Lentils with carmelized onions

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One thing that I’ve learned about Moroccan cooking is that stepping outside of my normal comfort zone is a must. I grew up in the Midwest and the craziest spices I ran across in most of my food was paprika. Let’s face it salt and pepper were really all there was. Moroccan food is also very vegetarian friendly. A lot of dishes don’t require meat, and if there is meat it’s there as an addition not as the main focus. I had cooked a bunch of lentils earlier this week because I’ve been wanting to make koshari, an Egyptian dish but in the end I didn’t even get around to that. I had these lentils cooked in the fridge so I threw together this dish for my husband one evening.

I’m going to give both versions and feel free to do what works the best for you.

Starting from scratch:

2 cups lentils

2 or 3 tomatoes, grated

1 tsp tomato paste

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic,

2½ teaspoons cumin

2½ teaspoons paprika (some hot, if desired)

1½ teaspoons ginger

Mix all ingredients in a pressure cooker or pot. Add enough water to cover the lentils and a little bit more. Cover, and cook on pressure over medium heat for 45min – 1 hr. Moroccans eat lentils very soft. They should not have any bite they should be mushy. If you don’t like yours so soft take off the heat sooner. If the lentils are still submerged in sauce, reduce the liquids so that sauce remains but is not watery. Adjust the seasoning if desired, and serve.

Pot method. Cover, and simmer the lentils over medium heat about 1½ hours, or until the lentils are tender and the sauce is not watery. (If the liquids reduce too much during cooking, add a little water to prevent the lentils from burning.) Adjust the seasoning if desired, and serve.

Scoop up the lentils with crusty bread, or eat them with a spoon.

The “easy” way:
Pre-cook lentils in a pot with water, about 45 minutes until soft. These can then be stored in the refridgerator.

Sauce: I use crushed tomatoes. Adding 2 tsp cumin and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lentils. The sauce again should not overwhelm the lentils but be enough for a sauce. Combine all of this in a sauce pan until heated through.

For the onions – pan fry them in oil until translucent and soft – top lentils with onions.

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Amanda MouttakiLentils with carmelized onions


  1. Pingback: How I Learned to Make Moroccan Food

  2. Amina

    Asalamu alaikum :)

    This recipe brings back memories! Your son is not the only one who loves lentils, my three your old Nasim loves this recipe too I always thought that was kind of a mature taste but maybe it’s a (half) Moroccan thing :). Great healthy recipe, one thing I love about Moroccan food is that it can easily be made vegetarian and that as you said the meat is usually not the focus of the meal and just added for the “taste”. Thanks for posting authentic recipes too, I can always spot something when it just isn’t right and all of yours are spot on (mashaAllah)!

    1. Author

      Isn’t that funny? I never liked beans growing up! Thank you so much for your compliment it means more than you could know!

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