Rice with Lentils

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Long before we realized how healthy it was, m’jedrah was our family’s soul food, desperately longed for when we spent periods of time away from home. My grandmother even sent a huge warm batch by Federal Express to my cousin Mark, who needed his fix while working in Montana. Joe and Sallee Bijou love it so much they eat it every Thursday night, and again as breakfast on Friday and Saturday mornings during Shabbat. “It’s like eating hot cereal!” says Joe. In America’s southern states the dish hoppin’ John bears some resemblance to this happy combination of rice and lentils. It’s extra delicious with the traditional fried onions served on top, but they aren’t necessary if you’re counting your calories.


Cooking Methodpan-frying, steaming


Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian



Taste and Texturebuttery, chewy, creamy, crisp, savory


  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine, cut into tiny bits
  • 1 recipe Yogurt-Mint Dressing


  1. Submerge the lentils in a medium-size bowl filled with cold water. Pick out small rocks and skim off any dirt and old shells that float to the surface. Drain.

  2. Place the rice in a medium-size bowl, add cold water to cover, and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer and set aside.

  3. In a medium-size, heavy saucepan, combine the 2 cups water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are al dente (tender enough to bite through, but still firm—do not overcook!), 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  4. Pour any excess liquid from the cooked lentils into a measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 3 cups of liquid. Return the liquid to the saucepan with the cooked lentils. Add the salt, cover, and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.

  5. Once the lentils are boiling, add the drained rice. Stir gently twice so as not to mash the lentils. Boil, uncovered, until the water reaches the level of the surface of the rice and lentils, about 5 minutes. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to its lowest possible level, and steam. After 7 minutes, mix by gently folding the rice and lentils from the bottom of the pan to the top with a spoon. With the back of a spoon, scrape gently along the side of the saucepan and push the contents toward the center to create a mound. Cook until the water is cooked off, about another 15 minutes, repeating the folding and scraping several times. (May be prepared in advance up to this point. To reheat, place in a preheated 350°F oven until very hot, about 20 minutes. Then proceed with step 6.)

  6. Immediately before serving, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and fry the onions until very brown and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.

  7. Arrange the rice and lentils on a serving platter or in a large serving bowl and pour the fried onions and their oil over the top. Do not mix. Dot the top with the butter and serve at once, with several spoonfuls of the Yogurt-Mint Dressing on top of each serving.


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