Spiced but not spicy, this Middle Eastern-inspired lentils and rice recipe gets its rich flavor from cinnamon, cloves, and cumin.
This is a “throw it all into your rice cooker and walk away” recipe.
I’ve recently started experimenting with putting foods other than rice into the rice cooker, and I love not having to watch over it as it cooks. The one I own is a super-cheapie Black & Decker with two settings, Cook and Warm. I’m not exactly thrilled with its performance, so I suggest getting a more expensive, fuzzy-logic type of rice cooker if you can afford it.
If not, the inexpensive ones work well, though I’ve found that I absolutely have to spray or brush the bottom of mine with oil, or it spits viscous, white droplets out of its vent-hole as it cooks, covering my upper cabinets and counter tops with rice spittle. A couple of drops of oil keep it from foaming. I don’t know if that’s a problem with all Black & Deckers, but it keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending the one I have.
But you don’t have to have a rice cooker to make this Middle Eastern-inspired recipe; stove-top instructions are included.
Whether you cook it in the rice cooker or on the stove, the lentils soften and become almost “meaty” because they cook more quickly than brown rice. I like the texture, but if you prefer the lentils to retain their shapes, try following the variation and using more lentils than rice.
Note that this dish is “spiced,” not spicy: cinnamon, cloves, and cumin give it a warm, rich flavor, but no heat. It’s a perfect accompaniment to hummus, baba ganoush, and tabouli.
Spiced Lentils and Rice
- 1 1/2 cup brown rice brown basmati is good
- 3/4 cup lentils
- 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half
- 6 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt optional
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- Squeeze of lemon juice optional
- Put all ingredients except parsley into the rice cooker. Add water according to your rice cooker’s instruction manual or use 4 cups of water. Stir and set to Cook. When the cooker shuts off, check to make sure both rice and lentils are tender and no water remains. If they are not tender, add 1/4 cup more water and restart. (This shouldn’t be necessary, but rice cookers do vary.)
- When done, remove the cinnamon and cloves, fluff the rice, and add the minced parsley. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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Sarah HinckleyDecember 4, 2009 at 5:25 pm
YUMMY! This was so good!
I love your blog, thank you so much!
VikkiAugust 11, 2010 at 4:42 pm
Can I just ask, what sort of lentils do you use?
SusanVAugust 11, 2010 at 5:05 pm
These are regular brown lentils, not the orange or red ones or the puy (or French green) ones. These are the kind I can find in any grocery store around here.
naomiSeptember 12, 2010 at 5:07 am
Thanks for the tip about putting oil on the bottom of the rice cooker! I have a Chinese brand (also a cheapie), and it covers my counters with sticky rice goo every time I use it. I think I’ll end up using my rice maker more often if I don’t have to do heavy-duty cleanup after each use.
amandaSeptember 18, 2010 at 12:23 am
This was great! I did have to add a bit of extra water, but my rice cooker is of the low-budget variety. I didn’t have cloves, sadly, but I upped the cinnamon and added a little hot paprika. It’s great warm or cold! Thanks for the easy and super-cheap recipe!!
AlexJanuary 2, 2011 at 6:54 am
This looks delicious, i cant wait to try it and all in a rice cooker…GENIUS!
I was wondering though (Please forgive my silly question, im a new vegetarian with little experience cooking lentils) do you use dried lentils, soak them over night then use in this recipe or are these from a can?
Thanks for your help and beautiful recipe!
SusanVJanuary 2, 2011 at 10:00 am
Not a silly question! These are dried lentils, and you don’t have to soak them first. Lentils are so small that they cook quickly enough without soaking. Hope you enjoy the recipe.
SuzyJanuary 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm
I just made this recipe, it came out perfect in the rice cooker. I added onions, cumin and garlic instead of cinnamon and cloves. So good!
CeceJune 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm
Awesome!!! I’m going to try this right now! I had garlic and onions in mind too 🙂 thanks again!
PaulineFebruary 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm
Have you tried rinsing your rice to get rid of the spattering problem? From what I’ve read, apparently some kinds of rice are covered with starch (for preserving?) and rinsing it off should solve the problem.
Patrice null KeatingApril 25, 2011 at 10:48 am
Hey Susan V….,
Try rinsing your rice, I put mine in a fine mesh strainer and rinse/scrub with cold water until the rice runs clear….It will definitely help with the excess starch clogging the vent hole.
ericafJuly 22, 2011 at 11:05 am
I am having a terrible time with your website; my recipe box shows some bizzarre computer lingo yet when I check recipes that I have added in the past, but which no longer appear in my box, they say my option is to remove from box (?????). Very frustrating!
SusanVJuly 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm
I’m sorry about that! It’s a website plug-in that works most of the time but has glitches every now and then. If there’s another browser you could use, that might solve the problem–but then, who wants to change to a different browser for one website?
vikessSeptember 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm
I have been using both cinnamon and cumin in my rice and lentils for about a year now..LOVE them that way. Never thought to add cloves, but I definitely will try that next time!! caramelized onions over the top are nice, too, but I don’t do that every time.
MarikaOctober 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm
Hi, I am just learning to cook… what do you mean exactly by “cloves”? Do I just put 6 entire cloves in with everything else and stir it up until it’s done cooking?
SusanVOctober 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Marika, cloves are a spice that you can buy whole or ground. In this recipe, I used the whole ones. When the dish is ready, I removed the cloves and cinnamon stick, because they don’t get soft when cooking and would be unpleasant to eat. They give the dish its flavor.
KBeaneOctober 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm
Thanks for the tip of using a dab of oil to prevent spitting rice goo. I have had this problem for years!
SusanJanuary 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm
Thanks for the recipe. I’m making for a pre-k snack tomorrow. The kids love lentils and the added rice and spice will be a bonus!
nicoleFebruary 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm
Hi Susan, Did you serve this as a main dish? I was also was wondering if you knew the nutritional info for this dish as well? Thanks!
Susan VoisinFebruary 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Nicole, I served it as a side dish. I’ll have to figure out the nutritional info and post it.
Jeff HarperJuly 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm
I’m coming a bit late to the table here but I recently got a new cheapo rice cooker that is really bad about splattering. My older rice cooker splattered but not nearly so much. After a few time of having such a mess, I threw a dish towel over it while it’s cooking and now no mess at all. Doesn’t seem to affect the cooking any…
DaveJuly 30, 2012 at 9:09 am
Awesome recipe! We added some toasted pine nuts when serving for a little crunchy texture as well as a bit of flavor. Love it!
ChanaFebruary 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm
What are the cooking directions without a rice cooker? I want to make this in a pot on the stove.
Susan VoisinFebruary 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm
The stovetop directions are in the Notes at the end of the recipe.
charleyJuly 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm
hi this look awesome, do you think ‘cauliflour’ rice would work instead of regular rice? well im goin to try it, i shall let you kno!! 🙂 love your blog x
AlisonJuly 28, 2013 at 11:46 am
do you have the nutritional information? Thanks!
Susan VoisinJuly 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Just added it! Thanks for pointing out that it was missing.
AlisonJuly 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm
EllenJuly 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm
I dont have any whole spices on hand. Can I substitute ground cinnamon and cloves for whole? If so, how much should I use?
BethAugust 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm
I looked online and found conversion of 1/2 tsp = 1 cinnamon stick and 1/4 tsp ground cloves = 3 whole cloves. I’m going to try it today. It’s in the rice cooker now
BethAugust 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm
So I used 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cloves. WOW. This is so good. Thank you Susan. I have been looking and looking for a good lentil recipe. This is going in my favorites list!
RalphJuly 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm
Chrikey! Tried 1/2 tsp of ground cloves… WAY too much! I’d think 1/8 tsp cloves would do it. I’m going to have to cut the dish with at least another cup of rice
EmilySJuly 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Could you do this in an electric pressure cooker? If so, how much water would you need, and for how long would you cook it?
Kath (My Funny Little Life)July 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm
Mmm, sounds fabulous! Love the spices! 😀
ShellieJuly 29, 2013 at 9:34 am
This was outstanding. I made it last night. I added the 4 cups of water and it worked perfectly. I was able to take out the cinnamon when finished, but I couldn’t find any of the 6 cloves. My husband found 4, so there are still 2 in the leftovers. I just love the flavors in this dish. Thanks so much.
HeatherJuly 29, 2013 at 10:42 am
Great recipe, thanks for the inspiration!
I made this last night on my stove top but added an onion and garlic, used equal parts lentils and rice, doubled the cumin, and used vegetable broth instead of water. I didn’t have cinnamon sticks on hand so threw in a dash of ground cinnamon. Served with naan it was an easy, filling, and tasty one-pot dish.
Love your site for awesome recipes and interesting meal ideas!
Esther JApril 27, 2014 at 7:37 pm
I made this for Easter dinner, but it didn’t come out very well texture-wise when I cooked it on the stovetop. The flavors were very nice, but my lentils didn’t hold together, so it turned into a nicely spiced rice and lentil mush. I didn’t serve it for Easter dinner, but kept it in the fridge and chipped away at it day by day until finishing it today.
Again, good flavor, but for whatever reason, my stovetop version turned into a texture disaster. (Actually, I forgot before I made it this time around that I had attempted it over a year ago to the same results.)
Any idea what happened?
DianeJune 6, 2014 at 4:21 am
What kind of lentils did you use? Not red I hope 😉
Susan mentions that the lentils get mushy because the cooking time is different to the rice – in the paragraph before the photo. Maybe if you want to even things up a bit you could soak your rice in hot water prior to cooking?
BrendaJuly 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm
I don’t have a rice cooker and I tend to cook rice in bulk for the week….this being said can I cook the remaining ingredients in a large pot on the stove then mix in the pre-cooked rice? If so how much water should I use for the recipe (minus the rice)?
Erin KingJuly 29, 2014 at 10:08 am
Sounds like we have the exact same rice cooker! Mine doesn’t spit like yours does though. I can’t wait to try this tonight.
Pat BAugust 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm
I have a new “Fuzzy Logic” rice cooker (3 cup) Do I follow the directions for cooking brown rice or do I add extra water for the lentils? I do not understand the rice cooker too well yet so the addition of the lentils makes it even more difficult.
Pat BAugust 8, 2014 at 8:56 pm
Made this tonight using my rice cooker for the first time. First try, the rice and lentils were still to hard to eat. I let it cool off, added more water and ran the rice cooker again. This time it was perfect and delicious. I served it was a bit of Trader Joe Sweet Chile Sauce and an extra squeeze of lime. (Used lemon juice and parsley too)
karen lylesJuly 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm
do you use 1/2t cumin seeds or ground cumin?
Susan VoisinJuly 28, 2015 at 6:05 pm
I use ground cumin.
JenJuly 31, 2015 at 10:45 am
Love your oil-free, vegan recipes! I am wondering what you consider to be a serving size. It says that it yields 6 servings, but does that mean it comes out to 6 cups when cooked?
Susan VoisinJuly 31, 2015 at 11:04 am
Thanks for the kind words, Jen! When determining the amount of servings, I go with the number of servings my family actually got out of the recipe. I don’t measure the total amount, so I can’t tell you how many cups it comes out to once cooked. For most recipes, that will vary a lot from one cook to another, so I don’t think it would be accurate to go by that. The most accurate measurement would be to make it and then divide it into 6 equal servings.
DylanMarch 31, 2018 at 2:11 pm
This looks delicious! Do you know if it would be possible to use a slow cooker instead of a rice cooker? Thanks.
Susan VoisinMarch 31, 2018 at 2:18 pm
Sorry, I haven’t tried it in a slow cooker. I don’t use one very often, so I’m not any good at suggesting how to adapt the recipe.
AnnaNovember 15, 2018 at 4:38 pm
Delicious! Served it with lots of lemon, tomato and avocado chunks. Thanks!
LindaDecember 16, 2018 at 9:47 am
Hi. Please adding instructions for making this recipe in an instant pot. Thanks!! Sounds yummy but I bet it could be done.