.

Cook over low to heat everything through, about 5 minutes. (If working in advance, turn the contents of the pan out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered until cool. Transfer to a covered container; refrigerate up to 3 days.)

Shortly before serving, heat a large cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet until hot.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; add the rice and lentil mixture.

Cook, stirring, to heat through and crisp up some of the rice a bit, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the caramelized onions to heat through.

Taste and add salt if needed.

Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and fried onions.

Serve hot.

For the sweet spice blend

Mix 2 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, and 3/4 teaspoon each ground allspice, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Keeps covered up to several weeks. 

(Makes: about 1/3 cup)

For the caramelized onions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut onions in half through the stem end. Cut each half into ¼ inch thick wedges.

Toss in a bowl with the oil until onions are well-coated.

Transfer to a heavy, metal 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Bake, stirring every 20 minutes, until onions soften and start to turn golden, about 1 ½ hours.

Stir in salt; continue baking (stirring at the 20 minute mark) until beautifully browned and starting to crisp (but are not at all burnt), about 30 minutes.

Let cool in the pan; transfer to a covered container.

Refrigerate up to 1 week.

Alternatively, heat a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact.

Add the oiled onions to the pan — don’t worry if the pan is very full, the onions will cook down.

Reduce heat to very low.

Cook, stirring every 20 minutes or so, about 1 ½ hours.

Season with the salt; continue cooking until onions are beautifully browned and starting to crisp (but are not at all burnt), about 30 minutes.