Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions

As part of my special Christmas celebration blogging, I will share with you some of my favorite dishes for this special occasion. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, some of the recipes I will be sharing can be made on different occasions, festive or not. I just hope that you will love them just as much as I enjoy them.

Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions

From left to right: Onion half rings, basmati rice, lentils, black pepper corns, cumin seeds, bay leaves, paprika and cardamom seeds.

Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions

Onion half rings in cold oil.

Since growing up, rice has always been featured on our Christmas table. It is probably the side dish by excellence in our family gatherings.

Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions

Slowly turning golden brown and crispy! Just be patient 😉

Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions

And it paid off! Final result.

Even though since leaving my parents’ house, I have mostly favored potatoes as side dishes for Christmas, rice will always have a sentimental place in my heart for such celebration. Ordinarily, my mother would cook only plain white rice on Christmas, however this year; I decided to add some twist by making a lentil rice pilaf.


Frying the spices.


Let coat the rice with spices.


Let it simmer.


Almost ready.

I first learned how to make this recipe on PBS’s America’s Test Kitchen and ever since, it has become one of my favorite rice recipes. I’m not quite sure but I think it’s originally a Lebanese recipe (I may have to check to be sure). And for those who are vegans or vegetarians, it’s also a festive meatless recipe perfect for holidays as far as I’m concerned.


Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions.


Lentils rice pilaf with fried onions.


Prep: 30 min                       Cook: 60 min                      8 Servings



500 g of Onions, cut into half rings

1 cup of Basmati rice, rinsed

175 g of Brown lentils, rinsed

2 teaspoons of Paprika powder

2 teaspoons of Cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of Cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon of Black pepper corns

2 Bay leaves

Kosher salt

Bunch of Cilantro or Parsley (According to your preference)



  1. Sprinkle the onion half rings with two (2) tablespoons of kosher salt and cook it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Use a sieve to drain them before laying them on a plate lined with towel paper. Gently tap the rings with a towel paper in order to remove any excess water.
  2. In a Dutch oven, filled with cold oil, add the onion half rings, then heat up to low-medium heat. Let slowly fry, stir with spider skimmer every 5 minutes. It’s a process that takes time, so be patient.
  3. In the meantime, in saucepan, boil the lentils with the bay leaves for 10-12 minutes or until they become al Dante. Once cooked, drain the lentils, discard the cooking water and reserve the lentils for later.
  4. In a small skillet, over medium heat, toast cumin seeds, then cardamom seeds, then black pepper corns, before grinding each spice.
  5. After at least 45 minutes, the onions will start to turn brown. Once the onions turn golden brown and crispy, remove them from the pot and let them rest on a platter lined with towel paper. Transfer the frying oil into another container and set aside.
  6. In the same pot used to fry the onion half rings, over medium heat, pour in one (1) tablespoon of the frying oil previously used. Add cumin, black pepper, paprika, cardamom and stir. Then add rice and stir to coat it with spices. Once the rice becomes translucent pour two (2) cups of water. Put the lid on, reduced the heat to low-medium and let cook
  7. When half of the water has evaporated, add the lentils. Stir gently and put the lid back on. Let it cooked for the remaining of the cooking time. Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat. Add chopped parsley (or Cilantro) and half of the fried onions. Mix carefully.

Use the remaining fried onions to garnish the rice once served.



Precooking the onion rings (or half rings) in the microwave allow them to disgorge water. Water usually prevents fried onions to remain crispy.

Although, starting the frying process with cold oil can be time consuming, asking for a lot of patience, the result worth it.


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