Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions

Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions

Arroz con Lentejas
6 to 8 servings
Pati Jinich
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: caramelized onions, lentils, Mahatma Rice, Mexico, pati’s mexican table, rice
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 9, Episode 6 "Sonoran Family Favorites for Sami"


  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large white onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Mahatma® Rice jasmine white rice, or extra long white rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 5 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

To Prepare

  • In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water with the bay leaves to a boil. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to medium, cover partially with a lid and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are just cooked and tender but not mushy or falling apart. Drain, remove the bay leaves and set aside.
  • In a large wide casserole or heavy sauté pan that has a tight fitting lid, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. The onions will first soften and become translucent and then they will brown, which is what you want. Stir and make room in the middle, add the remaining olive oil, and add the rice. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently stirring with the browned onions. The rice will quickly change from a grayish white to a bright white color and feel heavier in the spoon. Don’t let it brown. Make room in the middle once again, and add the cooked lentils, cumin, oregano, ground ancho chile, turmeric, coriander and salt, and stir well. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until most or all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Remove the lid and check to see that the rice is cooked. If it is, fluff with a fork, and serve. If it is still a bit al dente, add a couple of more tablespoons of water, cook for a few more minutes, and test.
  • Taste and adjust salt, and serve.

57 comments on “Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions

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  1. I’ve watched you chef since first episode and still to this day…your favorite words,i’m in AWE when I watch you cook and Mmm Mmm MMMmm. Stay safe CHEF and Oh you have a beautiful family,you’re BOY’S are AWE’SOME….

    1. I am not sure Morgan, canned lentils tend to be super soft and probably they will disappear by the time the rice is cooked 😉

  2. I followed the recipe except for the chile because I have a fierce allergy to anything in the pepper/tomato family. It is just delicious my way, although I think it tastes kind of Middle Eastern instead of Mexican. The whole house smells wonderful. I will definitely make it again.
    About the lentils, I’m glad you don’t cook them, Pati. I followed the recipe, cooked red lentils until just tender, added as directed. By the time the rice was done, the lentils had disappeared entirely although their taste was there. I will put them in uncooked the next time.

  3. Made this a second time. The “Crazy Torta” is one of my favorite Pati recipes. So what I did was marinate the chicken, and adding it after I browned the onion, then the rice, then the spices lentils. I also fried plantains and bananas on the side. Wow!! We all loved it.

  4. So good! I halved the recipe and it still made a TON! This would even be good all on it’s own for a meal. Really, really good. We also think it would go good with almost anything as a side dish.

  5. Pati, I made this last week. I often eat vegan and am always looking for great recipes with whole foods (not weird processed things made to look or taste like meat). I made exactly as written, and it was amazing. Such awesome flavor. This recipe is such a keeper. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Our rice is almost done. Just waiting for liquid to get absorbed. Had a sneak taste and it is delicious. Just telling my husband how I don’t understand a few simple ingredients could produce a great flavorful dish. This was so simple that I watched the episode yesterday. Didn’t write anything down and was able to remember the recipe. Patti, love your show, the foods you produce and your great family. Thank you.

  7. If we don’t have ground ancho chili, what can we use as a substitute? Also, if I do find the ancho chili will it make this dish spicy or is it more for color? Thanks Patti!

    1. You could use some Cayenne or Paprika Jazz, but if your find the Ancho chili go for it, it will not be spicy because Anchos tend to be more sweet than hot. Enjoy!

  8. This is a fabulous recipe. I just made it, following it exactly, except for using Lundberg Basmati rice. The result is simply killer! We’re going to mix some chicken (cooked) when we serve it. Thanks! Love your show also.

  9. Pati we’ve been teaching teenagers in Chicago to cook vía zoom since the summer. This week is lentil challenge. I’m making this, of course!!! Loved the Sonora season. Cuando gustes nos visitas virtualmente.

  10. Hola Pati! Love your show! I watch with my hubby and kids all the time! I want to make this rice in my 7qt pot. Do you think it’s ok…or should it be a wider skillet type pot?? Gracias!

  11. My mama is from Sonora and I’m very Much Enjoying the season! I love that I can relate to everything! I’m going to try this recipe but what could I use in place of the Chile ancho? I don’t have any handy. Also, when I was a kid a told people who didn’t know what coyotas were that they were Mexican pop tarts… 🙂

  12. I made this last night and it was yummy! Since we had leftovers I decided to fry and egg and add it to a bowl this morning with some hot sauce. Que sabroso!

  13. Good Morning Pati,
    I watch your program every weekend. I just saw your “Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions” recipe and gave it a try. It is delicious! The aromas are wonderful! I will continue to make this. Thank you. Have a good day.

  14. I’m excited to try this recipe! I always love flavorful vegetarian dishes and the lentils should be good protein so you don’t feel hungry. Thanks!

  15. Fantastic dish. We loved it. Love your show! My husband is from Tucson. We bring dozens of the Sonoran tortillas back home to LA every year. They are the best!!!

  16. Good Morning Pati,
    On the show, weren’t the lentils cooked in water first? Or were they soaking? If so, for how long?
    Love your show!!! Every time my husband and i watch, we get so hungry. Thank You Laura Mod, Whittier CA

  17. What a great side! Perfect for any meal: chicken, meat or fish. You can serve it with so many things. The caramelized onions and spices made for such a delicious, savory and different flavor profile. I did need a tad more salt which I never say but that’s better than there being too much salt. Thanks for another amazing recipe!

  18. Hoy preparé tu receta y me gustó mucho. Me hacía falta tener una receta diferente para preparar lentejas y tu receta está muy buena. Muchas gracias. La siguiente será el guisado para las chimichangas y el caldito de queso. Dios te bendiga Pati.

  19. Do you have a preferred type of lentils for this recipe? I’ve seen many different kinds at the store and am never sure which one(s) to buy. Thank you!

  20. I don’t know why it took so long for me to make this. Both my husband and myself couldn’t stop eating it. We Love It!