The recipe for Indian Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions was inspired by a traditional Middle Eastern recipe, called Mujadara, for rice and lentils that is garnished with caramelized onions. It is a hearty dish that is simply spiced with salt and black pepper to highlight the sweet, dark flavor of the caramelized onions. It can be served as a main course or as a side, hot or room temperature.
I have refashioned the recipe for this healthy vegetarian dish to incorporate whole and ground Indian spices to ramp up the flavor profile. I add whole cinnamon sticks, red chiles, black peppercorns and cumin seeds as well as ground cumin and chile powder. I use both whole Madras chiles for (some) heat and ground Kashmiri chile for its pleasant flavor.
I use commonly available brown lentils for this recipe. They are inexpensive and available at all grocery stores. Since this is an Indian fusion recipe, I use only basmati rice.
To prepare the recipe, the lentils, rice and onions are cooked separately then combined in the last step. They can be cooked concurrently or in sequence based on the number of burners and pans you have available. I start everything together but, since the onions take the longest time to cook, the rice and lentils have to wait a short while before they are added to the pot. The recipe is very easy to make and is forgiving if you ignore it for a few minutes.
I like to serve Indian Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions as both and entrée and a side dish. When I serve it as a main dish, I add a small green salad and a bowl of plain Greek yogurt on the side. For some reason, I like the flavor of yogurt with rice and lentils.
This is a vegan recipe that leverages the increased nutritional value of serving rice and lentils together in one dish. I like to send some of the Indian Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions to work with my husband. If I don’t send food, he skips lunch. Even if it isn’t reheated, at least I know that he has something nutritious to eat during the day.