Make Ahead

Sephardic Megedarra with Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf

December 26, 2010
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6 as a main or 8 as a side dish
Author Notes

Megedarra is a Middle Eastern staple of savory rice and lentils. My version is based on a recipe by Gilda Angel from her book, Sephardic Holiday Cooking, and my standard garlicky brown rice pilaf is based on a Brazilian way of preparing rice I learned from my babysitter years ago. Instead of brown lentils, I use French green or black beluga lentils since I like their flavor and firmness. A tangle of sauteed onions and shallots, a dollop of yogurt, and some minced scallions garnish the dish. It can be cooked as a meatless main dish or served as a side. It is delicious made a day ahead and re-heated the next day. It is easily doubled (or, indeed, halved). I cook the components separately to maintain the distinct flavors of each. Note that the technique for cooking the brown rice ensures that it will be non-gloppy! - creamtea —creamtea

Test Kitchen Notes

The lentil megedarra makes for an ideal comfort food, even for someone unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine. The lentils are cooked soft and the sautéed alliums lend support to its nutty meaty character without overpowering it. The well-sauteed shallot/onion mix add those little morsels of caramelized taste complemented by the bites of the fresh ground peppercorn. The garlicky characteristic in the rice is toned down due to the long cooking time, resulting in little bites of sweetness from the garlic. —Panfusine

What You'll Need
  • Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, slightly torn and bruised
  • 3 cups short grain brown rice
  • More than enough water to cover rice (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Lentils with sautéed onions and shallots
  • 2 cups French green or black beluga lentils
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium to large onions, halved lengthwise
  • 1 to 3 large shallots, thinly sliced vertically (the more the better)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 dash freshly ground pepper
  • Plain or goat's milk yogurt, for garnish
  • Sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Garlicky Brown Rice Pilaf
  2. Heat plenty of water in a kettle until boiling. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking over medium high heat. Add garlic and bay leaves, and saute until fragrant and bubbly. Add rice, stirring until rice appears "tweedy." Add boiling water -- it should be about one "finger joint" above the level of the rice. Important note: Stand back when adding boiling water! If the rice kernels are very hot and your flame is a little higher than normal, it may bubble up furiously -- as it did for me today. Stir in salt (be careful to avert face), then raise heat to high. At this time, set a timer for 40 minutes, and boil until the water evaporates to the level of rice, about 10 minutes. (A small pool of olive oil and garlic will migrate to the center of the rice -- this is okay.) Cover pan, lower heat to lowest setting and simmer for remainder of the time (about 30 minutes). Rice should be tender and water absorbed. Remove and discard bay leaves, then stir to distribute garlic bits and fluff slightly.
  1. Lentils with sautéed onions and shallots
  2. Sort and rinse lentils, draining excess water. Dice one onion half and thinly slice the rest. In a 2-quart saucepan, sauté the minced onion and about a clove's worth of the minced garlic until fragrant. Add the water and the lentils and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, adding salt to taste during the last 5 minutes of cooking, until everything is tender and most of the water has been absorbed (I like mine just barely soupy).
  3. While lentils are simmering, heat oil in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and shallots and stir until slightly softened. Add garlic and stir, sautéing until garlic is fragrant and the onion mixture is translucent and starting to brown at the edges. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper to taste -- a little more than you think you need. Continue to sauté until nicely browned, adjusting heat as necessary. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In individual bowls, layer rice and lentils. Garnish with the sautéed onion mixture, yogurt, and scallions.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Ashley Marie
    Ashley Marie
  • Valentina Solfrini
    Valentina Solfrini
  • Aliwaks
  • creamtea

20 Reviews

Marielle D. October 12, 2019
I make mejedra once a week in my house! The best ! Mid it with salad with “Syrian dressing” lemon cumin salt and oil and you’ve got yourself the best dinner !
Also, if you like Sephardic food and I mean real Syrian Sephardic recipes from way back when I would check out Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck!
creamtea December 13, 2021
Yes, Aromas of Aleppo is a beautiful book, (I own it!). We make this frequently (just made it last night). These days, I sometimes use the Instant Pot to make the rice (19-20 minutes for brown rice) and a regular pot to make the lentils on the stovetop since the timing (20 minutes) is about the same.
judy November 10, 2015
While these recipes look amazing, and i make versions of them frequently, they don't really have enough garlic. Once garlic, like onion or other alliums, is sauteed, it becomes sweet and nutty. I would also mince fresh garlic in and stir it in at the end. supporting notes from the sautéed garlic and true garlic flavor from the minced fresh garlic stirred in. I LOVE garlic, and it takes a lot more than this for me to be satisfied. Alton Brown once said on one of his "Good Eats" episodes, if one wants real garlicky flavor of fresh garlic without using garlic cloves, the granulated is the best way to go. Cheap, easy to regulate, and very garlic forward. I use about 1/2 a pound a month, and there are only two of us to coo for right now!
creamtea September 12, 2017
Different strokes for different folks, judy.
AntoniaJames August 11, 2015
Can't wait to try this. So appealing! ;o)
MizF September 24, 2014
Never saw a recipe asking for fresh bay leaves before, so I did some web research. says "in this country, dried bay leaves are imported (generally from Turkey) and fresh bay leaves come from California, almost universally. And in fact, the two types of bay leaves are not even directly related. Fresh California bay leaves come from a tree that has a decidedly more potent eucalyptus flavor that can easily dominate a dish if you're not careful, while Turkish bay is much milder and more nuanced. In fact, bay leaves are the one case where I'd advocate against ever using fresh, unless you know what you're getting into." So is it the spicier California bay that you recommend for this recipe?
creamtea September 24, 2014
Now, I recommend true (Turkish) bay, which are now much more available in markets than previously. On the East coast, Fairway and Whole Foods often stock them in the produce section (often in small rectangular plastic "clamshell" containers. I have tried the eucalyptus-like California bay as well, but it is decidedly different.
creamtea September 24, 2014
I meant to type "No" not "Now."
Emily December 12, 2021
I am not sure, but I have a”bay laurel” that I planted in my garden. It’s a lovely evergreen plant, and we use the leaves both fresh and dried. I wish I knew which one it is! We are in southern Texas, but it survived even our deep freeze last winter. It also makes a good tisane.
creamtea December 13, 2021
I gave a bay laurel to my parents back when they had their house. It grew so big and it was such a boon to be able to step outside and pick fresh leaves! I used to cut branches and put them in my suitcase to bring back with me. Luckily fresh bay leaves are now available in markets near me.
Ashley M. December 15, 2013
I was looking for a recipe that would fill my weekly vegetarian dinner slot WITHOUT me having to run out for a million different ingredients - I can't wait to make this recipe this week! It all sounds so delicious!! I'll be serving it with some oven-roasted heirloom carrots and maybe a slice or two of avocado.
creamtea February 2, 2014
Hope you like it, Ashley Marie.
Valentina S. October 4, 2013
I can't wait to try this! I'm sure the addition of some spices would make sense in here. Thanks for sharing!
creamtea October 21, 2013
I hope you do try it, Valentina. Let me know how your version works out.
Aliwaks August 26, 2013
I made something very similar to this a few weeks ago, and we turned the leftovers into the best veggie burgers! I had about 3 cups left over ...blended about a cup with an egg and some grated carrots + fresh parsley & cilantro... added that to the other 2 cups mixed it up, made into patties, and sauteed them in olive oil.... fab in a pita w some Zhug a drizzle of yoghurt & pickles
creamtea August 26, 2013
mmmm, I have done that with leftover chickpea stew, must try with megedarra next time!
beejay45 July 24, 2013
I love all the variations on this dish, but this one, with the garlicky brown rice sounds especially good. We will be having this soon for dinner. Thanks for a new slant on this!
creamtea July 30, 2013
thank you!
creamtea April 23, 2012
I hope you do try it, Hayley7846. Let me know how you like it.
Hayley7846 March 2, 2012
This is a great middle eastern recipe. I hope I could try this one soon and share it with my friends at