This vegan Mediterranean rice and lentils recipe is made with cooked rice, canned lentils and za’atar seasoning for a quick, easy and flavourful dish.

Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.

Love Mediterranean flavours? Then you’ll love this flavour-packed rice and lentil recipe! This tasty but simple dish is a great way to use up leftover rice, is super easy to make and delicious on its own for a quick and healthy meal, or paired with a main dish or other side.

This recipe can be enjoyed hot but it’s also delicious served as a cold lentil salad and it tastes even better the next day.

It works well for BBQ’s and summer get-togethers, especially since you can make it advance so you’re all ready to go.

Not only is it delicious, but with ingredients like lentils, spinach and bell pepper, it’s very nutritious too! Enjoy these Mediterranean-inspired rice and lentils for easy meal or side dish any night of the week.

Recipe Features

  • Dietary Features: This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free and can be oil-free.
  • Nutrition Features: High in protein, high in fiber, low in fat.
  • It’s a great way to use up leftover rice or another cooked grain like quinoa or farro.
  • It can be customized it with different grains and veggies or you can another protein to it.
  • It can be served hot or cold. Bring it along to your next summer gathering for a cold side dish.
  • Quick and easy recipe that’s ready in under 30 minutes in one pan with minimal ingredients.
  • Perfect dish for meal prep. It pairs will with a protein of choice or it can be enjoyed as a main dish or added to salads and wraps.

Ingredient & Substitution Notes

Visual ingredient list for rice and lentils with olives.

A complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the printable recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.

  • Olive Oil: Can be substituted with avocado oil, or for an oil-free recipe, you can use water or broth.
  • Bell Pepper: Any colour of bell pepper is suitable (red, green, orange, etc.).
  • Onion: White or yellow onion works.
  • Spinach: Use fresh spinach, baby spinach or substitute it with kale.
  • Cooked Rice: Any cooked white or brown rice works. I like to use rice that’s been stored in the fridge overnight for the best “fried” rice texture. You could also use another grain like quinoa or farro.
  • Lentils: You can use 1 15 oz can of lentils or about 1.5 cups of cooked green or brown lentils.
  • Za’atar Seasoning: Za’atar is a Middle Easter spice mix that includes thyme, oregano, sesame, marjoram, cumin and coriander. It’s readily available online or in well-stoked grocery stores.
  • Sumac: Optional additional seasoning (za’atar already contains sumac so feel free to skip the additional flavouring).
  • Olives: I love kalamata olives here but sliced black olives would also work. If you don’t like olives, you can leave them out.

Step-by-Step with Photos

Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook until fragrant and softened, about 2-3 minutes.

Quick Note: If you prefer to cook your own lentils rather than use canned, cook them before you start the recipe. You’ll need 15-20 minutes to cook brown or green lentils and you want about 1.5-2 cups cooked.

Onions and bell peppers cooking in a large skillet.

Step 2: Add the chopped spinach, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

Spinach, bell peppers and onions cooking in a skillet.

Step 3: Add the cooked rice, lentils and spices, stir well and cook for a few minutes until the rice is heated through.

Quick Tip: After stirring in the rice, spread the mixture evenly in the pan and let it sit for a few minutes without stirring to allow to brown slightly on the bottom.

Rice, lentils, spinach and bell peppers cooking in a skillet.

Step 4: Stir in the kalamata olives. If you don’t like olives, go ahead and skip this step! I like kalamata here but you can also use black olives.

Other tangy ingredients that would work here are capers, marinated artichoke hearts or

Olives added to a skillet of rice, lentils and vegetables.

Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and enjoy!

Serving Tips

  • This dish can work as a standalone main dish or a side dish.
  • Serve on its own or with fresh pita or naan and hummus.
  • Try it added to a wrap with hummus, tomato and fresh spinach.
  • The mixture can be added to salads and bowls.
  • Serve with this lemon roasted cauliflower.
  • Serve hot straight from the pan or chill in the fridge to serve as a cold lentil salad.
  • Pairs well with a light green salad or soup like this lemon lentil soup or Greek lemon soup.
Large spoonful of fried rice with lentils and spinach.


  • Try it with chickpeas or white (cannellini) beans instead of lentils.
  • Swap the bell pepper for zucchini.


Can I use red lentils?

You can but I green or brown lentils work a lot better here. Red lentils are mushier when cooked so the final dish with have a different texture. Green and brown lentils hold their shape better so are better suited to a recipe like this.

You could also use French (puy) lentils or black lentils.

If you’re looking for red lentil recipes, try my Red Lentil Pasta Sauce, Coconut Red Lentil Dahl or Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry.

What kind of rice should I use?

Any cooked brown rice or white long-grain rice works. For best results, use cooked rice that’s been stored in the fridge overnight.

What if i can’t find za’atar seasoning?

Za’atar is a super yummy, versatile seasoning you can use so many ways, so definitely take a look for it if you can!

If you can’t find any or don’t have any on hand, you can replace the 2 tsp of za’atar with 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and salt.

You could also use 2 tsp of dried mixed herbs and a pinch of salt and lemon.

Note that za’atar does already contain sumac so you don’t necessarily have to add that in addition to the za’atar.

Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.

Making Ahead & Storage

  • Can be made up to 5 days in advance so works well for meal prep.
  • Can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.
  • Let cool completely before storing
  • Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Not suitable for freezing.

Did you try this recipe?
I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a review and be sure to tag me @runningonrealfood if you post it on social media.

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Bowl of rice and lentils with spinach and olives.

Rice and Lentils

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Diet: Vegan
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This Mediterranean-inspired fried rice and lentil dish is packed with nutrition and makes the perfect meal prep dish. It’s also full of flavour and easy to make with just a few ingredients!


  • 1 tbsp olive oil (15 mL, use water or broth for oil-free)
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped (approx. 1 cup, 150 g)
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped (60 g)
  • 2 ½ cups of cooked long-grain white or brown rice (575 g)
  • 1 15 oz can lentils, rinsed and drained (or 1.5 cups cooked green or brown lentils)
  • 2 tsp za’atar seasoning
  • 1 tsp sumac, optional
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (45 g)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice, optional


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the chopped spinach and cook for another 2 minutes, 
  4. Add the cooked rice, lentils and za’atar, stir to combine and cook until rice is hot, allowing to sit for 2-3 minutes at a time to allow it to brown and crisp.
  5. Stir in the kalamata olives and remove from heat.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.


The fried rice can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days. Not suitable for freezing.


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 286
  • Sodium: 273 mg
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49 g
  • Fiber: 9 g
  • Protein: 11 g

Keywords: rice and lentils, mediterranean rice and lentils